Saturday, April 17, 2010


Imagine you're a young man or woman, and your country is at war.  You want to serve, so you sign up for the service of your choice.

Upon entering the service, you are trained in a job that is almost exclusively way outside of direct combat.  When combat oriented training occurs, you zone out because, hey man you just signed up for the college money and you're in no danger of being shot at or captured.

One night, the world falls in.  Either you mess up something terrible or you are in the wrong place at the wrong time, but you end up captured by the enemy. You're low ranking, don't know anything useful, and to be honest, you're not worth much to the enemy except as a propaganda tool.

They start to question you.  Do you stick to half-remembered lessons about how to act as a POW and find a way to keep from answering their interrogation, or do you curl up into a ball, suck your thumb, and spill what little you do know?

If you're Seaman Doug Hegdahl, you act as stupid as you can, make yourself seem even less useful for information and propaganda, and continue the fight against the enemy even when you're in a prison camp.  You learn a new system of memorization, and use that skill to learn the name and identifying information for 256 fellow prisoners, a lot of which haven't been declared as captured. 

Check out OldNFO's post about Hegdahl and everything he went through and did after being captured by the North Vietnamese.

When I was an MI soldier, we learned about such heroes as Mr. Hegdahl.  You see, a lot of the things we were told about MI was similar to what he believed about his duty.  Yes, we were in the Army, but we were strategic assets and would probably never hear a shot fired in anger, much less run the risk of being captured. After the 1991 Persian Gulf War, our senior NCO's realized how much BS that was and started working to give us the skills to survive if we were ever sent into a fight. That included the Code of Conduct, which is a list of the things that an American Soldier demands of himself in the event of capture.  Hegdahl, along with others from Vietnam, Korea, and World War II, was used as an object lesson.

My thanks always go out to such men and women as Seaman Hegdahl.  They are an example of how to conduct yourself in the worst of times.

1 comment:

Linda said...

I read this over at NFO. What an amazing story of an amazing man!

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