21 Aug Hayden Lockhart
VIETNAM – NORTH TO HANOI
2 March 1965
Four F-100s of the 613th TFS took off from DaNang Air Base, South Vietnam and headed North to rendezvous with an F-101 Pathfinder. F-100s were being used as flak suppression & MiG cover. Lt/Col Risner’s F-105’s were going to bomb an ammo dump 12 miles inland from the ocean & 7 miles north of the DMZ in a heavily jungled area. There was supposed to be very little flak according to the photos we had seen.
The flight lead was Major MacLachlan, #2 was crazy Freddie Karakas, #3 was Harv Damschen & #4 was yours truly. We had 20mm, CBU Pods & centerline tanks. We headed up the coast & turned in at a river junction. The 101 flew over the target, pulled up & peeled off to the north as we made a 4-ship pass, dropping our CBU ordnance & boy did we stir up a hornet’s nest!! Major Mac had briefed we would make 1 or 2 strafing passes, but not deplete our ammo, because we were to MiG cap. MiG’s that far south were not much of a possibility, but the war was new and our information limited.
The ground looked like a Christmas tree full of lights, but we went in on our strafe patterns, each A/C on a different heading just like the manual at Luke said. While concentrating on 1-gun emplacement, I was hit by a 37mm gun from another site in the A/C compressor section.
I hit the mike button to say that I was hit and was turning right off the target. I got the A/C leveled, headed up & gained altitude. Maj. Mac sent the following transmission, “HJ” get out of that son of a bitch.” Then Harv followed with, “HJ” the whole ass end of your aircraft is on fire.” I looked into the mirrors and saw fire from the wings back–everything was a sheet of flames.
I never knew there were so many lights in the cockpit until they came on altogether. The controls burned through, my stick controlled nothing. With the A/C running out of airspeed, I had to get out. Then I made a mistake. I looked down for the ejection handles as I fired the ejection seat. If you’re not sitting straight in the seat, your back takes a beating!! My training came into play and I reached for my lap belt. With the lap belt gone, I looked up at my chute & grabbed the raisers. Bang! My feet hit the ground!! I wasn’t in the chute more than 2 or 3 seconds. (Before we left Alexandria AFB in Louisiana, our deployment A/C’s were retrofitted with rocket seats. Without that rocket it would have been over for me right there.) I landed 20 yards from the Jungle with my chute draped over a 20-foot tree. I unhooked my chest and leg straps; my glasses and helmet had come off during the ejection.
At that moment I realized I felt like I was being stung by hornets on the face, chest, and hands. I wiped my face with my hands; blood was everywhere. Flak guns were going off around me, bombs were going off just down the hill to the south and the jungle was falling from the sky all around me. I couldn’t hear myself think. I reached into the leg pocket of my G-suit to get my extra pair of glasses and when I looked up bark & wood were flying off the tree. I looked down the hill to the SE and saw 5 bad guys with automatic weapons running up the hill shooting at my chute! There were no hornets – just wood from the tree hitting me as the bullets were tearing the tree apart! Luckily, they saw the chute but hadn’t yet seen me.
There were 5 large brush piles just to my north with a high grass field behind them and jungle on each side. I took off headed for the brush, then NE into the jungle. Just as I passed the brush piles another bad guy with a rifle was hunched over covering this head from the falling debris. I never broke stride, just kept running. I hit the jungle and was doing fine until a vine tore my glasses from my face. I stopped to look for them and heard yelling. When I turned around, I saw the flash of gun muzzles shooting at me! I ran about 30 yards in the jungle when my feet went out from under me. I slid a long way down the bank of a creek.
The bank was soft dirt, had it been rock or hard pack I probably would have broken several of my most favorite bones. But advantage to me; I lost my pursuers. I continued down the creek for several minutes, it was quiet and no one was on my tail. I decided to chance it and leave the creek bed.
I ran into the high grass field then turned back to the south to try to find the brush piles. It was my only chance to be picked up by a chopper. I figured the Vietnamese would still be in the jungle looking for me. I ran several minutes in the field but couldn’t find the brush piles. Just as I figured, I had screwed up on the direction and saw the top of one of the piles.
I heard the secondary explosions of an ammo dump exploding and I stopped just before leaving the high grass field to see if the coast was clear. Without glasses, I had to wait a while to survey the territory. Bad mistake, but it couldn’t be helped. I broke for the brush piles and dove into the furthest one to the east, right next to where I had been shot down. The tree was there, but not my chute.
