Hanoi Hilton…..Freedom Finally

In the early part of January 1973 the guards took our measurements so that we would be outfitted with new clothes for our release.  This indicated release was imminent.  Days later, the Camp Commander informed us of the big news we've been all waiting for.  On January 29,1973, almost 5 years to the day I was captured, the peace treaty was signed and we were told we would be moving to another camp in Hanoi - we called it "Hanoi Hilton".

Here at the Hanoi Camp there was abundance of food.  We had beef, pork, vegetables, bananas, boiled eggs, and even wine.  What a spread - hence the name "Hanoi Hilton".  They must have been trying to "fatten" us for our release.   We were also given the freedom to mingle with all the prisoners.   This was where I saw Chuck Willis again.   The last time I saw him was in '68 before solitary confinement so I was really glad to see him again.

People manifested for release were moved and billeted in a separate building. Here, beer was available in addition to all the food.    We were supposed to be released in the early part of February 1973, but were held back due to violation of agreement in Saigon.   Arturo Balagot and I were released on the second batch with 30 Americans (including two of our camp mates Speed Adkins and Larry Stark) and 2 Germans (Monika Schwinn, a civilian nurse & the only female prisoner, and Bernhard Diehl.)

 

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In preparation for departure, we were given a light blue shirt, a bluish-gray pair of slacks, a khaki-colored jacket, black shoes and a small black bag.    The guards wrote BA on my bag because that is what they've always called me.   I don't know why.  In this bag, we were allowed to carry some of our possessions such as toothbrush, toothpaste, soap and some of the things we made in prison. The VC also asked us what we wanted to take home from Vietnam as souvenir.  I asked for a "Vietnamese guitar" but they didn't have it, so they gave me a tobacco water pipeblkbag.jpg (6139 bytes) instead.  They also gave me a Vietnamese flute.  I was allowed to take my pajamas and Ho Chi Minh slippers.  I secretly carried a list of POWs including my radio log and other diagrams of the radios I fixed in a handkerchief along with the $20 bill that Arturo handed me. Arturo kept two $20 bills all through our captivity. He said it would come in handy when we get to Clark. The plan was to take a bus from Clark to our respective hometowns. We had no idea what was in store for us!

 

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This page was last updated 09/23/01

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