Name: Charles Keith Hyland
Rank/Branch: Civilian
Unit: Businessman
Date of Birth:
Home City of Record: Australia
Date of Loss: 06 February 1968
Country of Loss: South Vietnam
Loss Coordinates: XS800862
Status (in 1973): Released POW
Aircraft/Vehicle/Ground: Auto
Refno: 1039

Other Personnel in Incident: Norman J. Brookens; held with: James U. Rollins;
Charles K. Hyland (all released POWs); Thomas H. Van Putten escapee.

Source: Compiled by Homecoming II Project 15 October 1990 from: raw data from
U.S. Government agency sources, published sources including "Civilian POW:
Terror and Torture in South Vietnam" by Norman J. Brookens. Updated by the
P.O.W. NETWORK 1998.


SYNOPSIS: In the early morning of January 31, 1968, a 15-man Viet Cong
suicide squad blew a hole in the tall masonry wall surrounding the U.S.
embassy compound. Within seconds, the VC were inside the walls. After hours
of fighting, five Americans, five South Vietnamese, and 15 Viet Cong were

Saigon was not the only city struck by the Viet Cong. The communists had
launched the Tet Offensive. The Viet Cong penetrated 13 cities including
Saigon, Da Nang and Hue; the latter being the longest and bloodiest of the

Five days after the attack on Saigon -- on February 4 -- Richard Utecht, a
maintenance officer for General Service, USAID, left to pick up a tire from
a nearby U.S. Army compound to deliver to one an AID bus that had gone out
of service. It was 11:30 on a bright Sunday morning, and a maintenance
employee, Norman J. Brookens accompanied him.

Brookens and Utecht left the apartment and took a side street to the
compound. They stopped when their way was blocked by a cyclo (a small
motorcycle with a seat mounted on the front for passengers). Within seconds,
three Viet Cong armed with U.S. carbines moved in on Utecht's Jeep.

Assuming that their vehicle was being confiscated, Utecht followed VC orders
directing them out of the city limits to a small village. It was here that
the two men were bound with dynamite wire and they knew they were in

Brookens and Utecht were marched to Cambodia, a 50-mile trip. The Americans
endured taunts from villagers and were hidden from U.S. military. They were
bound so tightly that their arms swelled twice their normal size.

Two days after Brookens and Utecht were captured, an Australian businessman
named Keith Hyland was also captured very near the village where the two
USAID employees were captured. He also was marched northwest, and shortly
joined with an American civilian, James U. Rollins, who had been captured on
February 4 at Cholon near Saigon.

Around mid-March, they arrived at a camp with a group of grass huts in the
middle of a field. Outside the huts, 14 VC guards were watching over 10
captured ARVN soldiers. They were allowed to wash in a shallow, dirty water
hole, and given plain rice to cook. After several days at this camp, two
more civilian prisoners were brought to their hut -- Rollins and Hyland, who
had been captured the month before.

The punishment for speaking to one another was buffalo iron shackles and
starvation. The men began to lose weight fast. They dreamed of food and
escape, but with shackles on their ankles 24 hours a day, it seemed

Before long, the prisoners were moved again. It was a mental challenge to
try to keep track of their location, and at this time, they believed they
were in Cambodia. They later they walked to a trail which they believed to
be the Ho Chi Minh Trail. During the journey they were held in cages or in
deep holes.

On April 22, the four POWs dared an escape. They had secretly learned to
remove their chains, and on this rainy night they made their break. Within
seconds of their freedom, they were soaked. It was impossible to walk in the
thick jungle, so they crawled on hands and knees. They immediately became
separated, and had had barely reached the camp border when they were
surrounded and recaptured.

For the next ten days, they were given only several spoons of rice and a
pinch of salt. They were chained and bound with ropes so tight their arms
and legs went completely numb. The ropes were removed after a month, but the
chains remained. The four were rotated between a cage and a pit. Brookens
remained in the pit for several months, lying in his own body waste.

In mid-July, the prisoners were moved to another camp, but Keith Hyland was
left behind. Hyland was released on November 26, 1968. For the first time,
State Department learned that Brookens and Utecht had definitely been

For the next three years, the Americans were moved frequently as U.S. air
and artillery strikes came closer. The journeys were pure torture, and the
POWs were often chained to trees while cages were were built for them. They
were sometimes held in swampy areas teeming with snakes and malaria-carrying
mosquitoes. Some of the marches occurred during monsoon season, and the
prisoners, still wearing leg chains, walked in neck-deep water. During the
frequent U.S. strikes, some of them thundering B52 and artillery strikes,
the men hid in bunkers. During one such raid, a camp was completely

The POWs' health began to reach its limits. Brookens was suffering from
dysentery and beriberi from which he never completely recovered. In April,
they moved again, living in the jungle until a new camp was built in

In early April 1969, an American prisoner escaped. Army Cpl. Thomas H. Van
Putten had been captured near Tay Ninh as he operated a road grader on
February 11, 1968. After making his way to friendly forces, Van Putten
tentatively identified Brookens as one of the POWs held by the  Viet Cong in
his camp.

In July 1969, a POW committed a minor offense for which the entire camp was
severely punished for 30 days. The prisoner who caused the commotion was
later taken from the camp. Some POWs reported that they last saw the man,
who was only 21 years old, laying on the ground near his cage covered by a
piece of plastic. They believed he was dead. The other prisoners said that
the man had died of torture, starvation and lack of medicine for his
ailments. [NOTE: Brookens does not give the name of this POW who apparently
died in July 1969.]

On April 29, four new prisoners [unnamed in Brookens' account] joined the
group. They eventually reached a nearly-completed camp with above-ground
cages, which they believed was northwest of Tay Ninh near the Cambodian
border. Brookens and Utecht were put in the same cage, and it was the first
time Brookens had had a chance to talk to an American since the aborted
escape attempt two years before.

By June, encroaching artillery forced the POWs westward into Cambodia, but
on July 14, they returned to the border camp where they remained until
December 1970. At this time, they were moved deep into Cambodia. Again they
were chained while cages were built. The POWs remained here until April
1972, when they were moved to a new, and final camp.

The POWs were in terrible condition -- painfully thin, with all manner of
skin ailments, dysentery, and malaria. Brookens was so physically depleted
that he could barely walk without the aid of walking sticks. Then on the
morning of February 12, 1973, the men were told they were going home. There
were 27 in all, five of them civilians. The group was taken to a small
airport outside Loc Ninh, and after 11 hours of waiting, finally started for

Norm Brookens had lost 55 pounds since his capture, and was treated for a
ruptured colon, a heart condition, jungle rot, malaria and beriberi.

Thomas H. Van Putten resides in Michigan and had a leg amputated in
September 1990 as a result of complications stemming from injuries during
his captivity.