08 August 2006

Gordon Swede Larson-Vietnam


I looked ahead for the first time and noticed that I was surrounded by about thirty armed men - and all of them had either rifles pointed at me or were waving machetes at me. I had landed on the very top of a small volcanic mountain known as a karst and the people from the nearest village were using it as an observation post for downed aircraft and here I was, landing right in their "laps". As they were no more than 60 feet away from my landing spot, I was their prisoner the moment my feet touched the ground. So much for escape and evasion!

Thus begins the saga of almost six years of indescribable brutality, degradation, suffering, and loneliness that is hard to even imagine. I am going to attempt to relate those years so that the reader might have some insight as to what that horrendous experience was like.

Fearing that my captors might be vicious and nervous, and not wanting to be shot for a false move, I put my hands slowly on top of my head and waited for them to make the next move. They slowly came forward and started shouting at me in Vietnamese. It was soon apparent I couldn’t understand them so they grabbed me and all of them started to undress me. My watch was first to go and several squabbled over it. They stripped me completely, tied a rope around my neck, and we all started trotting down this karst. The first several hundred yards were not so bad, but as my feet were bare, the sharp volcanic crusts cut savagely into my feet and I fell repeatedly. They would jerk the rope and jabber excitedly until I got up and we trotted on. My thirst by this time was worse than my bleeding feet and I didn’t think I could go any further. About this time I could see a stream ahead of us that we would cross and I was determined I would get a drink in the stream even if they, or the water, killed me. I fell down on purpose as we entered the stream and gulped down as much as I could until they pulled me up and I fell again on the far side and again drank as much as possible.

I was in a bad state of shock and don’t know how long it took to get down off the mountain and reach their village. I was completely exhausted, in shock, and had not begun to feel my physical problems yet. They put me in a straw hut and had me put on my undershorts. Evidently they didn’t want the women and children to see me naked. By then I was in a daze and my next recollection is of a truck pulling up outside as it was just turning dusk. About five minutes after the truck pulled up, they came for me and took me to the large communal hut in the village. There was a long rectangular table and two chairs in the room. All the rest of the villagers were standing around the sides and at the table was a Vietnamese officer from the prison camp and the headman of the village. The Officer spoke understandable English and became known to me, and all the rest of the prisoners, as "Bug", a squinty eyed, heartless bastard who took sadistic pride in humbling, berating, browbeating, and torturing helpless prisoners.

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