LEOPOLD, STEPHEN RYDER

Name: Stephen Ryder Leopold
Rank/Branch: United States Army/O3
Unit: Green Berets
Date of Birth: 19 June 1944
Home City of Record: Milwakee WI
Date of Loss: 09 May 1968
Country of Loss: South Vietnam
Loss Coordinates: 144057 North  1073658 East
Status (in 1973): Returnee
Category:
Aircraft/Vehicle/Ground: Ground
Missions:
Other Personnel in Incident:
Refno:

Source: Compiled by P.O.W. NETWORK from one or more of the following: raw
data from U.S. Government agency sources, correspondence with POW/MIA
families, published sources, interviews.

REMARKS: 730305 RELEASED BY PRG INJURED


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).

STEPHEN R. LEOPOLD
Captain - United States Army
Captured: May 9, 1968
Released: March 4, 1973

Capt. Leopold was born June 19, 1944. He attended elementary and junior high
in Oklahoma City. At Shorewood, Wisconsin Senior High he edited the school
paper, qualified for a National Merit Scholarship and lettered in three
sports, while at Stanford University he was editor of the university
newspaper and graduated Magna Cum Laude and Phi Beta Kappa in Political
Science, Government, and History. Having to decide the possibilities for
post graduate life styles, he chose the Green Berets, supposedly to last two
years, ten months.

TRAVELS WITH CHARLIE
On May 9, 1968, I was captured in a pre-dawn engagement, two miles east of
the Lao-Cambodian Vietnam border, while I was advising a company of
Montagnard troops along with one other American. The only wound I received
was some strategically placed schrapnel in the back of the right ankle which
prevented me from accompanying the troops (they broke and ran). The NVA took
me to a prison camp in northeastern Cambodia where I remained 18 months.

Life in this camp was very severe in terms of physical deprivation. Life on
8 teacups of rice per day, almost no medical care and 12 hours in the stocks
at night was a constant physical and mental strain. We lost three men out of
19 while at another camp where the men had to work, they lost 13 out of 27.
Our diet was so poor that many of us contracted diseases.

In Cambodia I spent all but three months in solitary. I had some roommates
in March - May 1969, but was put back in solitary when I flunked a Political
Science exam given by the prison camp commander. He said I used "the logic
of a double-stubborn Washington robber" and that I was still a "pig-headed
imperialist aggressor who needed to think about his crimes more carefully."

Fortunately in November we were moved north to Hanoi. The trip took 48 days
walking and ten days on trucks. We took the "scenic route" through Laos via
the Ho Chi Minh trail.

Our new camp was about 20 miles west of Hanoi. It was a real hellhole.  I
lived in a small, black washed cell with a wood bed on the floor. The camp
routine consisted of getting up at 5  a.m. (you had to follow this schedule
or be punished), folding up your blankets and sitting on your bed until 7
a.m. when a guard took you to the well to wash and empty your chamber
bucket, returning to your room and sitting on the bed until 11 a.m. when
lunch was served (that's right, no breakfast until August 6, 1970), laying
down for two hours after lunch, getting up and going through the same
routine until the 4 p.m. meal, then sitting on your bed in the dark until 9
p.m. gong sounded. The "criminals" were not allowed to exercise, walk in the
rooms, lay down, sleep at odd hours, or lean back against the walls -
nothing  but sit and think about "your crimes." Our diet had a little more
nutritional value than what we had in the South, but the quantity was still
minute, purposely prepared either burned or uncooked without seasonings and
generally unpalatable. The camp commander was something out of a Grade C
Korean War prison camp movie: scrawny, effeminate, bureaucratic and
extremely sadistic - in  brief, an Oriental Eichmann eagerly awaiting the
"final solution" to the American POW problem. Fortunately for us, NVN's
prisons had been somewhat reformed in October 1969 and the "punishment" was
not as widespread as before. However, my roommate was beaten every day for a
week and forced to spend 16 hours a day either on his knees or standing up
with his hands over his head. This was supposedly for tapping on the walls
during the noon nap; he hadn't, but he had been awake due to his inability
to get under a mosquito net in the unbelievable hot summer of the Red River
valley.

Life continued - it  was all bad and unbelievably monotonous. Our names were
never released and I personally never sent or received any mail.

"Without the cold and desolation of winter There could not be the warmth and
splendor of spring. Calamity has tempered and hardened me And turned my mind
into steel." "Advice to Oneself" The Prison Diary of Ho Chi Minh.

For once in his life, Ho told it like it is, particularly in the opening
couplet. During my five years of imprisonment throughout Indochina, I
learned the true meaning of the word "desolation" - at least as it relates
to individual experience. And by gaining that knowledge I came to appreciate
fully all that I had taken for granted, including personal freedom.

Today, ice cold water, a fresh breeze, the freedom of movement, and other
things that free Americans enjoy daily, still have a special significance to
me. Perhaps in time my constant awareness of this regained "warmth and
splendor" will fade, but I doubt seriously if it will ever disappear.

For awakening this awareness of life, I thank the Vietnamese Communists; for
helping me celebrate life this joyous Spring, I thank the American people.
They have done much to assuage the bitterness that I might have felt because
five years of my life were wasted in deadly dull confinement. I only hope
that they show a similar concern for the disabled veterans who all-too-often
were welcomed home with apathy and disinterest. If we as prisoners
sacrificed years, they sacrificed limbs; their rewards should at least equal
ours. It will take private and corporate generosity to pay these men their
due.

December 1996
Stephen Leopold resides in Wisconsin.