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Online Forum: 11.17.00

Do any of you suffer from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder? If so, how do you deal with the flashbacks of being a POW?
Sheena Kennedy

Answered by Commander Paul Galanti
I've never had any flashbacks. When I think of the incarceration experience, it's rarely negative. I think of the friends I've made and personal life lessons learned.

I've heard that the incidence of PTSD is lower than would be clinically expected but haven't heard any figures.

My question relates to the psychological aftermath of your combined experiences. As a rescue pilot I incurred moderately severe PTSD. I am wondering if the POW experience caused similar disabilities among the POWs. Second, I am wondering why Bui Tin is included in this Forum? Since you are here, Do you feel shame and remorse for the despicable actions perpetrated on the US POWs and the unspeakable horrors perpetrated by the North Vietnam Government on the people of South Vietnam both during the Vietnam war and after 1975 when so many were tortured and killed in "reeducation centers"?
Toma Grubb
(CW2 Dustoff Pilot Cu Chi RVN 69-70)

Answered by Bui Tin
Post traumatic stress disorder is quite rampantly developed and present in Vietnam after the war. Because of the horrendous and relentless bombing by the B52, F 105, Fantom 4 during the day and the night, many elderly people as well as youths experienced severe psychological shocks. Many became insane, lost their mind, and the ability to reason. They have seen too many of their loved ones killed (father, mother, siblings, little children who were bombed by the Americans), alas they became completely crazy. This type of stress lasts forever.

Concerning the treatments that the American soldiers received, I base my view on the meetings and talks which I've conducted with more than 100 American pilots. Generally, they received better treatments than North Vietnamese soldiers. They received a bit more food ration than Vietnamese soldiers, they were given warm clothes, blankets, mosquito nets, socks; they were able to read books and newspapers (which belonged to the camp of course), were able to receive and send letters to home. The bad side of this treatment would be the forced indoctrination: if they wouldn't surrender to the Vietnamese political views, they would be punished and forced into the tiny cells with their feet cuffed to the floor. Sometimes they were paraded/walked in the streets, although that was done in order, without violence, only verbal attacks.

Those were the regrettable actions committed during the war. Even during the war, I never agreed and had always protested against these actions.

After April 30 1975, 200,000 government and military officials were exiled from the prison to the reeducation camp under the name of war crime violence. Many died in prison, like General Phan Huy Quat, the poet Vu Hoang Chuong, or Tran Van Tuyen. I see that to be a violation of the International Treaty on Prisoners of War which both sides must observe, even if it isn't declared in the war. In fact, the US President recognized the South Vietnamese government/soldiers to be an ally, hence this issue should be brought up in the UN and during the current trip to Vietnam.

The leaders of the Communist Vietnam had learned the philosophy and ideals of Marx and Lenin regarding imprisonment, and harbored severe vengeance therefore they reinforced cruel and inhumane legislation. Presently, they still withhold from the Vietnamese citizens our freedom of press, of expression, of public dissent, or religion, of opinions, and they continue to trample upon our liberty and humanitarian rights.

Concerning the youths who participated in the protests against the war, they currently do not have any freedom and are very impoverished (ranking among the lowest levels of Asia and of the world, even worse than the majority of Africa). Those two truths are the two largest shames that we are currently working hard to fight against and to solve.

Watching the documentary last night, I noticed that several men mentioned how much they prayed during their imprisonment. Did what you were going through cause you to question God? After the years of torture and isolation that you experienced, do you still believe in God? Why or why not?

Answered by Commander Paul Galanti
Holly, I believed in God before capture but not so's you'd notice. The experience never caused me to doubt God and, in one protracted torture episode in 1969, I'm convinced God saved my life. What I was going through was not caused by God but by Godless communist functionaries. I still believe in God.

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