WILLIS, CHARLES E. RIP 03/24/1999
Name: Charles E. Willis Rank/Branch: Civilian Unit: Date of Birth: Home City of Record: Date of Loss: 01 February 1968 Country of Loss: South Vietnam Loss Coordinates: 162734N 1073551E Status (in 1973): Returnee Category: Aircraft/Vehicle/Ground: Ground Other Personnel in Incident: Gostas, Theodore USA (released); Henderson, Alexander CIV (released); Meyer, Lewis CIV (released); Olsen, Robert CIV (Released); Page, Russell CIV (Released); Rander, Donald USA (Released); Rushton, Thomas CIV (Released); Spalding, Richard CIV (Released); Stark, Lawrence CIV attached to USN (Released); Daves, Gary CIV (Released). Source: Compiled by P.O.W. NETWORK 14 February 1997 from one or more of the following: raw data from U.S. Government agency sources and information provided by Ret. Major Gostas and Lawrence Stark. REMARKS: 730327 Released by PRG SYNOPSIS: Willis was working in the northern part of South Vietnam during TET '68 when Hue came under seige. Ret. Major Ted Gostas (135th MIBN PROV) recalls being trapped without his radio in the city, and being unable to warn hundreds of 5th Marines as they walked into an ambush and their death. Government records indicate Willis and 11 others were captured soon afterward. Ten of those were civilians working with the Vietnamese. Charles Willis was held captive for 4 1/2 years prior to his release on March 27, 1973. He resided in Idaho prior to his passing.
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 CHARLES E. WILLIS Civilian Captured: January 31, 1968 Released: March 27, 1973 Mr. Willis was captured the morning the North Vietnamese Tet offensive began. It was the Tet holiday and it was assumed that everyone would honor the ceasefire. Thus all he South Vietnamese had gone home to celebrate with their families. The town of Hue, the old imperial capital, had been chosen for the relay station of the Voice of America. Mr. Willis was in charge, in fact, he was due to return home the end of January but asked for an extension as the plans were to relocate the station to a more secure site. Early in the morning the Viet Cong started firing rockets and then mortars. Down the street they came and then they appeared at the front and back doors. Now captive, dressed only in shorts and a T-shirt and with elbows tied behind him with wire, off they went to the athletic stadium where everyone was made to line up against a wall. The Viet Cong had the safeties off their guns when a North Viet cadre decided they should be taken to prison rather than executed. For four days they walked with their hands still tied behind them. Mr. Willis' hands were so swollen that he could not see his wedding ring. As they walked at night, he fell into a ditch and further injured the leg which had been hit twice just prior to capture. He said, "My feet were cut very badly; I was pulling leeches out of the sores every time we stopped." On March 29th they arrived at Camp Bu Cow (in Vietnamese that means "Please may I have"). They were taught that they must bow and ask for anything they wanted. The indoctrination had begun. Mr. Willis was told that no treatment would be given his wounded hip, which had developed blood poisoning, until he admitted he was a "clandestine psychological warfare agent." He was then put in a 5 x 3 x 5 foot cage. On May 2 he was allowed his first bath, haircut and shave since capture. Daily he was taken from his cage for questioning to see if he had "reformed" his mind. After days of this, he realized that he had little time left, thus he told his interrogators, "Yes I have refirmed my mind." Thinking that he had said "reformed" a doctor was called. This doctor cut off the decayed flesh without any anesthetic and gave him a sulfa tablet and crushed two for application to the wound. It did not heal, so shrapnel was then removed from his hip-again without anesthetic. On July 6th he was put in a dungeon 6 x 6 x 10 feet. The room had two concrete slabs with boards on them, one mosquito netting, one blanket and one chamber pot. There was no light - in fact, one could not see one's hand in front of one's face. He was confined there for nine months. Due to the diet Mr. Willis had scurvy, beriberi, his hair fell out, his eyes went bad, his teeth became loose and his leg remained swollen. However, when peace appeared imminent, a doctor arrived and for three months gave him "hundreds" of vitamins, 28 B-1 injections and lemons and limes to eat. His weight was 192 when captured and 146 when he arrived at Clark. Mr. Willis said, "If this is part of a training program for Foreign Service officers, then it should be discontinued."