Recorded live at the Richard Nixon Presidential Library and Museum's 50th-Anniversary Reunion for former Vietnam War POWs in May 2023, Sid Stockdale, one of Vice Admiral Jim and League of Wives co-founder Sybil Stockdale's four sons, joins Tyler to discuss what he remembers of his parents' critical ...
The finale of our story brings us to December 1972, as President Richard Nixon's administration strives to bring an end to the stalemate in peace negotiations with the North Vietnamese. In this episode, we'll hear how Operation Homecoming came to bring 591 POWs home in February of 1973, 8.5 long yea...
In November of 1970, fifty-six U.S. Special Forces soldiers executed the most ambitious rescue mission of the Vietnam War, raiding a North Vietnamese prison camp known as "Son Tay," just outside of Hanoi. In this episode, we hear from Terry Buckler, the youngest of the Son Tay Raiders. At the time, ...
In Part 2 of our two-part focus on the League of Wives, we examine how exactly this courageous band of women was able to organize under Sybil Stockdale and make a significant impact on the return of their lost men. We rejoin Andrea Rander, wife of Chief Warrant Officer Donald Rander, and Pat Mearns,...
In Part 1 of our two-part focus on the League of Wives, we are introduced to Andrea Rander and Pat Mearns, each young mothers to two girls when their husbands were shot down in North Vietnam. Guided by expert historian and author Heath Hardage Lee, we set the scene for the League's formation by trac...
In this special episode, we depart from our central narrative and turn our attention to Washington D.C., where Presidents Lyndon B. Johnson & Richard Nixon were making a crucial impact on the treatment and release of the hundreds of American prisoners of war who were being brutally mistreated in Nor...
Mike McDaniel was nine years old when his father, Capt. Red McDaniel, was shot down and captured in the jungles of North Vietnam on May 19, 1967. It would be three long years until he and the rest of the clan heard any further news on the status of their patriarch. Meanwhile, Everett hinged his opti...
Episode 4 Transcript:
[00:00:00] TYLER MCCUSKER: Please be advised, this episode contains graphic descriptions of violence, including torture.
[00:00:11] NEWS: President Johnson reports to the nation on the reasons behind the United States decision to resume the bombing of targets in North Vietnam For 37 days, there was a truce on such air raids while US diplomats traveled around the globe in efforts to woo the Communist North Vietnam government to the peace table.
All those efforts met with cold rebuff, so once more, US planes take the war back to North Vietnam to protect ground forces with strikes against bridges and warehouse areas and supply routes to the south. The Momentus decision.
[00:00:44] TYLER MCCUSKER: By 1966, the US involvement in Vietnam had escalated into a full-blown military intervention that year.
The treatment of the prisoners of war would intensify on [00:01:00] July 6th, 50 captives at the prison's. Briar patch and the zoo, most of whom had been in solitary confinement, were rounded up and taken to a main street. An angry mob lined the streets of the Capitol city, and it didn't take long for them to become violent.
Throwing punches and glass bottles berating the American captives at the top of their lungs. It would later be known as the Hanoi March to the North Vietnamese. It was called the Hanoi Parade.
[00:01:35] CMDR. EV ALVAREZ: They marched the 50 of us through the streets of Hanoi. Got all beat up and everything.
[00:01:42] TYLER MCCUSKER: These are some of the real sounds from that day.[00:02:00]
Now, 28 year old Everett Alvarez had spent the prior two years imprisoned and was doing okay all things considered, but his captivity as the first American p o w was approached mostly with curiosity, not violence. But that day as Everett was getting pummeled with rocks and spit on by onlookers, he could sense everything was about to change.
This is the Premier podcast from the Richard Nixon Presidential Library. In partnership with Found Wave Productions and created in honor of Ross Perot Sr. Additional support comes from In and Out Burger. Proud to support veterans and their families. This is captured shot down in Vietnam.[00:03:00]
[00:03:00] CMDR. EV ALVAREZ: I anguished over what was gonna happen to me. They started with me almost, well, a year and a half after I'd been there is when they started the, the physical stuff, and you were being punished for not following the Camp Commander's orders. So not obeying. It was our job to resist being used for propaganda and that's what it was.