I heard a noise as I crawled out the front of the brush pile, looked up and saw the rescue Chopper. I jumped up and waved my arms so they could see me. Harsh reality soon set in: the dam chopper was headed southeast away from me, not toward me. I whipped out my trusty government issued 38 caliber pistol and took aim at the chopper. Shooting at the chopper wasn’t going to do me any good; I didn’t have any tracers and even if I did, they wouldn’t see them. If the chopper basket had been down, I could have tried to grab it; but no such luck. I jumped back down in the brush pile and took out my Emergency Beacon. I turned it on but got no response from the chopper. I was told later that the signal was never heard. Waiting to survey the territory before leaving the high grass had been “a bad mistake”.
I don’t know how long I stood there watching the chopper disappear into the haze. (After I returned to the U.S. I was told it took 45 minutes for the chopper to get to my position.) While watching the chopper, I heard voices. Near the brush piles to the west were two Vietnamese walking toward me. I jumped back into the brush pile and crawled to the middle.
Later that evening the place was crawling with Vietnamese searching the area. They hollered and shot their rifles. Fortunately, they were shooting in the air, not into the brush piles. By now it was raining. I was very tired and I went to sleep.
The next morning, I was sitting up on top of my brush pile, all alone, waiting for the “101Wonder” to fly over. He came over, but obviously never heard my beacon. There were no bad guys in the area so I could have had a lengthy conversation to advise on a plan for my rescue.
We had been briefed to head for the DMZ if we couldn’t establish contact with the F-101. Back at DaNang AB, I had talked with the SQ CO about taking the Radios out of the seat packs and strapping them around our waists. We could test them before a mission & no matter what happened during the flight you always had quick access to them. (It never got approved! If I had had a radio on me, I never would have been a POW.)
There was a dense jungle to the west so I headed east to circle around the target area. For the next seven days I walked SE then S toward the DMZ. I made good time using jungle trails and fence lines, but I couldn’t travel at night. There was a light to moderate rain all seven days, but I think this was a good thing because there were not as many people out as there might have been.
The 2nd night I found shelter in a little lean-to. I had gone a long way and was really tired. I gathered up some branches and went to sleep. At the crack of dawn, I was up and moving. About noon I stopped to rest at a stream, washed my face and saw blood on my hands. Looking into the water I saw flesh hanging from my neck. I thought I must have been badly injured in the ejection and didn’t realize it! I put my hand on my neck and a large black thing came off in my hand – Leech! I unzipped my flight suit—hell they were all over me. I tried to pull them off, but they weren’t coming off easily. Then I remembered I had cigarettes in my shoulder pocket. They were all wet. I took some tobacco in my fingers and touched a leach. It dropped right off. The tobacco stung them and they didn’t like it!! I “de-leeched” myself and put tobacco juice on my skin. Problem solved!
The 4th night out I came upon a little creek. There was a stand of trees right next to it that made for good cover and shelter from the rain. I sat against a tree and went to sleep. About 2:00 am I heard a commotion and splashing down at the water.
I crawled to the edge of the trees and saw two very large BENGAL TIGERS playing in the creek. I watched for a while, then went back to my tree thinking I must have been dreaming, and fell back to sleep. Next morning, I awoke late, at 8:00 am. I walked 5 steps down to the creek and there in all their glory were the tracks of the tigers. Both my hands fit in one track! I hadn’t been dreaming!
On the 5th day at about noon, I headed south across a large field. Halfway across the field, two people to the east of me stood up. I immediately hit the ground. There I lay for 4 hours in the water and mud till they left and I could continue on.
On day 7, I had been lying next to a dirt road for almost an hour when I decided I could safely cross. I stood up and started across the road when a little yellow dog jumped up and whined. There sleeping next to the road was a young guy who screamed when he saw me and took off running alerting the villagers just at the bottom of the hill. I’D BEEN SEEN. I took off and headed west into the jungle. I had gone a considerable distance when I decided to hide out in the deep brush and wait for nightfall. A couple of hours passed.
It was late in the afternoon when I heard the sound of a twig breaking on my left. I looked around and into the barrel of a 10-gauge flintlock shotgun. The barrel motioned me to move out from my hiding place. I moved out and stood up to see an old guy wearing cut-off blue jeans with a rope for a belt. He had bare feet and a scar running down his face across his right eye and down across his nose and cheek. Some Frenchman must have knifed him. I soon found out that I had met “SCARFACE”, a local war hero and the village tracker/hunter.
