Thursday, April 05, 2007

What would you do if captured by the enemy?

The behavior of the 15 British hostages made me uneasy. I know it is a terrible thing to be deprived of your liberty. I don't know how I would have acted. But they did not exactly cover themselves with glory.

Fred Cherry, an African American pilot, was taken prisoner by the North Vietnamese. He was beaten, tortured, his wounds left untreated, starved, and endlessly interrogated. His captors wanted him to urge other African Americans not to fight. According to Cherry's own account: "When they would beat me, I always kept in mind I was representing 24 million black Americans....I'm just not going to denounce my government or shame my people."

Cherry spent seven years in captivity, 700 days of it in solitary confinement, and suffered permanent physical damage, including deafness, vision problems, and the after-effects of of fractures that had been neglected and could no longer be remedied.

He was installed in the Hall of Heroes in the Pentagon in 1981.

A book, Two Souls Indivisible, is the story of Cherry's relationship with Porter Halyburton, a white Southerner who cared for him in prison camp and is credited with saving his life. The two men have been fast friends ever since.

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