Customer Reviews: Hero Found: The Greatest POW Escape of the Vietnam War
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on July 12, 2010
Hero Found tells the story of Dieter Dengler, a man who against all odds was a survivor. Not only did he survive WWII bombings in his hometown in Germany as a child, which left him homeless and starving, he also survived a brutal and tortuous capture by the Pathet Lao. From bamboo being shoved into his arms and under his nails, ant nests being placed over his head, being submerged in a well, and being dragged behind water buffalo, to starvation this man overcame it all. His will to survive allowed him to overtake and kill 5 Laotian guards and escape into the jungle. Not only did he escape once, but twice! This is a truly remarkable man! I am so grateful to have his story forever captured for future generations to understand the epic struggle that many men faced during the Vietnam War. I have always been intrigued by this war since my Uncle was a POW in the Hanoi Hilton for 5 very long years. Although I was not around during this time, my family would always share the stories of struggles faced during this time and how hard it was on our family knowing my Uncle was captured. My Uncle was also a Navy Pilot. This story also hits home for our family since I am married to Rolf Dengler, Dieter's eldest son and we recently had our first child together, Tayden Dengler, Dieter's grandson. It means a great deal to me that Bruce Henderson was able to capture the essence of Dieter and the determined, strong-willed, wild man that our son will get to know through reading this story. I believe any one interested in war, survival, human will, or perseverance will love this story. I highly recommend this book to all just so one can learn what it truly means to have the will to live. I look forward to when my son is able to appreciate this story of his grandfather.
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on July 7, 2010
This is the biography of Dieter Dengler, a German born American citizen who pulled off one of the most famous P.O.W. escapes in American history. As an honorably discharged Viet Nam era veteran myself... I appreciated (and enjoyed) his escape during the Viet Nam war even more than just for the act of his amazing escape... but additionally... the fact that he was shot down while piloting a plane over Laos... despite the fact that the United States claimed we weren't really there. Dieter was born in Germany and lived through the tail end of World War II and during bombings of his town... his Mother would take him out to hide in the forest. While in the forest... his Mother would teach him what plants were edible and how to survive in such an environment. Little did anyone in the world realize that his Mother's teachings would later save Dieter's life and make him one of the most honored and revered American servicemen during the Viet Nam War. Concurrently young Dieter fell in love with the idea of flying... as at times he watched the American planes fly low over his town. A few times he could actually see the jaunty pilots flying with an open cockpit. The author meticulously details Dieter's time after the war when he became feared by locals as he scrounged for food in a dog-eat-dog world... and his eventual immigration to the United States.

Dengler joined the U.S.A.F. in the hopes of becoming a pilot, but felt he was misled and wasn't eligible to fly due to his lack of a college education. After his enlistment was over despite being an irreverent playboy and party animal... he eventually got a degree... joined the Navy... and fulfilled his boyhood dream by becoming a pilot. Along the way to Viet Nam Dieter attended the legendary "SIX-DAY SURVIVAL, EVASION, RESISTANCE, AND ESCAPE (SERE) COURSE DESIGNED TO TEACH AVIATORS HOW TO LIVE OFF THE LAND AND AVOID CAPTURE, AS WELL AS WHAT WAS EXPECTED OF THEM IF THEY EVER BECAME PRISONERS OF WAR." The motto of this program is: "WE TRAIN THE BEST FOR THE WORST." Dieter became a legend as he escaped multiple times which was unheard of. "WHEN THE P.O.W. EXERCISE ENDED... DIETER WAS READY TO MAKE HIS THIRD ESCAPE IN TWELVE HOURS. THE FIRST TO ESCAPE MULTIPLE TIMES FROM THE NAVY'S SIMULATED P.O.W. CAMP. HE WAS ALSO THE ONLY SERE GRADUATE TO GAIN WEIGHT DURING THE RIGOROUS PROGRAM." If you combine Dieter's experience surviving in Germany during and after the war with the survival skills he displayed at SERE you will at least partly understand how Dieter was able to live through the despicable, barbarous, tortuous... less than human elements he had to fight and overcome not only in the Laotian prison camp... but in the jungle itself. In addition to sadistic beatings and malnutrition in the prison... Dieter and other prisoners were used like inanimate objects in real-life games of Russian roulette. In the jungle they had to drink water filled with miniscule worms... they had to eat bugs and worms... left over pieces of animals including but not limited to eyes and other gut wrenching body parts. When he was finally rescued "DIETER WEIGHED NINETY-EIGHT POUNDS. HE WAS FOUND TO HAVE TWO TYPES OF MALARIA, INTESTINAL WORMS, FUNGUS, JAUNDICE, AND HEPATITIS. DOCTORS SAID HE WAS SO MALNOURISHED THAT IF HE HADN'T BEEN PICKED UP WHEN HE WAS, HE WOULD HAVE DIED THAT DAY OR THE NEXT.

