About Those “I Escaped from the VC/NVA” Claims

| October 7, 2015

One of the common – and immensely frustrating – claims by military fakes is falsely claiming to have been held as a POW in Vietnam or elsewhere in Southeast Asia.  It’s also one of the easier false military claims to disprove quickly.  DPAA maintains a public list of POWs who returned from captivity during or at the end of the Vietnam War.

However, many individuals making a “Vietnam POW” aren’t content to merely claim they were a POW.  Many have to claim to have been in a “tiger cage” temporarily, or to have later somehow escaped from enemy custody – or both.  Hell, Jonn posted an article about one such fake claim earlier today.

Well, it turns out this kind of claim is also laughably easy to disprove. Turns out that DPAA maintains a second list – specifically, a list of those who successfully escaped enemy captivity during the Vietnam War.

This latter claim (to have escaped from being held as a POW in Southeast Asia during the Vietnam Conflict) is not only laughably easy to verify or disprove, it’s also is one that’s virtually guaranteed to be bullsh!t.  Here’s why:  Only a total of 37 individuals were captured in SEA and later escaped and returned alive to US control.

That’s right – thirty-freaking-seven.  Total.

I haven’t counted.  But I’m pretty sure Jonn’s busted more than that many here at TAH alone for falsely claiming to have been “Vietnam POWs” who “escaped from Charlie”.

The point?  Such individuals are incredibly rare.  They amount to a bit over 5% of all Vietnam POWs who returned alive – and according to DPAA, there were only a total 721 total POWs that returned alive, including civilians held captive.  (37 who escaped plus 684 who were released during or after the war).  Since approximately 3.1 million people served in the military in SEA during the war and only 32 of the escapees were military personnel, that means you’re literally talking about one Vietnam vet in about 97,000.

Rare?  You betcha.  Especially since a number of those bona fide escapees are no longer alive.

A few other interesting points about the successful escapees.

  1. Five of these individuals were civilians.
  2. Two were women (both were civilians).  They were both captured and escaped during the somewhat chaotic partial collapse of South Vietnam during March, 1975.
  3. Among the 32 military personnel who were taken prisoner in SEA and who later successfully escaped captivity, 19 were Army; 10 were Marines; 2 were Navy; and 1 was Air Force.
  4. With two exceptions, all successful escapees appear to have been taken prisoner and held in South Vietnam. The two exceptions were the two Navy personnel who later escaped; they were captured and held in Laos.
  5. No Navy SEALs were taken POW in Vietnam and later escaped.
  6. The vast majority (27, or 75%) of escapees escaped within a month of being captured. Only 4 were held longer than 2 months.  Only two escaped after being held longer than 6 months:  SFC Isaac Camacho, 5th Special Forces Group, US Army – captured on 24 November 1963 and escaped/returned to US custody almost 19 months later, on 13 July 1965; and 1LT James Nicholas Rowe, captured on 29 October 1963 and escaped/returned to US custody over 5 years later, on 31 December 1968.
  7. Three of the individuals who escaped captivity were both captured and escaped captivity the same day; another three were captured one day and escaped the next. If someone’s claiming they aren’t on the POW list because “they weren’t held long enough”, that’s bullsh!t.  There is NO “minimum time required” before DoD considers someone a POW.

Still, we keep seeing this kind of bogus claim.  So, in the interest of being a ready reference, here is the complete list of those individuals who DPAA recognizes as being successful escapees from enemy captivity during the Vietnam War.

