Hero Found: The Greatest POW Escape of the Vietnam War
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From the #1 New York Times bestselling coauthor of And the Sea Will Tell comes Hero Found: the incredible but true story of Dieter Dengler, the only pilot to escape captivity from a POW camp in the Laotian jungle during the Vietnam War. This amazing story of triumph over seemingly insurmountable odds has been filmed by Werner Herzog as both a documentary (Little Dieter Needs to Fly) and a motion picture (Rescue Dawn, starring Christian Bale), and now receives its book treatment from Bruce Henderson, who served with Dengler in Vietnam.
Berlin. The daring mission, involving hundreds of Allied bombers and fighters, marked a “turning point of the war,” according to the mission’s bomber wing commander, Col. H. Griffin Mumford. Thereafter, bombing runs flew day and night over the heartland of Germany until that country’s unconditional surrender seventeen months later. The March 4 mission, the subject of a six-column front-page headline in the New York Times (“800 U.S. Bombers Smash at Berlin by Day”), proved historic for another
expended all their rockets and bombs, and “got a couple more trucks.” On one of Lessard’s bombing runs, Griffith told him later, it looked as if there were three heavy automatic weapons shooting at him “all the way down.” Lessard, intent on his run, had no idea he was so popular. That experience was followed by a harrowing nighttime recovery in which a Ranger air-traffic controller confused the blips on his radar screen and directed Lessard toward the darkened sea until, only 100 feet off the
was clear and everyone was ready who needed to be. Then, he crouched and froze like a statue, his forward arm pointed dramatically in the direction in which the plane was about to be dispatched. With a loud hiss and curls of steam escaping along the catapult track, the Spad was off. Airborne in under three seconds, Dieter pulled back on the stick to bring the nose up ten degrees to begin a steady climb. He took his other hand off the throttle long enough to raise the landing gear, then reduced
aviators the best chance of evading immediate capture. As his powerless plane “wobbled” closer to the ridge, Dieter saw that he did not have enough altitude to clear it. With the windmilling propeller producing a small amount of forward energy, he tried lowering the flaps, movable devices on the rear of the wings that provide extra lift. Luckily, they still worked. With a last reach skyward, the wounded Spad flared up over the 1,500-foot ridge, clearing the densely wooded top by no more than
hand down on a wooden block, and chopped off the finger with the ring. The old man screamed as blood spurted everywhere. The soldier picked up the severed finger, removed the ring, and put the ring on Dieter’s correct finger. Dieter was horrified. Had he any idea of the punishment that would be administered, he would never have reported the incident. After being badly treated himself, he hated being the reason for another man’s suffering. He also understood that he could not mess around with the