Name: George F. Fryett
Rank/Branch: United States Army/E4
Date of Birth: 1935
Home City of Record: Long Beach CA
Date of Loss: 26 December 1961
Country of Loss: South Vietnam
Status (in 1973): Returnee
Other Personnel in Incident: none
Service: Korea 1957, Turkey 1959, Vietnam,
Wounded in Combat 24 Dec 61
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. Article provided by Sir George
REMARKS: 620624 RELEASED [by the Viet Cong]
NEWSWEEK INTERNATIONAL PAGE 38 (extract) SOUTHEAST ASIA:
JANUARY 15, 1962
Reform in Vietnam?
Heading north, 26-year-old George F, Fryett Jr. of Long Beach,
Calif., pedaled his bicycle out of Saigon early Christmas morning.
A Specialist Fourth Class assigned to a US military aid group, he
taught English in his off-hours and was going to see one of his
students in the village of Bien Hoa......
Fri Jan 30 1998 - From Sir George
I only remember that xmas morning being interrogated, while they were cutting
the flap from my head wound, a guard holding a 45 to my head trying to read
out of a simple english reader, asking me "what time was it in Saigon" I
think I said I do not know, I think I also tried to imply that I had a hard
time with english as well. It was not until Jan 62 or was it Feb 62 that
Time and Newsweek mags told the world what they thought I did for a living
that I really got into trouble. I found that there were only about 2 V that
really spoke much of anything because they had be educated somewhere in
The P.O.W. NETWORK gratefully acknowledges the source of the following
material as quoted directly from "VIETNAM MILITARY LORE" with permission
from the author Ray Bows, April 16, 1998, PRIOR to the release of this book.
Photographs are included in the book of George Fryett. The quotes are
from several areas of the book, as noted.
... "26 December 1961 - The policy of not bothering Americans is
changing since the arrival at Saigon Port of two U.S. Army helicopter
companies on the USNS Core on the 11th. An enlisted man was killed by
the Viet Cong on December 22nd [James T. Davis]* and another was
kidnapped on Christmas Eve [George Fryett].** With all the U.S. military
effort and the appearance of Americans working very closely with the
South Vietnamese Army on actual operations, the situation is rapidly
escalating. [from "Total Obscurity to Anxious Scrutiny" 128-129]
In their first encounter with U.S. Army helicopters, the Viet Cong were
defeated in December of 1961 during "Operation Chopper" Yet, as the
Communists did so many times during the conflict, Viet Cong guerrillas,
shortly after their defeat, struck at the American's weakest link.
On Christmas Day 1961, twenty-six year old U.S. Army Specialist 4
Creorge Fryett of Long Beach, California, left the enlisted men's billet
at the Metropole Hotel in Saigon, and headed north on his bicycle along
the Bien Hoa highway. Fryett, a photography buff, was carrying two
cameras as he rode his bicycle from Saigon to a swimming pool at Thu
Duc. Fryett turned down a dirt road which he thought led to the pool,
as two Viet Cong on bicycles overtook him.
One Viet Cong pulled in front of Fryett, forcing him off the road, while
the other guerrilla moved into position directly behind him and
prevented him from doubling back on his tracks. Fryett resisted, but
was wrestled off the road and was struck on the head with either a
pistol butt or the blunt portion of a hand grenade.
When he came to, he was bound and was suffering from a gash in his head.
At the same time Viet Cong radio blared: 'Kill all Americans!" and
"Throw the American Imperialists out of South Vietnam!" Fryett's fate
Several days later one South Vietnamese officer in an interview said:
"We don't have any idea where he may have been taken by now or whether
he's even alive."
While Fryett was listed as AWOL by MACV, American rnilitary personnel
were given the order that they were restricted within the Saigon city
limits. Military otticials also urged that soldiers use the buddy
system and travel with companions whenever possible.
Fryett, a code clerk at the headquarters of the United States Military
Assistance Command, had been teaching evening classes to Vietnamese
students during his off duty time and was targeted by one of his
students because of the sensitive nature of his job.
It was reported that "Because of his access to top secret information
Specialist Fryett was the object of an extensive search involving
helicopters, Vietnamese Airborne troops and Rangers."
United States Army helicopters of the 57th Transportation Company lifted
large forces of Vietnamese troops in attempts to head off Fryett and his
captors. The troop lifts were unsuccessful. Fryett's fate at the hands
of the Viet Cong was still unknown - but it was reported that he was
being moved north of Saigon deeper into the jungles of Phuoc Thanh
On 2 April 1962, two-hundred and fifty miles to the north, helicopters
were charging over a blistering jungle-covered countryside. They had
departed that morning from a location still known by its French name -
Tourane. The 93d was shuttling advisors to Outposts in the jungle,
including one team of two Green Berets from Okinawa who were on their
way to the village of An Chau. Fryett was just the first - more
prisoners would soon be taken by the Viet Cong,
[from "The threshhold of War" 213-215]
The site for the encampment was the National Military Academy Grounds.
