Name: Robert Lewis III
Rank/Branch: E4/US Army
Unit: 71st Aviation Company, 145th Aviation Battalion, 12th Aviation Group,
1st Aviation Brigade
Date of Birth:
Home City of Record: Houston TX
Date of Loss: 05 January 1968
Country of Loss: South Vietnam
Loss Coordinates: 153557N 1081012E (AT967265)
Status (in 1973): Released POW
Aircraft/Vehicle/Ground: UH1C

Other Personnel in Incident: James F. Pfister, Francis G. Anton (both
released POWs); aircraft co-pilot, evaded capture


Source: Compiled by HOMECOMING II and the 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. 2021

SYNOPSIS: For Americans captured in South Vietnam, daily life could be
expected to be brutally difficult. Primarily, these men suffered from
disease induced by an unfamiliar and inadequate diet - dysentery, edema,
skin fungus and eczema. The inadequate diet coupled with inadequate medical
care led to the deaths of many. Besides dietary problems, these POWs had
other problems as well. They were moved regularly to avoid being in areas
that would be detected by U.S. troops, and occasionally found themselves in
the midst of U.S. bombing strikes. Supply lines to the camps were frequently
cut off, and when they were, POWs and guards alike suffered. Unless they
were able to remain in one location long enough to grow vegetable crops and
tend small animals, their diet was limited to rice and what they could
gather from the jungle.

In addition to the primitive lifestyle imposed on these men, their Viet Cong
guards could be particularly brutal in their treatment. For any minor
infraction, including conversation with other POWs, the Americans were
psychologically and physically tortured. American POWs brought back stories
of having been buried; held for days in a cage with no protection from
insects and the environment; having had water and food withheld; being
shackled and beaten. The effects of starvation and torture frequently
resulted in hallucinations and extreme disorientation. Men were reduced to
animals, relying on the basic instinct of survival as their guide. After
months in this psychological condition, many POWs, lucky to survive,
discovered that they were infinitely better treated if they became docile
and helpful prisoners. Unlike in the North, the POWs in the south did not as
naturally assume a military order among themselves - perhaps because the
preponderance of POWs in the North were officers as opposed to a larger
community of enlisted men in the South - and frequently, there was no strong
leader to encourage resistance and to bring the comfort of order to a
chaotic existance.

From the camps in the South came the group of American POWs ultimately
charged with collaboration with the enemy. These charges were later dropped,
but are indicative of the strong survival instinct inherent in man, and the
need for strong leadership. It is common knowledge that nearly all POWs
"violated" the Military Code of Conduct in one way or another; some to
greater degrees than others. Those who resisted utterly, the record shows,
were executed or killed in more horrible ways.

Americans tended to be moved from camp to camp in groups. One of the groups
in South Vietnam contained a number of Americans whose fates are varied.

Capt. William "Ike" Eisenbraun was attached to the 17th Infantry regiment of
the Seventh Division ("Buffalos") when he fought in Korea. He was awarded a
Purple Heart for wounds received in Korea. In 1961, Capt. Eisenbraun
volunteered for duty in Vietnam because he believed in what we were trying
to accomplish there. He was one of the earliest to go to Southeast Asia as
an advisor to the Royal Lao and South Vietnamese Armies.

On his fourth tour of duty, Eisenbraun served as Senior Advisor,
Headquarters MACV, SQ5891, U.S. Army Special Forces. He was at jungle
outpost Ba Gia near Quang Ngai in South Vietnam when the post was overrun by
an estimated 1000-1500 Viet Cong force. Newspapers described it as "one of
the bloodiest battles of the war to date". A survivor told newsmen the Viet
Cong attacked in "human waves and couldn't be stopped." There were only 180
men defending the outpost. Captain Eisenbraun was initially reported killed
in action.

Later, two Vietnamese who had been captured and escaped reported that Capt.
Eisenbraun had been captured, was being held prisoner, and was in good
health. Through the debriefings of returned POWs held with Eisenbraun, it
was learned that he died as a POW. One returned POW said that on about
September 1, 1967, Eisenbraun fell out of his hammock (which was about five
feet above a pile of logs) and landed on his right side. For about 5 days
after the fall, Eisenbraun continued his daily activites, but complained of
a severe pain in his side. After that period he stayed in bed and at about
0100 hours on September 8, LCpl. Grissett awakened PFC Ortiz-Rivera and told
him that Eisenbraun had stopped breathing.

