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Col. "Swede" Larson



Rob Risner


A Short Christmas Story



BY COL. SWEDE LARSON, FORMER PoW

Col Ted Guy and I (Col. Larson) were moved back to the Hilton in December of 1969 (in seperate cells of course.). On the 24th of December, I was called in to the camp commanders presence, and informed that I was to get a roommate!! After nearly 2 years in solitary, I was to get a roommate. I packed up my gear and was moved to the main interrogation room away from all the other POW's.

When I entered the room, I could see that someone else lived there and that there were two beds, (wood planks nailed together on saw horses!!). Several minuites later, the door opened and in walked the guard and another POW I had never seen before. It turned out that he was Robbie Risner and he had been in solitary confinement for the past 2 1/2 years! He had been through hell and needed companionship even worse than I did. We talked continuously for 2 1/2 days without sleep. We were the best Christmas present to each other, that we ever had.






Navy Commander James Mulligan, Executive Officer of Attack Squadron 36 was shot down near Vinh on March 20, 1966.

1966


One day just befor Christmas 1966 a letter Jim Mulligan had been allowed to write in early November reached his wife Louise and their seven sons.

My Darling wife and children:
My captors are allowing me to write a letter home. I hope it arrives before Christmas. You all know my feelings, how I like things and what I expect you to do. This separation is difficult, but it will end an we will resume our lives together once again.
I won't discuss much about life here. Physically, I have some problems that will need attention when I get released. My left arm, shoulder and left side of my chest will need some work.
I was quite sick for a few months and lost a lot of weight. At meals, in addition to meat and vegetables, I get piles of whole grain rice, plenty of warm soup and a pot of water, and now estimate my weight at 150 lbs.

== notes ===============================

To Intelligence Analysts, piles or whole grain rice, plenty of warm soup and a pot of water would spell, [ PoW, PoW, PoW ], and estimate my weight at 150 would mean [ Mulligan estimated there were 150 PoW's in Hanoi.] His outlandish descriptions alerted US analysts of the double meaning - and also made the Viet's pleased that the world would know how well American PoW's were being treated ... and let the letter leave Hanoi - unchanged.
By December 0f 1966 there were 151 PoW's in Hanoi.
== end note
===============================


Life is much like the religious retreat I made a few years back, only it's much more quiet here and I have more time for thinking and meditating.

== note ===============================

Analyst: Mulligan was saying he was in Solitary Confinement.
== end note ===============================


Give my best to Father Gallagher. You know he is some athlete. He got six hits in seven at bats. Tell him his alter boy Paul Daley, showed real promise as a tennis player. He had a good backhand but he was rough in missing his forehand.

== note ===============================

To Father Gallagher, a good friend and chaplain aboard Mulligan's ship, Enterprise this meant there were a total of seven Enterprise airmen in captivity. Paul Daley had been the backseater in the only other aircraft Mulligan's squardron lost, but the pilot, Jim Ruffin, was missing ---- "rough in missing."
== end note ===============================


As for you my beloved wife, once again you must bear the harsh burden of life's cross alone. Keep your faith and spirits, my darling. Our love can do nothing but grow stronger. Thank the good Lord for sparing my life. I love you and miss you very much, and though I am a prisoner I remain ever with you in my thoughts and prayers. A Happy and joyous Christmas. Love one and other.

Your devoted husband and father,
/S/ Jim







by: Col. Ted Guy

1972


Some may disagree, but the Christmas of 1972 was certainly the best of my five while in jail, and possibly the best up to that time in my life. My Christmas season started about two weeks before Christmas when Art Elliott and I were moved into Corncrib 2 in the camp known as ‘The Plantation Gardens’. We were joined by 4 other Army helicopter pilots captured in South Vietnam. A few nights later on December 18th we were sitting on the floor shooting the bull and playing bridge. Around 2000, we heard a distant rumbling that kept getting louder and louder. The floor and the walls started to shake and the Army troops said: "Those are B-52 strikes!" Being an old fighter jock and continuing my age old battle with bomber crews, I informed my Army cohorts that was a bunch of bull hockey because there was not a SAC wienie in existence that had the balls to come to Hanoi and drop bombs.