I’VE BEEN CAUGHT.
I realized that there were other Vietnamese in a ring around me. They were armed with guns, knives, and clubs. Scarface told two of the villagers to search me and they took everything I had. We then started a procession down the hill that lasted about an hour. We finally reached a road and I realized I was right back where I had tried to cross earlier.
There was a seat hollowed out in the dirt bank on the roadside. Scarface’s shotgun barrel pointed to it so I went over to it and sat down. A little boy came over to me and handed me a small cloth sack and two pieces of white paper.
In the sack were two goose eggs or the biggest chicken eggs I had ever seen. The papers contained salt and pepper. I looked at Scarface, he gave me a big smile and the “eat” sign. I shelled an egg and was dipping it into the salt when I heard a loud shout. I looked up to see a man in a white suit running at me with a fixed bayonet. I started to try to move out of the way when Scarface’s gun barrel came flying out of nowhere connecting with the guy’s chin. (Not a pretty sight) Two brown-shirted soldiers dragged his sorry ass away. I finished eating my egg while lots of villagers stood around looking at me and talking with Scarface. No one looked hostile, just curious. A little girl came up to me with a large cup of tea and passed tea around to other people in the crowd. (Everywhere I went, everyone drank tea. People in the countryside boiled their water to prevent illness.)
People came and went. It was cold, cloudy and rainy. We had been waiting for some time until finally, transportation showed up. (Sounds familiar) Two army trucks came around the bend with several soldiers. One soldier told me to take off my boots. Scarface saw what was going on and signaled with his gun for me not to take off the boots. The soldier put up his hands and my boots stay on. Another soldier came with a rope to tie my hands—same routine. Scarface was in charge and everybody including the soldier knew it. You could tell the soldiers held him in great esteem.
We traveled slowly for a while along dirt roads. I was sitting down in the back of the second truck and wondered why we stopped so often. Then we stopped at a crossroad and waited. A few minutes later 3 more trucks came from the east. The soldiers piled out of the trucks and congregated up the hill in a bunch of trees. They started a fire and seemed to be having a good time, so I decided to leave the truck and LOOOOOK around. As I slipped to the ground, two soldiers with rifles came from both sides of the truck. The rifles signaled me to get back in the truck. I thought it prudent to do so. Neither soldier uttered a word.
Scarface and a civilian came down the hill to bring me a cup of tea, bread, and a small sweet rice ball. It was now apparent to me that these trucks were not for me, but simply a military convoy going somewhere and in absolutely no great hurry.
Back on the road, one truck left us and we continued south. We crossed a small, clear, cold water stream and stopped next to a small building that looked like a schoolroom. Scarface told me to go with him into the building. I sat down at a desk and Scarface left. Guards were hanging out at the exits. I was finally out of the damn rain and starting to warm up.
A 1950-ish Mercedes pulled up and a tall officer got out with three others. He saw Scarface – grabbed him by the shoulders and patted his face – the two were obviously old buddies from their French fighting days. They walked into the school and I learned that the new guy was the regional commander for the area. He had slate gray eyes – lots of French in this guy. There was a teacher’s table in the front of the classroom with a stool. A guard sat me on the stool. The commander sat at the table with a small round-faced guy who told me he was 15 years old and must interpret for the commander. He said he spoke some English, is scared and would I please help him? I nodded okay.
He began to interpret as the commander asked my name. I told him.
The boy told me that the commander was not happy with my appearance. He wanted to know why I was so dirty? The kid saw that I was irritated with the question. He quickly said that the commander just wanted to know why I hadn’t been allowed to wash. (This kid was so nervous, he was shaking). I looked irritated again. The kid started to talk but I put my hand up to stop him and said: “You tell your commander that I have been with an important military convoy and I think there just wasn’t time to stop”. The kid didn’t quite get it. I repeated it again slowly. The light bulb came on he turned to the commander and gave him my answer.
After hearing my answer, the commander turned away so as not to laugh. Turning back with a smile on his face he spoke to the kid. The kid said, “Yes the commander thinks you are correct.”
Then all hell broke loose! A militia soldier in a white uniform ran at me at full speed. He grabbed me by my collar and tried to pick me up, but I saw him coming doubled up my arms underneath him and thrust straight up using the power in my legs. He fell backward, slammed against the table and fell to the floor groaning. The commander screamed at the guards. The guards grabbed the guy and threw him out the door right behind the table. He landed face-first in a large mud puddle. Everyone burst out laughing, me included.