The article went on to say that activities included hikes in the woods
and mountains, boating on Lake Ho Xuan, map reading, stalking and nature
study. The six days of outings were highlighted by a council campfire.
Luckily for the scouts, the Viet Cong in the Dalat area showed no
interest in the boys activities.
On the 11th of June 1962, an underground Viet Cong radio station
transmitted the message they intended to release Specialist George
Fryett, but the release was being held up because the truth had not been
told about the release of Groom and Quinn. The Saigon press had handled
the incident as though the two sergeants had been rescued by Vietnamese
forces. Their angle had been reinforced by President Kennedy message to
On the 14th of June, the VC radio station continually broadcast the text
of a letter they claimed was written by Fryett:
"Dear Dad, dear wife Clara and dear daughter Virginia,
"I have been treated very kindly and have enjoyed in general
"War has not existed between North and South Vietnam. South
Vietnam and its people have only tried to protect their peaceful
traditions and happiness.
"The only thing I can say is that I am very sorry for having
played a role in the forces that are being exploited in South Vietnam.
The truth has been concealed from the American public. This situation
should not be allowed to continue."
After hearing of the letter, Fryett's father said his son was "100
percent American" and he did not believe his son had made the remarks
attributed to him. Fryett's father was correct, the letter had been
concocted by the Viet Cong.
In the broadcast on Radio Liberation, the voice of the Viet Cong, it was
reported on Friday that three documents were supposedly signed by
Fryett: "an application for his release, a letter addressed to the
International Red Cross and a letter to his family," would be
The broadcast then gave the text of the letter to the "Central Committee
of the National Front for the Liberation of South Vietnam." In it,
Specialist Fryett, the purported signator, urged the front to be
"lenient toward me and to allow me to safely return to my compatriots."
"I was an accomplice of the criminal maneuvers of the United States
imperialism and the Diem administration in South VLetnam,- the letter
the Viet Cong attributed to Fryett said in part.
The message also blamed United States planes for strafmg poor people who
are being sacrificed for those taking advantage of the United States
American sources in Saigon believed that Specialist George Fryett's
release was imminent. They believed that the Communists intended to
exploit the soldier's release in order to offset the effects of a report
by the International Control Commission branding Communist North Vietnam
guilty of subversion and aggression against South Vietnam.
This report, which enraged the Communist bloc, was signed by two of the
three members of the commission, India and Canada. Communist Poland
refused to sign.
As United States military involvement increased, the Viet Cong realized
they had much to lose. They continued to consider the deployment of
helicopter units in South Vietnam as their greatest threat. The
Communists were in a difficult position they needed to show their
strength while giving the Americans a course of withdrawal. To show a
balance in, their determination to rid South Vietnam of any American
military presence, they killed one - James T. Davis; captured one -
George Fryett; killed two - Gabriel and Marchand, and released two -
Groom and Quinn. It was clear their tactics were not working. Would
the Viet Cong try a different strategy? What would Fryett's fate be?
In the III Tactical Corps area, the Viet Cong also had their eyes on
President Diem's new Strategic Hamlet program. The area in and around
Ben Cat, twenty-eight miles north of Saigon, would be one of their next
targets. [from "Green Berets and the Red Ball Form" 241-242]
On 26 June 1962, the day that Walter McCarthy and William Train were
killed at Ben Cat, George Fryett, who had been held prisoner for six
months, was force-marched on a trek lasting thirty-five hours as his
captors led him with a rope tied around his neck and arms bound.
Fryett had made one attempt to escape. Early on in his captivity,
taking advantage of his guards fatigue, he dove into a river and swam
underwater for several minutes. "When I emerged, the Viet Cong were
already on the river bank pointing their guns at me," said Fryett.
After his recapture, for most of his time in captivity he was ill and
unable to eat. After the escape attempt he was bound constantly. Only
after four months did the Viet Cong guards, ever present at his side,
loosen or remove his restraints on occasion, but only because his
condition had weakened and he seemed to pose no threat of escaping.
Secretly Fryett devised one plan after another to escape but never got
the opportunity to carry out a plan.
Now, six months into his capture, Fryett was losing track of time -
blindfolded days and moonless nights began to have little meaning. Held
at six different locations north and west of Bien Hoa, Fryett was
exhibited in villages by the Viet Cong as they attempted to force him to
read Communist propaganda aloud while at gun point. He continually and
vehemently refused! Still the Viet Cong guerrillas put him on display
before gatherings of peasants as "one of the American imperialists
trying to conquer South Vietnam."
While they threatened Fryett at gun point, the Viet Cong made repeated
efforts to "educate" him and to have him accept the communist point of
view. He resisted their teachings at every turn.
On the 21st of June 1962, Fryett was on another forcemarch. This one
lasted four days. At 7 A.M. Sunday the 24th, an armed party of about
thirty Viet Cong emerged from the jungle at coordinates XT 767620 -
village - Binh Long Province and approached a South Vietnamese Ranger
"I was totally exhausted from the four day march," said Fryett. "As I
watched from the jungle, I couldn't believe my eyes, here were Viet Cong
and South Vietnamese forces talking to each other like old friends."
