This book may well be the most unusual document to come out of the Viet Nam war. It is the moving story of nine American soldiers and pilots who were captured and held prisoner for five years. It could only be told in their own words; and so the author interviewed each of the nine men, and edited and wove their accounts together to form a single, compelling narrative of war and survival.
For three years these Americans were held in a Viet Cong jungle prison, where they struggled against starvation- and themselves. They describe the details of their daily existence as the war ebbed and flowed around them: the rats, the terror of American bombing raids, the sickness. Through juxtaposition of their individual stories we see the subtle, destructive tensions that operate on a group of men in such desperate circumstances. Then they marched up the Ho Chi Minh trail to Hanoi, where their physical ordeal gave way to an agonizing moral dilemma. Should they join the “Peace Committee”, a group of POW’s protesting the war? Or should they resist their captors by all possible means as ordered by the secret American commander of the Hanoi prison? After three years in the jungle on the edge of survival, each man had to answer the questions: Who am I? What do I believe? These nine men form a cross section of the army we sent to Viet Nam. Their words illuminate not only their individual background and experience, but also the meaning of the war for us all.