Public Television Owes an Apology to American POWs of Vietnam War

By Holzer, Henry Mark | Insight on the News, January 8, 2001 | Go to article overview

Public Television Owes an Apology to American POWs of Vietnam War


Holzer, Henry Mark, Insight on the News


As part of my research for a book I'm writing about Jane Fonda's July 1972 pilgrimage to Hanoi, I watched with great interest public television's November 2000 documentary Return With Honor, the inspiring story of U.S. airmen imprisoned in Hanoi during the Vietnam War.

Immediately after the film was shown, PBS offered on its American Experience/Return With Honor Website a forum where viewers could ask questions of five of the former prisoners of war (POWs) and receive their answers.

In addition to the five, there was one other forum participant. Here is the bio PBS provided: "Bui Tin. Author of the important Following Ho Chi Minh: The Memoirs of a North Vietnamese Colonel. Bui enlisted at age 18 in the Vietnamese People's Army. He worked as a journalist and editor for the Communist army newspaper in Hanoi during the Vietnam War. In this position, Bui worked in close proximity to Ho Chi Minh -- and the American POWs. In 1990, Bui made the dramatic decision to leave Vietnam forever and live as an exile, in order to express his growing dissatisfaction with Vietnam's Communist leadership and political system."

However, despite Col Tin's alleged "growing dissatisfaction with Vietnam's Communist leadership and political system," his answers to forum questions parroted the Hanoi line on the war in general -- and the POWs in particular -- and, in doing so, he insulted every American ever held captive in Vietnam. For example: While Tin asserted that POWs were not tortured, the fact is that following repatriation, various Pentagon studies -- and a plethora of POW memoirs -- documented to a fare-thee-well the nature and extent of torture visited upon U.S. prisoners of the Viet Cong and North Vietnamese. Space does not allow even the briefest survey of that torture here (though my Fonda book certainly will). However, the barbarism experienced by American POWs probably was unparalleled in modern times. I'm talking about food, sanitation, medical care, hygiene, confinement, indoctrination and propaganda, psychological warfare, restraint, torture and causally related suicide attempts.

Tin asserted that the POWs were well-treated with regard to food, clothing, reading material and the like and that punishment consisted only of being "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 and without violence, only verbal attacks. …

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