 

Branch of Service  Location of Incident  Name  Rank Date Captured  Date of Return
USA S. Vietnam AIKEN, Larry Delarnard E4 1969/05/13 1969/07/10
USA S. Vietnam ANDERSON, Roger Dale E2 1968/01/03 1968/01/12
USA S. Vietnam BABCOCK, William H. Jr. O2* 1968/01/31 1968/01/31*
USA S. Vietnam BRASWELL, Donald Robert E4 1967/08/23 1967/08/24
USA S. Vietnam BREWER, Lee E5 1968/01/07 1968/01/08
USA S. Vietnam CAMACHO, Issac E7 1963/11/24 1965/07/13
USN Laos DENGLER, Dieter O2 1966/02/01 1966/07/20
USA S. Vietnam DIERLING, Edward A. E5 1968/02/01 1968/02/23
CIVILIAN S. Vietnam DODD, Joe Lee Civ 1965/10/10 1965/10/25
USMC S. Vietnam DODSON, James E5 1966/05/06 1966/06/20
USMC S. Vietnam ECKES, Walter W. E3 1966/05/10 1966/06/20
USA S. Vietnam FANN, Jerry L. E3 1967/03/21 1967/03/21
USA S. Vietnam GRAENING, Bruce A. E3 1967/03/09 1967/03/18
USA S. Vietnam GUFFEY, Jerry E4 1969/03/04 1969/03/04
USMC S. Vietnam HAMILTON, Walter D. E2 1965/10/18 1965/10/29
USA S. Vietnam HATCH, Paul G. E3 1969/08/24 1969/08/25
USA S. Vietnam HAYHURST, Robert A. E5 1968/02/01 1968/02/23
USA S. Vietnam HOLT, Dewey Thomas E4 1967/08/23 1967/08/24
CIVILIAN S. Vietnam HUDSON, Henry M, Civ 1965/12/20 1965/12/21
USMC S. Vietnam IODICE, Frank C. E4 1968/05/30 1968/06/01
CIVILIAN S. Vietnam JONES, Edwin D. Civ 1965/12/20 1965/12/21
USA S. Vietnam KING, Everett Melbourne Jr. E4 1968/02/01 1968/02/08
USN Laos KLUSMANN, Charles F. O3 1964/06/06 1964/08/31
USA S. Vietnam MARTIN, Donald Eugene E5 1968/03/02 1968/04/14
USMC S. Vietnam NELSON, Steven N. E3 1968/01/07 1968/01/21
USMC S. Vietnam NORTH, Joseph Jr. E2 1965/10/18 1965/10/29
USAF S. Vietnam PAGE, Jasper N. E6 1965/10/30 1965/11/04
USMC S. Vietnam POTTER, Albert J. E5 1968/05/30 1968/06/01
USMC S. Vietnam RISNER, Richard F. O4 1968/08/20 1968/08/22
USMC S. Vietnam ROHA, Michael R. E1 1968/01/07 1968/01/21
USA S. Vietnam ROWE, James Nicholas O2 1963/10/29 1968/12/31
CIVILIAN S. Vietnam SMITH, Linda Civ 1975/03/10 1975/03/27
CIVILIAN S. Vietnam SMITH, Michelle L. Civ 1975/03/10 1975/03/27
USMC S. Vietnam TALLAFERRO, William P. E4 1968/02/06 1968/02/13
USA S. Vietnam TAYLOR, William B. E5 1968/03/20 1968/05/06
USA S. Vietnam VANPUTTEN, Thomas E4 1968/02/11 1969/04/17
USA S. Vietnam WRIGHT, Buddy E5 1968/09/22 1968/10/06

Note:  for unknown reasons, the DPAA list does not give a rank or date of escape for Babcock.  However, the Military Times Hall of Valor database lists his rank when captured as 1LT, and indicates he escaped from enemy custody/was rescued the same day.  Other Internet sources also give Babcock’s  rank as 1LT at time of capture; those sources further indicate he was captured and escaped/was rescued the same day.  I have thus entered this data in the table above.

 

That’s the entire DoD-recognized escapee list.  It may be verified directly from DPAA by following this link.  All other Vietnam War POWs who returned alive did so after being released during or after the end of the war.

If someone’s making a “Vietnam POW” claim and isn’t on that list, well, personally I’d not believe a word they said.  And I’d probably also leave the area immediately – before I lost my temper and did something stupid.

 

(A link to this article has been added to the “Military Records” button on the TAH site banner.)

