SHEPARD, VERNON CLARK
|Name: Vernon Clark Shepard
Branch/Rank: UNITED STATES ARMY/ E5
Unit: B Trp 7/17th Air Cav
Date of Birth: DOB of July 19, 1948
Home City of Record: TALMADGE OH
Date of Loss: 02-November-69
Country of Loss: SOUTH VIETNAM
Loss Coordinates: 122300 North 1073430 East
Status (in 1973): Returnee
Aircraft/Vehicle/Ground: OH6A, #760
Official pre-capture photo
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 and CACCF = Combined Action
Combat Casualty File. 2019 with information from Justin Jackson-Mann. 2022
REMARKS: 691210 RELEASED
Information quoted from Vietnam Helicopter Pilots Association Historical
Reference Directory Volume 2A with permission November 11, 1998.
Others in Incident:
Curran [rescued], Nowicki [captured], OH6A;
Peterson [captured], Chirichigno [captured], AH1G;
Shepard [captured], Grega [KIA], OH6A
Prisoner Of War Debriefing
by Bud Shepard and Mike Peterson
What follows is an edited version of what was almost a 100% extract from
a series of seven electronic messages that made up the debriefing report
for SGT Vernon Shepard and W01 Mike Peterson of B Troop, 7th Squadron,
17th Air Cavalry. The original file is owned by Billy Bowling who
commanded B Troop during the time period when SGT Shepard and Mr
Peterson were captured and released by the NVA. The file consists of
series of standard military teletype messages. Billy Bowling lent it to
Mike Law at the VHPA Reunion in July, 1993. Mike typed the material
into a word processor and edited it for this presentation. The editing
consisted of: changing the all capital letters of the teletype message
to normal case letters, where appropriate, the spelling has been
corrected, many of the military abbreviations were expanded into English
words, finally, the page numbering and paragraph naming conventions
along with message headers and confidential security statements have
The first message in this file was transmitted from the office of the
Commanding General, 4th Infantry Division, Pleiku, Vietnam at 11 1746Z
December 1969. It was addressed to: the Commanding General, USARV, Long
Bien, Vietnam; the Commanding General, MACV, Saigon, Vietnam; the
Commanding General, I Field Force Vietnam, Nha Trang, Vietnam; the
District Senior Advisor, 11 Corps, Pleiku, Vietnam; and the Commanding
Officer, lst Brigade 4th Infantry Division, Bam Me Thout, Vietnam.
This message covers debriefing of returnee Shepard, Vernon C., SGT/E5,
xxx-xx-xxxx, B/7/17, aerial observer, MIA 2 Nov. 69 and returned to US
control on 10 Dec. 69.
Interview conducted at 71st Evacuation Hospital, Pleiku, Vietnam on
10-11 Dec. 69, as follows:
Map sheet 6533 IV; subject and WO Grega (pilot) were on a reconnaissance
mission out of Bu Prang, RVN in a LOH (OH-6A) on 2 Nov. 69 for B/7/17th
Cav. They were part of a team consisting of one other LOH (WO Nowicki -
Pilot, LT. Curran - Observer) and two Cobra gunships. At approximately
1600 hours while five miles east of Bu Prang subject spotted three
foxholes along QL14. The LOH drew AK-47 fire from the position.
Subject was injured in the foot, the ship's radio system was destroyed
and oil began spraying over the ship. As soon as the LOH received fire
it withdrew east as the Cobra ships rolled in. Approximately five miles
east of the location where they took fire, the other LOH signaled for
subject and Grega to put their ship down. The ship was put down in an
open field near QL14 (YU793658). WO Grega and subject exited the ship
and ran for the sister LOH piloted by Mr. Nowicki and Lt. Curran. As
they got in the ship and it began to rise, the ship received heavy
machine gun fire. The LOH tore apart, fell to the ground and burned.
WO Nowicki, LT. Curran and subject got away - WO Grega was pinned under
the burning ship. Subject received a flesh wound in the right buttock
from the machine gun fire that destroyed the LOH. WO Nowicki, subject,
and LT. Curran ran down a slope to some high weeds. A Cobra rolled in
expending on the area and seemed to indicate a pick up point. At this
time (dusk) LT. Curran crawled away. Subject heard another ship receive
fire and crash. Subject heard Curran crawling around behind them but he
thought it might be the enemy. Then he saw a strobe light blinking (LT.
Curran), a Huey came in and picked up Curran. The Huey drew fire and
left before subject and Nowicki could get to it. At this time subject
and Nowicki were approximately 1 00 meters southwest of the crash site,
(YU793655 - approximately). Subject and Nowicki remained there for the
The next morning (3 Nov. 69) subject and Nowicki awoke early, crawled
approximately 20 meters and saw four enemy soldiers armed with AK-47s
going through the downed ships. Throughout that day they saw
helicopters and signaled but apparently they were not seen. At one time
Nowicki crawled to open ground and threw a WP grenade but the signal was
not seen by the passing pilots. All throughout the day there was
artillery fire and air strikes by jets as close as 1 00 meters south of
their location. A heavy volume of small arms fire was heard north of
their location. Subject also observed small groups of enemy walking
intermittently 200 meters south of their location. Subject and Nowicki
remained hidden in the tree line. They had no food or water. Nowicki
had a Car-15, one clip of ammo and a jungle knife; subject had a pocket
knife. To obtain water subject and Nowicki sucked on their flight
gloves, licked water-soaked leaves and cut down water soaked vines.
4 Nov. 69 passed uneventfully. On night of 4 Nov. 69, subject and
Nowicki crawled 300 meters across a field and up an incline to the
reverse side of a hill - at this time they were about 500 meters west of
the crash site (Approximately YU791656). While crawling across the
field they came across communications wire. Subject indicated that he
saw communications wire across fields and down trails on numerous
occasions but he never observed radios or antennas.
On 5 Nov. 69 they remained in the general area all day long. Subject
heard Vietnamese voices all day long. At this time they also discovered
a stream approximately 10-20 meters away from their location. Nowicki
said he saw a body hanging in tree near the downed gun ship. The Cobra
was on its side and the nose had broken off. The enemy took equipment
from the gun ship. Most electronic gear was shot up in gun ship and the
two LOHs were destroyed by fire, and VVP and fragmentation grenades in
6 Nov. - they wandered west and south to follow the aircraft. At 1400H
reached another open field; subject was 20 ft behind Nowicki when small
arms fire was received. He could not see Nowicki. Three enemy soldiers
got behind and captured subject, took subject into treeline 1 0 meters
away. Saw ten bunkers in the treeline with overhead cover (OHC) and
2'x2' openings, vicinity YU788657 to YU788655. Estimate enemy company
in area. Bunkers were approximately 3'x4' inside with l'to 2'OHC and
were on trail, 15 meters between bunkers. Enemy cut grass for subject's
bed, gave him ball of rice and half of a cigarette. While subject was
on trail had AK-47 in his back, all enemy were behind him. At this time
Nowicki was brought in by two enemy and joined subject. Subject saw one
M-16 and AK-47's, no pith helmets (9 enemy here). Nowicki was 5'from
subject. Nowicki was burned on left hip. The burn was 4"x8". Enemy
tied Nowicki to tree. Subject pointed to wound and medic came. Subject
stood, and enemy soldier took wallet and left with two other enemy
soldiers. Medic, who gave aid to Nowicki wore mixed uniform, had no
weapon and carried canvas medical bag. He wore no district
identification to indicate a medic. Medic wrapped wound with 3" wide
bandage. Subject and Nowicki were allowed to talk at this time. Enemy
tied arms of both behind back with thick blue wire (communications
wire). They moved out, escorted by five enemy, two in front, followed
by subject, then one enemy followed by Nowicki, followed by two enemy.
