HUGHES, JAMES LINGBERG
RIP June 4, 2012
Name: James Lindberg Hughes
Rank/Branch: O5/United States Air Force
Unit: 469th TFS
Date of Birth:
Home City of Record: Waterloo IA
Date of Loss: 05 May 1967
Country of Loss: North Vietnam
Loss Coordinates: 210100 North 1053000 East
Status (in 1973): Returnee
Other Personnel in Incident: none - other incident same day, Gordon Larson,
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. 2020
REMARKS: 730304 RELEASED BY DRV
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
UPDATE - 09/95 by the P.O.W. NETWORK, Skidmore, MO
JAMES L. HUGHES
Colonel - United States Air Force
Captured: May 5, 1967
Released: March 4, 1973
The best way I can describe my attitude toward going to Vietnam is so that
others might be free. In my way of thinking, I was helping a faction - in
this case a majority - free themselves from a society and a regime they did
not support, a regime that would in fact deprive them and retard their
progress in terms of world progress. I was serving a group of people that
had learned to love that which I love - freedom.
My hometown was Waterloo, lowa. Upon graduation from the local high school,
I entered the Navy. Shortly thereafter World War II came to an end and I
enrolled at lowa State College. When the Korean War began, I chose to enlist
as an aviation cadet in the Air Force. An air accident necessitated plastic
surgery. This was to go on for 12 months.
Various assignments ensued and then I put in a request to fly the F-105.
This huge aircraft weighs 51,000 Ibs. on take off for a combat mission - it
has one engine and is a most impressive weapon. With many hours of flight
time I was ready to go into combat. However, following Christmas in 1966 I
took a two week survival training course. This enlightened me as to what to
expect if I were captured. Regretably, there was no way they could train one
to prepare for months of solitary confinement lacking even the barest
necessities for passing time. Now the time had come to say good-bye to my
family and leave for Southeast Asia.
On May 5 Gordon (Swede) Larson and I reported for our briefing. We were to
destroy a military complex. As I turned to make the bomb run on our target,
I took a hit which wiped out the electrical and main fuel systems. During
ejection my helmet was blown off and I sustained a hard blow on the head
which rendered me unconscious, cousciousness was regained in the parachute
descent. I was received on the ground by a large group of people, completely
disrobed, although they later returned my underclothing, and was taken to a
nearby animal shelter where they put me in with the chickens and the pigs.
I was later moved to a single family compound and put on a board bed. Two
young girls came in and splashed iodine on my face wounds, bound my head
with gauze and left.
About a half hour later I was blindfolded and forced into the back of a
vehicle and carted off to Hanoi Immediately I was taken to the Meat Room of
the Hanoi Hilton, so-called because of the bolts in the ceiling that could
be used to string things up, such as POWs who blatantly refused them. My
legs were put in shackles and an eight foot metal bar was put through the
eyes of the U-bolts and this weighted the feet to the ground. They
handcuffed my hands, tightening the cuffs with a mechanical rachet, breaking
the skin and causing the hands to swell like five bananas on each arm. Then
they put ropes around my elbows and from behind the torture guard put his
foot on my elbow and pulled the ropes tight. He then brought the elbows
together behind my back, gave me a judo punch to the right rib cage and
cracked it, doubled over he brought the ropes from behind my back down to
the metal bar at my feet and put my head between my shins. So my legs were
bent, my elbows were touching behind my back and my head between my shins.
It was the same torture guard, lacking in innate intelligence who was with
me on and off for six years. I found I could not think of home as that was a
form of mental punishment. To sustain any form of sanity I had to block out
that part of my life. I could no longer take the physical punishment if I
subjected myself to mental punishment. 1967 was a terrible year for me.
They exploited me at every turn of the road. The tortures were varied, such
as interrogating me all night and then one could not lie down during the
day. Sometimes this would cover a ten day period.
I found the only way I could avoid having to meet delegations, make tapes
and be in films for propaganda was to go into a physical conditon bordering
on death. I took my diet down to a bare minimum. My weight dropped to 100.
With this routine I became in an emaciated and seemingly unstable condition
and was able to survive without further exploitation with the exception of
one tape and then again I went on the diet and continued it until release.
Our greatest triumph as POW's was the riot all 360 of us implemented to
bring pressure that religious services could be held. Any gathering of over
20 people was not permitted. We held the service as planned with different
men reading scripture, praying and offering the sermon. Some senior officers
were removed and put in solitary. While those men were being led away all of
the POW's sang the "Star Spangled Banner"- it resounded in the streets of
Hanoi. We won - religious services on Sunday were no longer denied - our
James Hughes retired from the United States Air Force as a Colonel. He and
his wife Paula reside in Arkansas.
London Daily Mirror
Thursday 24 January 2002
VIETNAM WAR HERO CONDEMNS CAMP X-RAY
From Mark Coleman In New York
America's most famous prisoners of war called yesterday for better treatment
of the Camp X-Ray inmates.
Col James Hughes, captured in Vietnam and pictured being frog marched at
gunpoint through the streets, said he felt sorry for them....
Love never fails: Former P.O.W. shares his story
Feb. 12, 2010
By Erin Nipper
Col. James L. Hughes and his wife Paula have a love story with all of the makings of a movie script: adventure, a hero and love.
Hughes survived two wars before serving in Vietnam -- first in the U.S. Navy during World War II and then in the Air Force during the Korean War. .....