RAMSEY, DOUGLAS KENT
Name: Douglas Kent Ramsey
Unit: Foreign Service Officer, U.S. State Department
Date of Birth: ca 1934
Home City of Record: Boulder City NV
Date of Loss: 17 January 1966
Country of Loss: South Vietnam
Loss Coordinates: 110103N 1062628E (XT574182)
Status (in 1973): Released POW
Other Personnel in Incident: (none missing)
Source: Compiled by Homecoming II Project 15 October 1990 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 in 2018.
REMARKS: 730212 RELSD BY PRG
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;
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
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
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
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
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
DOUGLAS K. RAMSEY
Captured: January 17, 1966
Released: February 12, 1973
I attended public schools in six different states. My college days were spent
at Occidental College in Los Angeles, with a year of graduate work at Harvard.
Upon completion, I entered the Air Force where I served two years as a
lieutenant in the field of communication intelligence. I am still a captain in
June 1, 1960, I began work with the Department of State. Following orientation
and language training, I was assigned to the Bureau of Intelligence and
Research. Later I volunteered for Vietnamese language training. After
completion of six months of study at the Foreign Service Institute in
Washington, I left for Vietnam, arriving in Saigon on 3 May 1963. I served in
various capacities until my return to the states in December 1964. Upon
returning to Vietnam from home leave in February of the following year, I was
assigned to Hau Nghia as Assistant Provincial Representative. After doing a
month's study of the refugee problem in Binh Dinh, I returned to Hau Nghia to
replace John Paul Vann, who had become my closest friend, as Chief Provincial
On 17 January 1966, I was captured while riding in a province-owned truck
transporting food and medical instruments to Trung Lap, to assist refugees and
evacuees from a joint GVN/US search and destroy operation. A Viet Cong ambush
party appeared at the side of the road. I ordered the driver to try to run the
ambush, and he did so; but the engine stopped with the truck only 100 feet
past the VC. I got off one clip from my AR-15, but bullets coming into the cab
hit an oil can at my feet and splashed the contents into my eyes. Before I
could clear my vision and reload, the VC had reached the side of the truck. I
decided I had better exercise my prerogative as a civilian non-combatant in
the tenth of a second I had remaining before being zapped, so I yelled, "dau
hang! " and surrendered. They marched me off toward Tay Ninh and I spent the
next seven years in the jungles of South Vietnam and Cambodia.
I consider myself extremely fortunate to have survived the occasional wanton
neglect and sadism of a few of my captors (most were fairly decent most of the
time); the anger and hatred of both the local population and the VC/PAVN
troops; several B-52 strikes; outright starvation during the Cambodian
operation; 136 attacks of malaria, mostly falciparum (killer); the numerous
infections and swellings produced by scurvy and beriberi; and my own
foolishness at times.
I am humbly grateful for the efforts of many brave Americans and Vietnamese to
rescue me, often at extreme risk to their own lives; and would like to mention
in this respect particularly Frank Scotton of USIS, the late John Paul Vann
and the wife and daughter of the province chief of Hau Nghia.
I also want to express my appreciation for the efforts of other individuals to
gain information from the VC as to my status, notably Jacqueline (Kennedy)
Onassis and Prince Norodom Sihanouk; and finally, I wish to convey my
gratitude for the activities of thousands and perhaps millions of individuals
throughout our beloved nation, people often of radically differing but
honestly-held views, who helped establish the conditions which led to our
release, or whose efforts were sincerely aimed at achieving that end, and who
have done so much to assist us since our return, among them and above all
others, my parents.
Operation Homecoming has been far beyond what most of us had anticipated in
our wildest daydreams and has provided a reaffirmation of the essential human
goodness embodied in the people whose interests we went to Vietnam to
defend - whether well or badly, wisely or otherwise, only the historians of a
future generation have a right to decide.
Douglas Ransey resides in Nevada.
From left, Charles Willis with his wife Josephine and his sons Howard and Charles at the National Naval Medical Center in Bethesda, Md., following his release in 1973. Center, Douglas Ramsey in Vietnam before his capture in 1966. Right J.R. Bullington meets with student demonstrators in Hue in 1966.
ept. 17 is National POW/MIA Recognition Day, a day of special tribute to men and women who, in the service of the United States, became prisoners of war or were missing in action during wartime. While most of the nation's POWs and MIAs have been in the military, members of the Foreign Service, too, have suffered the hardships of enemy captivity with honor, dignity and distinction. Here, taken largely from their own accounts, are the stories of two Foreign Service officers held prisoner and one who narrowly escaped capture during the Vietnam War...