Every bunker along trail was manned and they traveled all day and part
of night, all on the same trail. Area had dense trees and as group
traveled along trail, bunkers were further apart and larger. Subject
saw total of six bunkers in this area. Trail was one to two feet wide
with heavy canopy. Walked approximately two hours after dark. No
talking on trail and lead man had a flashlight. Approximately every 15
minutes, subject would stop and beg for water - given little. At 2100H
came to small bunker 5'x3'with OHC, boots were removed and pair were
tied to OHC logs on bunkers. Enemy stayed outside, but cooked rice with
fire inside bunker. They were fed and were allowed to talk.
7 Nov., at sun up they were fed rice soup with beans, had cigarette and
boots were given back. Back tracked approximately 50 meters to another
trail and walked until 11OOH, using same formation. No bunkers on this
trail. Encountered two groups of 20 enemy, each group had two mortar
tubes and half of each group were carrying 8 to 10 rounds of 82mm
mortar. Also five groups of five individuals carrying mortar ammo. All
troops were armed with AK-47 and moved in opposite direction of the POW
party. These were not fresh troops. We wore mixed uniforms with Ho Chi
Minh sandals without helmets. At 11OOH group left trail, rested, and
ate. Enemy wearing blue sweater looked at wounds of subject and moved
subject to bunker. Subject was stripped outside of bunker. Doctor
sprayed wound with alcohol (buttocks area) from syringe. Subject
counted 300 maggots fall from wound. They then went into bunker, (there
were two additional enemy dressed in blue sweaters in bunker, presumed
to be doctors or medics) doctor gave one shot in arm and six shots
around the wound (possibly Novocain). Two doctors cleaned wound by
candlelight and subject could hear snipping of scissors, but could not
feel. Dressed wound and subject left bunker, dressed and doctor cut
large hole in pants around wound. No one spoke English, no weapons were
seen. Subject felt better, relieved, grateful, and thanked, and shook
doctor's hand. Doctor smiled and subject was returned to the resting
area with Nowicki. Group again back tracked on trail and picked up
smaller trail and walked till dusk. No bunker observed until they
reached the night location. At the night location there were four or
five lean-to's and bunkers. Pair was placed in bunker next to one of
the lean-to's. Enemy troops were seen resting in area. After dark they
were brought out to eat and had cigarette. Returned to bunker for
8 Nov., up at sunrise, ate, smoked and back to bunker for one hour.
Were given boots back. Picked up new set of five guards and one officer
at this time. They were blindfolded and lost sense of direction.
Walked from 0900 to 1800. Subject indicated that he could see a little
when he raised his head (under blindfold). During move, they were
joined by CPT Chirichigno and one ARVN. CPT "C" was wounded in both
hands and arms and was moaning. ARVN was OK. Further down trail, they
were met by enemy carrying WO Peterson in opposite direction. They
reached the POW camp at sundown, where blindfolds and boots were
removed. Camp was fenced by 12' high stake fence with punji stakes
outside. Camp had two cells - 15'x8' and were recessed two feet into
ground. These cages, made of bamboo with lockable door. Feet were
placed in stocks made of logs and this greatly limited movement. All
three US were in same cage. The ARVN was in a separate cage. They were
able to talk in low tones. CP "C" and subject were in pain. One guard
was on duty at all times in a guard shack at entrance to fenced area.
The fenced area was approximately 30'x4O' and was under heavy canopy
(report by ARVN escapee to be location vicinity YU7467, US were unsure).
9 Nov. - enemy began digging new cell. This took two days to build and
then three more ARVNs were brought in area. Two ARVNs were placed in
each cell. Approximately 12-13 Nov. WO Peterson was brought into camp
on litter and placed in cell with two ARVNS. Subject's daily routine,
except for days when subject was interrogated, was as follows: awakened
at sunrise; door and stocks were unlocked for stretch break and movement
to latrine; breakfast of rice - subject had to bow to guard to receive
food, bow to leave, bow upon returning bowl and then bow again upon
leaving guard; spend rest of day in cage - barefooted; usually no lunch
supper meal of rice had meat only three times) at dusk with same
procedure as breakfast; then stocks and cage were again locked for
night. Subject and CPT "C" were still in pain and moaned at night.
Camp medic attempted first aid and changed dressings.
Around 12-13 Nov. interrogator arrived at camp. Description of
interrogator: 5'8" tall; weight 120 lbs; short black hair; brown eyes;
48 years old (learned fro guard); high cheek bones and had protruding
ears; clean shaven; good English and spoke in a low tone of voice; wore
khaki uniform with Ho Chi Minh sandals an socks; flannel hat; camouflage
scarf; no rank and wore pistol. He was well versed in current affairs
of US, SVN and world. He tried to impress subject with his vast
knowledge of US, cities, products and magazines. Interrogation
techniques (subject was interrogated four times while prisoner): first
interrogation (maybe 13 Nov. was devoted to questions on military
subjects, i.e. name, rank, etc., unit, type aircraft, area of operation,
religion, and rules of camp, i.e. respect guards and obe orders of
guards, no talking, personnel hygiene and escapees would be shot.
Subject indicated that he gav an answer to all questions. First session
lasted one hour. Next session was approximately four days later.
During this period, doctors arrived at camp and gave shots to subject,
in arm and hip and sewed him up and changed dressings on wound. Doctors
wore blue turtle neck sweaters and one appeared to be of mixed blood
with anglo type features. Spoke Vietnamese with no accent. Also during
this period they (the POWs) were given dark blue medium weight, cofton
PJs. They wore the JPs with nomex flight uniform for warmth. WO
Nowicki was allowed to wash nomex uniforms in strea to wash out dirt,
blood and human waste. Second interrogation (maybe 16 or 17 Nov.):
Subject was third man to be interrogated this time. It lasted two hours
for him. Interrogator asked questions on personalities, organizations,
and tactics (interrogator reflected good knowledge of air cavalry
tactics and organization). Questions included: number of personnel,
type of equipment, job description and tactics of scout platoon,
maintenance, lift, HQ and weapons platoon. Also asked for names of
personnel such as Troop Commander and platoon leaders. He also asked
information on and location of A, C and D Troops 7/17 Cav. Subject
indicated that he gave answers to all questions, but that he was
deliberately vague and not accurate i.e. when asked number of aircraft
in a platoon, he would give first number that came into his mind. When
asked the names of observers, he gave names of DEROSed personnel. When
asked names of pilots, etc. he said I don't know, I am new in unit. He
did however give the correct name of his Troop Commanding Officer.
Subjects stated that following occurred between 2d and 3d interrogation:
on or about 17-18 Nov., CPT Chirichigno and WO Nowicki were taken to
interrogation hut together and guards returned their boots. They
returned to cage area and informed subject that they were going to a big
prison camp and that subject would be joining them when subject was able
to move. Guards placed pack on Mr. Nowicki's back, bound their upper
arms to the trunks of their bodies with communications wire and
blindfolded them. They then departed the area. Within the same time
period, two additional ARVN POWs arrived at camp. They were hard core,
GVN, in that they refused to obey camp rules and they were kept in a
hole in the ground and they were treated worse than the other ARVNS.
Third interrogation (25 Nov.): Interrogation was more of a propaganda
lecture consisting of the following: FSB Kate was destroyed and all
personnel were KIA. 96 helicopters were shot down, NLF forces
obliterated two ARVN battalions. Interrogatoes forces were called ,.
Provisionary Revolutionary Government of South Vietnam of the South
Vietnamese National Liberation Front on the Duc Lap and Bu Prang Front".
He also stated they were destroying Duc Lap and Bu Prang. There is
marching in the streets of New York and Chicago and other cities with US
servicemen participating in uniform, and civilians of US are also
(demonstrating). Interrogator spoke of unjust Song My incident,
mentioned US Lieutenant responsible, and US officials denouncing US
involvement. Referred to US Newsweek and Look magazines but did not
produce these. Spoke of progressive Americans who marched for US
pullout, those who did not participate were aggressors. Throughout
lecture interrogator asked subject's opinion. Subject indicated that he
repented for his crimes, to keep interrogator happy.
