SHUMAKER, ROBERT HARPER
|Name: Robert Harper Shumaker
Rank/Branch: O4/US Navy
Unit: Fighter Squadron 154
Date of Birth: (ca 1934)
Home City of Record: La Jolla CA (USN says New Wilmington PA)
Date of Loss: 11 February 1965
Country of Loss: North Vietnam
Loss Coordinates: 172400N 1064200E (XE805244)
Status (in 1973): Released POW
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.
REMARKS: 730212 RELSD BY DRV
SYNOPSIS: By early January, 1965, following two significant military defeats
at the hands of North Vietnamese guerrilla forces, the Army of the Republic
of South Vietnam was near collapse; U.S. options were either to leave the
country or increase its military activity. President Johnson chose to
escalate. Plans were authorized for a "limited war" that included a bombing
campaign in North Vietnam.
The first major air strike over North Vietnam took place in reaction to Viet
Cong mortaring of an American advisor's compound at Pleiku on February 7,
1965. Eight Americans died in the attack, more than one hundred were
wounded, and ten aircraft were destroyed. President Johnson immediately
launched FLAMING DART I, a strike against the Vit Thu Lu staging area,
fifteen miles inland and five miles north of the demilitarized zone (DMZ).
Thirty-four aircraft launched from the USS RANGER, but were prevented from
carrying out that attack by poor weather, and the RANGER aircraft were not
allowed to join the forty-nine planes from the USS CORAL SEA and USS
HANCOCK, which struck the North Vietnamese army barracks and port facilities
at Dong Hoi.
The strike was judged at best an inadequate reprisal. It accounted for
sixteen destroyed buildings. The cost? The loss of one A4E Skyhawk pilot
from the USS CORAL SEA and eight damaged aircraft.
FLAMING DART II unfolded 11 February after the Viet Cong blew up a U.S.
enlisted men's billet at Qui Nhon, killing twenty-three men and wounded
twenty-one others. Nearly one hundred aircraft from the carriers RANGER,
HANCOCK and CORAL SEA bombed and strafed enemy barracks at Chanh Hoa. Damage
assessments revealed twenty-three of the seventy-six buildings in the camp
were damaged or destroyed. One American pilot was shot down -- LCDR Robert
Shumaker was an F8D pilot assigned to Fighter Squadron 154 on board the USS
CORAL SEA. Shumaker's aircraft was shot down by enemy fire and he was
captured by the North Vietnamese -- the second Navy aviator to be captured.
For the next 8 years, Shumaker was held in various prisoner of war camps,
including the infamous Hoa Lo complex in Hanoi. Shumaker, in fact, dubbed
this complex the "Hanoi Hilton". Shumaker, as a prisoner, was known for
devising all sorts of communications systems and never getting caught. Like
other POWs, he was badgered to write a request for amnesty from Ho Chi Minh,
which he refused to do. As punishment, the Vietnamese forced Shumaker to
stay in a cell with no heat and no blankets during the winter. After about a
week, Shumaker had not relented, and it was forced to kneel for another
week. Finally, he was kneeling on broom handles with boards on his
shoulders. After a month the Vietnamese finally broke him and went on to the
Shumaker was was released in Operation Homecoming on February 12, 1973. He
had been promoted to the rank of Commander during his captivity.
Since the war ended, nearly 10,000 reports relating to Americans missing,
prisoner or unaccounted for in Southeast Asia have been received by the U.S.
Government. Many authorities who have examined this largely classified
information are convinced that hundreds of Americans are still held captive
today. These reports are the source of serious distress to many returned
American prisoners. They had a code that no one could honorably return
unless all of the prisoners returned. Not only that code of honor, but the
honor of our country is at stake as long as even one man remains unjustly
held. It's time we brought our men home.
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 - 03/97 by the P.O.W. NETWORK, Skidmore, MO
ROBERT H. SHUMAKER
Commander - United States
Navy Shot Down: February 11, 1965
Released: February 12, 1973
Cdr. Robert Shumaker was flying an F-8 Crusader when he was hit by 37 mm.
cannon fire, which forced the jet out of control. He ejected and his
parachute opened a mere 35 feet from the ground. The impact broke his back
and he was captured immediately, placed in a jeep and transported over the
rutted roads to Hanoi. Upon arrival in Hanoi a white smocked North
Vietnamese gave him a cursory examination before dozens of photographers,
yet did not give him any medical attention. His back healed itself, but it
was six months before he could bend.
The day after he was shot down, he was paraded before a news conference in
Dong Hoi by guards with fixed bayonets. A report said that his face showed
no signs of remorse. He was asked why the United States was bombing North
Vietnam and he answered, "It is in retaliation for the unprovoked aggression
of the Communists."
His family was quoted in the press as saying that this was typical of him
and that any further statements about him would be Communist propaganda. His
former associates also stated that it was like him to stand by what was
honest in the middle of enemies.
In the torture sessions he continued to hold out for his beliefs. His back
healed, but was reinjured two years later in a torture session because he
refused to play the part of a wounded American in a propaganda movie. After
beating him they used him for the part anyway.
He was known as one of the "Alcatraz Eleven" because he spent nearly three
years in solitary confinement, much of the time clamped in leg irons. He
would often think of his young son, Grant, who was just a baby when he was
shot down. That little boy was eight years old when he saw him again.
Commander Shumaker originated the name "Hanoi Hilton" for the prison. The
famous name was the ultimate in satire since the prisoners were tortured,
starved and insulted rather than treated with hospitality.
Through his entire imprisonment of over eight years, Cdr. Shumaker
maintained himself as a military man. He states that "When we were released,
we marched to the airplanes to show we were still a military organization. "
Born in New Castle, Pa., he was graduated from the U.S. Naval Academy in
1956 and later received his MA from the Naval Postgraduate School. He was
captured on February 11, 1965, the second to be shot down and the third
longest in captivity. He plans to stay with the Navy until retirement.
He leaves this message: "I simply want to say that I am happy to be home and
so grateful to a nation that never did forget us. We tried to conduct
ourselves so that America would be as proud of us as we are proud of her. I
am very proud to have served my country and pleased that we can return with
honor and dignity. "
Robert Shumaker retired from the United States Navy as a Rear Admiral. he
and his wife Lorraine reside in Virginia.
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