They did their
[00:03:25] ALVIN. TOWNLEY: best to resist giving any kinda statements or any kind of information to the North Vietnamese, and when the North Vietnamese finally got tired of that resort to torture.
[00:03:40] CMDR. EV ALVAREZ: We go through these sessions, torture sessions or whatever that range from, you know, sleep deprivation, sitting on a stool to taking your food away to actual physical beatings. Knocking you around? Oh, there were many things.
[00:03:58] TYLER MCCUSKER: Red McDaniel [00:04:00] also clearly remembers those first horrific years. It was a
[00:04:03] CAPT. RED MCDANIEL: very brutal, in fact, I think the torture was probably the worst at that moment than it was ever because of, uh, A bombing downtown OI
[00:04:13] NEWS: 46 plane airstrike with both Air Force and Navy Jet Bombers, 750 pound bombs.
80% of the target was destroyed. The raid cost North Vietnam, about 40% of its gas and oil reserves. Defense Secretary Robert McNamara holds a dramatic press conference only a few hours after the first US bombings of oil dumps outside the North Vietnamese cities of Hanoi and Haiphong. We believe this essential to help safeguard the freedom of South Vietnam.
And to save the lives of those South Vietnamese Americans, Australians, new Zealanders and Koreans, who are fighting to ensure that freedom.
[00:04:56] TYLER MCCUSKER: The focus in this episode of Captured will be to shine a [00:05:00] spotlight on the conditions that both Everett and Red faced. During the worst years of their captivity, some of it will be difficult to listen to. The reason why it's important to share today is to give the modern American some insight into what drives humans to inflict the worst kinds of harm on each other.
Some insight into how war changes people and some inspiration into what it takes to endure and overcome something. We can't even imagine going through today. The years that we focus on in this episode, 1966 through 1969 or so are the years that Everett and Red's paths finally converge. In this episode, you will hear their experiences as they were happening fairly simultaneously.
Here is red again on the beginning of his captivity. For him, the first few [00:06:00] weeks or months aren't as defined more than five decades later. Red more easily measures his time as a prisoner in years.
[00:06:09] CAPT. RED MCDANIEL: For the first three years we were in our cells probably 23 hours and 50 minutes per day,
and they would just come to open the cell to get our water, to get our food in, to dump our toilet bowls. But we spent most of the time in our. Small, seven by nine heat cells with uh, one cell mate, or maybe two cellmates. We all lost about 35 pounds because we were eating cabbage soup twice a day for three months in pumpkin soup, twice a day for about three months, and then something called swamp grass.
Something we grow at our. Ponds to feed our pigs here,
[00:06:52] TYLER MCCUSKER: also known as foul bluegrass. The swamp grass that red and other POWs were forced to eat is typically used for [00:07:00] erosion control. And fodder for livestock.
[00:07:03] CAPT. RED MCDANIEL: Occasionally we would get some bread about every two or three weeks, but primarily rice, Vietnamese, they swallow it and so they don't bother to get the rocks out.
And we Americans chew it. A lot of Americans broke teeth off on the, on the rice. So when I came home, my wife asked if I still like rice. So I said, yes, but please take the rocks out.
[00:07:30] CMDR. EV ALVAREZ: Other shoot downs after I was shot down were tortured. For military information.
[00:07:35] CAPT. RED MCDANIEL: I was tortured very severely twice and once at shoot down.
And the second time after an escape attempt by fellow prisons that I was involved in, uh, beaten with fan bells, I still went through the, the rope torture.
[00:07:51] ALVIN. TOWNLEY: One of the techniques that was used most frequently was called the ropes. If somebody refused to cooperate. It would tie someone's arms behind their back with a [00:08:00] rope and cinch the rope together until their arms pretty much touch from their shoulders to their elbows.
So I feel like anybody listening to this is probably cringing at home and they can try and, you know, put their elbows together. It's hard to put your elbows together. So imagine trying to get your shoulders almost
[00:08:14] CMDR. EV ALVAREZ: together. I, that's when they reached the point where they put the super cuffs on my arm and cut into the bone.
