RIP  09/17/2017 

Name: John Arthur Dramesi
Rank/Branch: O3/US Air Force
Date of Birth: 12 February 1933
Home City of Record: Grenlock NJ
Date of Loss: 02 April 1967
Country of Loss: North Vietnam
Loss Coordinates: 173800N 1062300E
Status (in 1973): Released POW
Acft/Vehicle/Ground: F105D

Other Personnel in Incident: (none missing)

Official pre-capture photo

Source: Compiled by Homecoming II Project 15 October 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. NETWORK. 2023


SYNOPSIS: Capt. John A. Dramesi entered the service in 1956, and when he was
shipped to Vietnam, he flew tactical fighter bombers from Korat Airbase,

On April 2, 1967, Dramesi was sent on a bombing mission over Quang Binh
Province, North Vietnam. When he was near the city of Ba Don, his aircraft
was shot down and Dramesi bailed out. Dramesi twisted his knee as he landed,
and was immediately surrounded by North Vietnamese. He shot at them, but was
captured when he took a bullet in the right leg.

Dramesi was taken to a small village and a week later he arrived at his
first camp. The bullet wound in his leg was still untreated, and he packed
his swollen knee with mud.

Eight days later, he dismantled the side of his cell and as his guards
slept, escaped. He made more than nine miles but was recaptured the next
day. (This was April 11th.) The commissar in charge incited a crowd to stone
and beat him as punishment. The next day, he was taken by truck to the
"Hanoi Hilton" and then to the "Zoo," both in the Hanoi prison system.

On May 10, 1969, after a year of planning, Dramesi and a fellow POW, Edwin
L. Atterberry, made an almost miraculous escape. The two slipped through the
roof and traveled three miles over 12 hours, but were recaptured.

For the escape attempt, Dramesi was put face down on a table, and while one
guard held his head, two others beat him with a four foot length of rubber
taken from an old automobile tire. They also slapped him repeatedly in the
face. This went on for days, in ninety-minute sessions, after which the left
side of Dramesi's head was swelled up like a pumpkin. They also put Dramesi
on a bread and water diet for 30 days. At other times during the next two
weeks, Dramesi's arms were bound tightly together behind him and his wrists
and ankles cuffed in heavy irons. A rope was looped around a two-inch-thick
bar attached to his ankle irons, taken around his shoulders and his head
drawn between his knees.

He was held in this position for 24 hours without sleep. His circulation
impaired, the flesh on his ankles died, and he still bears the scars. After
two weeks, the Vietnamese realized he might lose his feet, so they removed
the irons and treated the wounds, but replaced them. Dramesi wore the irons
continuously for 6 months, removing them only once a week when allowed to

After 38 days of this torture, Dramesi was near death. Atterberry was
similarly punished, but did not survive. His remains were returned in March

Incredibly, following the period of extreme torture, the Vietnamese asked
Dramesi to write a magazine article describing their "lenient treatment" of
the POWs, promising to remove the irons if he did. He refused.

Not only Dramesi and Atterberry were punished. The entire POW populace was
systematically worked over. After the episode was over, the senior officers
outlawed further escape attempts unless they could meet a set of stringent
conditions, including outside help. Planning escapes did not cease, but the
actual attempts were put on hold. This is an excellent example of how the
Code of Conduct was "bent" to the circumstances at hand. A necessary
modification was made to ensure the survival of the prisoners; it having
been determined that it was impossible to follow the Code literally under
the circumstances.

The result of the Vietnam experience was a "new" code, the same in letter,
but different in spirit and intent than the pre-Vietnam version. Most agree
it is a more realistic form of guidance, and it stresses community
organization and a chain of command. It releases the POW from the
"die-before-you-talk" syndrome that brought so many to personal shame in
Vietnam when they were finally broken. (And all of those put to the test who
survived were broken.)

Dramesi was given only one letter from home in six years. In fact, his POW
status was not known for some time because he steadfastly refused to make
propaganda tapes and statements.

Dramesi never gave up on his country. During his captivity he hand-made the
American flag he displays in the above photo. He smuggled this treasure out
by sewing it between two handkerchiefs. The handkerchief upon which all the
pieces were stitched was given by fellow POW Tom Sumpter, and the red nylon
underwear by Robert N. Daugherty. Thread was pulled from Ben Pollard's
blanket to make the gold border. Dick Stratton provided white thread and Ken
Simonet gave the red thread from a handkerchief received from home. The blue
came from an old North Vietnamese sweater. Duffy Hutton embroidered the
stars onto the blue field. the needle was hand made from a piece of copper
found in the compound yard.

Dramesi's message: "As I held the flag high, I thought of this country and
the part we played in defending its greatest attribute -- FREEDOM. In
defense of freedom let us continue to do as we are expected to do...what
must be endured will be endured."

Since the war ended, over 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.

John Dramesi wrote of his POW experiences in Code of Honor. He was promoted
to the rank of Lieutenant Colonel during the period he was a Prisoner of
War. He holds the Air Force Cross, Silver Star, Legion of Merit with one Oak
Leaf Cluster, Distinguished Flying Cross, bronze Star with "V" Device for
Valor with two Oak Leaf Clusters, Meritorious Service Medal with one Oak
Leaf cluster, numerous Air Medals, the Air Force Commendation Medal with one
Oak Leaf Cluster, Purple Heart with four Oak Leaf clusters, Combat Readiness
Medal, National Defense Service Medal, Armed Forces Expeditionary Medal with
one Oak Leaf Cluster, Presidential Unit Citation, Air Force Air Force
Outstanding Unit Award with "V" device and one Oak Leaf Cluster, and the
Vietnam Service Medal with two Bronze Stars and two Silver Stars.


After his release, John Dramesi went on to become the chief war planner for
U.S. Air Forces in Europe and later commanded a Strategic Air Command F-111
wing. He retired from the United States Air Force as a Colonel. He
resides in Pennsylvania.



Jan 2013

From POW to VIP, Bulldawgs Wrestler Dramesi Returns to Haddonfield

Held prisoner six years in the infamous Hanoi Hilton, Haddonfield graduate John A.
Dramesi relied on the skills he learned on the wrestling mat to survive.

John Dramesi wasn't the best wrestler when he first took to the mat as part of the
inaugural 1948-49
Haddonfield Memorial High School wrestling team.
In fact, he wasn't very good at all....