DENGLER, DIETER RIP
Name: Dieter Dengler Rank/Branch: 02/US Navy Unit: Attack Squadron 145, USS Ranger Date of Birth: (born in Germany - US Citizen) Home City of Record: Hillsborough CA Date of Loss: 01 February 1966 Country of Loss: Laos Loss Coordinates: 174200N 1051500E (WE270590) Status (in 1973): Escaped Category: Aircraft/Vehicle/Ground: A1H
Other Personnel in Incident: (none missing)
Source: Compiled by Homecoming II Project 15 May 1990 from one or more of the following: raw data from U.S. Government agency sources, correspondence with POW/MIA families, published sources, interviews. Updated by the P.O.W. NETWORK 2008.
REMARKS: 660720 ESCAPED
SYNOPSIS: The USS RANGER was a seasoned combat veteran, having been deployed to Vietnam for Flaming Dart I operations. The carrier played a steady role for the remainder of American involvement in the war. The first fighter jets to bomb Haiphong in Operation Rolling Thunder came from her decks.
LT Dieter Dengler was a German-born American citizen who advanced from VT30 to Attack Squadron 122 in late 1964 and then to Attack Squadron 145 onboard the RANGER. Dengler was known to his shipmates as something of a renegade; the ops officer was always after him to get a haircut and Dengler was forever in trouble over his uniform or lack of military manner. In his German accent, he would protest, "I don't understand." But Dengler was a good pilot, although his flying career was brief.
On February 1, 1966, U.S. Navy Lt. Dieter Dengler launched from the aircraft carrier USS RANGER in an A1H Skyraider as part of a four-aircraft interdiction mission near the border of Laos. Dieter was the last man to roll in on a target when he was observed by the pilot of one of the other aircraft to start a normal recover. Due to limited visibility, the flight lost sight of him.
The other aircraft in the flight could not determine what had happened. They only kne Dengler disappeared. Dengler later stated that ground fire had severely damaged his aircraft, and he was forced to crash land in Laos. Search continued all that day and part of the night without success.
The following morning, squadron members again went to search the area where Dengler disappeared and located the aircraft wreckage. Helicopters were called in. From the air, it appeared that no one was in the cockpit of the aircraft. The helicopter crew photographed the area and noted his donut (a round seat cushion) on the ground by the wing. They hoped he was still alive in the jungle somewhere.
Dengler had successfully evaded capture through that night, and later said that he even saw the rescue aircraft as they searched for him. He had tried without success to raise them on his emergency radio. Dengler was finally captured by Pathet Lao troops, who tortured him as they force-marched him through several villages. Eight days later, Dengler escaped, but was recaptured within a short time.
Ultimately, Dengler found himself in a camp in Laos held with other American POWs. One of them, 1Lt. Duane W. Martin, had been aboard an HH43B "Huskie" helicopter operating about 10 miles from the border of Laos in Ha Tinh Province, North Vietnam, when the HH43B went down near the city of Tan An, and all four personnel aboard the aircraft were captured. It is not clear if the four were captured by North Vietnamese or Pathet Lao troops or a combination of the two. Duane W. Martin was taken to a camp controlled by Pathet Lao. Thomas J. Curtis, William A. Robinson and Arthur N. Black were released in 1973 by the North Vietnamese, and were in the Hanoi prison system as early as 1967.
When Duane Martin arrived at the camp, he found himself held with other Americans. Some of them had been held for more than two years. (Note: This would indicate that there were Americans in this camp who had been captured in 1964. The only American officially listed as captured in Laos in 1964 is Navy Lt. Charles F. Klusmann, who was captured in June 1964 and escaped in August 1964. Source for the "two years" information is Mersky & Polmer's "The Naval Air War in Vietnam", and this source does not identify any Americans by name who had been held "for more than two years." Civilian Eugene DeBruin, an acknowledged Laos POW who has never been returned, had been captured in the fall of 1963. Dengler has stated that a red-bearded DeBruin was held in one of the camps in which he was held. All previous Laos loss incidents occurred in 1961 and 1962.)
Throughout the fall of 1965 and into spring and summer of 1966, the group of Americans suffered regular beatings, torture, harassment, hunger and illness in the hands of their captors. According to an "American Opinion" special report entitled "The Code" (June 1973), Dengler witnessed his captors behead an American Navy pilot and execute six wounded Marines. (Note: no other source information available at time of writing reveals the names of these seven Americans.)
