Historical Highlight for July 16, 2023

Historical Highlight for July 9, 2023 – “Humor in the Camps” – 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. In each of these nuggets of history are personal and professional lessons that can be applied today:

“Immediately after capture, humor was the farthest thing from our minds. We went from outright shock to survival mode, and it was usually several months before we had enough bandwidth and perspective to appreciate humor. But once it started it didn’t take much. It was clear that our psyches were looking for an escape from stress.

“Guys began telling funny stories from the past. Dry humor was a favorite. Then we began to look for funny ways to pull the chain of our captors. One fellow was tortured until he agreed to read political BS over the camp radio (the “Bitch Box”). While reading an article about their communist leader, Ho Chi Minh, he pronounced his name as “Horse Shit Mend.” You could hear guys up and down the cell block in Little Vegas cackling. That was a huge morale booster during a dark era.

“After we moved into the Hanoi Hilton big rooms in 1970, we turned to humor often. I’ll never forget the night we celebrated Smitty Harris’s sixth year as a POW (shoot-down dates were very important anniversaries). A group of us got together and planned a “This Is Your Life” show honoring him. One of his earlier cellmates in our room knew about Smitty’s old girlfriend, “Birdlegs Bradley.” We got one of our tall, skinny mates to dress up with a black t-shirt wrapped around his head like a scarf, and some socks stuffed under his prison shirt to give him a feminine busty chest. When the emcee told her story and Birdlegs stepped out, the crowd went wild.

“Humor is a great survival mechanism, and we survived—and thrived—with our senses of humor intact. And, interestingly, humor also was a key player in many of our love stories.”

Purchase your copy of ‘Captured by Love’ on the website.

(Pictured: The group photo of all former Vietnam POWs attending the 2023 Memorial Day Concert in Washington D.C. along with country singer Trace Adkins and current military officers.)




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