These handcuffs that ratchet, it cuts off the circulation, but it, it digs into the bone. And they would come back in an hour and I'm skinny. I've, I've got small bones, but they would, you know, uh, move them up towards halfway up the elbow and then really cut into that and they're behind your back.
[00:08:40] ALVIN. TOWNLEY: That was the kind of pain these POWs are going through, feeling that their sternums were about to crack open.
And if that wasn't enough, a torturer who was often a guy, they nicknamed pig guy. He would push the prisoner's arms up over his head, drive his nose down towards his knees.
[00:08:57] CMDR. EV ALVAREZ: This was constant. He just had to be, you [00:09:00] know, mentally prepared for the next time they came. And then the next time,
[00:09:06] CAPT. RED MCDANIEL: well, after two weeks of, uh, Torture. They moved me with a young man, Lieutenant jg, bill Metzker, uh, 24
[00:09:13] NEWS: years old,
[00:09:17] CAPT. RED MCDANIEL: down on the same day I was from the Bonham, flying an F eight crusader. He was lying on a concrete slab. Had no clothes on, had a wound from his wrist to the elbow. The bone exposed left leg, had a place where two pound piece of shrapnel had been embedded and came out and had a broken right leg. They moved me in with him because his wounds were life-threatening.
Mine were not. They moved me in to take care of him, and I lived with that young man for about two years and, uh, Nursed him back to health. Picked up off the floor, helped him and he [00:10:00] came out with me in excellent health. He was six three on one leg, five nine on the other because the broken leg healed over the lap, three inches, and he used to entertain us by running around on his short leg and left leg was just a, a good friend.
For the first time, I thought maybe God had a purpose of my being there. To take care of this young man who was so critically wounded.
[00:10:32] TYLER MCCUSKER: As we heard earlier, LB j's decision to launch a continual aerial assault enrage the North Vietnamese population. Because of this prison guards and Hanoi citizens would turn their anger toward the nearest American target, the vulnerable prisoners of war. At
[00:10:50] CMDR. EV ALVAREZ: this time, any bad attitude was being punished by the Camp Commanders.
You, you violated them by not telling the truth, so we were being punished, and so we were [00:11:00] taken put into a shell, put into leg irons and handcuffs behind our back, tied down 24 hours a day. They let us out to eat and dump our bucket. You know, you couldn't move your legs. You had a twist, and when you leaned back on it, you just tightened the, the cuffs that were behind your back.
We were that way for about five days and that, I mean, it got to be hard. I mean, that was hard, but, you know, it was interesting thinking back. We made a joke out of it trying to. Wr our body so we could relieve ourselves. We had the bucket right next to our bed and trying to hit the bucket with our cuffs behind our back and our legs, you know, stationary.
It was just one thing after another. I mean, this went on in finally 69. Um, We had an escape from the zoo
[00:11:58] TYLER MCCUSKER: When captured returns, [00:12:00] red and Everett's paths will converge during an organized P o W escape attempt. Although Everett and Red were in separate prisons and their paths never literally crossed in North Vietnam, their actions and decisions would amazingly still directly affect each other.
You see, the escape attempt Everett referenced before the break did not occur in his prison, but rather in red's.
[00:12:28] CAPT. RED MCDANIEL: I was now living in the zoo after having lived in the zoo. Ed. I
[00:12:32] TYLER MCCUSKER: located in the suburbs of Hanoi. The zoo opened in September, 1965 and remained operational until December, 1970 when all US prisoners were transferred to Wao Prison.
There was an adjoining prison known as the Zoo Annex, another of the 13 prison camps in which the POWs were held captive,
[00:12:52] CAPT. RED MCDANIEL: and we had 220. Prisoners in the two camps in the zoo. In the zoo annex. I lived in the [00:13:00] zoo annex for about six or seven months and with three other prisoners, and from that cell I knew what you could see from room one into the other camp.
After about six or eight months, they moved me into the zoo, into the other camp or cell. It had the only opening facing the zoo annex. There was a little crack about. 12 by five inches up, uh, 10 feet off the concrete slab. My cellmate would let me get on his shoulders and communicate out of that hole, and the next day he would get on my back.