Another POW said Ike had died as a result of torture after an escape attempt
in 1967. Robert Garwood added that Ike had provided leadership for the
prisoners at the camp, and was an obstacle to the Viet Cong in interrogating
the other prisoners. He also spoke fluent Vietnamese, which made him a
definite problem. Garwood and Eisenbraun had been held alone together at one
point in their captivity, and Ike taught Bobby the secrets of survival he
had learned in SF training, and in his years in the jungle. Bobby states
that Ike knew and taught him which insects could be eaten to fend off common
jungle diseases, and that he and Ike jokingly planned to write a cookbook
called "100 ways to cook a rat". Garwood said that Ike had been severely
beaten following the escape attempt, and that one night he was taken from
his cage and not returned. The next morning, Garwood was told that Ike had
fallen from his hammock and died.

Ike Eisenbraun was buried at the camp in Quang Nam Province along with other
POWs who had died of torture and starvation. His grave was marked with a
rock inscribed by Garwood. A map has been provided to the U.S. showing the
precise location of the little cemetery and grave, yet Ike's remains have
not been returned.

Bobby Garwood had been captured on September 28, 1965 as he was driving a
jeep in Quang Nam Province. Garwood made international headlines when he
created an international incident by smuggling a note out revealing his
existance. The note resulted in his release in March 1979, after having been
a prisoner of war for 14 years. The Marine Corps immediately charged him
with collaboration and assault on a fellow POW, and he was ultimately
charged and dishonorably discharged. He is the only serviceman to be charged
with these crimes from the Vietnam War, and many feel he was singled out to
discredit the stories he has told regarding other Americans held long after
the war was over in Vietnam.

Several American POWs were held at a camp in Quang Nam Province numbered
ST18, including Eisenbraun, Garwood, Grissett, LCpl. Jose Agosto-Santos, PFC
Luis Antonio Ortiz-Rivera, Marine LCpl. Robert C. Sherman, Capt. Floyd H.
Kushner, W2 Francis G. Anton, SP4 Robert Lewis, PFC James F. Pfister, PFC
Earl C. Weatherman, Cpl. Dennis W. Hammond and Sgt. Joseph S. Zawtocki.

Agosto-Santos was captured when his unit was overrun in Quang Nam Province
on May 12, 1967. Cpl. Carlos Ashlock had been killed in the same action, and
he and Agosto-Santos had been left for dead. Agosto-Santos had been wounded
in the stomach and back. For about a month, he had been cared for in a cave
by the Viet Cong. Jose felt he owed his life to the Viet Cong. He was
released in a propaganda move by the Vietnamese on January 23, 1968. Ashlock
was never seen again.

Ortiz-Rivera was a Puerto Rican who barely spoke English. His Army unit was
overrun in Binh Dinh Province several miles north of the city of Phu Cat on
December 17, 1966, and Ortiz-Rivera was captured. Ortiz-Rivera was not a
problem prisoner, according to other returnees. He was released with
Agosto-Santos January 23, 1968.

Cpl. Bobby Sherman told fellow POWs that he had been on picket duty with
ARVNs on June 24, 1967 when he decided to go to a nearby village to "get
laid". The Vietnamese girl he met there led him to the Viet Cong instead.
Sherman had been on his second tour of Vietnam. During his first tour, he
had suffered psychological problems because of the grisly job assigned to
him of handling corpses of his comrades killed in action. In the spring of
1968, Sherman, Hammond, Weatherman, Daly, and Zawtocki, with the help of
other POWs, attempted to escape. Sherman beat a guard in the attempt and was
recaptured and punished. He was held in stocks for many days and fellow POWs
said he "got crazy and never recovered." They said he spent months as a
"zombie" and "never was there" after that. According to Harold Kushner,
Bobby Sherman died on November 23, 1968. The POWs buried him in the little
cemetery with Ike Eisenbraun. In March 1985, the remains of Bobby Sherman
were returned during a period that Eisenbraun's daughter was publicly asking
the President to bring her father home. A map had been published of the
cemetery, and many wondered if there was a connection.