On June 29, 1965, after hearing the prisoners were to be killed, Martin and Dengler and unnamed others (Eugene DeBruin was apparently part of this group, but was recaptured, and according to information received by his family, was alive at least until January 1968, when he was taken away with other prisoners by North Vietnamese regular army troops) decided to make their escape in a hail of gunfire in which six communist guards were killed. Dengler was seriously ill with jaundice, and Martin was sick with malaria. Dengler and Martin and the others made their way through the dense jungle surviving on fruits, berries, and some rice they had managed to save during their captivity.
They floated down river on a raft they had constructed, eventually coming to an abandoned village where the men found some corn. After a night's rest, Dengler and Martin made their way downstream to another village. This settlement was occupied, however, and the two Americans were suddenly attacked by a villager with a machete. Dengler managed to escape back into the jungle, but Martin was beheaded by the assailant. It had been 18 days since their escape.
Dengler made his way alone, and on the 22nd day, with his strength almost gone, he was able to form an SOS with some rocks, and waited, exausted to be rescued or die. Luck was with him, for by late morning, an Air Force A1E spotted the signal and directed a helicopter to pick up Dengler. He weighed 98 pounds. When he had launched from his aircraft carrier 5 months earlier, he had weighed 157 pounds.
Dengler returned to California, and has written a book, "Escape From Laos" on his experiences while a POW.
Curtis, Robinson and Black were released from Hanoi on February 12, 1973, over seven years from the time of their capture. Lt. Duane Martin's fate remains uncertain. If, as reported, he was killed during the escape attempt, no effort has been made by the Lao to return his body.
Martin is one of nearly 600 Americans who remain prisoner, missing or otherwise unaccounted for in Laos. Although the U.S. maintained only a handful of these men in POW status, over 100 were known to have survived their loss incident. The Pathet Lao stated during the war that they held "tens of tens" of American prisoners, but they would be released only from Laos (meaning that the U.S. must negotiate directly with the Pathet Lao).
The Pathet Lao were not part of the agreements that ended American involvement in Southeast Asia, and no negotiations have been conducted with them since for the prisoners they held.
Reports continue to come in related to missing Americans in Southeast Asia. It does not seem likely that Martin is among the hundreds thought by many authorities to be still alive, but what would he think of the abandonment of his fellow Americans. Are we doing enough to bring these men home?
Dieter Dengler resided in California with his wife Yukiko until his death after a long illness on February 7th, 2001. He will be buried in Arlington National Cemetery on March 16, 2001.
Rescue Dawn Movie Due 3/30/2007
Acclaimed filmmaker Werner Herzog returns to direct his first feature since 2001's Invincible with this dramatic action film inspired by his own 1997 documentary Little Dieter Needs to Fly and detailing the escape efforts of a German-American pilot who was taken as a prisoner-of-war after being shot down over Laos during the Vietnam War. When U.S. fighter pilot Dieter Dengler (Christian Bale) escaped death after being shot down over one of the most intense front lines in the Vietnam War, his troubles were only beginning. Subsequently taken captive by the enemy and forced to! endure a harrowing stint in a Vietnamese prison camp, Dengler and his fellow captives stag a death-defying escape that would later inspire one of German's most accomplished directors to capture the remarkable tale on camera. ~ Jason Buchanan, All Movie Guide
VIEW THE TRAILER
A critical review can be seen at: http://air-america.org/News/rescue_dawn.shtml
Family, Friends of Gene DeBruin Critical of Herzog Film by Jerry DeBruin (Associate) posted: June 20, 2007
Family And Friends of Gene DeBruin Critical of Werner Herzog's Film, "Rescue Dawn" by Jerry DeBruin (Associate)
The movie "Rescue Dawn" will begin showing at select theaters in New York and Los Angeles on July 4th with national distribution on July 13th. Its director is Werner Herzog who is a master at taking nonfictional truthful scenarios and twisting them into fiction, Hollywood style. Such is the case in "Rescue Dawn," which is littered with Herzog's errors of both omission and commission.
The movie is vaguely based on the book Escape From Laos, written by Dieter Dengler. However, the movie takes liberties that are offensive to anyone who is familiar with the events surrounding the prison break from Ban Houei Het Pathet Lao Prison in June, 1966. These liberties may be the stock and trade of Hollywood, but they are an insult to the brave POWs and their families.
We, the friends and family of Dieter Dengler, Eugene (Gene) DeBruin, and Pisidhi Indradat despise this movie and condemn those who produced it.
To support these statements we can provide considerable documentation. We base our condemnation on testimony given to the Central Intelligence Agency by Dieter Dengler and Pisidhi Indradat, who currently resides in Bangkok, Thailand, and is the last remaining successful participant of that prison break. We also have their personal writings, records, videotaped interviews and information that has never been released to the public.
