War hero who spent time in Hanoi Hilton was full of gratitude (William Angus)

It was all so long ago, and time for a final interview with nine U.S. Marines released from Vietnam’s infamous Hanoi Hilton prison in 1973.

Capt. William Kerr Angus was number nine, the last in line.

I called this group of Marines “The Pendleton 9,” a microcosm of men mired in what was once called a rumor of war, but certainly no rumor to them.

They would either come home to divorce, disease, charges of treason or the death of a loved one.


And now that PBS filmmaker/historian Ken Burns is bringing the Vietnam War into our living rooms once again, I was reminded of the soft-spoken 27-year-old Angus, who had spent 291 days in captivity, lost a beloved mother a month before he returned home; and vowed never to eat pumpkin soup again.

“It was what they gave us day after day after day,” said Angus at the Camp Pendelton Marine Corps base, where he was being repatriated before going home.

“The smell . . . nothing could make me eat it again.”

But it was there, in the hell hole called the Hanoi Hilton, Bill and his buddies would remake their world.

Angus called them sanity games. Tedium was an enemy. So they named their cell “Happy Valley.”

Angus, a war hero awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross for his bravery, said his roommate would “drive” a truck around their cell.

“He would pull the imaginary truck out of his garage, rev up the engine, and go for a ride every night,” Angus said then.

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