At this point in the debriefing, the Cl debriefer came to suspect that a
statement may have been signed and a tape recording made that were
derogatory to the best interests of the US government. At this time the
Cl team chief, Mr. James M. Waern advised SGT Shepard and WO Peterson,
in the presence of witnesses, of their rights under Art 31, MCM. Both
SGT Shepard and WO Peterson indicated that they understood their rights
under Art 31 and that they were willing to continue the debriefing.
Fourth interrogation ( approximately 30 Nov.): Both subject and WO
Peterson were taken from cage and brought to the interrogation building.
There were 6 people plus the head interrogator. The interrogator told
subject and Peterson that these people were public information people
and would take pictures of them that would appear in a National
Liberation Front Paper published in Hanoi. One PIO personnel had a
still camera. Subject and Peterson put on their US Army shirts, were
told to sit on log and look down at ground. Approximately eight pictures
were taken. After the pictures were taken the interrogator asked both
individuals questions about their private lives i.e. wife's names, paren
t's occupations, then he asked subject his views on war. Subject said it
was unjust to please the interrogator. Debriefer halted any further
questions into the matter. The 4th interrogation lasted 30-40 minutes.
Approximately 6 Dec. at 1800H two ARVN who had been pro GVN effect an
escaped, after search the camp was evacuated by all personnel. Subject
was disoriented as to the time and direct. Sleep on trail at night.
Morning of the 7th they arrived at what appeared to be a resupply point.
Resupply point consisted of hooch, rice field and domestic animals.
Subject was treated well at this location, given personal supplies i.e.
toothbrush, toothpaste and towel, good food, medical treatment and a
propaganda lecture on the history of the NLF. Subject gave his views on
NLF. Debriefer halted questioning on this line. Subject was also given
a radio to listen to Hanoi broadcast which told of war expenses,
barbarism of US forces at village of Song My. On morning of 8 Dec.
subject was given paper and pen, head interrogator indicated that what
was put on paper by subject would determine whether or not he would be
released. Debriefer halted questions on these lines. On morning of 9
Dec., subject was told that he was to be released. Held a short
ceremony. No questioning by debriefer on these lines also. Morning of
10 Dec. subject marched to bunker complex accompanied by enemy, one with
B-40 rocket launcher. At this location, a guard indicated to subject by
sign language and pidgin English that CPT "C" and Mr Nowicki had been
flown to Hanoi.
Details of release to US control: On 10 Dec., subject and W01 Peterson
traveled along over grown road (location unknown). Subject observed
possible heavy mortar emplaced along trail in artillery crater.
Interrogator instructed subject to travel along old road until he
reached a paved road at which he was to await the arrival of friendly
transportation arranged by the ARVN POW who had been released earlier.
Location of all incidents of 10 Dec. are believed to have occurred
within 8-12 kilometers southwest of Duc Lap. Americans did as
instructed and were picked up by ARVNs vicinity YU 809721 and returned
to US control at Duc Lap Special Forces Camp.
This message covers general debriefing of returnees Shepard, Vernon C.,
E5, xxx-xx-xxxx, B/7/17 Cav and Peterson, Michael T., W01, xxx-xx-xxxx,
B/7/17 Cav, and detailed debriefing of WO Peterson. Both returnees were
MIA, 2 Nov. 69 and returned to US control on 10 Dec. 69.
Interview conducted at 71st Evac Hospital, Pleiku, RVN, on 1 0-1 1 Dec.
69, as follows (map sheet 6533 IV).
Debriefer: Mr. Wearn, James M., S/A, xxx-xx-xxxx, 4th MID, 4th lnf Div
APO SF 96262. Time: 1 0-1 1 Dec. 69.
Place: 71st Evac Hospital, PLEIKU (Pleiku), RVN
Q. Please identify yourself.
A. I am W01 Michael T. Peterson, xxx-xx-xxxx.
Q. What unit are you with?
A. B/7-17 Cav.
Q. What is your name?
A. Sergeant Shepard, xxx-xx-xxxx, B/7-17 Cav.
Q. What is your first name and middle initial?
A. My first name is Vernon, middle initial is C.
Mr. Wearn: OK, Specialist Gunter is going to ask a number of questions
Q. Was there any capturing unit identified during the time you
A. They did mention our unit, B Troop, 7-17 Cav.
Q. Did they mention any of their units?
A. No sir, just the NLF, National Liberation Front.
Q. OK, did you see any weapons that could identify at all?
A. Just AK-47s, and B-40 rocket launchers. And at one time I saw
them carrying something that was about 120mm. Maybe artillery rounds.
I saw a platoon of them carrying them and each of them had one. There
were maybe 30 of them total. The small rockets, I don't know what they
are, they had fins on the end, and about 8" long (mortar rounds). They
carried them, about twelve of them, on a pole that they would carry on
their backs. Of course there were pistols. I could identify an officer
by the pistol he carried. It is similar to our.45 and there were
knives. I saw one mortar tube in the vicinity of Duc Lap, plus
emplacements - mortar emplacements.
Q. You didn't at any time see any artillery, say for instance,
75mm recoilless rifle or a 120mm mortar.
A. No, I don't think so.
Q. How about 107s or 122mm rockets? Did you see anything that you
thought was a rocket like that?
Q. OK, what other types of equipment did you see besides weaponry,
as far as gear they would use, say gear that a US unit would carry with
them as far as cooking utensils or anything as for as miscellaneous
A. They had US canteens, US canteen cups. They had knives, forks and
spoons they gave us to eat with. That is all I can remember right now.
What they had was a lot of US-type paraphernalia -- sundry items. I saw
one, for example, carrying a plastic cigarette case that you by in the PX,
and I saw one carrying an M-16.
Q. How about radios, did you see any PRC-25s or PRC-77s?
A. No, I didn't, but while I was E&Eing I saw several wires that
were double wires, communications wires. As far as their cooking
utensils, they had big pots, like we would call the old kettles that
they would cook their rice in, then they had these wicker baskets that
they would dump their rice into afterward. They carried most of their
food in a sock. They carried their roots and their greens, you know
like our spinach, in their packs. Their packs are similar to our packs,
except they are much heavier. I found that out after I carried one a
Q. The routine the NVA followed every day, was there a specific
chore or any specific thing to do as far as any building of bunkers or
foxholes or anything like that?
A. Yes, normally they never traveled at night. All traveling was
done in the early morning on through the day. They rise at dawn every
day, at dawn or just before dawn. They get up and eat their breakfast.
Of course we were in POW camp so what we saw there was guard shifts each
two hours. But while I was in route to the POW camp, what they would do
was we would travel from fortification to fortification. In other
words, they would have bunker complexes set up at various intervals
along the trail and we would go from bunker complex to bunker complex,
stay for the night, bunker complex to bunker complex the next day. At
one of these bunker complexes I watched them build two bunkers and they
built them quite sturdily. They did a fortified foothole, cover it with
logs, earth, leaves and sticks and build a lean-to over the entrance.
Q. OK, so they did have overhead cover to protect themselves plus
Q. Did you ever see anyone come through the area that you thought
was carrying any type of supplies, either ammo or equipment, anything
that you could identify as a supply group or any supply unit.
A. No, not really. They did have various food caches around the
area. We stopped at one place that we called "Howard Johnson's". It is
just one little square hooch and all around it were fields. There was a
rice field and there was a green field where they grow the spinach-like
greens. They grow what they call maniac roots, and squash and sweet
potatoes and stuff like that. Much like if you were to see it from the
air, you would think it were a Montagnard-type field. One Montagnard
did come through the area. This is where I believe they get their food,
in these places set up throughout the area.
Q. Did you ever get a designation of any of these areas, anything
that you could distinguish as being A, H, or T and then followed by a
number such as 85?
Q. Were these NVA?
A. No, they were not NVA. They were NLF troops. They made that
point very clear to us. They discussed it every day that they were not
NVA troops but were what they called the "Peoples Liberation Army", NLF.
Q. What did they wear as far as clothing?
A. They wore the same uniforms that we came in wearing.
Green-type fatigues and Ho Chi Minh sandals. Some of them wore those
pit helmets but a lot of them did not. In fact. most of them did not
have helmets. It was too much of a chore for them in the jungle. A lot
of their uniforms were old and faded, and some of them wore khaki tops
and OD pants or OD tops and khaki pants. They mix them up a lot.