This book combines a non-stop nauseating example of man's inhumanity to man... along with the greatest... most exhilarating examples of the courage... and indefinable... undeniable... pure spirit of will... to survive... that any human being on the face of this earth... could not rightfully... look in the mirror... and seeing their own image... even on the day they pledged to never give up the fight to survive... could expect to live up to.

Dieter Dengler is a true *AMERICAN-HERO*... and this book is a must read!
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VINE VOICEon August 2, 2010
The further removed we become from the Vietnam War, the greater the appetite has become for stories related to the conflict. A number of excellent books have come out recently and "Hero Found" is certainly among them. "Hero Found" is the tale of Dieter Dengler, a German-born American aviator shot down over ostensibly "neutral" Laos in 1966. Author Bruce Henderson was a veteran of the Vietnam War and served with Dengler on the USS Ranger, yet Henderson manages to maintain objectivity while relating Dengler's story, and in lesser hands a subject like this could have easily devolved into an unreadable hagiography, something Henderson neatly avoids. What emerges is a truly inspiring and harrowing account of how Dengler escapes from his Pathet Lao captors, drawing off of his prior survival training, and manages to find his way to freedom, never once giving in to feelings that he would never make it. "Hero Found" points out that not everything associated with the Vietnam War falls into the stereotype of "lost cause" narratives that point to the numerous failures in that conflict, but instead point to how there was a far wider range of events occurring during the war, from the positive and uplifting to the truly mortifying.

Henderson's research combines interviews with archival material to create a truly fascinating and spellbinding narrative that not only captures man's inhumanity to his fellow man, but one man's refusal to be crushed by such cruelty. In the end "Hero Found" becomes a testament to overcoming adversity. To give away much of the story and Dengler's escape would ruin the book, but suffice to say it's a lively page-turner that is hardly dull. Nevermind the insipid television show "Survivor", Dengler is a genuine survivor!
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on August 17, 2010
I have just read Hero Found and am appalled that the author, Bruce Henderson, who interviewed me two years ago and wasted three hours of my time, has depicted me as some 'sailor bait', flying off to some questionable naval base for a rendezvous with Lt Dengler!
In my case, this `historian' not only distorted the truth, he simply fabricated what he did not know. Furthermore, he has never returned the photos he `borrowed' but did not use. Nor did he use any information I gave him, other than my name and the fact that I studied German; then he placed me in an imagined scenario, likening me to a cheap slut.
This should have been a better book, considering the material which was probably collected. It is no doubt a good read for someone with a technical naval background or someone who actually was in the military with Dieter. The evening at the bookstore in Menlo Park made it apparent that this book was to impress the naval buddies. For me, Dieter's family background and early days in the United States, prior to my meeting him in Squaw Valley, were the most interesting in explaining his character. He had bitter experiences, many of which were not mentioned in this book, which he blamed for his often callous treatment of women.
Dieter was not a true hero - he always helped himself, with the exception of his brother, before he helped anyone else- but he was a genius at escape and at innovation, in addition to being interesting, a lot of fun, and definitely outrageous. He was also extremely selfish and manipulative, obstinate and stingy beyond belief.
I knew Dieter longer than most people, from 1961 until 1999 when I last spoke to him on the phone from Hamburg when he complained that Werner Herzog had cheated him. I wonder what he would have thought of this book...probably not much. But he probably would have found it amusing that his charm had worked so well on the questionable 'hero love' shown by Henderson ever since he first encountered Dieter on the ship...even gays fell for him and he humored them, as I recall on a visit to a well known Sausalito bar. Probably why Bruce looked so familiar to me.
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on February 19, 2012
I have read numerous books on POW's and their tales of courage. Most of the prisoners in those books mention several of the same characters with whom they met while in captivity, such as John McCain, Jerry Denton, Bud Day, Robinson Risner and others. I thoroughly enjoyed those men's tales of the solidarity and patriotism that each one showed while enduring the unbelievable.
What intrigued me about HERO FOUND's Dieter Dengler successful escape was that not one of the men mentioned earlier was able to escape from their captivity. Dengler's tale was incredible starting from his rough upbringing in his homeland (Germany) during WWII, throughout his military career, both before his capture and after his rescue!

