The Greatest POW Escape of the Vietnam War
By Bruce Henderson
(Harper, Hardcover, 9780061571367, 320pp.)
Publication Date: July 2010
Categories: Military - General
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In February 1966, Dieter Dengler was shot down over neutral Laos in territory controlled by Pathet Lao guerrillas and North Vietnamese regulars. After his capture, the German-born Dengler proved to be no ordinary prisoner. Already a legend in the navy for his unique escape skills, which he had demonstrated during survival training in the California desert, he found himself caught in a desperate situation, imprisoned by the enemy and by the jungle itself. Dengler's heroic impulse was to free not only himself but also other POWs—American, Thai, and Chinese—some of whom had been held for years. In a surreal scene of brotherhood and celebration, Dengler, nearly six months after being shot down, returned to his ship in the Gulf of Tonkin—emaciated and ravaged with tropical maladies, but alive and free.
Bruce Henderson served with Dengler aboard USS Ranger. In this gripping book, he tells the complete story for the first time, drawing on personal interviews with the intrepid pilot, his squadron mates, and his friends and family, as well as military archival materials—some never before made public—and letters and journals. Henderson's riveting account demonstrates why Dengler's story of unending optimism, innate courage, loyalty, and survival against overwhelming odds remains for his fellow flyers and shipmates the best and brightest memory of their generation's war.
Bruce Henderson is the author or coauthor of more than twenty nonfiction books, including the #1 New York Times bestseller And the Sea Will Tell (with Vincent Bugliosi) and Down to the Sea. A former newspaper and magazine writer, Henderson has taught nonfiction writing at several major universities. He lives in Menlo Park, California.