Col. Larson's Bio p. 1
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Col. Larson's Bio p. 3
Col. Larson's Bio p. 4
Col. Larson's Bio p. 5
Col. Larson's Bio p. 6
PoW Christmas

Former PoW Col. Gordon Swede Larson, USA Today Hotsite


Biography of: Col. Gordon "Swede" Larson - Page Five


I was unable to lie down due to the terrible back pain I now had and I thought I could get some rest sitting in one of the chairs. I no more than sat down, when a key turned in the lock and a guard came rushing in and knocked me off of the chair and ranted for several minutes in Vietnamese and kept pointing to the low stool in front of the table. I soon understood I was not welcome to sit on an officer’s chair and that the cut-off stool was for me. As time passed, it got to the point that I hated those stools with a passion. The Vietnamese are short in height, while the Americans by comparison are much taller. The officers who interrogated us wanted to be able to always look down on us and we were forced to sit at attention on those low stools. When he thought I understood what he was trying to tell me, he walked over to the rat hole and could see that I had relieved myself there. He ranted and raved again and before passing out the door, gave me a swift kick to make his point. I crawled to one of the corners where I propped myself up and tried to get some sleep.


A short time later that afternoon, an English-speaking officer came to the room with my flying suit over his arm. I thought I would finally get something to wear. I was told to put the flying suit on and was to be taken someplace where I was to keep my mouth shut and say nothing. To emphasize his point, he called in my escort and who should it be but Rope. Just the sight of him made me sick to my stomach but I was so far gone by then, I couldn't dwell on it. I vaguely remember being in the back of a small truck and when we stopped I was lifted out by Rope and another large guard and carried by my arms to a pavilion. I was still in shock and remember only small segments of that night.


There were many photographers in the large room and they kept taking pictures of me. I remember one photographer bending down and taking pictures of my feet and the bloody footprints I was leaving on the floor. I was covered in mud and dirt but the flight suit hid most of it. My hair was matted with mud and I was in a dazed condition, being held up by two guards. I vaguely remember getting back to the interrogation room and the guard demanding I give up my flight suit. I never saw it again. (See picture)


My interrogation began with who were in the positions of command at Korat. I gave them names of people who had departed or were about to depart and would not be flying missions to Hanoi again. He left and a few minuets later, returned and said I lied and rattled off the names of most of the ranking officers in the Wing. I still was not thinking too clearly and could not understand how he knew all those names.


They then proceeded to ask me repeatedly, about targeting, especially future targeting. I repeatedly told them that we never knew where we were going next, until the orders came in the night before. I told them over, and over, that I had no idea. They then mentioned “new” targeting and the light came on, bells sounded and whistles blew and I knew then, that my wingman was volunteering information to them and putting me “between the rock and the hard core”. My life then became miserable, as everything I told them was either a lie or half lie, and my wingman was refuting everything I told them,


The following days were a painful blur. I was interrogated three or four times a day by many different officers and civilians, always sitting on the low stool at attention. My back was killing me and after a few minutes I could hardly sit there. Several times I fell off and was punched and kicked back on the stool. I got one bowl of rice a day the first five days and no spoon to eat it with. I would occasionally be given a small amount of water during the interrogation sessions as part of their "nice guy" routine. Several times I was even offered a cigarette. I accepted the first one, but then decided I would not give them the slightest edge over me if I had any control over the situation, and quit smoking for good, then and there. I still used the rat hole to relieve myself and fortunately, had no other body function urges.


I was repeatedly threatened with punishment for my bad attitude. I told them only enough to keep from being tortured again and hoped that the day would come when I could withstand severe treatment again, but for the time being, I had to do the best I could. My biggest worry was that they might find out that I was previously in the Strategic Air Command and that I flew B-52s. Should this information be made available to them through my wingman, my future would really look bleak. I was Nuclear Weapon certified, and could diagram most of our front line weapons. I also knew a great deal about Soviet targeting, ingress and egress routes, as well as numbers and response times. If the Vietnamese became aware of it, it figured that the Soviets would know, and I would disappear on a one way ride to Moscow. I worried about that throughout my entire stay in Vietnam.


On about the 6th day, I was moved to another interrogation room just around the corner. It had rough balls of cement plastered all over the room that must have been for acoustic purposes. It also had a large hook hanging from the center of the ceiling that had all sorts of possible uses, none of which were good. We called that room the "Meat Hook Room". There was a small rectangular table and the ever-present low stool. In one corner was a large pile of parachute straps that were used to bind the prisoners. They were not used on me in that room, but I was always aware of their existence.


I was still crawling around, as my legs were still too sore to stand on. The nights were terrible because of mosquitoes. There were swarms of them every night. I was chewed up from head to foot. I still had only my shorts to cover me and wished for some more mud! My cell door opened one night and a guard walked in with a mosquito net! Could God have heard my prayers? It would be several weeks before I learned to put that net up properly, but that night I draped it over the table and crawled under it. I could not lie down yet - and would not be able to for another three and a half months. I leaned against one of the legs and, as I had not had any previous measurable sleep, I was soon asleep. I thought I was dreaming when I heard noises, and then it sounded like the Vietnamese were torturing some other poor guy. It slowly dawned on me that I was the one making the noise because I had fallen over in my sleep and was almost delirious with pain from my back. The cell door opened and the guard shouted for me to stop but I could not raise myself up, which would have stopped the severe pain. The guard got frustrated because I was making so much noise. Making noise of any kind was strictly forbidden. He jerked me out from under there, bashed me around a bit, and stormed out. I was afraid to get under there again and sat propped in the corner for the rest of the night and fought the mosquitoes.


On the ninth day they brought me a pair of crutches and indicated I was going to move. With my only possession (the net!) draped over my neck, I hobbled down the courtyard to Heartbreak Hotel and was put in cell number 7 which was to be my home for the next three months.

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