You won't be able to put the book down once you start it. Bruce Henderson does a fantastic job on Dengler's story. It makes you feel that you are right there along side Denger, enduring the hardships and feelings of almost giving up all hope . You'll find yourself on the edge of your seat, cheering Denger on and almost applauding when he finally does get rescued. I plan on reading it over again in the near future!
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on February 26, 2016
First, the story of Dieter Dengler is without question a very good one. Dengler, while flying a bombing run over Laos in 1966 in an Navy A-1 Skyraider, was shot down. He was captured by the communist Pathet Lao, spent about 6 months as a POW, escaped, and was miraculously rescued. I don't know the statistics, but I do know there were very few POW escapes during the Vietnam War. Dieter Dengler's story was well captured in the recent film "Rescue Dawn" with Christian Bale as Dengler. Author Bruce Henderson served with Dengler aboard the carrier USS Ranger, so this is especially poignant to him. The reader not only learns about the escape, but also a lot about carrier operations in the 1960's, navy pilot training, the air campaign over North Vietnam, and much of Dengler's life story. A whole lot of information. So far, so good - I give it about 4.5 stars.
For me, the minuses of the book are first - the quality of the writing. While by no means bad, the writing is surprisingly rote and did not grab me at all. I was also puzzled at what all Henderson included in the book. There's a lot that just doesn't pertain to the thrust of the story. Interesting, yes, but also distracting. Also at times, the book goes over the top with hero worship. I've seen it before in war stories where the author is very vested or actually took part in the story.
So although I found the book a quick and mostly enjoyable read, overall, I give it around 3.5 stars.
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on May 16, 2016
This is an excellent account of Deiter Dengler's life and his extraordinary heroism. Henderson has done his homework and is able to extract the pilot, the man who is Deiter Dengler. This is a most interesting read for those who served.
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on May 15, 2016
This book was a very pleasant surprise, from the first written word to the last this author created a magnificent tale of endurance and heroism. I don't need to review the story, others have done that but I do want to recommend this book for the style, for the great narrative, for the writing. You will not find a better told war tale. Buy it!
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on January 5, 2016
One of the best stories I've read about man's extraordinary will to live, and how this helped bring about rescue during escape as a POW. In the same league as "Into the Mouth of the Cat," (the story of, Vietnam, POW Lance Sijon and his refusal to submit to his captors demands while being held prisoner in North Vietnam's, ill-famed, Hoa Lo Prison <aka the "Hanoi Hilton,"> and his subsequent heroics leading to his being awarded, posthumously, the Medal of Honor), and "Code of Honor" (Col. <Ret.> John Dramesi's story of his time held as a, Vietnam, POW, and of his strict adherence to the 'Code of Conduct' <the military's precise rules for downed airmen, and others, who find themselves facing capture, imprisonment, and interrogation by their enemy>, and at what costs he did this). A must-read (this, and the other two books that I mentioned) for anyone who wants to know what a true hero is made of.
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This book is not only a very well researched and written story of Dieter Dengler's life that covered his childhood in wartime and postwar Germany, through his early learning how to survive, on to his interesting quest to come to the USA and become a pilot, through his early disappointments in the Air Force, on the college to get an AA, and then on to acceptance and training to become a naval aviator, and his service during the Vietnam War, capture in Laos, treatment and daring escape and rescue. This book is not only brilliantly written but in great depth covers the dangers, skills, successes and sometime failure of the brave men and women who succeed in become a Naval Aviator, a skill more demanding than perhaps any other form of piloting an aircraft due to the demanding and unforgiving requirements of taking off and landing plane on an aircraft carrier in all types of weather day and night.

The book very well covers the Spad pilots of the USS Ranger, the carrier LtJG Dengler flew off of and served on during his tour off Vietnam. As a retired Marine Corps officer I understand and appreciate the varying degrees of leadership and skills a military officer must serve with and under. The book shows that while there are mostly qualified and successful officers/pilots there are also some who are not that good at leading and sometimes lack in both skills and personality (I personally witnessed that a few times during my 25 years active service) and am thankfully they are few in number compared to the many selfless and dedicated officers who serve our country (same could be said about the enlisted ranks which I also had the privilege to serve among.)

The book very well covers the loss of Dengler's A-1E Skyraider (Spad), his attempted evasion, capture, escape and recapture, his terrible treatment and his personal skills and determination which allowed him an opportunity to escape and evade again, until rescued by the grace of God and dedicated rescue service provided when possible.

The book then covers Dengler's return to civilian life briefly and his love, loss and sad ending. It showed Dengler lived life to the fullest and bravely chose when to end it. This book is an amazing story and excellently portrays the life of a brave American. The author did a tremendous job in writing the book. There was no part in my mind that was not interesting. Also, I see where someone gave this book a one star rating because he had a paper book written in 1979 and didn't think this book could add anything. I disagree. First this book is offered electronically on Kindle which in itself is a benefit for those of us who enjoy reading off a Kindle and it is cheaper to purchase than a paperback. Secondly, this book may just offer a better written story and one more informational than the Escape from Laos book authored by Dengler. Just a thought. Whatever, I see no reason to downrate a book just because you have another book covering the story and most especially if you haven't even purchased this one.
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