‘Nothing like freedom’: Vietnam POW says it’s ‘Not our job to erase history’ (Orson Swindle)

Retired United States Marine Corps Lt. Col. Orson Swindle III spent 2,305 days as a prisoner of war in North Vietnam where he was tortured, beaten, interrogated and isolated.

The fighter pilot was shot down in his F8 Crusader on Nov. 11, 1966, while flying his last mission (of more than 200) over North Vietnam. He was captured by the North Vietnamese near the city of Vinh Linh and spent the next seven years being moved around various prison camps, including Hoa Loa Prison, also known as the Hanoi Hilton complex.

While in captivity, he shared a cell with future senator and presidential candidate, then-Lieutenant Commander (later Captain) John McCain as well as (later General) Col. George E. “Bud” Day.

He was released on March 4, 1973, — four days before his 36th birthday.

Fifty years later, Swindle looked back on his experience. He recalled when they learned they were finally going home.

Swindle said he and fellow American POWs talked at length at how they wanted to conduct themselves.

“We did not want to look beaten,” Swindle said. “We were to hold our heads up high. We just wanted to get the hell out of there.”

They were given trousers, long clothes, a windbreaker, duffle bag, shoes and socks — all of which, Swindle said, he thought were made in Poland. A couple days later, Swindle said the men were told to “suit up in the clothing” they had.

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