Former POW from Jay held in the Vietnam jungle gives rare interview (Charles Craft)

“They stripped me of everything I had.” So began Charlie Crafts’ 26-month odyssey as a prisoner of war in the jungles of Vietnam.

Crafts, who now lives in Livermore, consented to a rare interview on his experience as Maine’s first Vietnam POW, and the only one to be imprisoned in the jungle. This is his story.

In the spring of 1964 Pfc. Crafts had been on the laboratory staff at International Paper since his graduation four years earlier from Jay High School. A draft notice from legendary draft board monarch Sgt.  Eddie Berry arrived. After basic training Crafts was sent to communications school. Graduating near the top of his class made him eligible for the military’s most challenging assignment, the war in Southeast Asia.

After being in Vietnam only a month, Crafts experienced the event that utterly changed his life. On Dec. 29, 1964, he and Sgt. Harold Bennett had just been dispatched as advisers to some 360 Army of the Republic of Vietnam (ARVN) rangers trying to defend the Catholic village of Binh Gia, about 70 miles south of Saigon. American intelligence at this early point in the war was so limited it had no inkling that five thousand Viet Cong, “VC,” were close at hand, some of them disguised as ARVN soldiers.

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