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Return With Honor

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Online Forum: 11.14.00

What was the one thing that you were able to cling to more than any other during especially rough times? I know it's personal for everyone, but I was curious to the overall idea.
Chris Enslow
Gilroy, CA

Answered by Commander Paul Galanti
Chris, What held me together was faith - four of 'em: faith in God, faith in my fellow POWs (many of whom I'd never met although I felt closer to them than my own family), faith in my fellow military forces and leaders whom I knew wouldn't let us down. And, finally, faith in the good, old USA. Faith in my family was a "given"! The others were sorely tried and triumphed in the end.

Answered by Colonel Tom McNish
The one thing that gave me the strength to go on was FAITH. Faith in my God, faith in my country and faith in myself. As I said in RWH, I was absolutely confident that my country would not forget me, no matter how long I stayed in North Vietnam. This is the type of faith we must be SURE that our future military members have if & when they are asked to go into harm's way for our country!! This is why we must NEVER relax pressure on the VN gov't until the fullest POSSIBLE accounting is obtained for our MIA's. Their families have the same right to know the fate of their loved ones as mine did. We must honor our commitments to those who defend our way of life or we will LOSE it!

Many prisoners were in solitary confinement for years, how does a human being survive total isolation, (especially under those conditions), intact?
John Sharkey
San Francisco, CA

Answered by Commander Paul Galanti
I re-lived every experience I ever had mentally. I re-flew every flight I ever made, re-read every text I'd ever used in schools from about 4th grade through flight school. I re-derived every math formula, did chemical equations in my head and, mainly, tried to keep my mind as active as possible. Communications, whenever and wherever and however covertly, provided a major uplift in spirit and morale. I never knew what some of my best friends looked like until after the war.

I have a two part question -- and perhaps Bui Tin can answer the first part -- were the North Vietnamese (Army) ever paid/compensated for a live capture of an American? Second, does anyone believe that there may still be American soldiers held against their will?
Christine LaFrate

Answered by Bui Tin
(i.) No, we actively engaged in the competition of live-capturing American pilots who parachuted to the ground in the army, the youth alliance, and the people alliance. Everyone was always readied with guns, stick, knives, and ropes to capture and tie up these prisoners. All memorized the line "Hands up!" However, the reward consisted only of medals for the individiuals or groups, but never money.

(ii.) No one believes that there are still American soldiers imprisoned in Vietnam. One cannot possibly hide the prisoners for that long stretch of time. It has already been thirty years! In the Vietnamese society, if one knows of this, then millions would also be aware of the fact. I also know for a fact that in 1973, after the Paris Peace Accord, Vietnam received orders from the leaders to return all American prisoners in exchange for the return of the Vietnamese soldiers captured in the war.

Bui Tin, as a Vietnamese soldier at the time, how did you view the war/conflict? What did you see as the major differences in the mentalities between the American and Vietnamese soldiers/people?
Paul Evans

Answered by Bui Tin
In the beginning of the war and during the war against the French imperialism, we--the Vietnamese--deemed the conflict to be a nationalistic war fighting for independence. Later, it became a devastated brotherhood conflict where brothers and sisters committed brutality against one another, which then gave birth to the cold war between the two sides: the Communist and the Republic. American soldiers only understood that their participation in the war means they were helping the South to fight against the Communist from the North from their efforts to usurp the South. And in the North, the propaganda machine tried to educationally explain that the war against the Americans is a sacred one, for it is to protect the independence and nationalism of the country. In America, I believe that because of the protests against the war had influenced dramatically the fighting spirit of American soldiers.

What did we accomplish in Vietnam and what could have been done to win the war?
Dean Roope

Answered by Stanley Karnow
This is a broad question. For starters, you can look in the reference section of my book, (Vietnam: A History), for sources about Vietnam. You can also use any of the search engines on the internet and type in "Vietnam".

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