He would communicate and we'd communicated it out that hole two or three hours for a day and connected 222 prisoners into two camps, and we could get a question through 69 walls impact with an answer. Within 24 hours, we reverse. Sophisticated
[00:13:56] TYLER MCCUSKER: throughout the years of captivity, the POWs maintained [00:14:00] chain of command.
Much of the information spreading went through certain channels and had to be run by the leadership. Being one of the more senior officers read was one of the most looked up to guys in the prison. They had
[00:14:14] CAPT. RED MCDANIEL: to maintain a, a strong front because, uh, I had a responsibility to be strong and they knew we were communicating everything through my window.
The room in the zoo annex decided they wanted to have an escape attempt, but they knew if they sent it through my window to the senior officer, he would tell 'em, no, no go, because it was impossible to escape without outside help. So they opted not to tell the senior officer that they're gonna have escaped attempt, and they had an escape attempt on May 10th, 1969,
looking for a rainy Saturday night because in the rain, the lights was short out, [00:15:00] had a late bed check. And they got out of the camp through the roof, down the wall of the building, over the out perimeter wall, over barbed wire. Got into the Red River and floated overnight. Daybreak came, got out of the water, was seen recaptured Bob out the camp.
[00:15:24] CMDR. EV ALVAREZ: when they caught the guys, uh, that went over the wall, they killed one and they beat the hell outta
[00:15:31] CAPT. RED MCDANIEL: the other. Over the next two days, one of the Escapees, ed Atterbury Air Force was tortured to death.
[00:15:40] CMDR. EV ALVAREZ: And then they went through and they purged, uh, the camp and all the senior guys. I mean, they just, uh, you know, beat the heck out of them and
[00:15:48] CAPT. RED MCDANIEL: took 'em away and some 25 people were tortured.
That was, yeah, that was, uh, the worst.
[00:15:59] TYLER MCCUSKER: The [00:16:00] escape attempt was another opportunity for Everett's captors to use him as a tool for propaganda.
[00:16:06] CMDR. EV ALVAREZ: And they came for me and they wanted me to make a tape
[00:16:09] TYLER MCCUSKER: about this. Of course, Everett refused to cooperate with the enemy like he did so many times in his eight years of captivity. His lack of cooperation almost definitely prolonged his stay, and it certainly led to more frequent and intense torture.
[00:16:27] CMDR. EV ALVAREZ: On that occasion, the guard hit me with his rifle butt. After that, I, my jaw never worked good and I think he broke one half cuz when I opened my, my jaw, uh, one part moves and the other doesn't. To this day, I can't open my mouth very wide and I, it's hard. I have to choose small pieces.
[00:16:46] TYLER MCCUSKER: During the war, POWs and Hanoi prisons endeavored to maintain a registry of captive Americans.
They concluded that at least 766 POWs entered the system as many as [00:17:00] 114 of those died in captivity. Many within the unforgiving walls of the Hanoi Hilton, but somehow red. Survived
[00:17:14] NEWS: on
[00:17:14] CMDR. EV ALVAREZ: June
[00:17:14] CAPT. RED MCDANIEL: 19th. They came to my cell to get me, uh, 30 some days after the escape attempt was in that 30 days. They tortured some 20 people very brutally, but the fact that we didn't know anything about the escape attempt, so we were in an impossible situation. And I went through seven days, seven nights without sleep.
I needed it on pity, concrete arms over my head. Uh, electro shock treatments, beaten daily with a fan belt on one occasion, more than a hundred times beaten for information I did not have. I, I sustained a compound fracture left arm, which I still can't straighten. The reason mine was so, was so severe was because it [00:18:00] was my idea to, to establish communication.
Through that hole. Because I had lived in both camps, I knew what you could see. And so my two cellmates that were tortured with me fingered me because they had to sell something and I would've done the same thing on them. But they said it's red. McDaniel's idea that they were convinced I had the information that I did not have.
And finally, to relieve the torches just for a little bit. On about the eighth or ninth day, I said, I am the escape committee.
They said, what are you going to, how are you going to escape? What are you gonna take with you? I said, I got some stuff hidden in the bath area out back, and they quit the torture and went to the shower head and tore the whole shower up looking for the stuff that I had, which I didn't have, but he gave me a break.
