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Sunday, April 22, 2007
Profiles in Courage

The Power Line guys have an excellent post up about the heroism of Admiral James Stockdale:

Years after being freed, Stockdale presented himself for vice president on Ross Perot's ticket. He began his campaign by asking, "Who am I? Why am I here?" - only to be mocked by the press as a bumbler who was out of his depth. But his family can take comfort in the fact that generations, even centuries from now, when the individuals who belittled those words are forgotten in the dusts of history, Americans will know exactly who James Stockdale was and exactly why he was here.

As I have remarked in the past, I realized this guy Dennis Miller was something special when he blasted the media and the American public for the initial reaction to Stockdale's performance in the debate:

The reason he had to turn his hearing aid on at that debate is because those f*cking animals knocked his eardrums out when he wouldn't spill his guts. He teaches philosophy at Stanford University, he's a brilliant, sensitive, courageous man. And yet he committed the one unpardonable sin in our culture: he was bad on television. Somewhere out there Paddy Chayefsky must be laughing his ass off.

Indeed, if you look at the men who were held as POWs by the North Vietnamese, their heroism is quite amazing:

Admiral Jeremiah Denton:

"The Navy Cross is presented to Jeremiah A. Denton, Rear Admiral, U.S. Navy, for extraordinary heroism while serving as a Prisoner of War in North Vietnam from February 1966 to May 1966. Under constant pressure from North Vietnamese interrogators and guards, Rear Admiral Denton (then Commander) experienced harassment, intimidation and ruthless treatment in their attempt to gain military information and cooperative participation for propaganda purposes. During this prolonged period of physical and mental agony, he heroically resisted cruelties and continued to promulgate resistance policy and detailed instructions. Forced to attend a press conference with a Japanese correspondent, he blinked out a distress message in Morse Code at the television camera and was understood by United States Naval Intelligence. Displaying extraordinary skill, fearless dedication to duty, and resourcefulness, he reflected great credit upon himself, and upheld the highest traditions of the Naval Service and the United States Armed Forces."

Colonel Bud Day, the most decorated living American:

On 26 August 1967, Col. Day was forced to eject from his aircraft over North Vietnam when it was hit by ground fire. His right arm was broken in 3 places, and his left knee was badly sprained. He was immediately captured by hostile forces and taken to a prison camp where he was interrogated and severely tortured. After causing the guards to relax their vigilance, Col. Day escaped into the jungle and began the trek toward South Vietnam. Despite injuries inflicted by fragments of a bomb or rocket, he continued southward surviving only on a few berries and uncooked frogs. He successfully evaded enemy patrols and reached the Ben Hai River, where he encountered U.S. artillery barrages. With the aid of a bamboo log float, Col. Day swam across the river and entered the demilitarized zone. Due to delirium, he lost his sense of direction and wandered aimlessly for several days. After several unsuccessful attempts to signal U.S. aircraft, he was ambushed and recaptured by the Viet Cong, sustaining gunshot wounds to his left hand and thigh. He was returned to the prison from which he had escaped and later was moved to Hanoi after giving his captors false information to questions put before him.

Paul Galanti:

In addition to the physical tortures, Commander Galanti was subjected to an
agonizing session after "violating the prison regulations." Having received
two letters and a package from Phyllis, he assumed it was a special deal to
make him look bad in the eyes of his fellow POW's. In order to show that such
was not the case, he threw a package of Lifesavers to one of the other cells
in the bath-house. A guard saw and reported it. For this he was made to sit on
a small stool in an interrogation room during the coldest part of the year. He
sat there for ten days and nights, drugged and deprived of sleep, before being
forced to apologize to the camp commander.

Leo Thorsness:

It wasn't over yet. Again low on fuel, Thorsness headed for a tanker just as one of the strike force pilots, lost and almost out of fuel, called him for help. Thorsness knew he couldn't make Takhli without refueling. Rapidly calculating that he could stretch it to Udorn, some 200 miles closer, without taking on fuel, he directed the tanker toward the lost pilot. Once across the Mekong, he throttled back to idle and "glided" toward Udorn, touching down as his tanks went dry. That four-hour mission had been, as Johnson said, "a full day's work."

Eleven days later, while Thorsness was on his 93rd mission, a MiG popped up from behind a mountain and put a missile up the tailpipe of his F-105. He and Johnson ejected at 600 knots, Thorsness suffering severe injuries. Both men spent almost the next six years in North Vietnam's prisons. Because of his "uncooperative attitude," Thorsness was denied medical attention, spent a year in solitary, and suffered severe back injuries under torture. On March 4, 1973, both men walked away from prison, Thorsness on crutches. No one could ever say that Leo Thorsness hadn't paid his dues in full.

There are many more stories like these about our incredibly brave POWs. Look into the stories of Kenneth W. Cordier, Kevin McManus, Carlyle S. "Smitty" Harris, John McCain and many others.

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