As the rumbling moved closer and closer to the city center, we observed through the tiny peep hole in the door, hundreds of Sam’s streaking into the night sky followed by horrendous explosions. By this time, the whole camp was rocking and rolling and all my fellow jailbirds were screaming encouragement to the attacking bombers. The guard’s tried to contain us, but soon ran for cover and were not seen the rest of the night.

I knew then that the war would soon be over. The Christmas bombing was indeed "The Greatest Show on Earth" and in my opinion the single most important factor that led to our release. It is a shame that something similar was not done on August 5th 1964. Fifty thousand plus American lives would have been saved and the POW/MIA tragedy would have been for the most part avoided.

Oh yes, Thank-you SAC for expediting our return.

Ted Guy




James E. Latham



Tim Ayres

1972


by: Richard L. Bates, Former PoW

Jim Latham and I arrived at Heartbreak after a 60 day sojourn from Pak 1. We were put back into solo of course but were roomed together about 15 days later just before the Christmas bombing began. I share your feeling about the bombings... they were wonderful. I also recall the F-111 strikes. No forewarning and a lot of confusion. The night of the first one Jim and I were in the Stardust and Spot and (I think) Pig Eyes came in very upset and wanted to know "What that was". We said we didn't know. They asked what we thought was going to happen and Jim very matter of factly looked at them and said "I think we're all going to die". The two of them made a very uneasy quick exit. Jim and I laughed till we couldn't stand up. A couple of nights later the entire population of the Zoo was moved into Vegas with us. What a great Christmas present. But the best was Christmas Eve. Some of were talking and someone mentioned Tim Ayres. I had flown as a Wolf Fac with Tim andtried to work his SAR but it was unsuccessful and we were pretty sure Tim had been Killed. Finding out that he was indeed alive was one of the best Christmas gifts I have ever received.





Former POW, Mike Benge, in Tiger Cage on the Mall, Veterans Day, Washington D.C., 1998 raising funds for the POW/MIA FOIA Litigation Fund. For more on Mike Benge's ordeal in captivity, please see:
Betty Ann Olsen's Bio

1972


Christmas Lights In Hanoi The lighting of the Christmas trees in Washington, DC and New York are beautiful sights. And the Christmas lights in Denver and other cities are outstanding. However, the most beautiful Christmas lights of all were those of the Christmas bombing of Hanoi in \'72.

The flash of the Sam missiles, the flares dropped from the plane, the arclights hitting the city, and yes, even when a Sam hit a plane, it was all spectacular, for this gave us all hope and we knew we were soon going home.

Bless that noon time reccie who flew up the train tracks blowing past our camp for the past year with a sonic boom while gaining altitude and turning across the Red River heading for home. It gave us hope, and we knew that when the bombs started falling, we wouldn\'t get hit, for Uncle Sam knew where we were.

When the bombs started falling, we all cheered, and for a minute the guards threatened to shoot us if we didn\'t shut up, but they soon were crouching in their hidey-holes and shitting in their mess kits as the bombs started falling and they were too scared to say anything more.

We had been forced to dig trenches down the middle of our rooms before the bombing, so I guess Johnny Walker had been instrumental in the NVA knowing the B52s were coming. The bombs were close enough that the trenches contorted like a Z and the double doors to our cells would move over their own width from the shock. The next day we found a dead bird outside our door presumably killed from the shock.

As the NVA was moving us to the Hanoi Hilton we peeked out of the sides of the trucks and saw that the B52s had been right on target for everything had been flattened except our old camp -- the Plantation Gardens.

Yes Christmas lights are pretty, but none will ever be as beautiful as those over Hanoi on Christmas \'72. And God Bless the pilots and crews of the planes who gave their all to set us free.

Mike Benge.
Civilian VN POW \'68-73



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