This documentation by the POWs who survived the ordeal paints a very different mosaic about events of that prison break and the role of Dieter Dengler as portrayed in "Rescue Dawn." We want to be clear, we were friends of Dieter Dengler. We have warm memories of our friend Dieter, who recently passed away of ALS - Lou Gehrig's Disease. We believe Dieter would be appalled by this movie had he lived to see it.
Rescue Dawn is a flawed movie filled with numerous omissions:
Rescue Dawn: There were six POWs. Real Life: There were seven POWs: Pisidhi Indradat, Prasit Promsuwan, Prasit Thanee, Y.C. To, Duane Martin, Dieter Dengler, and Eugene DeBruin.
Rescue Dawn: Gene is portrayed as an uncaring, deranged and derelict Charles Manson type entity, devoid of humanity. Real Life: Gene DeBruin is a kind and caring individual, helping to pass the years in prison by teaching his cellmates English, sharing his blanket on cold nights, sharing his food, even staying behind to help Y.C. To, a Hong Kong Chinese cellmate who had become too ill to escape without help. Gene returned to help Y.C. To despite pleas from Dieter Dengler and Duane Martin to join them as the group split up to try different directions in their bid for freedom. Pisidhi Indradat, a cellmate and survivor of the ordeal, called Gene DeBruin, "The finest man I have ever met."
Rescue Dawn: Despite being the new man on the scene, Dieter Dengler manages to formulate the plans for escape and lead the group out of the prison. Real Life: Dieter Dengler and Duane Martin arrived at the prison about two and a half years after Gene was shot down and were not immediately privy to the secret escape plans formulated by Gene, Pisidhi, and the others, who had already begun storing rice in bamboo tubes in preparation for an escape. It took the group thirteen days to trust the new prisoner with the German accent, Dieter Dengler.
Rescue Dawn: Dieter Dengler kills the prison guards. Real Life: Pisidhi Indradat risked his life to kill the guards so the group could escape.
Rescue Dawn: Gene is portrayed as being a wreck of a man in the jungle when he meets up with Dieter, muttering, "What will I do now?" Real Life: Dieter testified that Gene, after shaking Dieter's hand, shouted, "See you in the States," before heading back into the jungle and returning to help Y.C.To, knowing full well that To would not make it to freedom without help.
Rescue Dawn: Dengler and Martin approach the village together and when Martin is attacked, Dengler attempts to come to his aid by attacking Martin's attacker. Real Life: Dengler hid in the bushes while Martin approached a village in an attempt to secure food. Martin was hacked to death by a machete-wielding villager. Dengler, weak himself from hunger, realized that he could not help Martin and to avoid becoming a victim himself, dashed off into the jungle, later to be rescued and whisked offshore to the USS Ranger.
Both Dieter Dengler and Pisidhi Indradat spoke of Gene as a strong leader and a peacemaker when differences threatened their escape plan.
In raising Dengler alone to the status of "Hero," despite the team efforts of all the prisoners, Herzog is in essence saying that only those who escape are heroes, which downplays the enormous amount of luck that goes hand in hand with the skill a successful escape requires. Duane Martin wasn't less of a hero for succumbing to his attacker, Y.C. To wasn't less of a hero for getting sick during the window of opportunity for the escape. Why then must Hollywood lower those that didn't make it out to raise up one that did? All seven were equal heroes from those who won their freedom to the ones who lost their lives.
Think for a moment: What kind of movie director/writer portrays a character in a movie, yet refuses to talk with that person before, during, or after the production? Pisidhi Indradat and Jerry DeBruin made multiple attempts to contact director Werner Herzog, producer Harry Knapp, and Gibraltar Films to insure the accurate portrayal of the characters, but to no avail. No response ever surfaced. Nothing. Nada. Silence. Maybe the answer is the obvious one. Herzog didn't want to do an honest movie, he wanted to make his film his way, and the facts be damned.
The truth matters, and the truth is Herzog made a dishonest film and only succeeded in hurting a POW and a midwestern farm family that has suffered enough.
Jerry DeBruin (firstname.lastname@example.org) - brother of Gene DeBruin
Stevan Smith (email@example.com) - Documentary Producer - Vietnam War Veteran
Fred Rohrbach (firstname.lastname@example.org) - Vietnam War Veteran
Pisidhi Indradat - Thai Escapee and returnee from Pathet Lao Prisons
Malcolm Creelman - Vietnam War Veteran
your dear brother was Missing In Action while working on behalf of
by Debbie at August 16, 2007 05:30 AM