Capt. Harold Kushner had been the sole survivor of the crash of his UH1D
helicopter on a mountainside in Quang Nam Province on November 30, 1967.
Kushner was a Army Medical Corps Flight Surgeon and had broken a tooth and
sustained a wound to his shoulder when the helicopter crashed. He was
subsequently captured by the Viet Cong. During his captivity, his wife,
Valerie, became active in the effort to end the war, believing that was the
only hope her husband had of returning home. Kushner became ambivilent about
the war himself, and when held in North Vietnam, made propaganda tapes until
informed by the more organized prisoners captured and held in the North that
it was prohibited. Kushner was released March 16, 1973 from North Vietnam.

(Note: a number of other Americans were held with this group including PFC
David N. Harker; James A. Daly; Richard R. Rehe; Willie A. Watkins; Francis
E. Cannon; Richard F. Williams; and James H. Strickland. One detailed
account of the captivity of these men can be found in "The Survivors" by
Zalen Grant. Another can be read in "Conversations With The Enemy", written
by Winston Groom and Duncan Spencer. Homecoming II Project - 2408 Hull Rd. -
Kinston NC 28501 -also maintains synopsis accounts of these men.)

W2 Francis Gene "Bones" Anton was the pilot of a UH1C helicopter, code name
"Firebird". On January 5, 1968, his crewchief was SP4 Robert Lewis III, and
door gunner was PFC James F. Pfister. The crew, flying out of the 71st
Assault Helicopter Company, was shot down as they were trying to assist C
Company, under heavy mortar attack at Happy Valley in Quang Nam Province.
Their co-pilot had escaped capture. Anton is one of the few POWs who
believed that Garwood, although clearly a collaborator, was still a loyal
American, helpful to his fellow POWs. Anton, according to other POWs was
"always cussing the Vietnamese". He was released from North Vietnam on March
16, 1973. When Cannon, Williams, Harker and McMillan were brought to the POW
camp at Happy Valley, they found Anton, Pfister and Lewis well fed and
clean. Pfister later made propaganda tapes at the Plantation in Hanoi in
April 1971. Garwood called him the "head snitch" in one of the camps along
the Rock River and White River in South Vietnam. Both Pfister and Lewis were
released on March 5, 1973. None of the three were considered by superior
officers to be among those who criminally collaborated with the enemy.

Russ Grissett was on a search mission for a missing USMC officer when he
became separated from his unit on January 22, 1966. He was with the elite
1st Force Recon, and was captured by the Viet Cong in Quang Ngai Province.
Russ was several inches over 6' tall and carried a normal weight of around
190 pounds. After 2 years in captivity, however, his weight had dropped to
around 125 pounds. Grissett suffered particularly from dysentery and
malaria, and in his weakened condition begged his fellow POWs not to tell
him any secrets. He had already been accused of sabotaging an escape plan by
Kushner. He found it difficult to resist, and willingly made propaganda
tapes about "lenient treatment". When Ortiz-Rivera and Agosto-Santos were
released, he had "behaved" enough that he was tremendously disappointed that
he was not released with them. During one period of near-starvation, in late
November 1969, Grissett caught and killed the camp's kitchen cat. It was a
dangerous move, and fellow POWs watched helplessly and innocently as guards
beat Grissett for the crime and he never recovered. Grissett was buried in
the camp's cemetery by his fellow POWs. Harold Kushner stated that Grissett
died on December 2, 1969. David Harker, another returned POW, stated that he
had died at 3:30 a.m. on November 23, 1968. On June 23, 1989, the U.S.
announced that the Vietnamese had "discovered" the remains of Russ Grissett
and returned them to the U.S. (Note: the "cat" incident spawned the assault
charges against Garwood. Garwood, enraged that others had stood by while
Grisset was mortally beaten, back-handed one of the bystanders in the
stomach and asked, "How could you let them do this to Russ?" Some witnesses
stated that the blow was not a hard one intended to injure, but seemingly
for emphasis.)

