Friday, September 19, 2008

An overview of the American POW experience in Viet Nam 

Air Force Capt. John A. Dramesi, who was captured April 2, 1967, was determined to escape despite the odds. The pugnacious former star high school wrestler and son of a boxer had already tried to escape en route to Hanoi. For months, he and fellow conspirators squirreled away string, wire, and bamboo that could be used for tools or weapons. Donated scraps of food were hidden in a cache. They gathered straw, thread, and cloth to weave civilian attire. Conical peasant hats were fabricated from rice straw taken from sleeping mats. Dramesi acquired brown iodine pills for water purification and to help darken the skin color of those attempting to escape. On May 10, 1969, Dramesi and Air Force Capt. Edwin L. Atterberry advised the leadership, "We're going tonight."

Horror Chamber

They did. Dramesi calculated that, by dawn, they had traveled four or five miles from the compound. But that was it. A North Vietnamese patrol found the pair hiding in a bramble thicket near an abandoned churchyard. The two were captured, blindfolded and handcuffed, and returned to prison. Dramesi was tortured for 38 days, flogged with a fan belt, punched, strapped into excruciating positions by ropes, and kept awake. He was strung in the ropes 15 times. Eventually he broke.

In a horror chamber close to Dramesi, the communists tortured Atterberry so gruesomely that his shrieks of pain could be heard two blocks away. Atterberry died on May 18, 1969, just eight days after the breakout.

The communists didn't stop with punishing Dramesi and Atterberry. They tortured other prisoners-some for weeks-who had not participated in the escape attempt and even extended the torture to other prisons.

"So traumatic had been the overall experience that even when escape became a more feasible option late in the captivity, the prisoners were still haunted by the catastrophic consequences of the DramesiAtterberry attempt," the historians wrote.

Read the whole thing.

Splash, out


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