Former POW shares story with NCOA (Melvin Pollack)

“I may be older, but I’m a fighter pilot,” he said, smiling, as he shared his story of perseverance before a crowd of Kisling NCO Academy students, Sept. 12, 2016.

Retired Air Force Lt. Col. Melvin Pollack, Vietnam War veteran, was flying his 78th mission when he was shot down and captured approximately 50 miles north of Hanoi, July 6, 1967.

Even though his ordeal as a prisoner of war was nearly fifty years ago, Pollack vividly remembers the details.

“I slammed into a mountain … so hard my head snapped back and cracked my helmet,” Pollack said. “The villagers came, probably 30 or 35 of them. What’s interesting is just about every single [enemy combatant], including the kids, were armed to the teeth; there I am on the ground and [their weapons] all pointed at me.”

The villagers detained Pollack until the militia came and brought him to Hanoi, where he was kept in a former French prison.

For the next five years and eight months, Pollack found himself locked up, isolated from the outside world, far away from home and under the watchful eye of his captors.

Besides the isolation and degrading treatment they went through, Pollack and his fellow prisoners were also subject to torture, interrogation and brainwashing. North Vietnamese captors also found out details about their personal lives, Pollack said.

“You never knew what to expect,” Pollack said. “I was a young first lieutenant … yet they knew everything about me. They knew I was young, I was single and [even] where I came from.”

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