[00:18:55] TYLER MCCUSKER: Red was stalwart in his defiance, resisting for as long as his [00:19:00] body could take. And heroically taking the fall for the escape attempt of which he had no knowledge. No p o w ever successfully escaped from Hanoi, but the break from his tormentors did not last long. Red would be forced to endure six more days, 144 more hours of perpetual torture.
[00:19:27] CAPT. RED MCDANIEL: I went from about 165 pounds. Down throughout 115 pounds. You say, how do you know what you weighed? Well, we had some smart guys. We would get in a tub of water and measure the, the water it took to replace the level we got in and we could weigh ourselves.
[00:19:45] TYLER MCCUSKER: And, and just to give listeners an idea, you're six foot three, right?
Red? Six foot three. Yes. Imagine that. Six foot three, 115 pounds. Red endured that torture [00:20:00] to not give up his brothers, risking his own life to save others. Certainly any prisoner of war should be called a hero, but red consistently took that title to another level. As we've learned through many of these stories, not one of these men could have endured it alone.
[00:20:40] CAPT. RED MCDANIEL: After that two weeks of torture, I moved in with two young men who were my age, uh, Jack Van Loaner, air Force Colonel and Charlie Southwick, who was a navy lieutenant commander. And they w would massage my hands because my hands were absolutely. Useless. [00:21:00] I had no, no movement, no control whatsoever with my hands.
They would feed me, wipe me when I'd use a toilet bowl and would massage my hands for a couple hours. And if you want to see a rule, some real commitment in that environment, somebody that's willing to do that in a communist prison like that, and they were, and they have become my real. Friends through the years, they have both passed now, but they, uh, they were really dear friends and because of them.
I have 10 thumbs and a lot of numbness, but I still have some use of my
[00:21:36] TYLER MCCUSKER: hands. Remember, red had nursed Bill Metzger back to life almost exactly two years prior. Now, his brothers had returned the favor. As you can see, there was almost nothing that most POWs wouldn't go through for their fellow man, their personal sense of honor and for their
[00:21:59] CAPT. RED MCDANIEL: country.[00:22:00]
We had a, a slogan back the US
[00:22:03] CMDR. EV ALVAREZ: the order came down that something we were gonna do anyways. You know, don't make tapes unless you're punished and then
[00:22:10] CAPT. RED MCDANIEL: take torture up to the point of losing control of the situation where you,
[00:22:15] CMDR. EV ALVAREZ: it's not irreparable harm to your body. And
[00:22:18] CAPT. RED MCDANIEL: then give them what they want and back away to come back stronger to win.
[00:22:22] ALVIN. TOWNLEY: They just bounced back as best they could and they would take a beating and cover and go back at it again, just as hard.
[00:22:29] CAPT. RED MCDANIEL: And that was our policy
[00:22:31] CMDR. EV ALVAREZ: and, and that's what the tactic was. And you guys all
[00:22:33] TYLER MCCUSKER: had a unified stance on that basically.
[00:22:35] CMDR. EV ALVAREZ: Yes, we did. Others would take it, the, the extreme. And these are the guys that didn't come back from these
[00:22:41] NEWS: sessions
[00:22:44] ALVIN. TOWNLEY: and one of the last things they could control was what came outta their mouth or what their hands wrote. And so, you know, my God, they were not going to. Say something or write something that was, sell their honor. Unless North Vietnamese made 'em and eventually North Vietnamese made 'em. [00:23:00] The POWs would break cuz there was a point at which human body could not handle
[00:23:05] CMDR. EV ALVAREZ: that much pain, make it tough for them.
And when you do break you, you try to give them basically nothing. Make it useless. You know, sometimes the
[00:23:14] ALVIN. TOWNLEY: confessions would appear in print. Uh, there's a very infamous confession given by one of the guys I write about in my book, defiant, a guy named Ellis Tanner. And he had told, told them that the squadron commander was Bruce Wayne.
Who we know as Batman. And he told him that his wingman was Clark Kent, who we of course know is Superman. And so that became known as a Superman confession because North Vietnamese shared it with international journalists. And so of course as soon as it made it to America, people you know, saw right through that in the North Vietnamese, were not happy with Nell's Tanners.