Q. At any time did you see uniforms that were gray or blue gray?
Did any one person come into the area that was wearing this type of
A. Usually the medics wore blue. The officers usually wore the
khaki-type with brown hats.
Q. Did most of the personnel's morale seem pretty high? Were
they content with their food supply?
A. Oh yes. Their morale is very high. At night when we would
stop they would sit around and smoke their pot and laugh. Yes, their
morale is very, very high or so it seems to me.
Q. At any time did you see anything as far as any US aircraft, or
hear any artillery fire, any B52 strikes or anything like that?
A. Yes, especially when we were first short down. There were B52
strikes, air strikes and artillery going all around us. In fact, the
officer who was with me, Mr. Nowicki, got a fragment in his arm from
these, that's how close they were to us. While we were in the POW camp
we would go to sleep by the sound of the arclights. Some of them came
pretty close. None of them did any damage, however, to any of the
structures that we could see.
Q. What was the enemy troops' reactions to the arclights? Did
they seem worried at all?
A. No, not at the POW camp. While I was in route there were no
artillery, arclights or air strikes that came near us. While I was at
the POW camp they shelled all around us, but never came near the POW
camp. They never got worried.
Q. So they felt pretty secure?
A. Yes, they did. When all of these arclights and air strikes
were going off they would point at it as if to say, "This is your fault,
these are your people doing this kind of stuff', just to make us feel
bad and guilty.
Q. Do you have any idea of what type of fire you were shot down by?
Q. Are there any other Americans still alive?
A. Five of them made it and one of them did not.
Q. Who are the people that went down with you?
A. W01 James E. Nowicki, xxx-xx-xxxx; CPT Luis G. Chirichigno,
xxx-xx-xxxx, W01 George W. Grega, xxx-xx-xxxx; and 1 LT Guy
Q. Which ones do you know to be alive right now besides yourselves?
A. I could not say that any of them are dead, but I believe there
is a good possibility that Mr. Grega shot himself. He was burned pretty
badly and was in a lot of pain. While we were lying in the field he
kept trying to take my pistol from me and use it on himself. So I hid
our pistol on the other side of CPT Chirichigno and then I forgot about
the pistols when I left them to get help and as I lay in the woods that
night, I thought I heard a single shot.
Q. Did anyone talk about him during the time you were detained?
A. Yes, the person who interrogated us told us he was dead.
Q. How did he tell you he was dead? Did he tell you he had his
A. No, he just said that he was dead.
Q. What is the condition of the other individuals who went down
A. Mr. Nowicki had a burn on his left hip that they fixed up, and
CPT Chirichigno was shot up very bad in both forearms and they amputated
the ring finger of his left hand.
Q. Are those the only injuries that CPT Chirichigno and Mr.
A. To my knowledge, yes.
Q. How about LT. Curran?
A. He had no wounds at all.
Questions directed to Mr. Peterson.
Q. What was the date that you were shot down?
A. It was 2 Nov. 69.
Q. Approximately what time?
A. Approximately 2 or 3 o'clock.
Q. What were the circumstances?
A. I had just come one station in a Cobra helicopter, and two of
our LOHs had been shot down and one had been burning for about five
minutes. I was circling the area and had half expended my ordinance
when I noticed someone climbing out of the burned LOH and stager up the
hill in a daze, falling and getting up. I descended a little lower and
I could see that his arms, face and neck were burned. He was not
wearing a Nomex shirt. I latter learned from him that it had been
burned off. To my knowledge there were no other slicks in the area, so
I elected to go in and see if I could pick him up on my ammo bay doors.
I made two low passes and on the second I was hit in the leg and foot
and it would have been OK, but a bullet of apparently heavy caliber came
through and hit the cyclic tearing it in half and knocking it over to
the side of the helicopter. I lost control of the helicopter as a
result and we descended into the side of the hill where the rotor blades
contacted the side of the ground and we flipped over and landed
inverted. I released myself, and CPT Chirichigno was in the front seat
so I ran up there and pulled him out and dragged him over to Mr. Grega,
the man I had attempted to rescue. We lay in the field for
approximately 2 1/2 hours. Mr. Grega had been passing out as well as CPT
Q. Can you give me a description or an estimate of the exact
location of where you went down?
A. Yes. Approximately eight miles south of Duc Lap, about 3/4 of
a mile north of old Firebase Helen, in an open field to the west of the
highway that runs north and south towards Firebase Helen and Gia Nhai.
I believe the name of the highway is QL14.
Q. From the field that you went down in, where did you go?
A. After 2 1/2 hours, CPT Chirichigno and George were in pretty
bad shape, so I elected to try to flag down a helicopter to the south in
another open field about 200 meters to the south, thinking it might have
been a little more secure.
Q. Was there a helicopter that flew over there?
A. Yes, there was.
Q. Was it flying low level?
A. Yes, it was. There were several other helicopters all over the
Q. How low was the helicopter flying and what was the nature of
A. The helicopter was a Cobra helicopter and it was making low
circular passes over the field in its orbit to come around over our
Q. Did it spot you?
A. Yes, it did eventually. Then it called in a slick who
attempted to come in and pick me up. He descended to just about ten
feet above the ground when he received a heavy, heavy volume of fire and
from what I could see they were white tracers. Consequently he had to
pull pitch and leave the area in order to save his crew.
Q. OK, what did you do then?
A. I figured that they were using us for bait to try to shoot down
the remaining helicopters, and for this reason I decided to try to
escape and evade to Duc Lap or Bu Prang. I elected to go to Duc Lap.
Q. Which direction did you head in?
A. First I intended to go south and then turn east, so I waded out
of the field to the south and then turned east. This was the next day
now. Because just after the helicopter descended and got shot up it got
dark and I could not find my way through the woods, so I spent the night
in the woods to the south of the open field that I was in.
Q. How deep in the woodline?
A. About 30 meters.
Q. What time did you get up the next morning.
A. Before dawn. I guess it was about 3:30 a.m.
Q. Did you have a watch with you?
Q. What direction did you start in?
A. The sun had not come up yet, but I believe I started to the
south. I followed a stream.
Q. Did you have a map?
A. Yes, I had the E&E map.
Q. How far did you follow the stream?
A. I followed the stream for approximately 200 meters.
Q. And then which direction did you head in?
A. I headed west because I was spotted by a patrol of the enemy
and fired upon.
Q. How many enemy were in the patrol?
A. I saw and counted four men.
Q. Approximately how many rounds did they fire?
A. One round. He fired over my head, I watched him, he didn't
fire at me.
Q. Which direction did you take off in then?
A. I headed to the east after I was fired upon.
Q. What were the terrain features?
A. I was on the west side of the stream with the stream below me.
It was meandering through a ravine, so I scrambled down the ravine, up
the other side and ran approximately 1 00 meters to the west and turned
90 degrees to what I believed to be the south, trying to zigzag so that
they couldn't follow me so easily.
Q. You were basically heading south and east?
Q. Approximately what time were you fired on? Was the sun up?
A. Yes, the sun was up. It was approximately eight in the
Q. After you had been though your zigzag patterns down in the
valley, what did you do?
A. Then I laid up in a bush, under a thicket, under a windfall and
they apparently hadn't followed me or they had thought that I possibly
was the point man of an American patrol, so they were coming along
pretty slowly. So I again headed out to the east and my leg was
starting to bother me again so I was falling.
Q. You received a wound in your leg and foot did you not?
A. Yes. The toe of my left foot had been shot off the left digit.
I received two bullets in the left foot and I don't know how many in the
left knee. The x-rays will show that.
Q. Could you describe the terrain that you started heading east
over after leaving the area of the stream?
A. Yes. The valleys ran generally north and south and there was
forest, no jungle, not too much underbrush, fallen trees, of course,
which is what I used mainly for cover. There were some thickets and the
trees were quite tall.
Q. What happened to you next?
A. I still continued to head east and nothing else happened. Then
night came and I spent the night in a thicket.
