KJOME, MICHAEL H.

Name: Michael H. Kjome
Rank/Branch: Civilian
Unit:
Date of Birth: 9 July 1936
Home City of Record:
Date of Loss: 31 January 1968
Country of Loss: South Vietnam
Loss Coordinates: 104500N 1064000E (XS950970)
Status (in 1973): Released POW
Category:
Aircraft/Vehicle/Ground: ground

Other Personnel in Incident: (none missing)

Source: Compiled by Homecoming II Project from: raw data from
U.S. Government agency sources, published sources including "Civilian POW:
Terror and Torture in South Vietnam" by Norman J. Brookens. Updated by the
P.O.W. NETWORK

REMARKS: 730212 RELSD BY PRG - INJ

SYNOPSIS: On January 17, 1966, U.S. State Department Foreign Service Officer
Douglas K. Ramsey was driving a truck northwest of Saigon when he was captured
by Viet Cong forces. For Ramsey and for all Americans captured in South Vietnam,
life would be brutally difficult. These men suffered from disease induced by an
unfamiliar and inadequate diet - dysentery, edema, skin fungus and eczema as
well as particularly brutal treatment from guards.

Douglas K. Ramsey was the first to be captured of a group of about 30 Americans
who would be held along the Cambodian border. The was the only group of POWs who
were not released from Hanoi in Operation Homecoming in 1973.

In 1967, the Viet Cong captured another prisoner of war -- Army Capt. William H.
Hardy, who was captured on June 29, 1967 as he drove a truck near Saigon.

Around the time of the Tet Offensive in early 1968, the Viet Cong northwest of
Saigon captured still more Americans: State Department employees, Norman
Brookens and Richard Utecht; U.S. civilians Michael Kjome and James Rollins on
January 31 near Saigon; Army Cpl. Thomas Van Putten and Australian businessman,
Charles K. Hyland.

On April 22, 1968, four POWs who were held together -- Brookens, Utecht, Hyland
and Rollins -- dared an escape. They had secretly learned to remove their
chains, and on this rainy night they made their break. Within seconds of their
freedom, they were soaked. It was impossible to walk in the thick jungle, so
they crawled on hands and knees. They immediately became separated, and had
barely reached the camp border when they were surrounded and recaptured.

For the next ten days, they were given only several spoons of rice and a pinch
of salt. They were chained and bound with ropes so tight their arms and legs
went completely numb. The ropes were removed after a month, but the chains
remained. The four were rotated between a cage and a pit. Brookens remained in
the pit for several months, lying in his own body waste.

Throughout the spring and summer of 1968, others were captured: Capt. John Dunn
and Pvt. James M. Ray captured on March 18; Pvt. Ferdinand Rodriguez on April
14; Maj. Raymond Schrump on May 23; SSgt. Felix Neco-Quinones on July 16, SSgt.
Bobby Johnson, SP4 Thomas Jones and SSgt. Kenneth Gregory on August 25.

The POWs were kept on the move; some held in groups, and some held alone. It was
a mental challenge to try to keep track of their location, and the POWs report
that they believed they were in Cambodia some of the time, and at other times
near the Ho Chi Minh Trail. During rest periods on the journey they were held in
cages or in deep holes, or chained to trees.

In mid-July, Brookens, Utecht and Rollins were moved to another camp, but Hyland
was left behind. He was released on November 26, 1968. For the first time, State
Department learned that Brookens and Utecht had definitely been captured.

During 1969 and 1970, the Americans were moved frequently as U.S. air and
artillery strikes came closer. The journeys were pure torture, and the POWs
often lived chained to trees while cages were were built for them. They were
sometimes held in swampy areas thick with snakes and mosquitoes. Some of the
marches occurred during monsoon season, and the prisoners, still wearing leg
chains, walked in neck-deep water. During bomb strikes, some from thundering B52
and artillery, the men hid in bunkers.

The POWs' health began to reach its limits. They were suffering from dysentery,
beriberi and jungle rot; some had festering wounds from their captures. In
April, 1969, they moved again, living in the jungle until a new camp was built
in Cambodia.

In early April 1969, an American prisoner escaped. Army Cpl. Thomas H. Van
Putten had been captured near Tay Ninh as he operated a road grader on February
11, 1968. After making his way to friendly forces, Van Putten identified the
POWs held by the  Viet Cong in his camp.

In July 1969, a POW committed a minor offense for which the entire camp was
severely punished for 30 days. The prisoner who caused the commotion was later
taken from the camp. Some POWs reported that they last saw the man, who was only
21 years old, laying on the ground near his cage covered by a piece of plastic.
They believed he was dead and he had died of torture, starvation and lack of
medicine for his ailments. [NOTE: Brookens does not give the name of this POW
who apparently died in July 1969. Although the incident does not match
information found in James M. Ray's personnel file, and Jimmy Ray was not know
to be dead, this account may refer to him.]

In late spring, 1969, the prisoners began to be put together, and they
eventually reached a new camp with above-ground cages, which they believed was
northwest of Tay Ninh near the Cambodian border. Brookens and Utecht were put in
the same cage, and it was the first time Brookens had talked to another American
since the aborted escape attempt two years before.