You can imagine these are competitive guys who hated to lose. Hated to lose. They felt terrible. They would often go crawling back their cells, literally crawling because they couldn't walk anymore and lay there on the dirty floor on their ratty little bamboo mat [00:24:00] and not want to go home anymore. Cause they thought they were the only guy that couldn't hack it.
The only guy that that signed the confession. Inevitably through the wall, they need to hear the taps
and they hear from someone on the other side of that wall who'd been there. Who knew that they were all gonna get through this together and encourage that p o w, that he was going to be okay. He was going to recharge. He was gonna get there and get up there and fight again. The next day,
[00:24:32] CMDR. EV ALVAREZ: people were, uh, solitary in their cells.
[00:24:35] ALVIN. TOWNLEY: Many times the Americans were kept in solitary confinement because an North Vietnamese didn't want them communicating because they knew that prisoners that could communicate were prisoners that could cooperate with one another. And would not cooperate with them. However, the POWs came up with the tap code.
[00:24:52] CMDR. EV ALVAREZ: Uh, we would tap through the wall and keep each other occupied, help each other, and basically information what was going on. The [00:25:00] fellow that brought that in was the fifth or sixth person shutdown. Smitty Harris. He's the one that hadn't read somewhere about this tap code, and if it hadn't been for Smitty, I don't know what we would've done.
You thrive on information. Information input was key, man. It was key to keep it later on to keep our organization going. It was key for the senior officers to start putting out the policies that we followed.
[00:25:29] ALVIN. TOWNLEY: It was a, a system of taps, somewhat like morse code that they would tap through the wall, each letter of the alphabet and a corresponding code, put the alphabet into a 5, 5,
[00:25:42] CMDR. EV ALVAREZ: 5 5 matrix square.
And the first is if you go across the, the top row, it's A, B, C, D, E, and then the second row, F G H I J.
[00:25:57] ALVIN. TOWNLEY: And if you know anything about the alphabet has 26 letters, which doesn't fit into [00:26:00] five by five Matrix. Five by five
[00:26:01] CMDR. EV ALVAREZ: is
[00:26:01] CAPT. RED MCDANIEL: 25.
[00:26:02] CMDR. EV ALVAREZ: And so you've got,
[00:26:03] CAPT. RED MCDANIEL: you've gotta get rid of a
[00:26:04] CMDR. EV ALVAREZ: letter. So you get rid of K, took out the letter K
[00:26:07] ALVIN. TOWNLEY: instead of K, you C, you C for K.
And across the top of this matrix, if you can envision, this is A, B, C, D, E. And then down down the left side is A F L Q V
[00:26:19] CMDR. EV ALVAREZ: example. If you wanna say, uh, gb, goodbye
[00:26:23] ALVIN. TOWNLEY: G, which is the second row,
[00:26:25] CMDR. EV ALVAREZ: second row second letter
B, first row, second letter.
[00:26:32] ALVIN. TOWNLEY: You tap once as this in the first row, and then twice as it's in the second column.
[00:26:40] CMDR. EV ALVAREZ: Okay. V and then down all the way to uv, X, Y, Z. So V would be fifth row, second letter.
[00:26:52] ALVIN. TOWNLEY: Sometimes they would draw it out or scratch it out. Any way to communicate with one another.[00:27:00]
It was extraordinary, the speed at which they could communicate and how effectively they could communicate. You know, several POWs would describe the Hanoi Hilton as sounding like a den of
[00:27:08] CAPT. RED MCDANIEL: woodpecker. Well, it found like about 40 typists typing away on typewriters as you tapped on the board. It
[00:27:15] CMDR. EV ALVAREZ: was like a, almost like a typewriter, electric typewriter.
[00:27:19] ALVIN. TOWNLEY: They would use, uh, shorthand, like we use shorthand, uh, with
[00:27:22] CMDR. EV ALVAREZ: texting. You learn shortcuts, then you learn to tap real quick, and then as soon as you understand what the word is, you cut 'em off and then you go on to the next week. And we
[00:27:31] CAPT. RED MCDANIEL: communicated six, $7 per day through the walls. I talked to one guy for three years through the wall, never saw his face until we released.