Category: Historical, Military issues, Veterans Issues

Comments (41)

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  1. Martinjmpr says:

    One thing I’ve often wondered is how fakers influenced are by pop culture, specifically movies.

    It’s been years since I saw “The Deer Hunter” but wasn’t the central plot a story about several soldiers who were captured, tortured by the VC and then escaped? IIRC they were even held in “tiger cages.”

    I’d be willing to bet that the stories about “I was a prisoner, held in a tiger cage and then escaped” started after that movie became popular, and then the whole captured-held-in-tiger-cage-and-then-escaped meme became a staple of Vietnam lore and fiction.

    I also note that our Somalia fakers don’t seem to have come out of the woodwork until after Black Hawk Down was released in 2002. And I believe you’ll find that many of the Somalia fakers’ stories match aspects of the movie.

    If I was a grad student in sociology or human behavior, I’d take the time to track the emergence of various fakers and correlate them with popular movie releases. I’ll bet you’d find a significant correlation because what these fakers seek is the attention, admiration, and pity that is given to the characters in these stories.

    • The Dead Man says:

      This has me wondering how much overlap there is with the SV crowd with the crowd that thinks Avatar was secretly about their past lives. The people who think they’re either reincarnated smurfs or that they’ll reincarnate as internet connected smurfs.

        • Reddevil says:

          Funny. I think this is Key and Peele, but great satire no matter who did it…

          The eminal book on this topic is Stolen Valor, by Burkett
          http://www.amazon.com/Stolen-Valor-Vietnam-Generation-History/dp/096670360X

          Burkett is a Vietnam Vet who served his tour, got out, and went on to a successful business career. After the war, he and the vets he knew personally were well adjusted and proud of their service, which they saw as a critical part of their development as citizens.

          When he and a group of vets began to raise money for a VV veterans memorial, they noticed that the ‘typical’ Vietnam vets start d showing up at events, with mismatched uniforms and unlikely stories of service.

          He started looking into it, and was surprised at what he found.

          He establishes some interesting linkages to movies like Rambo and the Deer Hunter and the news medias’ eagerness to exploit what we would now call a meme.

          A lot of this was fueled by the declaration of PTSD as a diagnosable illness- because of the hype about crazed veterans, the VA was afraid to turn anyone away, so they began treatment (in the form of ‘rap session’ group therapy) to all comers, which in reality created sort of an acting school for posers.

          Grows book, you should all check it out.

          • Reddevil says:

            ‘Seminal’ book- typing on my iPad…

          • Hondo says:

            Yes, it is an excellent book – and an eye-opener. As I recall, I read it 2 or 3 years after it was published back in 1998.

            Burkett documents the media’s role in creating the myth of the “messed up Vietnam vet”, and conclusively demonstrates that it is bullsh!t. He also documents just how lax the VA was during the 70s/80s/early 90s in vetting claims of “wartime service” – or military service period. He documents a sh!tload of instances where the VA simply gave people who’d never served bennies.

            The VA has been SNAFU, if not FUBAR, for decades when it comes to verifying claims of military service and/or combat service. The recent problems should come as no surprise.

    • Twist says:

      I’ve only known 3 people that were part of Operation Gothic Serpent. Two of them were part of 10th Mountain and the other one was in Task Force Ranger. Not a single one of them is a poser. Heck the one that was a member of Task Force Ranger was my Company Commander and is mentioned in Mark Bowden’s book. He was the FSO.

    • Green Thumb says:

      Word.

      When SEALS came out I bet there was an explosion of these turds.

      “There I was”..”This is what it was like”…etc.

    • 3E9 says:

      I seem to remember an episode of Magnum P.I. where they had a flashback scene to the three main characters being held in tiger cages in Vietnam. Of course that was around the same time as all of the Chuck Norris movies about rescuing POWs.

      • Martinjmpr says:

        The Deer Hunter was released in 1978 or 79 I believe (it was before Apocalypse Now which was in late 79) so by the 80’s when Magnum PI was on, the “held-in-a-tiger-cage-in-Vietnam” theme was well embedded into Vietnam war pop culture and lore.