Q. This would have been the night of 3 Nov., would it not?
Q. How long did you stay in the thicket?
A. my atrol came by consisting of eight men. The point man looked
own in the thicket where I was at and apparently saw my famore important
for me to find water than to get to friendly lines. I became very, very
careless and I began walking along the trails. When I start to walk
along the trails I noticed numerous communications wires. These I cut
with the knife I had on me at the time. Everyone I came upon I would
Q. Which direction did the trails run?
A. They ran north and south, because I was heading east and I
would hit these trails and walk along them to the north and then east
again off the trail. The trails were narrow and very well packed.
Q. Where the trails straight or winding?
A. They were more or less straight.
Q. How much communications wire did you come
across on each trail?
A. One strand on each trail and I had cut ten strands.
Q. So you crossed ten trails?
A. No. I crossed more trails than that. Most of the trails had
communications wire on them, but some of them did not.
Q. So, you proceeded east?
A. Yes. I was still headed east and I was heading downhill toward
the east in attempting to get to some water that I thought might be at
the bottom of the hill. I was walking along a trail and I stumbled over
an NLF bunker that had two enemy soldiers in it.
Q. About what time was this?
A. This was about noon.
Q. What did the two soldiers do?
A. They did not notice me at first.
Q. How were they dressed?
A. They were dressed in fatigues, green fatigues. I believe they
were both officers because neither of them had AK-47s or SKSS, but they
were carrying .45 caliber pistols with a white star on the handle
(possible Chicom 7.62).
Q. Was it a five pointed star?
A. I don't remember.
Q. Did they have caps on?
A. No, one was writing a letter. I only saw one at first because
the other one was inside the bunker. So I attacked the one with my
knife. I stabbed him several times and then he collapsed. Then the
other one came at me. He didn't have his knife yet so we started
struggling and he grabbed my knife hand and we struggled around for
quite a while. Finally he broke loose and went back into the bunker and
drew his knife. I followed him inside the bunker and we struggled
around some more. He bit me on the arm twice. I have a scar on the
biceps, a scar on my wrist, a scar on the back of my neck and one on the
top of my head from where he bit me. While he was doing this I was
attempting to kill him in the end I did dispatch him I took their two
canteens and one pistol belt with a weapon on it.
Q. Was there any water in the canteens?
A. Yes, I finished one canteen and kept the other one full.
Q. Were both of these soldiers dead when you left them?
A. Yes sir, to my knowledge they were.
Q. How did you kill the second one?
A. With the knife, sir.
Q. And you were heading back down the trail, right?
A. Yes. I was heading back down the trail and I got to the stream
below. I filled the other canteen up with water, drank it, and filled
it up again then I started up the other side of the hill headed east.
Q. How did you know you were headed east?
A. The sun, I would take an azimuth with my watch.
Q. This was approximately what time?
A. Approximately 1 p.m. I was crawling up the slope when I heard a
bunch of shouting behind me. Apparently they had discovered the bodies
so in order to facilitate my escape, I took off the belt and kept the
one full canteen I hid the belt and pistol under a log. I continued on
my way east up the hill.
Q. Did they pursue you?
A. Yes, they did. They did not find me and I had negative sight
of them. I could hear them in the bushes around me.
Q. Did you get over the top of the hill?
A. Yes, I did. I got to the top of the hill and at the top of the
hill was the road, QL14.
Q. Then what did you do?
A. I laid in the jungle on the west side of the road until dusk.
My leg was really hurting me this time and it was quite stiff. I crawled
on my belly across the road and into a thicket on the other side.
Q. Did they pursue you?
A. They did not know where I was at this time. They had quit
searching at approximately 3 o'clock that afternoon.
Q. After you got up to the road and hid in the bushes on the side, how long
did they search around for you?
A. They discontinued the search prior to my reaching the road.
Q. The next morning what happened and was there anything in between?
A. No, there was nothing in between. I just lay in the bushes
that night. It rained that night and the next morning I lay all day at
the side of the road waiting for darkness.
Q. Did anything occur during that day?
A. No vehicles passed, no patrols passed. Helicopters were every
place and I could hear the air strikes going in, etc.
Q. Did any helicopters fly at low level over you?
A. No, but it sounded as though there was a fire fight north of
where I was at.
Q. What happened that night?
A. I attempted to get on the road and crawl north. I crawled up
to the road and it was impossible for me to crawl any further. I got
about 30 yards and gave up. I passed out and I woke up sometime later,
I don't know what time it was then I crawled back into the same thicket
where I was laying and spent the rest of the night there, and the rest
of the next day.
Q. What happened the next night?
A. By the next night I had finished my canteen and I threw it
away. It rained that night and I was very, very thirsty again. I just
could not seem to satisfy my thirst. I crawled out on the road and
drank the water off the road and then I crawled back into the thicket.
What would be the date at this time? I was captured on the seventh, the
afternoon of the seventh.
Q. This is the night just before the seventh?
A. Right, nothing happened this night. I did not know what to do.
I couldn't move and I was thirsty. I had thoughts of giving up in my
mind, but I put that out. I just laid there for the rest of the day
until about 4 o'clock and at 4 o'clock an enemy patrol came by
consisting of eight men. The point man looked down in the thicket where
I was at and apparently saw my face or a flash from my hand. He then
came to me and I was captured.
Q. Exactly what happened from the time you were captured? Where
did they take you?
A. We traveled south approximately 3/4 of a mile to what we call
the "triangle" which was abandoned. We got to the "triangle" and we
stopped and they crawled in through the barbed wire around the
"triangle" and did something in there. I couldn't tell what they did.
They came back out and picked me up. Oh by the way, they had put me in
a hammock tied on each end of a bamboo pole which they carried on their
shoulders. They had also blindfolded me by folding some of the blanket
which made up the hammock back over my head.
Q. Did they blindfold you immediately upon your capture?
A. No, not until they put me in the hammock, approximately 3 minutes
after my capture.
Q. Could you see out?
A. Just a little. I knew we were on the road and I knew we were
at the "triangle". Then we were on the road and I knew we were turns
northwest, there is a place called "fishhook", where the road turns
northwest. We traveled along that road about 200 meters and we turned
off on the trail heading north. Then we got into the trees and it was
dark and I could no longer see through my blindfold. We went a
roundabout route initially traveling on the military crest of a ridge
winding in and around trees and then over hills. They tried to confuse
me by starting me out in one direction feet first and then turning me
around head first. I noticed one time we were going up and down hills
and then we would go around hills. It was dark and I could not tell
what direction we were going. I assumed it was somewhere north,
northwest, or northeast.
Q. Approximately how long did you travel like that?
A. Approximately two hours.
Q. During this time did you hear anything that was unusual?
A. I could hear helicopters.
Q. Did you hear the helicopters at night?
A. Yes, it was at dusk.
Q. What did you do after the two hours?
A. We stopped at a camp and I slept in the hammock that night.
They fed me a bowl of rice.
Q. Was the camp already positioned there?
A. Yes, there were another 3-1 0 people already in the camp making
a total of 15-16 people, maybe a total of 20. They took my blindfold
off at the camp and gave me Vietnamese cigarettes.
Q. About what time was this?
A. It was 8:30 or 8 o'clock. They had taken my watch and I no
longer had reference to time.
Q. OK, where did they take you after that?
A. I was blindfolded the next morning and we went to another camp.
Q. What direction did you go?
A. We started out to the north.
Q. How do you know you started out to the north?
A. The sun, I could see the light on my right side.
Q. Did you continue to the north?
A. No, we did not. It was cloudy and I could no longer tell
direction because the light was subdued.
Q. Describe the terrain.
A. From what I could feel it was still forest. It was much like
it was before, trees, no jungle, old banana trees and jungle-type
Q. How long did you continue traveling like that?
A. I traveled for some days like that. I was captured on the 7th,
I arrived at the POW camp on the evening of the 12th. I knew it was the
evening the of the 12th because the next day I was interrogated and he
told me it was the 13th.
