BADUA, CANDIDO C.
Name: Candido C. Badua Branch/Rank: Civilian Unit/Employer: Voice of America Date of Birth: 12 June 1924 Home City of Record: Baguio City, Philippines Date of Loss: 31 January 1968 Country of Loss: South Vietnam Loss Coordinates: 162734N 1073551E Status (in 1973): Returnee Category: Aircraft/Vehicle/Ground: Ground Others in incident: Charles Willis, returnee
Source: Compiled through the P.O.W. NETWORK. Information provided by Candido Badua, 1998.
Remarks: Not on D.I.A. lists. Released March 1973
SYNOPSIS: I started a 3-year tour of duty as a Voice of America (VOA) employee in Hue, South Vietnam in 1964. In January 1968 after a month's vacation with the family, I was looking forward to going back home in six months. Little did I know that the anticipation would last five years.
Chuck Willis, Officer-In-Charge and I worked in the VOA Headquarters. The station is located about 7 km. from the office The rear half of the building in which we worked was also our residence. On Jan. 31, 1968 at 2:00 a.m., a deafening mortar blast and long range rockets woke us up. Chuck and I scrambled to the bunker that was in the middle of our living area. We left the rear door open and positioned ourselves, ready for anything. An hour later, a satchel charge tore through the front and interior walls exploding on impact, causing sand smoke inside the building. It was hard to breathe so we used blankets over our heads to prevent smoke inhalation. We heard somebody open the office door. The acrid smell of burning paper in the office thickened the air.
Amidst all the smoke and noise, we were just able to notice a soldier pointing an AK47 semi-automatic toward us. Just before we walked out of the bunker, Chuck managed to grab a walkie-talkie and sent a message to the station - "we're giving up".
For several days, we walked mostly at night to avoid being spotted by "friendly planes". We walked on rice paddies with just a T-shirt, underwear, and barefoot. Our hands were tied at the back with wire. A rope was strung underneath our armpits to keep us both in tow, one guard at each end of the rope. There were days when it rained. Some days, it was hot and humid. We slept on the ground with wet clothes, our hands tied. We looked forward to meal times because it meant being untied. The soldiers fed us twice a day with rice and salt.
Our trip to the north was long and arduous. We were forced to keep pace with the guards making it especially difficult for Chuck because his foot was so swollen he couldn't walk. At one point, one of the guards threatened to kill him. Chuck told me to leave him and march on to save my life. I refused to leave him. With a cane (made out of a tree branch) on one hand and the other around my shoulder, I managed to drag and pull him until we were out of the strike zone.
Several days after our capture, we reached our first camp. This was the gathering point for prisoners captured in Hue.
On March 29, 1968 we reached Camp Bao Cao. In Vietnamese that means, "please may I". The prisoners named this camp as such because we were trained to bow and say "Bao Cao" everytime we asked for food and other things we needed. Days later, much to my surprise, my Filipino friend and co-worker, Arturo Balagot, also arrived. We were interrogated here until we left for the next camp.
Around the first week of July, we were transported by truck and traveled a dirt road called the Ho Chi Minh Trail. The ride was excruciating because the driver managed to hit every pothole on the road. Sitting on our folded blankets didn't do much good. We finally reached Camp 77, located somewhere southwest of Hanoi. Here, we were interrogated some more and kept in solitary confinement for a whole year. For our first Christmas as captives, we were given cookies, bananas, and additional cigarettes. They played Christmas carols, which made us all homesick. Later, we were kept in groups, which was beneficial to our well-being as we were deterorating physically and mentally.
To keep my mind occupied, I made a slide rule out of bamboo, a rosary, and a cigarette pack. Using a fabricated needle made out of chicken bone and scrap wire and thread from my old socks, I was able to embroider the rosary bag with flowers, leaves and the words "Baguio City, Philippines" on one side. On the other side, I had a cross with a heart and the inscription "In God we trust". At this camp, they were also able to use my skills. Every now and then, the guards would take me to the Camp Commander's office to repair transistor radios and tape recorders. This gave me a chance to listen to news after the radios were fixed. I was given a pack of cigarettes to smoke while I worked. I pretended to chain smoke, lighting one after the other extinguishing them quickly and breaking off the ends. In reality, I was folding them in the sleeves and cuffs of my pajamas so that I could share them with my fellow room mates.
On June 21, 1971, we were transferred to another camp we called "Rockville" located in a valley, southwest of Hanoi. There were 14 of us - 11 Americans, 1 Canadian, and 2 Filipinos. Consequently, we were given playing cards, played volleyball in the courtyard and the security was more lax. One day, 3 of the prisoners escaped. Three days later, they were captured. We all suffered the consequence by having our food ration reduced. In October 1972, we were informed of the peace negotiations between U.S. and Vietnam. That Christmas, they served us pork and we had a Christmas program that all 14 of us organized. The interpreter and guards came to see our program.
In Jan. 1973, we were taken to the "Hanoi Hilton". This is where all the military and civilian prisoners were concentrated. It was evident that the negotiations were going well as we had abundant food. In March 1973, I was released.
After the POW ceremony in Washington, D.C. in Oct. 1973, I started working for VOA in Dixon, California. In November, my family moved to California. I retired in Dec. 1979.
VOA Snapshot: VOA Employees During Vietnam War, Pt. I Written by Al Pessin Voiced by Bob Doughty Washington 15 Jul 2002 19:19 UTC
A VOA Snapshot - Part of VOA's 60th Anniversary Year Coverage.
During the Vietnam war, communist forces took more than 700 allied prisoners. Most people don't know that three of them worked for VOA. "There was an explosion that hit the house. And I said, uh oh, this is bad," said Candido Badua.
Cadido "Pop" Badua was right. It was bad. The house he shared with his boss, Chuck Willis, had just been hit by a satchel bomb thrown by a Viet Cong fighter. Mr. Willis was wounded in the foot. It was the Tet Offensive in January, 1968 in the Vietnamese city of Hue, not far from the VOA transmitter where they both worked.
The two were taken prisoner and within hours they were marching north in the dark, at gunpoint, hands tied, through an area known as the 'bombing zone.' "He can not walk anymore. He said, 'go ahead Pop save your life, let them shoot me if they want to. I can not go any farther.' So I told him if they're going to shoot you, they're going to shoot both of us', " he said.
The much larger American leaned on his Filipino colleague until they staggered out of the bombing zone and were allowed to rest.
When they reached their first prison camp, they found another Filipino VOA transmitter staff member, Arturo Balagot. The three men spent the next year in solitary confinement in dark cells. Chuck's was not big enough for him to stand up straight or lie down flat. After that, the two Filipinos were allowed to live together with other prisoners, but Pop Badua says they did not see Chuck Willis again for nearly five years. "It's hard. It's hard to be there," he said.
Dorothea Badua lost her battle to Lymphoma Cancer, Wednesday, Nov 16, 2005.