Area resident reflects on his military service and seven years as a POW in Vietnam (Jerry Driscoll)

First Lt. Jerry Driscoll was 10 miles north of his target in Hanoi, North Vietnam, when the tail of his F-105 fighter jet was struck by anti-aircraft fire. Flying at 600 mph, the plane ignited and began to roll. He ejected at 1,000 feet. Driscoll was on his 112th mission, his 81st over North Vietnam, when he was shot down April 24, 1966.

“I was upside down, and the last thing I remember was reaching for the handles,” Driscoll recalls, looking out the window of his Wayzata home. “The next thing I

know, I’m in a rice paddy in the sitting position thinking I’m still in the airplane. I go to move and as I turn back, I can see my parachute deflating.”

Driscoll didn’t have much time to assess his situation or the severity of the cuts on his arm before being surrounded by about 20 North Vietnamese, mostly farmers, he remembers, with a few old militiamen wielding rifles.

“I was in the process of unzipping my G-suit when I was captured,” Driscoll said.

He wouldn’t return home for nearly seven years.

2,485 days

Born in Chicago, Driscoll left his hometown soon after high school to attend St. Mary’s College in Winona, Minn. His military career would begin a year later when he was accepted into the U.S. Air Force Academy in 1959.

Driscoll graduated in 1963 and began his pilot training. After earning his wings, he went to survival training at Stead Air Force Base in Nevada where three days would be spent in survivalist training. Less than two years later, his training would be put to the test when he was held as a prisoner of war at the “Hearbreak Hotel” in Hanoi, Vietnam.

“As far as I’m concerned, survival school literally saved my life,” he said.

Driscoll said his captors were, at first, looking for any military information he could provide. After a few months, they shifted their focus on using the Air Force lieutenant and the other POWs as propaganda tools.

“We’d get books by Ho Chi Minh and some other people, and we’d just nod our heads,” Driscoll said of the interrogation sessions. “They knew we were more valuable alive than dead.”

Leaning forward in his leather recliner, Driscoll rolls back the shirtsleeve to uncover his right arm, holding up his wrist and the scars left from the handcuffs used while being tortured – a constant reminder of time lost worn around his wrists.

Driscoll recalled the days-long torture sessions in September 1966 th

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