Dennis Wayne "Denny" Hammond and Joseph S. Zawtocki were Marines who were
part of a pacification team when captured during the Tet offensive on
February 8, 1968. Denny was a tall, lean, good-looking man thought to be
part American Indian. He attempted escape with the other POWs in the spring
of 1968 and was shot in the leg by Montagnards in a nearby village Denny had
beaten a guard to escape. Part of the "duties" of those POWs healthy enough
was to harvest oranges in nearby Montagnard orchards. The POWs were happy to
do this because it meant badly needed exercise and the opportunity for
additional food. Daly was once accused by guards of stealing oranges that
Hammond had stolen. It was on one of these workdays that the POWs effected
their ill-fated escape. After the escape attempt and recapture, Sherman
remained relatively healthy for a time, but in early March, 1970, died. He
was buried near the camp and his grave marked by a bamboo cross. (Hammond
died on 7 or 8 of March, depending on the source.)

Joe Zawtocki was a stocky, powerful, fair-haired man of Polish descent. He
and Garwood formed a close friendship and exchanged rings. Each promised the
other that if released alone, they would contact the other's family. Joe
died on December 24, 1968 of starvation and was buried near the POW camp.
Davis, a returnee, says that Garwood lost Joe's ring. Garwood states that,
upon his return, he gave Joe's ring to the Defense Intelligence Agency.
Several years later, he learned that DIA had never returned the ring to
Joe's family. Joe Zawtocki's remains were returned to the U.S. on August 15,

Perhaps one of the strangest cases involved in this group of POWs is that of
Pvt. Earl Clyde Weatherman. Weatherman was in the Marine brig at Da Nang
where he had been confined for slugging an officer in 1967. On November 8,
1967, he escaped the brig (which constitutes desertion). Intelligence
indicates that he paid a Vietnamese driver to take him to his Vietnamese
girlfriend's house, but the driver instead delivered him to the Viet Cong. A
tall, muscular young man of about 20 years old with reddish-blond hair and
blue eyes, Weatherman was detained in the POW camps in Quang Nam Province,
and was party to the ill-fated escape attempt in the spring of 1968. Opinion
was divided among the POWs regarding the political loyalties of Earl
Weatherman. Harker felt his alliance to the Viet Cong was only an act.
Weatherman had once said to him, "Don't believe everything you hear about
me." Others felt he was clearly a turncoat. Perhaps Garwood stated it most
accurately when he said, "Weatherman's only crime was falling in love with
the wrong person - a communist."

It was widely told that during the April 1, 1968 escape attempt, Weatherman
was killed. However, Garwood states that he heard of and saw Weatherman
after 1973 when other U.S. POWs were returned, and years after his supposed
death in South Vietnam. Intelligence indicates that Weatherman continued to
work for the communists, and lived with a Vietnamese wife and family. One
position said to have been held by his was with the Vietnamese government's
department of construction - the Cong Tyxay Dung. Garwood last knew him to
be at Bavi, living with a Vietnamese woman.

In 1986, several national news articles revealed that intelligence documents
showed at least 7 missing Americans had been seen alive in Vietnam in the
last dozen years, including Weatherman. Some accounts added that Weatherman
had smuggled a note out of Vietnam that he wished to come home and bring
with him his wife and children. Weatherman's father was allegedly notified
of this.

The POW/MIA groups reverberated with anticipation, knowing that if
Weatherman came home, a new source of information on those men still missing
would be available. Several activists questioned a Congressional aide
regarding Weatherman. They asked, "When will Weatherman be able to come
home? We understand the holdup is visas for his wife and children."  The
aide, with a caring and sympathetic look on his face, replied, "I don't
know. I just don't know."

Of this group of prisoners and missing, only Weatherman, Hammond, Ashlock
and Eisenbraun have not returned home, alive or dead. Ashlock was left for
dead on the battlefield. Hammond and Eisenbraun are dead, but still in enemy
hands. Weatherman, for whatever reason, chose love of a woman over love of
his country and remained behind. Can America close its doors to a man who
may have a wealth of information on Americans still alive in Vietnam? If he
now wishes to return to his homeland, can we be less forgiving to him that
we were to those Americans who fled to Canada to avoid the war?


Robert Lewis retired from the United States Army as a Master Sergeant. He
and his wife Jewel lived in Texas until her passing in January 2011.


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