30 Interesting Facts about Prisoner of War

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1Doug Hegdahl

Doug Hegdahl

A Vietnam War POW named Doug Hegdahl pretended to be illiterate to fool his captors, who believed him to be so stupid that they gave him almost free rein of the camp. He was able to secretly memorize the details of about 256 POWs to the tune of "Old MacDonald," which he still remembers.

2. Japanese Prisoners of War were tortured by forcing uncooked rice down their throats and pumping water in; forcing the rice to expand and cause internal bleeding.

3. The last World War 2 POW to be repatriated was a Hungarian soldier (Andras Toma) who sat in a Russian mental hospital for 53 years before a linguist realized that he wasn't actually talking gibberish.

4. A Nazi POW named Franz Von Werra was transferred to Canada to deter his multiple escapes and recaptures. He escaped again in less than a month, traveling through the US, Mexico, Brazil, Spain, and Italy to become the only Western held POW to return to combat.

5. An American POW named Glenn D. Frazier in Osaka narrowly avoided execution by uttering the words "He can kill me, but he will not kill my spirit, and my spirit will lodge inside him and haunt him for the rest of his life.". The Japanese officer backed off.

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6Georg Gärtner

Georg Gärtner

A German POW named Georg Gärtner escaped his American prison camp near the end of World War 2, and lived in the US for 40 years under a fake name, before finally admitting the fraud on the Today Show.

7. Some World War 2 POWs in Japan, would keep their morale up and defy guards by holding in their farts until they were made to bow to a portrait of Emperor Hirohito. At the lowest point of their bow, they would let loose.

8. Admiral James Stockdale was a POW in Vietnam who beat himself in the face with a stool to keep from being put on Vietnamese propaganda videos.

9. An English POW for the Nazis named Horace Greasley escaped and returned back to his camp over 200 times, to secretly meet with his German love interest who worked as an interpreter there.

10. A British World War 1 Prisoner of War named Captain Robert Campbell was released by the Germans so that he could visit his dying mother, and then he returned as he had made a promise to the Kaiser Wilhelm II.

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11Sandakan POW Camp

Sandakan POW Camp

Of the 2,345 Allied prisoners of war held captive by Japan in the Sandakan POW Camp during World War 2, only 6 Australians survived, all of whom had escaped the forced death marches.

12. An American former prisoner of war spotted a brutal Japanese official from the POW camp shopping at Sears in Los Angeles in 1946. The official, who was now a US citizen, was subsequently the last person convicted of treason in the US to date.

13. Donald Pleasence, an actual World War 2 POW, tried to advise the director of The Great Escape, and was initially "shooed away for his impertinence."

14. Jeremiah Denton was an American POW in North Vietnam during the Vietnam War. During a televised press conference in which he was forced to participate, he repeatedly blinked his eyes in Morse code spelling out “T-O-R-T-U-R-E.”

15. During World War 2, a French POW cavalry officer named Pierre Mairesse-Lebrun escaped from Colditz and made it to the German-Swiss Frontier with no food, money, maps or papers, wearing a vest, shorts, and tennis shoes.

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16Colonel George Hall

Colonel George Hall

A POW named Colonel George Hall in Vietnam improved his golf game during his 7.5 years in capture by playing golf in his mind every day.

17. A British ex-POW named Eric Lomax was captured in 1942 by Japanese forces. Many years after the war, he tracked down the Japanese man who had tortured him and forgave him.

18. The only prisoner of war captured by Americans after the attack on Pearl Harbor was Kazuo Sakamaki, who later strongly opposed war and refused to speak about it until he attended a historical conference in Texas where he cried after being reunited with his submarine.

19. A British prisoner of war named Edwin Rose missed the liberation of his camp because he fell asleep on the toilet and slept through the battle. He woke to find everyone else gone, so he shaved, put on his best clothes and walked out to freedom.

20. Many German POWs captured by the Allies in World War 2 were so horrified by footage of the Holocaust that they burned their uniforms and called on Germany to surrender and even volunteered to join the fight against the Axis.

21American flag

American flag

An American POW in Vietnam made an American flag in captivity. He and his fellow prisoners would recite the pledge of allegiance and salute it. One day, the Vietnamese confiscated his flag and viciously beat him. When they returned him to his cell, he started making another one.

22. A POW named Ernest Brace during Vietnam war escaped a bamboo cage after a month of imprisonment, got captured again for 7 months (now with his legs in stocks and bolted), escaped again and got buried to his neck for 7 days after being captured again.

23. World War 2 Italian and German POW's were held in relatively secret NC camps. They worked on military bases, on local farms, and in pulpwood harvesting. In some cases, they were allowed to visit movie theaters and restaurants under the cover of US uniforms.

24. In 1950, an 18-year-old American POW named Wayne A. "Johnnie" Johnson in Korea began keeping a secret list of all the deaths he saw while in Chinese captivity. His list was lost by the Army and rediscovered in 1995 at a veteran's reunion, granting closure to more than 400 families.

25. During World War 2, prisoners of war in Canada were treated so nicely that they didn't want to leave Canada when released.

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