I knew all about that man.
[00:27:42] TYLER MCCUSKER: And you used it to play chess and like some other things later
[00:27:45] CMDR. EV ALVAREZ: on too, right? Everything passed a time with the person next to you.
[00:27:50] ALVIN. TOWNLEY: It's hard to think about people communicating with a code like that, but you have to remember these POWs had nothing but time.
[00:27:56] CAPT. RED MCDANIEL: The only, only thing we had with us is what we brought in [00:28:00] with us and what the other prisoners had is we lived in a total vacuum for three years with no bombing.
I committed to memory some 20, 65 different poems that Cellmates had had remembered bringing into the prison.
[00:28:16] ALVIN. TOWNLEY: They had just, you know, hour after hour of, of solitude and quiet where they would. Learn the code. It was all a matter
[00:28:23] CMDR. EV ALVAREZ: of learning and getting familiar with our situation, which was evolving, so you had to keep involved
[00:28:29] CAPT. RED MCDANIEL: with them, and that was our livelihood, trying to lift the guys up.
[00:28:36] CMDR. EV ALVAREZ: And so
[00:28:37] ALVIN. TOWNLEY: that constant communication is what really kept the American POWs together and united them behind that vision of returning home with honor.
[00:28:53] CMDR. EV ALVAREZ: I'm, I'm rusty right now, but I, I've had a little occasion to use the tap code in the last 50 years [00:29:00]
[00:29:01] TYLER MCCUSKER: unless there's something you want to keep from your wife or something like that. Yeah,
[00:29:06] CMDR. EV ALVAREZ: I, I, I dare not keep anything from our
[00:29:08] ALVIN. TOWNLEY: wife.
[00:29:21] CAPT. RED MCDANIEL: We had very, really great leadership and for the most part, everybody followed the US leadership. It was, uh, A wonderful experience to, you know, just pull together as a team.
[00:29:36] ALVIN. TOWNLEY: One of the rules that the POWs had was that we all go home together, that no one was gonna get out early, they were all gonna go home together.
No one was going to get special treatment. Couple POWs did go home early and you know, they really earned the eternal ire of the rest of the POWs who stayed.[00:30:00]
[00:30:02] CAPT. RED MCDANIEL: We had a few guys that would work with the enemy. 11 of those came home early against the will of the leadership there. We told 'em not to go, but they went anyway and. But we would see who they were and kind of shove 'em out to the outside.
[00:30:17] ALVIN. TOWNLEY: All the other pws realized they were part of that unit, and it was gonna take all of them to get all of them
[00:30:23] CMDR. EV ALVAREZ: through it.
[00:30:25] CAPT. RED MCDANIEL: I don't understand why they did, why they sold their souls to do that, because they had been ostracized and, uh, to go, they had to sell their soul. How do you live with yourself after having sold out like that?
[00:30:40] CMDR. EV ALVAREZ: My way of looking at it was that, If I didn't resist I, and, and stick up to what I believed in my values, it would rob my soul and, and it, it, I wouldn't have been the same.
One of the most important things with that [00:31:00] whole experience that we knew that we all wanted, wanted to come home or wanted to come home. But I wanted to come home with my personal integrity and I wanted to come home with my self-respect.
[00:31:30] TYLER MCCUSKER: CAPTURED: Shot Down in Vietnam is a docu-series from the Richard Nixon Presidential Library and Foundation produced by the team at found wave. And respectfully created in honor of Ross Perot, Sr. If you're interested in learning more about Vietnam POWs, you can visit the exhibition captured at the Nixon Library in Yorba Linda, California original music compositions, fully Effects and Mastering from Jonathan Rock, produced and edited by Steph Weaver Weinberg research [00:32:00] background in history from Jason Schwartz, executive production from Joe Lopez and the team at the Richard Nixon Foundation.
And Kaylee Mason from Perot Family Collections co-executive production interviewing and hosting from me, Tyler Russell McCusker. Find future episodes of this show and bonus content, including archival photos and email@example.com. If you enjoyed our production, please consider leaving a review and clicking follow on Apple Podcasts or Spotify.