... only cared for capitalism and its own interests and not those of its people. Upon a POW's return to the United States they were hailed as heroes by their fellow soldiers and received the Prisoner of War Medal. For at least one former prisoner though, there was no fanfare, but instead a court-martial. Robert Garwood was a traitor who sympathized with and later joined the Vietcong forces that were guarding twelve other prisoners. When Garwood returned to the United States after living in Vietnam for six years after the war had ended, he was accused of treachery, but was found guilty only of serving as a prison camp guard, interpreter, informer, and indoctrinator at the jungle prison camp after his capture and subsequent treachery.
Garwood received only a demotion to the lowest rank and a dishonorable discharge. 8 Propaganda was also used many times against U. S. POWs. This included broadcasts from Radio Hanoi in English, which ran news taken from anti-war American radio stations back in the U. S.
These were the most disheartening of the propaganda used against the soldiers, because it was from the citizens of their own country. These broadcasts could also bring devastating news of violence at home and lowered the moral of the prisoners a great deal. They could sometimes bring news of a prisoner's comrades, although this was usually bad news, as in the case of James Rowe. On the twenty-sixth, we heard the beginning of the broadcast, catching the phrase "The execution was carried out at ten o'clock," then static and again, "in retaliation for the murder of three patriots in Danang," static, "Captain Humbert Roque Versace," static, "Cora back." I sat stunned, the rest of the broadcast a blur of meaningless sound.
There was silence in our hut as the realization grew: Rocky was dead. They had executed him, murdered him. 9 As Rowe realizes that Rocky Versace, who has been a person that the rest of the prisoners can look up to, is dead, the propaganda has achieved its desired affect and reduced the prisoners' moral. These types of broadcasts also put into the POW's minds that execution was a very real threat and could end a POW's life very quickly. The longest detained American prisoner was Captain Floyd James ("Jim") Thompson, who was held prisoner for a total of nine years between March 26, 1964 and his return home on March 16, 1973. 10 Jim Thompson suffered immensely from torture, beatings, malnutrition, lack of medication, and isolation.
When he finally returned home he was not greeted with fanfare, but with a nation that had turned its back on Vietnam and that typically disregarded the veterans of the war. Some of the escapes that the prisoners attempted and executed were well thought out and daring plans. But the most successful escapes were spur of the moment ideas that a prisoner who saw an opportunity for freedom would take. An example of this is James N.
Rowe's escape. After a few unsuccessful planned attempts he finally found an instantaneous opportunity that he took advantage of. He had just separated from his guards after an American bombing run had created chaos in the unit and was running away and attempting to signal a circling American helicopter. After what seemed to be an eternity one of the Cobras passed overhead and banked sharply, circling me.
It was joined by the second sleek gunship and my heart was beating so hard I though my whole body would vibrate. "They " ve seen me! I'm OK, they " ve seen me!" I saw the helicopter swing into a tight, low turn, ... it settled on the edge of the water, not more than fifteen meters from me. I ran, dragging my net, stumbling but staying upright, ... I dove onto the cool metal flooring and heard myself shouting, "Go! Go!" 11 This attempt by Rowe was successful and led to his repatriation and return to his family and military.
He had been listed as MIA during this time and had been promoted to major by the time that he returned to America. 12 This escape, and his amazing survival, made Major Rowe one of the military's greatest heroes. The release of the American POWs that still remained in Vietnamese captivity was on February 12, 1973, when 143 prisoners were released. In the next weeks 444 more POWs were repatriated back to the United States and the Vietnam Conflict was formally over.
Some of these POWs believe that there are still American soldiers remaining in Vietnam that were never released by the NVA and VC and have started Operation Black Flag. This is a program to help former Vietnam POWs and to help try and find out if there are still Americans that are left behind. Unfortunately though, there are still around 2, 000 soldiers that are unaccounted for and are listed by the United States armed services as MIA. 13 Vietnam POWs are now remembered and honored through memorials and dedications to Prisoners OF War and personnel who are listed as Missing In Action (MIA). The most famous of these memorials being the Black Wall. May they never be forgotten.
NOTES 1 "Prisoners of War (POWs)," Microsoft Encarta online encyclopedia, web 2 "Summary of Vietnam Casualty Statistics," VVA Chapter 172, web 3 James N. Rowe, Five Years To Freedom: The True Story of a Vietnam POW (The Ballantine Publishing Group, 1971) 266. 4 Malcolm McConnell, Into the Mouth of the Cat (W. W.
Norton & Company, Inc. , 1985) 165. 5 McConnell, 165-166. 6 "Code of Conduct for Members of the Armed Forces of the United States," Section IV as found in McConnell. 7 Zalin Grant, Survivors: Vietnam P. O.
W. s Tell Their Stories (New York: Norton, 1975) 138. 8 Grant, ix. 9 Rowe, p. 209-210. 10 Tom Philpott, Glory Denied: The Saga of Vietnam Veteran Jim Thompson, America's Longest-Held Prisoner of War (W.
W. Norton & Company, Inc. , 2001) xix. 11 Rowe, 438.
12 Rowe, 441. 13 "Prisoners of War (POWs) "A SELECTED BIBLIOGRAPHY "Code of Conduct for Members of the Armed Forces of the United States" as found in McConnell." Prisoners of War (POWs) ." Microsoft Encarta online encyclopedia. web "Summary of Vietnam Casualty Statistics." VVA Chapter 172. web Zalin. Survivors: Vietnam P.
O. W. s Tell Their Stories. New York: Norton, 1975.
McConnell, Malcolm. Into the Mouth of the Cat. W. W.
Norton & Company, Inc. , 1985. Philpott, Tom. Glory Denied: The Saga of Vietnam Veteran Jim Thompson, America's Longest-Held Prisoner of War.
W. W. Norton & Company, Inc. , 2001. Rowe, James N.
Five Years to Freedom: The True Story of a Vietnam POW. The Ballantine Publishing Group, 1971.