JON CAVAIAN’S EXPERIENCE AS A PRISONER OF WAR AND MEMBER OF THE “PEACE COMMITTEE” (Artice Elliot)

Col. Ted W. Guy, 4-18-29 to 4-23-99SRO at the Plantation was Air Force Lt. Col. Ted Guy. The combative Guy had been downed in Laos on March 22, 1968. He was captured after shooting it out with some North Vietnamese soldiers, killing at least two of them. After capture he had been subjected to all the tortures which by this time the Vietnamese were routinely inflicting on their American prisoners. He had spent the next thirty-seven months in solitary confinement—first at the Plantation, then in Vegas, on to D-1, and back to the Plantation on November 25, 1970. He remained isolated, but was now in a cell from which he was able to at least see other Americans. He did not always like what he saw. Among the fifty-odd prisoners were some of the most disgustingly obsequious Americans in Guy’s knowledge, men who could not seem to snap to attention fast enough when a Vietnamese approached, who bowed and scraped to their captors in the most servile fashion.

The feisty Guy was sickened at this and, in his isolation, frustrated at being unable to provide the kind of leadership that might get it stopped.

The men with whom Guy was primarily concerned were a small group who were showered with all sorts of favors and special treatment by the enemy. They were free from early morning until late at night to do much as they pleased in their corner of the yard. They visited at will with one another, played basketball, exercised in other ways, seemed free to bathe whenever they wished, and sunned themselves, eventually acquiring nice suntans. While the quantity and quality of the food most of the prisoners now were receiving was much improved over what they had been getting at D-l, it was poor fare compared to what these eight were to receive as time passed: thermos jugs full of steaming coffee, sugar, and condensed milk; ample supplies of eggs, beef, pork, and fish; cigarettes, fruit, candy, and, occasionally, beer. These men gladly accepted this preferred treatment. Guy would later identify them as Robert Chenoweth, Alfonso Riate, Michael Branch, John A. Young, and Abel Larry Kavanaugh.

In April, 1971, Guy got his first cellmate, Army Maj. Artice W. Elliott, a Green Beret officer who had been captured at Pleiku on April 25, 1970. Elliott had also observed these men and had come to the same conclusion as Guy. Other prisoners watched, too, and now referred to the five as the Ducks, for the way they would scamper to and follow Vietnamese bearing goodies.

During the first half of 1970 at the Plantation, it seemed to Ted Guy that prisoners were on the camp radio all the time, propagandizing for the enemy. Most spoke in strained voices and used Communist jargon—it was clear they had not written the stuff and were speaking under duress. But the propaganda material issuing from the Ducks was far from halfhearted. It was also heard over Hanoi’s “Voice of Vietnam” and the Viet Cong’s clandestine “Liberation Radio.” Typical was a May 14, 1971, memo signed by “Michael P. Branch, deserter,” which was broadcast to American GIs in South Vietnam. The memo advised, “I’ve joined with a group of captured servicemen who are against the war in Vietnam.” This group, said the memo, sought to “put pressure on Mr. Nixon to end the war immediately.” The way to do this, the memo advised GIs, was”Together with a squad, platoon or company, refuse combat or just botch up all your operations.” The memo also urged GIs to desert and told them to “get in touch with the local people who will notify the Viet Cong. They will get you to a liberated area and then they will help you to go to any country of your choosing.” The memo gave assurances that no harm would befall any who opted for this course of action, explaining, “I know this for a fact, for I chose this way of getting out of the war three years ago….” The memo did not explain how it was that “Michael P. Branch, deserter” had, oddly enough, chosen to go to jail in North Vietnam

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