Q. Can you give me any description of the route that you took
between the 8th and the 12th.
A. No. The days were the same routine. We were up in the morning,
had a breakfast of rice and what they called soup with little beans
mixed with the rice.
Q. How many men were taking you?
A. Two men carried me, there was a point man with an AK, af rear
security guard with an AK, and two guards along side me. Other people
sometimes traveled along with us. We met many people along these
Q. Did the terrain change?
Q. After the 8th you said the sky clouded over and you could not
ascertain your direction. Did the sun come out at any time during that
day so that you could ascertain your direction?
A. Yes. Not during that day, but on the following days I deduced
that we had headed to the west, because every morning we would start out
to the west. I knew the sun rose in the east and every morning we would
head away from it. These trails were not like the others. They were
very crooked and it was very hard to keep one's sense of direction.
Q. How many camps did you pass through?
A. Five days, five camps. We would stay in a camp each night.
Q. Did you pass through any camps on the way during the day?
A. No, we did not.
Q. Can you describe the camp that you went into on the 9th?
A. It was on the north side of the hill. The valley ran, I
believe east and west. There were four bunkers.
Q. How high were the hills? Were they rolling?
Q. The second night that you spent in a camp, can you describe
anything about that camp?
A. No, I can't. I can't remember anything about that camp.
Q. How about the night after that?
A. I can't remember the 1 Oth but I can remember the 11th because
it was the night before I hit the POW camp. We were again on the
northern crest of the hill which sloped to the east. There was a big
hooch that they all sleep in. Normally these camps were 10-15 people
with transients passing through them at all times.
Q. Did you have your blindfold off?
A. At night, yes, during the daytime, never.
Q. Were you able to orient yourself?
A. Only in the morning and evening when they would
take my blindfold off?
Q. They took your blindfold off when the sun went down?
A. Well they would take it off whenever we reached the camp.
Sometimes we would get to a camp at 4 o'clock and I would usually see
the sun go down.
Q. Is there any particular terrain features other then the hooch at that
A. No terrain features, but we did cross a river several times.
Q. The same river?
A. Yes, it was the same river and we crossed it at the same place.
We would go one way and come back the same way.
Q. When did you first cross the river?
A. On the 1Oth.
Q. You said that you believed that the area to which you were
taken was this side of the Cambodian border, between the "triangle" and
the Cambodian border. In other words roughly YU7464 across to 8064,
approximately 6980 across to 7869?
Q. Would you repeat again your reasoning for thinking why it fit
in that square?
A. Because we heard air strikes and arclights going in to the
northwest of us sometimes quite far to the northwest of us, sometimes
quite close. There were also arclights to the south and all around us
but there were definitely air strikes to the northwest and if this were
the case we had to be in Vietnam, unless we were arclighting Cambodia.
That is my reasoning behind it.
Q. Can you tell me approximately when you heard the arclights go in?
A. No. It was at night time and I had no watch.
Q. What I am interested in is the date.
A. Every night, there were arclights every night.
Q. How did you recognize them? Had you heard them before? What
was the distance?
A. The ones that were far made a rumbling sound and the ones that were
close, you could hear the individual bombs.
Q. When did you leave the POW camp and how?
A. The night of the 5th (Dec.).
Q. In which direction did you leave?
A. We headed to the northeast.
Q. Do you recognize any terrain features from the map?
A. No, I don't. We were blindfolded all the way.
Q. Did the terrain seem like the same terrain you came in on?
A. No, it was not the same terrain I came in on.
Q. How do you know it was to the northeast?
A. Because we had laid in our bunkers all day studying this trail
and we new this was the way it started out, and it was the trail that we
Q. How many days did you travel?
A. Five days.
Q. How many rivers did you cross?
A. Of any size, we only crossed one river. It was about two feet
deep and ten to fifteen feet wide'
Q. Approximately when did you cross it?
A. Yesterday, late morning. It was in a real swampy area.
Q. Where specifically were you released at?
A. We were released on a road over by Duc Lap. We came up from
the south. We came in from the back way.
Q. Do you recall when you crossed the highway?
A. No, I don't.
Q. How hard did they travel?
A. Very, very hard, all day.
Q. Did you travel primarily in the valleys?
A. Never in the valleys. Always over the hills.
Q. Can you remember the physical description of the POW camp?
A. It was on the military crest of a hill. The hill sloped to the south
and to the east. There was a trail that led up from the southeast to a
compound. The compound itself was bordered by 7-9 feet high stakes about
6" apart. The compound was about 50 yards in diameter. It was oval in
shape. There were three bunkers that we stayed in. These were
approximately 2 1/2 feet deep with a lean-to overhead cover. The sides
were real strong poles about 2" in diameter spaced about 2-3" apart and
tied with bamboo sticks. All the bunkers were like this. They were
about 7'wide and approximately 15' long. They had a little bit of straw
for bedding on the bottom and they had thatching on the lean-to roof for
overhead cover. While we were there they brought in two ARVN soldiers.
They did not have room for them and therefore had to dig another bunker.
This one was approximately 5' deep with some farthest to the east. Two
ARVNs stayed in the middle bunker, and two ARVNs stayed in the bunker
farthest to the west. Our bunker faced to the north, the middle bunker
faced to the north, and the west bunker faced to the east. They faced
to the inside of the compound. All around the compound were punji
stakes. It was situated in forested country virtually invisible from
the air. The trail was approximately l'to 3'wide, very hard packed and
running southeast to northwest. After it passed the compound it
continued on to a small hooch with a table in it and a log for the POWs
to sit on, where we were interrogated. At the other entrance of the POW
camp, on the north side next to the trail was a guard shack. There were
two trails to the compound about 1 0 meters apart.
Q. Why were there two northern entrances to the compound?
A. One of the trails was used when we were going up to the
interrogation place. The other was used by the guards.
Q. When you got into the POW camp what precautions if any were
taken to restrain you?
A. None were taken to restrain me, they knew I wouldn't escape,
but what they did was to put me in cell' number two and there I slept
that one night.
Q. Were you bound in any way?
A. No, I was sick and could not move. They knew I could not get
Q. Was anyone else in the cell too?
A. Yes. When I got there nobody else was there, but after I got
settled down, they brought in two ARVNS.
Q. How long had you been there when they were brought in?
A. About an hour.
Q. Do you know the names of these ARVNS?
A. They were the two ones that we were released with. I at the
time did not know that Mr. Nowicki, SGT Shepard and CPT Chirichigno were
at the camp.
Q. This was at night time? You slept there, did they feed you?
A. Yes, they gave me a small can of rice and manioc roots.
Q. Did anything happen that night?
A. Nothing. I could hear moaning coming from the east which later
turned out to be CPT Chirichigno moaning because of his hands.
Q. What happened the next morning?
A. The next morning I was brought up to be interrogated. That was
the morning of the 13th.
Q. Who did you see there?
A. I don't know his name. We referred to him as the "main man".
Q. Who else did you see, any US types?
A. Yes, the morning before I was brought up, they fed the
prisoners. I saw Mr. Nowicki get up and go get his bowl of rice for SGT
Shepard and CPT Chirichigno and take it back.
Q. What condition was Mr. d up, and CPT Chirichigno was shot up very
bad in both forearms and they amputated the ring finger of his left hand.
Q. Aren the bunker with the other three Americans.
Q. After you saw Mr. Nowicki did they take you up to the
Q. What did the "main man" question you about?
A. He told me the rules of the camp.
Q. What were the rules of the camp?
A. We had to bow to the guards whenever we got out of the bunker.
We had to say "thank you." We could talk, but we had to talk very
quietly. We could not ask for anything except necessities.
Q. What was the interrogator's attitude?
A. At all times it seemed to me he was trying his best not to show
Q. What other questions did he ask?
A. He said, "By your orders, you are assigned to B Troop, 7-17
Cav, etc., etc." and he went all the way up through the lst Avn Bde, and
USARV. He also asked what 7-17 meant, a Cavalry Regiment or a Division.