With order restored, the commander told me I would be allowed to wash up and would then come back to this room to eat my dinner. He and Scarface departed, stage left. The kid walked out with them and the commander had his arm on the kid’s shoulder – I think he passed the test.
I went outside to the stream, shed my flight suit and lay down in the cold water to finally get the dirt and leech blood off my body.
I went back to the building for dinner. They brought out a large bowl of chicken and rice. It had a clear broth on top of it. I took a large bite and couldn’t breathe, there were Thai peppers in it! I should have guessed. They all got a big laugh, then gave me the same bowl without the Thai peppers. After an hour or so we got back in the truck and headed north.
It was now dark. The truck pulled into what looked like a farmer’s market. At one of the stalls, people with cameras were gathered. Our truck stopped here, Scarface got me out of the truck and we walked into the stall where there was a stool. On the other side of the market table were three civilians, one uniformed guy, and A TAPE RECORDER. I sat on the stool. Vietnamese and foreigners with cameras were frantically snapping pictures. Someone turned on bright light for the movie cameras. Scarface was talking with newspaper folks until one of the civilians behind the table gaveled the meeting to order.
Question #1: What is your name? I answer.
Question #2: What is your rank? I answer.
Question #3: What is your service number? I answer.
Question #4: What is your date of Birth? I answer.
Question #5: What kind of A/C were you flying? I do not answer.
Question #5 is asked three more times; I gave no answer at all. The four guys behind the table put their heads together and talked. Then one stood up with the mike and waved his arm in the air announcing that the mission was accomplished. Everybody cheered for Old Uncle HO. People clapped and kept taking pictures. Scarface came over to me and we boogied out of there. (I had just talked with my first Political Commissar.)
It was something to think about: The Vietnamese displayed me right after my capture in front of a couple hundred people with a political commissar in attendance, cameras, and foreign press. That had guaranteed my name would get out to the outside world. That’s important to a POW.
Back on the road again. It was still raining, but now there was a canvas covering the front half of the truck bed. It had been there since we left the Regional Commander’s compound. We traveled north for about an hour, then drove through a small town/village and stopped at the north end. Everyone left the truck, but me. After a while, I dropped to the ground and started walking down the street. It was very dark, but some light came out of the town’s dirty windows. I opened one door—it was a family’s house. I quickly closed the door and continued down the street. I saw what looked like a bar and went in—sure enough it was a bar—fighter pilots can always find the bar! I sat down at a table with my back to the wall. The waiter brought me a beer. (OK, I know about now you are thinking what kind of BS is this!! Well bad things can happen in bars.) I took a drink of the beer which tasted like soap – but that’s not the bad part. No one seemed to be paying any attention to me so I got up and slowly headed for the back door. I opened the door just a little so I could get through. As I closed the door a rifle butt caught me between the shoulder blades. I was stunned and my legs went numb. Two soldiers grabbed me and walked me around to the front of the building, then pulled me back into the truck and tied my hands to an O ring on the truck floor.
Scarface where were you when I needed you!? (To this day I don’t know if the whole thing was a setup?)
A couple of hours later we were back on the road with a whole truckload of soldiers. It must have been about midnight by now. We finally arrived at a white compound on a hill with lots of militia (white uniforms) around. As we were coming up the hill a soldier untied me.
Scarface came to get me. He and two guards walked me over to a door. Inside was a bed, table, chairs and three windows that were shuttered. A tall (for a Vietnamese), bald, white-uniformed soldier came in and Scarface talked to him—Scarface exited stage left.
A soldier came in with a bowl of meat with red-colored gravy. It tasted terrible. I decided to name the militia guy Harold because he looked like a butler. I said, “Harold can I get something to drink”. He said okay and after a while came back with three eggs, salt, bread, and tea. I ate and then laid down on the bed to get some sleep. The guards closed the window shutters.
Let’s stop here for a minute and discuss Scarface. His village would receive extra rations of rice, sugar, coffee, tea, and salt because he captured me and turned me over to the government authorities alive. He was a mean-looking sucker, you would think twice before you crossed him. Everywhere he went he carried his 10-gauge flintlock shotgun. A small temperature change could make these things go off. You have to respect a guy who points a 10 gauge at you even if he doesn’t mean business. Sadly, for me, I will lose contact with him tomorrow– things will change, and not for the better.
