I was a prisoner in North Vietnam for almost six years. I am very familiar with the treatment of POWs in North Vietnam during those six long years. Today most people think that the North Vietnamese tortured me 24/7 for six years. That couldn’t be further from the truth. I describe my treatment as a nightmare for the first two months, a country club for the last three years, and like law school the two and a half years in between, your basic miserable existence.
Jane Fonda visited us during the summer of 1972. She told the world, “The American POWs are being treated well.” I listened very carefully to what she said. At the time the North Vietnamese treated us better than the Geneva Convention required. We got outside five to six hours a day, we received three meals a day including sweet toast or sweet milk for breakfast, we received water buffalo meat once a week with gravy, we wrote home every month, and we received packages from home every other month.
The POWs called Jane Fonda a liar. Go figure!!
I have tried to tell the whole truth about the treatment of POWs in my book, Unexpected Prisoner. When we first came home, our government and the senior American POWs told the world and the American people that never in the history of warfare have POWs been treated so badly. That was just wrong.
Many senior American military and political leaders knew that the Vietnam War was a loser but said nothing, because they did not want to jeopardize their careers. Instead they preferred to have American boys die on the battlefield. Those same senior military and political leaders ridiculed and demeaned those brave and courageous Americans who opposed the Vietnam War including Jane Fonda.
Thank the Lord for Jane Fonda and those courageous Americans who opposed the Vietnam War. But for them, we would still be in Vietnam.
Title: UNEXPECTED PRISONER: Memoir of a Vietnam Prisoner of War
Author: Robert Wideman
Publisher: Graham Publishing Group
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About the Book:
When Unexpected Prisoner opens, it’s May 6, 1967 and 23-year-old Lieutenant Robert Wideman is flying a Navy A-4 Skyhawk over Vietnam. At 23, Wideman had already served three and a half years in the Navy—and was only 27 combat days away from heading home to America. But on that cloudless day in May, on a routine bombing run, Wideman’s plane crashed and he fell into enemy hands. Captured and held for six years as a Prisoner of War in Vietnam, Wideman endured the kind of pain that makes people question humanity. Physical torture, however, was not the biggest challenge he was forced to withstand. In his candid memoir, Unexpected Prisoner, Wideman details the raw, unvarnished tale of how he came to understand the truth behind Jean-Paul Sartre’s words: “Hell is other people.”
A gripping, first-person account that chronicles the six-year period Wideman spent in captivity as a POW, Unexpected Prisoner plunges readers deep into the heart of one of the most protracted, deadliest conflicts in American history: the Vietnam War. Wideman, along with acclaimed memoirist Cara Lopez Lee, has crafted a story that is exquisitely engaging, richly detailed, and wholly captivating. Unexpectedly candid and vibrantly vivid, this moving memoir chronicles a POW’s struggle with enemies and comrades, Vietnamese interrogators and American commanders, lost dreams, and ultimately, himself.
With its eye-opening look at a soldier’s life before, during and after captivity, Unexpected Prisoner presents a uniquely human perspective on war and on conflicts both external and internal. An exceptional story exceptionally well-told, Unexpected Prisoner is a powerful, poignant, often provocative tale about struggle, survival, hope, and redemption.
About the Author:
Robert Wideman was born in Montreal, grew up in East Aurora, New York, and has dual U.S./Canadian citizenship. During the Vietnam War, he flew 134 missions for the U.S. Navy and spent six years as a prisoner of war. Wideman earned a master’s degree in finance from the Naval Postgraduate School. After retiring from the Navy, he graduated from the University of Florida College of Law, practiced law in Florida and Mississippi, and became a flight instructor. Robert Wideman holds a commercial pilot’s license with an instrument rating, belongs to Veterans Plaza of Northern Colorado, and lives in Ft. Collins near his two sons and six grandchildren.