In early March of 1971, our captors were in the process of moving myself and one other American POW north along the Ho Chi Minh Trail to Hanoi where we would spend the remainder of our captivity.
On the way, we came upon a cluster of 200-300 dirty, wounded ARVN (Army of the
Republic of Vietnam-South Vietnamese) soldiers who apparently had been part of an operation into Laos.
A South Korean who was with them and who spoke English told us that he and his fellow Koreans were going to be killed because the Vietnamese didn't keep Korean prisoners. I was struck by how cool and matter-of-factly he spoke of his fate. The next day, our guards made a point of taking us near where the ARVNs were being issued packs and weapons. Having agreed to join the enemy and save their own lives, they would soon be fighting against their former friends and comrades in arms. We never saw the South Koreans again.
Later that day, I saw an American prisoner.
I was less than ten feet away when I finally noticed him. He was a Warrant Officer...a helicopter pilot. Unlike the rest of us who were filthy and haggard from our long captivity, he was wearing a fresh flight suit and he was still clean. He hadn't been in captivity long and I could see that he was scared. As soon as we saw each other, his guards grabbed him and moved him away very quickly. It was only a fleeting moment and I never saw him again.
But I will never forget him.
When I saw him he was healthy and uninjured. I, on the other hand, was sickly and suffering from a variety of jungle maladies which resulted from the poor diet and harsh conditions endured during three years in the moving jungle camps of the south.
He should have survived as well.
After our release in March of 1973, I tried to learn who he was and
what happened to him.