65 of 68 people found the following review helpful
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!
49 of 51 people found the following review helpful
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.
18 of 19 people found the following review helpful
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!
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
on October 17, 2010
Hero Found is best-selling author Bruce Henderson's exciting account of Navy Skyraider pilot Dieter Dengler, which reads like a fictional adventure thriller, but is all true. Henderson reveals his warm admiration for Dengler as a person, while giving readers the complete story, telling how Dengler's childhood experiences enabled him to survive his months as a prisoner in Laos and also fueled his enormous zest for living his life to the fullest.
Henderson introduces Dieter as an adventurous child, surviving under harsh conditions in wartime Germany. He tells of Dieter's coming to America, his brief experience in the Air Force, and his adventures in college near San Francisco. He captures the thrills of Dieter's early training flights, where he explored the power of the A-1 Skyraider with his new squadronmates, and conveys the frustrations that many of those pilots felt over conditions they experienced in combat. The bulk of Hero Found, puts us on the ground in Laos with Dieter as he first tries to evade capture by primitive and brutal enemy forces, and then struggles daily to survive imprisonment, finally escaping and encountering even more trying conditions deep in the jungle. The final chapters, after Dieter's return to civilization, keep readers engrossed to the very end.
Henderson's extensive research and personal friendship with Dengler provided an incredible treasure of material for the book, but it is his skill as an author that turns it into a gripping story that will keep readers up late wondering what happens next. Henderson also taps into his personal experience (he was a shipmate of Dieter aboard USS Ranger) to add context and details. This reviewer was a Navy flier, familiar with Dengler's experiences from survival training, but reading Hero Found felt like I was hearing the story for the first time. I mention this for the benefit of readers who may have seen a movie about Dengler -- read this book, it will give you the full and accurate story. Hero Found is an exciting and unforgettable story about an inspiring man, told by a true master storyteller.
15 of 19 people found the following review helpful
on June 30, 2010
This breath-taking story had me on the edge of my chair! Set in the Viet Nam War, the narrative centers on Dieter Dengler, a Navy pilot. The story is filled with technical details and military scenes that make it concrete and immediate. Although it tells a sober tale, it allows the reader to experience the determination and spirit of an unforgettable hero.
37 of 50 people found the following review helpful
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.
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
on October 1, 2010
Having a personal interest in the story of Dieter Dengler, I looked forward to reading this book with anticipation and I was not disappointed. Although there are some aspects of the story that are played down - read Dieter's own book ESCAPE FROM LAOS - it is an excellent account of one of the top stories of the Vietnam War.
5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
on August 30, 2010
I've known the story of Dieter Dengler since I read his POW debrief when I was going through Navy flight training in the late 70's. Bruce Henderson does a great job recapping the POW parts that have been told before in book and film but adds the rich biographical background that helps explain Dieter's amazing adaptability and resilience. As an experienced carrier attack pilot I found Henderson's descriptions of flight operations and squadron life to be vividly accurate. I highly recommend this book.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on December 13, 2010
Though I seldom read military biographies,this one caught my eye because of the more basic struggle for survival that it promised.But I was as amazed by the man as much as by the tragic circumstances that made him famous.The author wisely chose to start with Dengler's beginnings in war-ravaged Germany,since it became clear later how this crucible helped form a man with the talents and willpower to face a challenge that few could survive.
Though general readers may feel some of the details about Service life and the "Top Gun" stigma that is attached to Navy pilots detracts from the more compelling action,I found these aspects also contributed interest and a further understanding of Dengler.His spirit required flight,and finding his way to that dream defined his life as much as Germany shaped his character.
As for the indelible details of Denglers POW experience,there isn't any substitute for reading them yourself.The author presents the facts without embellishment,since none is necessary.Histrionics would only detract from a story so raw and painful.No doubt there was a lot of such suffering during this war.The few who lived to tell about it are the only ones who could truly understand survival at the thinnest edge of sanity and physical existence.
Dieter Dengler was,perhaps,not the same hero to everyone.Each person has to make choices,and each choice may be judged in the smallest details.But as a man whose life was subject to the privations and trauma of two wars,he created a life amazing in it's affirmation of living.As Charles Bukowski said,our mission is "to live your life so well that Death's hand will tremble to take you".Here we find a man who did.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on January 5, 2011
Dieter's story of survival in the jungles of Laos was a gripping tale to say the least. As a former Army Vietnam veteran myself, I was intrigued by all the goings-on of an aircraft carrier and have to admit that while reading Bruce Henderson's story of Dieter Dengler, I found the book to be an enjoyable learning experience for me. I was especially taken back when there was mention about a fellow pilot of Dieter's, Donald Woloczak, from Alpena, Michigan and how he became MIA during the war. You see, I have been wearing a bronze POW bracelet of Donald Woloczak for the last thirty years, and the information shared by the author was new and seemed to fill in the gaps.
I, too, was born in Germany, but six years after the end of WWII. However, I've seen the destruction of war and have heard similar war survival stories from my family in the old country - the experience matures you quickly.
As for the living conditions and treatment of Dieter and others during their captivity is beyond anything human. But one must do whatever is necessary in order to survive. The chase left me on the edge of my seat, wondering what would happen next. The scene of Dieter and his fellow POW running into the villager took my breath away. It was great that his escape from Laos was successful, but it appears that he could not escape from the tormenting in his head. Great job Bruce, and thank you for the education! Five Stars for Hero Found.
John Podlaski, author
Cherries - A Vietnam War Novel