A bus bound for Chan Thanh was halted by the two groups of soldiers.
Moments later Fryett was led out of the forest near the northern edge of
War Zone D, a Viet Cong jungle haven.
He was wearing civilian trousers and a sports shirt. Fryett was
escorted up the steps of the bus and handed a 100 piastre note ($1.40);
then the bus was waved off in the direction of Chan Thanh. Until he was
placed on the bus he had no idea he was to be released.
"When I arrived at Chan Thanh, a Vietnamese Ranger company was waiting
for me," said Fryett. "They knew I was coming from the conversation that
the VC had with the South Vietnamese patrol before they put me on the
Shortly before 3 P.M. a CH-21 helicopter arrived at Chan Thanh to return
Fryett to Saigon.
"I piled on that chopper and just wanted to get out of there," said
Fryett. "Then they told me that I had to get back off for 'an official
photo.' By this time I didn't trust any of the Vietnamese, not any of
them, SVN uniforms or not. I told them if they wanted a photo I'd stand
in the doorway as long as, as soon as they took it, we could leave."
In his initial discussions with U.S. officials, after arriving in
Saigon, Fryett told the story of his capture stating to officials that
there were periods of his captivity that were unclear to him.
"I never accepted their teaching," he said. "I have no knowledge of
letters supposedly written by me to my family."
Although Fryett's condition was reported as good, he had lost twenty-six
pounds. He told newsmen, "I was not mistreated by the Viet Cong." In
other words, he was not beaten or tortured.
U.S. medical authorities checked him carefully upon his return to Saigon
Sunday night and found no major physical disabilities. Newsmen were
told that it would be several days before correspondents would be
permitted to see the returned Fryett. Fryett left Saigon Sunday, the
8th of July 1962, on a permanent change of station transfer to the U.S.
Army Personnel Center, Oakland, California. In good spirits, he boarded
his plane, accompanied by his escort officer Captain Harold L.
Alabaster. Fryett was scheduled to spend a thirty day leave with his
family in Long Beach.
During his entire ordeal, George Fryett never showed cowardice to the
communists. Many historians, taking Stanley Karnow's lead, make note
that U.S. Navy pilot Lieutenant (jg) Everett Alvarez Jr. "was the first
of nearly six hundred American airmen to be captured by the Communists
during the Vietnam conflict." This has often been misunderstood as
meaning that Alvarez was the first American captured during the Vietnam
war. In fact Fryett was the first American Prisoner of War, followed by
the four Green Berets captured at An Chau Gabriel, Marchand, Groom and
Now, over thirty years later, George Fryett is active in Vietnam veteran
affairs and has been for the last decade. He has been the President of
BRAVO Montana and is highly regarded in the veterans community.
In an interview with the author in March 1994, George Fryett said, "Not
everything that was released to the media about my capture was correct.
Due to the 'need to know' under the National Security Act, there are
still some questions as to the real truths that can't be made public due
to the long term damage that might come from saying too much."
However, George Fryett did share, possibly for the first time, his
first-hand account of collusion between Viet Cong and South Vietnamese
soldiers near War Zone D, and did so having no idea that Colonel Pham
Ngoc Thao was a major figure in the story that linked the meek "Albert
Pham," Walter McCarthy, William Train and himself together.
[from "The Dragon's Treachery" 266-270]
VIETNAM MILITARY LORE LEGENDS, SHADOWS AND HEROES
IS THE STORY OF VIETNNAM FROM THE DMZ TO THE MEKONG DELTA -
FROM THE HO CHI MINH TRAIL TO THE SOUTH CHINA SEA -
FROM THE DEATH OF THE FIRST AMERICAN TO LOSE HIS LIFE IN COMBAT TO THE
AMERICAN BUILDUP AND ESCALATION OF THE WAR -
AS TOLD THROUGH THE EYES, THE WORDS AND THE DEEDS OF THOSE WHO DID NOT
1200 pages Hard-bound $39.95* (plus $4.50 postage & handling)
Massachusett residents, add 5% sales tax
BOWS AND SONS PUBLISHING 2055 Washington Street Hanover, MA 02339
A POW's story
By Nick Gevock of The Montana Standard - 11/11/2005
George Fryett noticed two Vietnamese men in a field as he pedaled a bicycle
toward a small village on the outskirts of Saigon.
It was Christmas Eve, 1961, but Fryett never suspected he was in danger as
the men eyed him.....
To those who wish to read George's story in the August 1962 issue of The
American Legion Magazine, it can be found at the following link:
The article is entitled "Prisoners of War for Sale" by Maj. Gen. Haydon L.
Boatner, U.S. Army (Ret.). The article begins on pages 13-14 and continues
on pages 38-41. The article starts as a story about George (and others that
served in MAAG), and then becomes a treatise on the history of POWs, their
treatment and laws to protect them, and a 1962 perspective of the Vietnam
War which hadn't quite started yet. It's interesting to read this over 50
years later. It's a bit cumbersome to scroll through the pages of this
archived version, but worth the effort. JM