By June 1969, encroaching artillery forced the POWs westward into Cambodia, but
on July 14, they returned to the border camp where they remained until December
1970. At this time, they were moved deep into Cambodia. Again they were chained
while cages were built. The POWs remained here until April 1972, when they were
moved to a new, and final camp.

In 1969, 1970, and 1971, more Americans were captured: SP4 Gary Guggenberger on
January 14 1969; U.S. Civilians John Fritz, Jr., James Newingham and Tanos Kalil
on February 8; in 1970: SP4 Frederick Crowson and WO Daniel Maslowski on May 2;
SP4 Keith Albert on May 21; SP4 Richard Springman on May 25; in 1971: WO James
Hestand, captured March 17; American civilian Richard Waldhaus on August 4.

The POWs were in terrible condition -- painfully thin, with all manner of skin
ailments, dysentery, and malaria. Brookens was so physically depleted that he
could barely walk without the aid of walking sticks.

In 1972, more POWs arrived: MSgt. Kenneth Wallingford, Maj. Albert Carlson and
Capt. Mark A. Smith, captured April 7; Capt. George Wanat, Jr. and Capt. Johnnie
Ray, captured April 8; Air Force Capt. David Baker, captured June 27; and Marine
Capt. James Walsh, Jr., captured September 26.

Then on the morning of February 12, 1973, the men were told they were going
home. By this time, there were 27 in all, five of them civilians. The group was
taken to a small airport outside Loc Ninh, and after 11 hours of waiting, they
were finally allowed to board the helicopters and start for home.

Norm Brookens had lost 55 pounds since his capture, and was treated for a
ruptured colon, a heart condition, jungle rot, malaria and beriberi.

Thomas H. Van Putten resides in Michigan and had a leg amputated in September
1990 as a result of complications stemming from injuries during his captivity.

James M. Ray and Tanos E. Kalil remained missing in action and were not returned
in 1973. Kalil's name was on the PRG list as having died in captivity. Ray's
fate is unknown.

SOURCE: WE CAME HOME  copyright 1977
Captain and Mrs. Frederic A Wyatt (USNR Ret), Barbara Powers Wyatt, Editor
P.O.W. Publications, 10250 Moorpark St., Toluca Lake, CA 91602
Text is reproduced as found in the original publication (including date and
spelling errors).
UPDATE - 09/95 by the P.O.W. NETWORK, Skidmore, MO

MICHAEL H. KJOME
Civilian
Captured: February 1, 1968
Released: February 12, 1973
                       
I am Michael Hugh Kjome, Civilian, age 36, born July 9, 1936, Chief of
Training Branch for Pacific Architects and Engineers, U. S. Army Contractors
in Vietnam, providing logistical support for 1st Logistical Command Engineers.
I taught English and vocational subjects and lectured on Management
Procedures.

My family consists of my parents, George and Agnes Kjome, two brothers, Nils
A. Kjome of Decorah, Iowa and John S. Kjome of Coronado, California, and one
sister, Mildred I. Kjome, Trondheim, Norway. I attended public school in
Decorah, Iowa, graduating in 1954 and joined the U. S. Air Force military
service 1956 and 1957 with two years active duty as A/2C. I received an
honorable discharge in 1957 and then served four years in the U. S. Naval Air
Reserve from 1959 to 1963. I graduated from Luther College in Decorah, Iowa
with a BA in Chemistry in 1964. I taught science, chemistry, physical
education and mathematics, as well as coached wrestling, football and track at
Riceville, Iowa, 1965-65 and Pine Island, Minnesota in 1965 to 1967. I
attended the University of Minnesota during the summer of 1964 and 1965,
taking Graduate level courses in Physical Education and Norse Literature.

I went to Vietnam to work for PA&E, arriving in Saigon on June 1,1967. I was
captured at Cho An Nhon, a small hamlet on the edge of Saigon on February
1, 1968, while on duty at the Company Training Center. I was released by the
Viet Cong at Loc Ninh on February 12, 1973.

I believe that we who have experienced the horrors of the Vietnam War and have
seen what Communism can do to destroy the religious faith of the youth of any
country that they control, to restrict education, to take away the freedom of
enterprise, etc., should now take every opportunity to help make our country
strong. The country we love so much needs to become and remain ever stronger
in order to defend our shores against the dangers of Communism. We Americans
can only do this by taking an active part in the politics of our country, and
by making every effort to eliminate the blemishes of poverty and racial
discrimination that presently blot the US society and are the breeding places
for Communism. We can do this by taking an active part in the physical,
mental, moral and spiritual education of our children and by keeping our trust
in the God of our Fathers. We must work and pray to make and keep our beloved
country strong.


Mon Dec 08 07:40:11 1997

Michael died in 1986 from Agent Orange (of course, unconfirmed).
After returning from Vietnam, he went to Germany to teach on U.S. military
bases.  He met a lady from Norway at that time, and married.  They had 2
children.  He is buried on a small island off the coast of Norway.  His wife
and children are reported as doing well.

His brother Nills lives in Iowa, as does his sister Midge and mother Agnes.