When Sirens went off at the compound it meant it was time to get up- military base you know. It was still dark. The window shutters opened and Harold and a guard came in. Harold gave me the hand sign to wash—a water basin was outside my room. Just as the sun started coming up, a 1940-ish Mercedes pulled up in the courtyard. I was eating my egg and bread when four Vietnamese got out of the car. One had a brown military uniform on, but it’s the others that made my blood turn cold. They were dressed in gray slacks, dark blue wool sweaters, blue sailor type watch caps and thick-soled black boots—the uniform of the communist secret police (CSP). One had an AK-47, another had a pistol and another had a large knife and shillelagh. Scarface went to meet them.
The military officer (POW camp commander/CC) came into my room with Harold. Harold said I must get ready to go on a trip. I looked at the CC and asked, “Where are we going?” He said it was a military secret. I asked Harold—Harold said “HANOI.” I said, “Guess it isn’t a secret anymore”.
Scarface came into the room past the CC and patted me on the arm and motioned for me to go with him. He introduced me to the CSP—they nodded at me so I nodded back. Scarface took me to the car and I got in the back seat under the mosquito net. The CSP and some of the soldiers were talking and laughing—then the one with the pistol said they needed to go. Pistol is driving, in the right seat is AK-47 and in the back left is Shillelagh with me in the center and the CC on my right. Off we went through the gate and into the unknown!
This ride would be long, but it wouldn’t be boring…
We headed east into the sun for about thirty minutes, then turned north on VN1. We arrived at a ferry boat with a pull-across cable. A car and some people were already on the ferry. AK-47 got out and walked on the ferry and ordered everybody off. People moved quickly off the ferry. Pistol drove our Mercedes onto the boat and then ordered the people back on the ferry to pull us across. If anyone needed confirmation that my escorts were CSP, this confirmed it. These poor country folk were scared to death. The CSP were now out of the car and standing at each fender. All of a sudden there was a loud BANG! right behind me as some old guy had just rushed the car and hit it with an ax right above the car’s back window. Shillelagh stepped around the back fender of the car and smashed his stick into the head of the old man. The old man slid down the car onto the ferry and AK-47 slammed the butt of his rifle into the old man’s head literally cracking it open. It was not a pretty sight. Pistol came running back shouting orders, but it was all over. The CSP congratulated each other and pointed fingers at the people on the ferry. I couldn’t believe what I had just seen, bad behavior even for CSP! We later departed the ferry and continued on.
A couple of hours later we stopped at a curve in the road. On the right side of the road, the hill had been cut out and inside were barrels of gas—it was a Vietnamese gas station. The CSP used hand pumps to fill up. Afterward, they walked across the road to a hut type structure and disappeared inside. Some time passed and I decided to check out the area. I slipped on my alert boots and headed toward a forest of trees a mile or so down a dirt road that we had not been on. I started to run but my legs were numb from the rifle butt in my back yesterday, still, I made good time. There were large rocks on the right of the road and the trees just behind them. I disappeared into the rocks. I was half-way through the rocks when I heard someone clear their throat above me. I froze–looked up and saw an AK-47 looking down on me while its owner wagged his finger at me and shook his head. I heard Pistol identify himself two rock tops away. Shillelagh came through the rocks in front of me and signaled for me to turn around and head back to the road. We all met up at the road and headed back towards the truck. The CSP weren’t mad, in fact, they had smiles on their faces. When we got back to the truck the CC was furious and shook his fist at me. The CSP busted out in laughter. Pistol took my boots and tossed them into the trunk of the car. Remember – when I had gotten into the car back at the militia camp I was barefoot. It was the CSP who put my boots next to me in the car. This time I knew I had been set up!!
We arrived in Hanoi just as the Sun was going down and went through the main gate into THE HANOI HILTON. They took me to a small processing station and of course, there was the stool. I sat down and a white-shirted clerk brought two pieces of paper and a pen to the table. He pointed to where I needed to sign the papers. I looked at the papers and explained, “I can’t sign these because there is funny writing on them and I can’t read it.” He understood none of what I just said and again pointed to where I should sign. I shook my head no. This he understood and he started jumping up and down and screaming at me. I pushed the papers back to him. Shillelagh patted me on the shoulder and motioned for me to go with him. The clerk was still screaming. Shillelagh went back to the table and slammed his stick down—the clerk backed up and disappeared.