        • Hondo says:

          Pretty sure the “POW held in a tiger cage” meme dates back to latter part of Vietnam War, and is based on a grain of truth. Reputedly Nick Rowe’s book Five Years to Freedom details his time held in a small bamboo cage while POW in South Vietnam. (Haven’t read it personally, but accounts of his captivity indicate he was so held and I’ll go out on a limb and say he probably put that in his book.)

          The book was published in 1971. I’d guess that was where the association of tiger cages for POWs” and Vietnam probably began.

          • Martinjmpr says:

            It’s entirely possible that the writers of The Deer Hunter even got their ideas from Rowe’s book.

            • Hondo says:

              Agreed. It wouldn’d surprise me to learn that Deer Hunter screenwriter(s) read that one, plus as many other sensational accounts as they could find (including some from POWs released after the war), and “picked and chose” the most spectacular to use in the movie.

    • OldManchu says:

      Good point. My favorite SV freak was spewing his lies well before Black Hawk Down was released. Former class mate, former friend, and would have been “honorably served” Brian Culp was telling his AK-round through the knee in Somalia Ranger story as far back as 1998. At least that’s the first time I heard him spew it.

  2. Marine_7002 says:

    If I recall correctly, ANY service member taken prisoner at least as far back as the Vietnam conflict – no matter the length of time held captive – goes through an extensive and thorough debriefing, both to get intelligence and to determine the veracity of the service member’s story.

    Seems to me that some POW wannabees from the POW Network page (don’t remember who) claimed claiming that there was no record of their capture because “I escaped and got back to my unit, and they put me right back into the bush” or some nonsensical bullshit like that.

    Couldn’t agree with you more, Hondo. Out of all the Stolen Valor turds out there, those who claim POW status, wear the Purple Heart, and/or ingratiate themselves with the families of fallen service members are truly scum of the earth.

    If I met one, I too would have to exercise extraordinary restraint to keep myself from continuously drop-kicking them until they turned into a quivering mass of useless protoplasm.

    • GDContractor says:

      Irving Rice comes to mind. He was only held for 9 hours. During those 9 hours, he received mail from a 5th grade class in America. Included in the mail was a plastic smiley face. To this day, he carries that smiley face with him or some bullshit. Of course, he can still hear the screams of the other POW’s who were not lucky enough to escape, and it haunts him. Doo rag wrapped way too tight if you ask me….

    • A Proud Infidel®™ says:

      “If I met one, I too would have to exercise extraordinary restraint to keep myself from continuously drop-kicking them until they turned into a quivering mass of useless protoplasm.”

      “Useless Protoplasm”? I already see them as absolutely worthless moldy cockroach excreta!

  3. Ex-PH2 says:

    At some point, this gets old and ridiculous. There are too many people who know the facts and can dispute the escapee claims.

    Eventually, it will shut off when these jerks croak.

    • Martinjmpr says:

      Ever the optimist, eh? I tend to think just the opposite: Because journalists and employers are too lazy to use the simple research tools they have access to, the fakers will continue to fake as long as there is something in it for them, be it money, un-earned admiration or not being held accountable for their reprehensible actions.

  4. Combat Historian says:

    Hondo, on your bullet point #6, you left off 1LT Nick Rowe, who successfully escaped from the VC after over five years in captivity in the Mekong Delta…

    • Hondo says:

      Good catch – thanks. Eyes are not operating that well today; I initially misread the “68” in Rowe’s date of return as “63” when I looked at duration of captivity for the 37 listed above.

      It’s now corrected above.

  5. 3/17 Air Cav says:

    Most of these phony pow escape stories are laughable. Tiger cages ect. First of all your a white man in a area where your going to standout like a sore thumb. You would have no provisions, no weapons and prob. Have no real idea where you are.

