Commander George Coker was one of the “Alcatraz 11,” a group considered by the North Vietnamese to be the resistance leadership, even though he was a junior officer. The Alcatraz 11 were moved from Hao Lo to a separate facility “Alcatraz” in 1967. Among them were Jim Stockdale and Bob Shumaker. Like Shumaker, Coker was a key communications link in the command structure at Hao Lo and the other Hanoi prisons. He also has the distinction of being one of two men who escaped Hanoi. He and George McKnight made it 15 miles down the Red River before being recaptured. CDR Coker tells these stories and gives fascinating details about the communications system and the tap code, while also giving valuable insight into the leadership acumen of Stockdale, and advice on how best to deal with, and profit from adverse circumstance.
Captured and held in a prisoner of war camp for five years, Dr. Kushner’s tale of torture, abuse, survival, humanity, and perseverance was both sobering and moving. As our closing keynote speaker for VMI’s Vietnam symposium ‘The Vietnam War at 50,’ our audience leaves on a powerful note among the several personal stories they heard today.