We continued through the prison until we get to four cells off in a corner of the prison. (New Guy Village) Big Stupe showed up, opened a cell, and Shillelagh walked me in. The cell was 8’x6’ with leg irons at the bottom of concrete slabs. We sat down facing each other while he talked to me and gently tapped me on the shoulder with his stick. He stood up, nodded and left. Pistol came in the cell and saw that I had no water—he told Big Stupe to get me some. He also talked to me for a while, then nodded his head and left. Of course, I had no idea what either of these CSP were saying to me, but I guess it really didn’t matter. It was obvious their only job was to deliver me to the Hanoi Hilton safe and sound. After hearing what some other POW’s had to endure on their way to the Hilton or some other POW camp, I consider myself one lucky son of a bitch!!
(I never did sign those papers.)
PS: As the iron doors of my cell slammed shut and the key turned the lock with a thud, I realized I was now a POW. In the next eight years there was torture–beatings, ropes, and cuffs, whips cut out of tires, picking Dick Tracy type handcuffs, leg irons, rifle butts, bricking up air holes in rooms as temperatures reached 125+ degrees, and a lack of food (when the Paris Peace Talks went badly and other times).
The Vietcong opened new camps, “Smitty” taught us the TAP CODE and there was the infamous Hanoi March (let’s not do that again). I went through indoctrination quizzes, communication purges, and midnight camp shuffles.
On Sept 2, 1969, UNCLE HO CHI MINH WAS DEAD and many POW’s saw a dramatic change in treatment for the better–The Son Tay Raid 21 Nov 1970, was great raid but, no POWs were there, the Vietnamese had moved us all back to Hanoi. I was then moved to Chinese Hill Camp (Dogpatch) seven miles south of the Chinese border.
In the early morning of December 1972, at Dogpatch, the guard opened the door to let us out and another guard rushed me with fixed bayonet. I knocked the rifle out of his hand and the room commander ordered us all back into the hut. A few minutes later eight guards and the “turn-key” opened the door and ordered Loc (that’s me) out to go see the Camp Commander. I had never felt so important as when I realized that although prisoners usually had two guards maybe, I had eight, so I must be a badass? When I arrived at the CC’s office, there was that dam stool again.
The CC said, “You have attacked a guard and this can’t be tolerated. I said, “Not so, the guard tried to bayonet me, I am totally without fault.” The CC and guards huddled up to discuss the matter. (What the hell was going on here, I’d never seen this behavior before)! The CC then said, “Guard made a mistake, but you are at fault too so you must be punished.” I said, “The last time I was here you punished me for something I didn’t do and you said next time I would not be punished.” The CC immediately agreed with me! (I was dumbstruck)
CC opened a large map of North Vietnam that was on the table and motioned me to see it. There were red checks all over the map. (Military secrets I’d guessed). I quickly saw that the checks were on both large and small NVN airbases. Only one base didn’t have a red check – Gai Lam. The CC looked at me and said that all the bases with red checks had been bombed but Tricky Dick had not bombed Gia Lam, why did I think this was so? I knew immediately and said, “Gia Lam is a large base with a long runway. The President didn’t bomb it because that’s where our transport aircraft will land to pick up the POWs to fly us home. The CC stared at me then slammed his fist on the table. Apparently, he believed me! He pointed to the stool so I sat back down. For twenty-some minutes, he explained to me why the “American Air Pirates” (AAPs) must treat the guards nicer because Hanoi and Hai Phong are being bombed by Tricky Dick and they are very upset. “Well,” I said, “That may be true but your guard tried to bayonet me and I don’t think that was very nice.” (I’m talking to a 55-year-old CC, you understand). He said he would tell the guards not to try to bayonet the AAPs if I will tell my room CO that we should be nicer to the guards. I nodded my head. As I left, I turned back and asked, “Are we going to be released soon?” He looked up and said, “That is a military secret.” We both burst out laughing. For the first time since becoming a POW, I saw the light at the end of the tunnel. And sure enough–
January 1973—We are loaded onto trucks, handcuffed together two by two. The Red River bridge spans were in the water (a beautiful sight) with a pontoon bridge ahead. We made it across and arrived at Camp Unity in the Hanoi Hilton.
February 12, 1973—We arrived at Gia Lam AB and after a while, we boarded an A/C one by one. As we crossed the VN coastline the pilot announced “FEET WET GUYS”—the whole A/C went crazy—IT WAS OVER!!
And so, I say to you,
That’s tap code for GOOD NIGHT GOD BLESS.
And so it goes……….