He tried to find out if CPT Chirichigno was a platoon leader. He seemed
to dwell on that for a very long time. He asked many questions about my
family. He never asked for addresses or where I worked or anything.
Q. Was he conversational?
A. Yes, he was very polite. He really tried to be correct.
Q. How long did this interrogation last?
A. About 1 1/2 hours.
Q. What happened after that?
A. They took me down and put me in bunker number 4 with CPT
Chirichigno, Mr. Nowicki and SGT Shepard. That was the last I was
interrogated until after CPT Chirichigno and Mr. Nowicki left us. I
wasn't interrogated until about the early part of December.
Q. Was that the same time that CPT Chirichigno and Jim left?
A. No, they left on the 15th of Nov. They tied their arms behind
their backs, put packs on them, and left. That was the last we saw of
Q. Did they have doctors in the camp?
A. No, they brought their doctors, NLF doctors. I assume they
were doctors, may have been highly trained medics. The interrogator
told me they were doctors.
Q. Was the interrogator the only one who spook English?
A. Yes, none of the rest of them spook even slight English.
Q. What language did they speak?
Q. Were there any other than Vietnamese in the camp?
Q. How were they dressed?
A. The doctors wore white smocks. The other personnel were
dressed in fatigues either OD or khaki or mixed. As it was cold they
wore pieces of cloth around their neck tucked in their shirts. They
gave us thin black pajamas to wear. We were allowed to keep the
uniforms we had.
Q. Did they take anything away from you?
A. Yes, they took my watch and ring away from me, which they
returned. They took my wallet and my money and all my ID cards, which
they did not return. I threw away all of my ID cards that had my home
address on them.
Q. What were the doctors dressed like?
A. White smocks.
Q. Were there any other people dressed in any different way?
A. The "main man" was dressed in his normal khaki uniform. He always
wore a khaki uniform.
Q. Were there any symbols or decorations on the uniforms?
A. No. One guard had a belt with a red star on it. Some of the
soldiers had belts with red stars on them and some of them did not. The
two officers that I killed in the jungle both had red stars on their
belts and their pistols.
Q. Did you notice any tags on the pajamas you wore?
A. No, I did not look on the inside to see if there were any
labels. I forgot about that. There may have been a tag.
Q. Did they have a flag?
A. They did have a flag when they released us because we went to a
Q. What kind of flag?
A. It was about 3'x2', red on top, blue on the bottom, divided in
half, with a gold star in the middle. A five pointed star.
Q. Did they tell you what it stood for?
A. Yes, the NLF.
Q. Did you see any other flags?
A. No. They saluted the flag by shouting at it.
Q. What were most of the interrogations about?
A. It wasn't really an interrogation, it was more or less lectures
on what the NLF stood for, why it was in Vietnam, a history of its
struggle in Vietnam, what they US was doing in Vietnam. They informed
us of this incident at My Lai and they dwelled a lot on that.
Q. What did they tell you about the incident in My Lai?
A. They told us we had massacred a village that included women and
children. They told us that the Nixon Administration was attempting to
blame a Lieutenant, the gave the Lieutenant's name. He made a big thing
about it. They didn't refer to it as My Lai. They said it was Song Mei
in the Province of Quang Lai.
Q. At any time while you were there did you get any body's name?
A. No. But I did get the name of one guard. As I was laying in a
camp on the way to being released, a group of five young soldiers passed
by. One of them spoke to one of the guards, he called,him Tu Ong.
Q. What did these young troops look like? How were they dressed?
A. They wore the normal uniform and Ho Chi Minh sandals.
Q. After the first time you were interrogated and you went back into
the bunker, from that time on did you see other Americans.
Q. Did you hear of any other Americans in the area or in any other
base camps as prisoners?
A. Not by name. The "main man" told us that they had captured
some other Americans and that they were very humble. They never killed
their prisoners or tortured them. That was the context, the reason he
told us they had other American prisoners, was to bring out the fact
that they never tortured or maimed their prisoners.
Q. Did he ever mention any prisoner specifically by name?
A. No, not unless he was referring to one of us.
Q. Did he indicate that he had had any other prisoners prior to
A. No, he had not.
Q. Did he indicate anything about his background?
A. No, he did not.
Q. The "Main Man" wouldn't give you information on him because you
didn't ask him - is that correct?
A. I didn't ask him - right.
Q. While you were there, there were 4 US and 2 ARVN?
A. 4 ARVN - then a total of 6 in late Nov. When I arrived at the
camp, there were two ARVNs - the ones that were released with us - we
called them "Shit Pot" and "Ding-a-ling", because "Shit Pot" was sick
all the time and had the runs and thus the name. They wore tiger
fatigues. I think they were from the Duc Lap camp since the soldiers
seemed to know them and greeted them when we arrived - after release -
at Duc Lap. I think they were on the release order with us. Two more
ARVNs arrived about mid Nov. One had the name Sanjo on his name tag -
we called him "Blanket Head". The other one (name unknown) we called Ja
Bastas, because he gave us Ja Bastas cigarettes. They wore regular OD
fatigues and I think they went over to the enemy.
Q. What makes you think so?
A. Well, when we had to move, after the two hard core ARVNs had
escaped, these two were not bound and Blanket Head (Sanjo) helped to
hunt for the escapees.
Q. What about the "hard core ARVNS"?
A. These two ARVNs arrived in late Nov. and they were tough. They
wore OD fatigues and would not cooperate with camp personnel. They were
kept in a hole in the ground. They escaped in the late afternoon of 5
Dec. Then we were moved to another camp.
Q. Would you describe a "normal" day at the first camp?
A. Sure. The normal day began at sun-up. The guard woke us up -
unlocked the prisoners, one at a time and they went out to the toilet -
including US. Then we were brought our food - which consisted of rice,
greens and some days rice and squash. From that time in the morning we
were fed, we stayed in the bunker all day, except to go out to go to the
bathroom or be interrogated. I was interrogated for about 1 1/2 hours
on first day, then again in early Dec. In the evening we were brought
the evening meal, the same meal, rice and greens we then went to bed.
We were not locked-up in the bunkers during the day - SGT Shepard was
locked up near the last when his leg got better and he could walk. I
was no problem since I couldn't walk. I couldn't even roll over.
Q. Did the "Main Man" hold any group meetings?
A. No - no, not till toward the end. He would interrogate SGT
Shepard and myself, since SGT Shepard would have to carry me up to the
Q. Were you ever struck, etc.
Q. What questions did the interrogator ask?
A. About the same each time, like:
1. What is your ETS?
2. What is your DEROS?
3. Your PCS is - will be in the 24th of Mar' 72. That is
to say that you will get out of the Army on such and such a day.
Q. Did he ask question about your unit, etc.?
A. Yes. Like, you are with the 7/17 Cav, why do you call it the
Cav? Tradition, we would say. What does it do? We fly around. He would
get mad. Do you do reconnaissance missions in the Cav? Where do you
work at? We told him around the area of Bu Prang and Duc Lap no
Q. M2 lines of message overlap here.ffl
A. SGT Shepard questions on TOE, jobs, equipment and names. He
gave them a bunch of horse----. You know what I mean. The interrogator
seemed to know a lot about US forces. This was on or about 2 Dec.
Q. Did you see any troops in POW camp area? Moving, resting, etc.?
A. No. The camp seemed to be off the trail. While we were moving,
I did see and hear many troops, but not in the POW camp area, except for
the doctors who came.
Q. How often did the doctors come?
A. Just one time.
Q. Did they treat you?
A. Yes. They cut off my one toe and changed my bandages.
Q. Did you receive other medical care?
A. Yes. They changed my bandages at first. Every other day.
Q. Did they seem interested in giving you medical care?
A. Yes. The "Main Man" said the reason they could not change the
bandages more often we that they just didn't have enough.
Q. Did you see any radio equipment?
A. No. Not even communications wire.
Q. Any important visitors at camp?
A. No. Even the "Main Man" did not visit our living area.
Q. When did you leave camp for other camp.
A. About 1700 on 5 Dec.
Q. How do you remember dates?
A. Well, we kept track of date by sticking sticks in ground. The
"Main Man" told us the date one (13 Nov.).
