Longest Held POW/MIA|
Here is the biography of the longest held prisoner of war from the Vietnam war. He fought for our freedom. Let us remember our veterans this Veterans Day and also those that fought beside us in the fight. Many of us owe our lives to our foreign friends that hate communism as we do and will not bow to it regardless of the consequences.
Danny "Greasy" Belcher, Executive Director
Task Force Omega of KY Inc.
Infantry Sgt. Vietnam 68-69
D Troop 7th Sqdn. 1st Air Cav.
CHAICHARN HARNNAVEE, COLONEL (Retired)
ROYAL THAI ARMY, SPECIAL FORCES
Born: 19 February 1931, Ayutthaya Thailand
Enlisted in the Royal Thai Army at LopBuri, Thailand, August 1952
Promoted to Sgt. 1964
Married: Wife, Chalerm Sri
One Daughter: Chaweewong, 29
In February 1965, Sgt. Chaicharn was stationed in Xiene District, Lom Laos with the Royal Thai Army, Special Forces (SF) as a radio operator (voice intercept).
On 21 May 1965 (a day off, for fun) he joined American civilian pilot, Ernest Brace as his "spotter". They were flying a PC-6 (Porter) on a re-supply mission, delivering construction supplies to be used in the building of a hospital. Traveling with them was a Lao Special Forces Soldier and a pregnant Lao lady and her young child.
Upon reaching their destination at Baum Lao, Laos, they landed and taxied to the end of runway and turned the aircraft to offload passengers and supplies. They immediately came under heavy attack from small arms fire. The Lao Soldier, the lady and her child were killed instantly. The aircrafts wings and engine were also hit and caught fire. Sgt. Chaicharn and Ernest Brice tried to then escape and evade into the jungle 50 yards away. Under heavy AK fire, they made it to the jungle, but were met and captured by a 300 man North Vietnamese Army (NVA) force.
Soon after capture, they started their fifteen-day march to Dien Bien Pho, North Vietnam. Each man was bound and each was assigned six NVA Soldiers as guards for their march. During the march they were fed very meager rations and received no medical assistance.
Sgt. Chaicharn and Ernest Brace would spend the next three years in Dien Bien Pho. They were kept in small huts about 15 yards apart. During his entire stay in this camp, Sgt. Chaicharn was kept in ankle stocks at all times. At night, in addition to the stocks, they would also tie his wrists together and he would also have to wear a neck iron. The only time he was allowed out was 15 minutes in the morning and 15 minutes in the evening. Ernest Brach and he were not allowed to communicate at all. They were given only meager amounts of rice and a tiny amount of vegetables. There was no meat and no medical attention.
At one point, Ernest Brace managed to escape for three days. During this time, Sgt. Chaicharn was brutally beaten because of Ernest Brace’s escape.
In 1968, Sgt. Chaicharn and Ernest Brace were taken by truck to the Hanoi Hilton Prison in North Vietnam. Sgt. Chaicharn was immediately placed in solitary confinement and remained there for the next two years. After this time he was allowed out two hours a day to clean the compound and work at water purification for the compound. At the end of his two-hour shift, he would then be placed back into solitary. During his cleaning duties, he was allowed no contact with others.
After about a year of cleaning duties, he was able to make contact with another captive, a South Vietnamese –Air Force pilot, called "Maz". Maz could speak Vietnamese, French and English. At this point, Sgt. Chaicharn spoke neither English nor Vietnamese, only Thai. Through hand signals, or jesters, they were able to start communicating. As time went on, they began to understand each other more and more. Maz eventually passed a code to Sgt. Chaicharn for them to communicate. Then later, Maz passed the American "Tap Code" to Sgt. Chaicharn and he began to teach himself English so that he could better communicate.
Because of his access to more areas of the Hanoi Hilton (for cleaning) and at great risk to himself, he began to steal pencils, paper and mirrors used for signaling. The better he got at understanding English and the codes, the more he stole and helped the other prisoners of war (POWs). Sgt. Chaicharn went so far as to smuggle his own food to other POWs that were in worse shape then he. American POWs credit Sgt. Chaicharn as being the reason they are alive today.
