8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
on January 11, 2000
An interesting book in that it gives a number of diverse viewpoints. The POWs come from a variety of backgrounds and have different strengths, weaknesses, faults, and redeeming qualities. The number of POWs giving accounts makes it a little difficult to follow until you are well into the book. Human nature, good and bad, manifests itself not only in the treatment meted out by the captors, but in the actions and reactions of the POWs. Some handle themselves admirably and unselfishly while others who were unable to handle the oppressive conditions fall apart and go so far as to betray their fellow POWs and attempt to join the NVA. These individuals attempt to justify their actions through intellectualization but one gets the impression that they know, at some level, that they have betrayed the other POWs and their country. I would give this book 3 1/2 stars. The main drawback is that the individual stories are necessarily limited in scope and we do not delve deeply enough into each man's thoughts.
8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
on June 22, 1997
Zalin Grant did a masterful job weaving together oral interviews of seven of the twelve survivors of one of the worst death camps run by the Viet Cong in South Vietnam. There were 11 deaths from disease and starvation, plus one killed attempting escape during the time period covered by Grant's book. After the unsuccessful Son Toy raid on an empty POW camp in North Vietnam, the Viet Cong moved their southern prisoners by walking them to Hanoi. The journey took six months, but ultimately all of Grant's survivors were released in Operation Homecoming in 1973. This book is must reading for the serious researcher on POWs, or anyone who wants to know how difficult it was to survive jungle captivity. Also recommended is a brand new book by survivor interviewee Frank Anton "Why Didn't You Get Me Out?," which includes most of his experiences covered in Grant's book, but adds Anton's observations about MIAs seen in Laos on his way to Hanoi, plus Anton's concerns about the plight of MIAs written off by the US government many years ago
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on October 30, 2013
This is one of the first Vietnam books, and certainly one of the first Vietnam POW books, that I read way back in the second half of the 1970's. Honestly, there weren't that many available, so I "soaked" them up, courtesy of the Military Book Club.
The book is still outstanding to this day. Well written by the author so it's easy to follow although one must keep careful track of which POW the author's text is concerned with.
I believe the author's writing style and the POWs' words give the reader a very good sense of what it was like to be shot down (over run for ground troops) and live in those jungle camps; the squalor, boredom, tedium, despair and hopelessness. Also, gave a sense of the people, assuming these POWs are the same type people you would meet in the military anytime/anywhere, and what they would do under stress. Really does make one think long and hard about the military; the vision you have of it (when coming of age and before entering) doesn't really turn out as expected.
One particular POW in this story who stood out was Theodore Guy, Air Force colonel, who came across as particularly gung ho, hardcore was the word he used for himself. It's hard to imagine an Air Force officer this way, usually it's Army or Marines. I remember encountering types like him when I was in military in 1980's.
I still remember what it was like to read this in the late 70's, reading the name of the collaborator "Garwood". Then, just a short year or so later, hear Garwood's name/story in the news media thinking; "Hey, that was the collaborator in that book".
Could not recommend this book enough for those interested in the POW experience.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on July 28, 2012
I read it while I was stationed in S. Korea, during the seventies. It made a lot of sense to me; and R. Garwood, sure enough, seemed like a traitor. Interesting book. After I finished it, I passed it on to others, who also liked it.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on April 18, 2008
This book describes the very brutal conditions endured by POWs who were held captive in S.V.N, Cambodia or Laos.
It also does a good job of describing the widely diverse backgrounds of the POWs themselves and how that either assisted or inhibited them from bonding together for their mutual well being.
I served in the province in SVN, Quang Ngai, where most of the camp locations were. The camp was moved about six or seven times between 1965 and March 71, initially in Quang Tin (now Quang Nam) then later south into Quang Ngai Province. It was in a remote extremely rugged mountainous area, which is one reason why U.S. Forces never found it.
2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on March 31, 2012
I WAS IN THE SAME COMPANY A 3/21,196th IT TOOK ME MANY YEARS TO BRING MY SELF TO READ THIS BECAUSE I KNEW THAT I AND MANY MORE COULD HAVE BEEN ONE OF THEM THAT FATEFUL DAY, I HAVE RELIVED IT OVER AND OVER FOR 44 YEARS. IT HAS REALLY UPSET ME TO REALIZE HOW WEAK THE MEN WE HAD IN OUR COMPANY WERE, I REMEMBER SEEING THE MEN WITHOUT THEIR WEAPONS, HELMETS AND BACKPACKS WONDERING "WHO DO YOU THINK IS GOING TO SAVE YOU?" A SAD STORY ABOUT THE MEN CAPTURED IN JANUARY 1968.
