James F. Bell, a Navy officer who spent seven years as a POW in Vietnam

James F. Bell, a Navy captain and pilot who was held prisoner for seven and a half years during the Vietnam War, died Sept. 30 at an Alexandria care facility. He was 83.

The cause was complications from Parkinson’s disease, said his wife, Dora G. Bell.

Flying a reconnaissance plane on a mission north of Haiphong on Oct. 16, 1965, then-Lt. Cmdr. Bell was shot down by antiaircraft fire.

“I made it to the sea before ejecting, but after 30 minutes in the water my crewman . . . and I were picked up by local fishermen in sampans,” he recalled in a 1977 book about former POWs, “We Came Home.”

He was tied to the mast of the boat and taken ashore, where he was beaten and kicked by a crowd of angry North Vietnamese en route to the first of several prisons where he would be confined over the next 89 months. He was among the first American service personnel to be captured in the conflict and, on Feb. 12, 1973, was among the first group of POWs to be released as part of Operation Homecoming.

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