In 1973, with "Operation Homecoming" Sgt. Chaicharn was the only POW left at the Hilton. Because he was Thai and captured in Laos, he alone was not released.
Approximately one month after everyone else had left the Hilton; Sgt. Chaicharn was loaded onto a truck and taken north to Pho Yen Province, North Vietnam, by the Chinese border. When he arrived, there were 216 other Thai POWs, all having been captured in Laos. They all know the war is over, but they are not being allowed to go home.
Soon after his arrival, because of his age (42), he is put in Command of all Thai POWs. The Vietnamese wanted all POWs to volunteer to go through "Re-education" training and become Communists. Sgt. Chaicharn was charged with making sure that all his men did this. He refused to do it.
Because of his refusal, Sgt. Chaicharn was placed in the "Dark Room" for six months. The "dark room" was a box, 3ft.x 6ft placed in the sun. There was one hole near the top of the box that was about 11/2" - 2" in diameter. This hole faced east. That was his only way to know day from night. During this entire six-month period, he was allowed a bath once per month and that was also the only time he was allowed to empty the pot that held his body waste.
Each morning the guard would kick the box and he was supposed to answer, so they would know he was alive and there. On his last day, he did not answer… his body had shut down. His legs no longer worked, he couldn’t feel anything and didn’t know where he was.
The guard turned him over to the Doctor and after some time he started to respond.
Once he was well enough again, he was called to the Camp Commanders office. Sitting before the Commanding Officer (CO), Sgt. Chaicharn was asked if he was ready to get his men to undergo "Re-education"? He told him "NO". The CO then pulled an AK-47 rifle leveled it at Sgt. Chaicharn and chambered a round. He then asked again saying he could kill Sgt. Chaicharn now, or he could work with them. Sgt. Chaicharn stood up and said, "Go ahead". "I am not a Communist and I don’t want to be. The war is over I just want to go home. I will not be a Communist" The CO sent him out of his office.
At about this time in the US, American former POWs were asking questions as to what had happened to Sgt. Chaicharn. So many owed him so much, and he was alive when they left the Hanoi Hilton. During his whole time of captivity, there had been no word of his status to the Thai Gov. Where was he now? The former Vietnam POWs in America were lobbying US and Thai Government’s to get answers.
About three months after the incident with the Camp CO, the agreement was signed between the Governments of Vietnam, Laos, Thailand and the US. When released from captivity on 29 September 1974, Sgt. Chaicharn was the only Thai POW asked for by name. He was also the longest held POW of the Viet Nam War: 9 Years, 4months, and 8 days.
Within one month of his return to Thailand, Sgt. Chaicharn was honored by a personal promotion to the rank Captain, by His Majesty, The King of Thailand.
When it was learned by the American POWs that now Captain Chaicharn had been returned to Thailand, Colonel Flynn, USAF, Commander Lackland Air Force Base, TX and former Vietnam POW, contacted Capt. Chaicharn and asked him to come to America for a one-month tour. They wanted to say "Thank you" to Capt. Chaicharn for his gallantry and service to all the former POWs of the Hanoi Hilton.
Shortly after his tour of the U.S. Capt. Chaicharn was sent to Lackland AFB in TX for 10 months training in English and then on to Ft Bragg NC for seven months training in Psychological Operations (Psy Ops).
It was also during this time that Capt. Chaicharn was honored for his bravery at the Hanoi Hilton by being presented with the "Silver Star" and "Legion of Merit" awards by the Secretary of Defense at the Pentagon. Capt. Chaicharn is also the only foreign national to have his picture hanging in the "Hall Of Heroes" at the Pentagon.
After his schooling in America, Capt. Chaicharn returned to the Special Warfare Command at LopBuri, Thailand where he taught until his retirement in 1992 with the rank of Colonel.
Col. Chaicharn is now an elected City Councilman for the city of LopBuri, Thailand.
Col. Chaicharn is one of the true hero’s of the Vietnam War.
Prepared by Buzz Parish (17-10-04)
Published on: 2005-06-21 (7083 reads)[ Go Back ]