2 of 4 people found the following review helpful
on July 20, 2003
This is one of the greatest books that I have read on the Vietnam War subject, and I have read many; its limited scope notwithstanding. Ostensibly, this book is the graphic of the experiences of a discrete number of men kept captive by the VC/NVA command. However, due to the complex subtleties of the book's structure, it becomes a bit more than this, especially because it encompasses a wider array of U.S. prisoners, and also Europeans, and South Vietnamese soldiers and mercenaries. The author has chosen to extract excerpts of interviews that he must have given to those men who volunteered to speak with him. The largest part of the book is given over to a group held in high mountain jungle camps in South Vietnam, and then of their march North to Hanoi and finally of theirs and others experiences in the so-called Hanoi Hilton. We are privileged to experience the lives of these men through their own eyes. We witness brutality, humiliation, bravery, cowardice, fear, humour, death, disease, insanity, depravity and, yes, love and friendship; both internecine and between the prisoners and their 'enemies.' The Vietnam War was, for the United States, a complex situation to say the least. The POW experience there does a wonderful job of conveying the complexities and difficulties this war posed for our society. Suffice it to say that one is left with a sense of awe for the strength and forbearance of these 'survivors' (but for one of the men, Theodore Guy, whose understandably disturbing and distorted views are explored a bit later in the book). One of the most beautiful aspects of this book is the testimonials that various POW's give to explain and ameliorate the weaknesses and 'failings' of their fellow prisoners. I was also struck by the underlying humility with which the prisoners spoke of their own experiences, some of which involved personal valor and heroism that all but one of the prisoners left unsaid, only to have their secrets unveiled by a different prisoner. I say that there is one stand out voice here that is filled with anger, hatred and braggadocio and that voice is Mr. Guy's. It stands in stark contrast to the testimony of the other prisoners, and one can't help but think that the author intentionally included this point of view. Guy was the senior officer in the so-called Hanoi Hilton for much of the time he was imprisoned and was unrepentantly gung ho during his tenure there. He set up lines of communication between the prisoners in order to help give strength to his fellow Americans and to enforce his policies of resistance to the enemy and to maintain this united front. He is embittered by the fact that a small contingent of the Americans there, members of the so-called Peace Committee, were cooperating with the enemy by making tapes and writing letters that condemned the American participation in the war. He even went so far as to attempt to stir up a firestorm after he returned home by going to the press with allegations of treason against some of these now-returned prisoners. Oh, and he also gets a few kicks in against his wife's activities while he was held prisoner. What makes this unadulterated venom such a bad reflection upon Guy's character is that, while he despises these men for their weaknesses, he admits himself that he was guilty of doing very similar things, but of course he only does them after he has reached the end of his mental and physical limits. It is an unfortunate truth that self-centered people are simply incapable of comprehending that different people are well, different. To wit, every man has his breaking point, his was simply different than those he condemns. Furthermore, he alone, in the telling of his initial capture incident tells of gung ho die hard heroic battle in the face of overwhelming odds. It strikes one as darned odd that nobody else, even men who describe fighting to the end, try to make themselves look like heroes. Anyway, you as the reader will be the judge of whether Guy's contrapuntal account strikes you as being somehow self-serving and inappropriate. Oh, there are two other accounts in the book that are equally disturbing. The first is of an American fellow who went over to the Vietcong. One wonders what that guy was thinking, tellingly, the prisoners who knew him best offer very interesting insights into his motivations and character without being accusatory. There is another account from one of the fellows that Guy hated most, John Young who was the 'chief' collaborator in the 'Hanoi Hilton.' He activities seem to have been disliked by every one, even those who were sympathetic to the so-called Peace Committee. I suppose that it goes to show that there just may be one in every crowd, and also that it is precisely for this that we should avoid placing our fellow countrymen into situations that can expose these fatal character flaws if at all possible. Our nation lost a lot of currency in waging war in Southeast Asia, let us hope that we are not on the brink of doing the same now in the Middle East.