My 2018 “summer of reading” continues with, “Six Years In The Hanoi Hilton An Extraordinary Story Of Courage and Survival In Vietnam”.

Whether you are like me and grew up with the war in Vietnam and the Civil Rights movement as a backdrop to your life or not, you will surely want to check out this book by Amy Shivley Hawk, step-daughter of U.S. Air Force fighter pilot, James Richard Shivley (1942 – 2006), who was shot down over North Vietnam in 1967 – and suffered the consequences. She did a great job of transcribing her Dad’s impressions into this book and her chronological approach is fittingly perfect for learning moments and doesn’t make us wait very long, before we get to the meat of the story of being shot down and captured.

I remember news journalists like Dan Rather referring to many of our servicemen as “never accounted for”, like they wrote about his colleague, Captain Joe Karins, whose plane continued to fly along side of Jim’s after he ejected follwing being hit by enemy fire. [pg. 48]

This is a primer about the horrific prison of war camp conditions our soldiers endured during capture in the Vietnam War. If it wasn’t true history, you might think it is a movie like “Deer Hunter”. To all of my fellow Baby Boomers and high school (eleventh grade and up) or college school history teachers, please use this book as an opportunity to educate!

Have you ever wondered, as I have, what really happened behind the scenes in North Vietnam, when one of our men was captured? Were the rumored extreme tortures they endured really fact? This book will tell you, in graphic detail. Many of us are familiar with the fact that Arizona Senator and former presidential candidate, John McCain was a POW in North Vietnam, but this is a story about the other men who, heretofore were nameless and faceless along side of the great Senator. It is culled from family accounts, Captain Shivley’s diaries, CD, tapes and our unique American perspectives on a war that we fought with “one hand tied behind our back”, as my own WWII veteran Dad said often. And that was true until President Nixon launched the B52s on Hanoi when Henry Kissinger’s peace talks were not yielding the desired results from Hanoi.

This book is the stuff from which solving the MIA/POW movement was made of, a look inside of the infamous network of prison camps in Hanoi under Chairman Ho Chi Min. This is no “Hogan’s Heroes” comedy, for sure. I marveled at the description of how the prisoners learned to communicate via a tapping code, and simultaneously cringed at the tortures described which affirmed that many of my generation are lucky not to have been drafted back then, because we surely would not have survived such an ordeal of capture, if not killed by bullets.

It seems my World History classes taught that the Japanese tortured our captured WWII servicemen similarly; the Asians have special knack for inventing gruesome treatment of prisoners of war, as compared to “waterboarding” of our current “terrorism” era.
The book is a reminder that war is hell, to cherish your own basic freedoms and like James’ slogan says, “Don’t sweat the small stuff – and it’s all small stuff.” (pg. 172) There are many more positive things I could write about this book, but I will let you alone to read and glean them for yourself.

From the ‘Special Notes to POWs’ to the Acknowledgements chapter and how he became a US Prosecutor, my rating is a no-doubt, Five-out-of-five Bronze Spokane stars

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