Historical Highlight for August 20, 2023

Historical Highlight for August 20, 2023 – “The Hanoi University” – here’s a short historical fact from the history of the Vietnam war and the POW experience shared in the new ‘Captured by Love’ book:

Hanoi University began to emerge in the cells in late 1970. We had no books or learning materials, yet we studied physics, calculus, and poetry…engineering, history, and geography…French, Spanish, German, and Russian…public speaking, music theory, and ballroom dancing…Shakespeare, chess, and piano (with a keyboard drawn on toilet paper).

Here’s the backstory…

Two days after the Son Tay Raid, we all returned to the Hanoi Hilton and were herded into an area where Vietnamese prisoners had been held earlier. We were packed elbow to elbow in rooms holding 40 to 60 men. Most people would find that environment claustrophobic, but we were ecstatic! We could talk without fear of punishment, we could exercise, play games, and joke around. But the most amazing thing was that we had structured educational programs. In Room Three we had classes every day, with three hours in the morning and two in the afternoon. We were in small groups, learning subjects like French, Spanish, German, Russian, and math. We would have classes for eight weeks, take a two-week break, and start again.

We had no books; we just taught from memory. For example, Naval Academy math major Denver Key taught differential calculus using a broken chunk of roof tile as chalk to work problems on the concrete floor. I taught beginning French. It helped that I was studying intermediate French three days a week and speaking it with Paul Galanti for five minutes every day. We had a lot of knowledge, many talents and interests, and some of the guys were extremely creative. In my cell Bill Butler recruited and conducted a choir that amazed and entertained us. They even performed the musical “South Pacific.”

Every room had a chaplain, we held weekly church services, and we were inspired with amazing homilies delivered by grizzly old fighter pilots. All these mental activities not only kept us busy, but they helped us get mentally and emotionally ready to return home when the war ended.

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