Q. You left on 5 Dec. Was this after the ARVNs escaped?
A. Immediately after.
Q. Who left with you?
A. SGT Shepard and 4 ARVNS.
Q. How did they transport you?
A. They carried me.
Q. The others?
A. They walked.
Q. Were you blindfolded? The others?
A. Yes, we all were.
Q. How did they go?
A. They were tied together and a guard pulled them.
Q. Who of the enemy moved?
A. The whole camp, six plus the "Main Man".
Q. Security, and how did they move?
A. We left in late afternoon and when it got dark, they removed
our blindfolds, and we continued to move until we came to a place we
called "Howard Johnson's". We spent night here. It was about a three
hour trip to the north. It was cloudy.
Q. Did you see anything?
Q. Did you cross any streams?
A. Yes. One just short of "Howard Johnson's".
Q. What was terrain like?
A. Hilly, wooded.
Q. What about trip from Howard Johnson's to the second POW camp?
A. On morning of 6th - SGT Shepard and two ARVNs left while I
remained. They went to a "way station" further up trail. I left on 7th
for "way station" and this station had three big hooches, mess hall,
benches, pigs, chickens and troops moving through. SGT Shepard said one
enemy platoon moved through station prior to my arrival. Then another
platoon entered the area while I was there - they ate chow in area.
They were fully equipped with packs and weapons. Buildings were large
about 20'x3O'xl 5' high.
Q. Were troops NVA?
A. NLF. They had same uniforms as other troops. I observe only
Q. Any vehicles, pack animals, radios, A/A weapons?
Q. What was activity at the way station?
A. It was a resting and feeding position as far as I could tell.
A way station. We left after 1 - 1 1/2 hours.
Q. What about second POW camp site? How far was it beyond way
A. It took about 3 1/2 hrs to reach. It was small with one hut
about 1 O'x2O'. The main man, camp officer and guards stayed there.
About six troops moved through this area. Main man said they were NLF.
They carried AKs, SKSS, and ammo belt with canteen, with two ammo
pouches. Mixed uniforms. No insignia. Only few hats.
Q. Where did you stay?
A. We stayed about 20 meters from hut, in stockades under
windfall. Two ARVNs stayed in another one (Shit Pot and Ding-'a-ling).
The other two ARVNs converted at Howard Johnson's.
Q. How do you know they "converted?"
A. They were not tied and they left with an enemy officer.
Q. What about food? Did they feed you same?
A. No! Now they were getting ready to release us and they fed us
Q. How did you know and/or when did you know you were to be
A. Two days after we arrived (about 8 Dec). The main man said
that if we repented and how good the "Front" (NLF) was. He was giving
us a lecture, as he did each day at new camp, about the aggressor
Americans and about Hanoi and we listened to Radio Hanoi. He asked no
questions. It was about 4 hours a day.
Q. Medical aftention?
A. Yes. They changed my bandages one time, the day we left camp.
Q. During your captivity, did they ever discuss, etc. US air and
A. YES! They didn't like me, since I was a Cobra pilot. They
(the guards) sometimes pointed weapons at me. They didn't like air
strikes. They would use sign language and sounds to communicate this to
us. Other wise nothing. Main man said we were aggressors and the war
Q. When they indicated that you might be released what reason did they give?
A. That we had repented, based on our conduct in camp - perhaps
because we didn't try to escape - we wouldn't because of our wounds.
Q. Did you ever see or hear anything of enemy air?
A. No sir.
Q. When did you leave this last camp?
A. On 8 Dec.
Q. Were you blindfolded?
A. Yes, all the way.
Q. When did you get your ring and watch back?
A. On the 8th when we were told we would be released.
Q. When did you get release papers?
A. On morning of 10 Dec.
Q. Describe time from last camp?
A. We left with 4 guards and main man, but without an officer.
They carried me and SGT Shepard walked. We were blindfolded and Shepard
was tied to the two ARVNS. We traveled, I believe to the west.
A. No change - crossed river about 10-15 feet wide and 3' deep.
This was about 1100 - we left the POW camp at 0845 hours (I had my
watch back). Crossed small streams. As we neared Duc Lap we encountered
more bamboo. Passed many areas of artillery and airstrike activity -
some were "fresh". Our blindfolds were removed after the noon meal for 2
1/2 - 3 hours and then replaced.
Q. Did you then see any villages, etc.?
Q. After blindfolds were put back on, how much further did you go?
A. Just a short distance. The main man had moved out ahead and we
thought maybe we would be released that evening.
The following is a narration of substantially what Peterson stated in
response to questions asked and not recorded on tape:
Main man returned and we were blindfolded and taken back down the trail
and up to the military crest of a ridge where we were placed in bunkers.
These bunkers had well-constructed thick overhead cover. The next
morning we were awakened and headed up the trail in the same direction
we were proceeding the day before. At about 0900 hours we were lead to
bunkers similar to those in which we spent the previous night. We had
breakfast there. After breakfast we proceeded to the release point
located 50 meters from the highway where we were picked up by an ARVN
patrol. Prior to releasing us, main man told us to tell our
interrogators that our POW camp was near Duc Lap, where we were released
and given the release order, one copy to subject and one copy to the
The following is a narrative of particular portions of interest not
recorded on tape:
1. At the very end of November or the first few days of December, a
photographer from an NLF magazine (NFI) arrived at the POW camp. The
photographer took approximately three pictures of Peterson having his
bandages changed by the POW camp medic. From ten to twelve pictures
were taken of subject and SGT Shepard sitting on a log. "Main Man"
indicated at this time that if subject's and SGT Shepard's conduct were
good, they might be released. This was the first time the possibility of
release was mentioned. This was the only occasion pictures were
knowingly taken of subject.
2. The only problem subject observed the POW camp has was in
obtaining food. Every second or third day, one of the guards would leave
the POW camp with full gear and a relatively empty knapsack on his back.
He would return in a day with a full knapsack and perhaps a black sock,
full of rice. On the occasions the guard would return the food portions
would be slightly larger and the vegetable portion of the diet would
change until the next food collection. Some of the food was canned.
The cans were of shiny metal with no markings. They did not appear to
be US manufactured. No C-rations or C- ration cans were observed.
3. The first POW camp was off any traveled path. No personnel
visited or passed through the camp.
On the night of 8 December, subject and SGT Shepard had a statement
dictated to them to write in their own handwriting. They wrote the
dictated statement not signing same. The statement was in the nature of
general confession. On the morning of 9 December at 0800 hours a
ceremony was held. "Main Man" presided in front of a table. To his left
and perpendicular to his table sat the POW camp officer with two guards.
Opposite the POW camp officer and guards sat the US prisoners and
opposite the Main Man sat the ARVN prisoners. There were a few feet of
space between each group; they were not sitting around the table. To
the US prisoners' right and diagonally behind and to the left of the
ARVN prisoners was the second POW camp hooch. On the steps and inside
the hooch were the other guards and the troops who had entered the area
the preceding day. The ceremony proceeded as follows: The POW camp
officer saluted the NLF flag by shouting at it; the confessions of the
ARVN and US prisoners were first read in Vietnamese and then in English;
the confessions were then signed; tape recordings of the prisoners
reading their respective confessions were made; "Main Man" read the
release order in Vietnamese to the POW camp officer and the ARVN
prisoners; "Main Man" read the release order in English to the US
prisoners; subject's watch and ring were returned; SGT Shepard was
presented $45 MPC, series 661 and 641, for his watch which had been
destroyed when his helicopter crashed. Subject and SGT Shepard were
presented one each new NVA khaki fatigues, Ho Chi Mini sandals,
carry-all bags, towels, toothbrushes and toothpaste. The ceremony ended
at 0845 hours, at which time the prisoners were taken out of the camp
toward the release point.
Agent's notes: The above questions and answers are not in all cases
verbatim transcripts of the tape recordings. The narrated portion at
the end of the above message were prepared by S/A Wearn.
Bellevue, WA 98005