POW Escapees


(1) Benjamin H. Purcell, O5, US Army, captured after the UH1D he was a passenger in crashed in Quang Tri Province on 8 February 1968. He escaped twice. Once from the camp the POWs called Skidrow (aka: Thanh Liet, Bang Liet, B.15), and the Vietnamese called Cau Bieu, in Thanh Liet Village, Thanh Tri District, in the southeastern suburbs of Hanoi and a short distance east of Route 1. On that occasion he escaped during the night and hoped to make his way to the French Embassy in Hanoi. He became lost and found himself near Route 1 when the sun came up. A Vietnamese man came by on a bicycle and offered him a ride. Using the best French he could muster from college days, Ben tried to pass himself as a Frenchman en route to the French Embassy. Unfortunately, the guy gave Ben a ride only as far as the nearest police station, where Ben stuck to his story. A while later a French military attaché arrived, but was not permitted to talk with Ben. Ben, however, called out his name, etc, and asked the French officer to inform American authorities. Apparently, the French officer heard, understood, and passed the info to American authorities. If I recall correctly, that is how we learned that Ben was in Hanoi.

Ben's second escape was from a camp the POWs called Duong Khe (aka: K49, K77 or K71, Mountain Camp, Mountain Retreat, Vinh Quang B, Vinh Ninh, and D.1), and the Vietnamese called the Dao Tru Village prison. This prison was (it no longer exists) located about 60 km Northwest of Hanoi. Apparently, the Public Security Department ran the prison until Ben escaped, after which the military took control. As in his previous escape, Ben was recaptured a short time after he escaped.

(2) George E. Day, O4, USAF, captured after his F100F crashed in Quang Binh Province, a short distance north of the DMZ, on 26 August 1967. Major Day had a broken arm and other injuries. His captors gave him medical care and kept him in a bunker in a camp not far above the DMZ. On about the second or third night, as I recall, he escaped. He made his way south--through one or two US air strikes-- to the Ben Hai River, in the middle of the DMZ. He managed to find a log or piece of wood to use as a float to cross the river. After crossing the river, he made his way almost to within site of a US or ARVN unit or base camp before being re-captured.

(3) USAF 1st Lieutenant Jack M. Butcher, who was captured after his OV10A crashed in Laos on 24 March 1971. He escaped from his PAVN captors at a military station along the Ho Chi Minh Trail and evaded for several days before he stumbled into a startled PAVN soldier who recaptured him. His story is quite exciting-- unfortunately I don't recall the details clearly enough to recount it from memory. Although he was not aware of it at the time, American forces learned of his escape almost immediately and were searching for him the entire time he was evading. As I recall, at one time he stumbled upon a group of either PAVN soldiers or local mountain villagers and calmly waived to them as if he belonged there and continued on his course. The bluff worked. However, It didn't work the second time.