    I remember a army troop who was released in 1971 in the Parrots Beak area of Vietnam. We flew in that area often. Very rugged, with thick canopy cover. I think the troops name was sexton. Anyway my point is most these phony POW’s think they just walk down the road to our lines. When in fact there are no lines. A successful escape would take incredible luck

    Just say’n

  6. Reaperman says:

    I remember this one time when we were ‘in the shit’ and were trapped and eventually captured by these little hairy natives. When they got us back to their camp we were held in these tiny wooden cages or tied to large sticks, and I’m pretty sure they meant to eat us. Luckily, they mistook my buddy’s golden droid for a god, and damned if those little munchkins didn’t end up helping us knock down that shield generator. It’s not in my record because when I got back, there was some kind of fluff about pissing hot on PCP–whatever, they weren’t there, man. Shit was real.

  7. Dave Hardin says:

    What an extremely fine piece of work. Well done, well organized, well documented. Thank you, for all you do on these issues. It takes an immense amount of time and energy to put those things together. Much Respect Hondo.

    (Ok, that hurt a little to say. Now loosen the pony tail a bit and have a beer for a job well done.)

  8. 2/17 Air Cav says:

    I escaped once. I was drunk. It was about 3 a.m. We got to her place. She went and turned the lights on. I ran like hell. I wasn’t THAT drunk.

    • A Proud Infidel®™ says:

      THERE I WAS, a young college dweeb in a bar after having a few drinks before going there. I had a good buzz, and this girl was buying ME drink after drink (in the late 80’s before the advent of date rape drugs). I imbibed, and before I knew it we were in her apartment. I looked around the place and noticed that the walls were decorated with old “Peanuts” calendars, and then I looked at the stereo in her place, turntable, 8-track – HUH? my meatheaded besotted ass passed out, and I awoke that morning on the apartment floor next to a beached whale, I thought “DO I call Greenpiss to haul her far out enough to get harpooned, or do I sneak out and do the Walk of Shame”? I snuck out vowing to not get that shixxfaced again…

      • 2/17 Air Cav says:

        Thank goodness there were no cell phones and social networks in those days! Nowadays, screw up and the whole damn world gets to view it, in color–with sound!

        • GDContractor says:

          Oh boy. Here we go again with you anonymous combat vets embellishing your exploits. You two are obviously swavaay and deboner from reading your other posts. I bet she was a 9 at minimum. Yawn.

  9. Martinjmpr says:

    I was once held captive by the E-4 mafia at Hindenburg Kaserne in Ansbach. They forced me to drink Hefeweizen until I vomited. I managed to escape the next day and low-crawled back to my room in the barracks.

  10. Otto says:

    Really good post thanks! I have several dozen POW/MIA books on my shelf and never knew the number of those that escaped were that high. Of course, there were a couple others that escaped and were recaptured, Colonel Bud Day, MOH recipient, comes to mind there.

  11. Civilwarrior says:

    26 years ago, when I left active duty for the California Army National Guard…a culture shock from which I NEVER recovered…there was an E-5 in my new section who was a USMC Vietnam vet, and claimed to have been a POW, and that he had escaped from the clutches of “Charlie” with another Marine, and made it back to friendly forces in 1968. Why the fuck did he have to go and lie about that shit? Why, why, why? Why can’t the service you did just be enough? I DON’T get it.

  12. LIRight says:

    Hondo – helluva good job. Now I have an excellent reference source accessible to my cell phone as well as my laptop.

  13. Sam Naomi says:

    Your all missing the boat, and maybe someone who was there might tell you how the story goes.

    Soon as I hear back from Jane Fo–da I will relay some facts that will change your outlook about some facts thats your not aware of, first I have to find out where the “BITCH” is hanging out at, any info will be more then welcome. Don’t hold your breath.

    SN. Where the tall corn grows

    • LIRight says:

      “…..first I have to find out where the “BITCH” is hanging out at.”

      I think she’s one of the “ladies” in Times Square (NY)that has their breasts painted. Jane is the one smoking a joint and has a Hammer and Sickle painted on her chest.