How this Vietnam War pilot survived captivity and torture

Flying missions out of Takhli Air Force Base, in Thailand, Maj. Harold Johnson served as an Electronic Warfare Officer of an F-105 Wild Weasel, which due to its dangerous, top-secret missions had about a 50 percent survival rate.

“Everyday you were shot at very severely,” Johnson states in an interview. “I’d have a lot of the electronics there and hopefully do the job that I’m supposed to do to protect the rest of the flights.”

In April 1967 — and just seven missions shy of rotating back home — the North Vietnamese fired a heat-seeking missile that struck Johnson’s Wild Weasel. While both crew ejected safely, they were later captured.

Related: Revenge and duty to country motivated this Vietnam War Marine

Johnson (right) with his F-105, Takhli Royal Thai Air Force Base, Thailand, 1967. (Source: This Day in Aviation)

Before being taken to a POW camp, the Vietnamese paraded Johnson through a village where the locals poked and prodded him with sharpened bamboo sticks.

“I still got scars on my legs. The kids were the worst, they could slip through the guards and get at you,” Johnson calmly admits. “I had a lot of holes in me when I got to the camp.”

After eight days of intense daily beatings, torture, and hallucinations from lack of sleep, Johnson began falsely pointing out targets on a map.

Due to Johnson being constantly isolated in his cell, he learned to secretly communicate with other prisoners using an alphanumeric tapping system. “If you can picture a box with five units that you put your letters in, one would be your first line, and then you go ABCDE,” Johnson states.

The POW/MIA flag was created by the National League of Families of American Prisoners and Missing in Southeast Asia.

After six long agonizing years, Harold Johnson was released from the prison camp and sent back to the US.

“Well, it finally happened, when you’re being interrogated that was the thing that gave us strength was you’re gonna to have to stay here, one of these days I’m going out of here.”

American hero and Vietnam Veteran Maj. Harold Johnson. (Source: Iowa Public Television/ YouTube/ Screenshot)

Also Read: Beware the American booby trap rigger in Vietnam

Check out Iowa Public Television‘s video for Harold Johnson’s heroic tale of surviving a nearly six-year stint in a Vietnamese POW camp.

(IowaPublicTelevision, YouTube)

TOP ARTICLES
This is how the Army Corps of Engineers is helping Puerto Rico

The Army Corps of Engineers is working to restore power to the island of Puerto Rico after four major hurricanes devastated these parts of the US.

This Marine is more operator than you'll ever be

One Marine isn't taking his life changing injury sitting down. In fact: he's running. Follow Marine Rob Jones as he runs 31 marathons in 31 days.

This is the agenda for Mattis' Indo-Asia-Pacific tour

Secretary of Defense Mattis is touring the Indo-Asia Pacific region to strengthen ties with ally countries and underscore our commitment to each of them.

This is the reason Russian and Western tactics are changing

Russia might be stepping up its War Games game, but the United States isn't having any issues keeping up. Even their Krasnodar can't get past us.

Here are the top conspiracy theories surrounding Kennedy assassination

Ahead of the release of 3,100 documents pertaining to the Kennedy assassination, here the top assassination conspiracy theories people are talking about.

Air Force says no plan to recall retired pilots

The Air Force says it has no intentions of recalling retired pilots to address personnel shortages, though it appreciates the ability to do it if it wants to.

Here is how Burke-class destroyers will be able to zap incoming missiles

Burke-class destroyers, already packing a formidable punch, could add lasers, improving capabilities against UAVs, missiles, and even piloted aircraft.

11 'totally real' things you should send your boot to find

Sending the FNG out to find things isn't malicious. It may look like hazing — but you're teaching them a little bit more about the unit. Isn't that nice?

This is the new version of the pup tent

This is not your grandfather's pup tent. Litefighter has developed a complete shelter that troops can carry, weighing in just over four pounds.

This is why Saddam Hussein's fedayeen troops wore Darth Vader helmets

Wondering why Saddam's personal militia wore all-black suits and ski masks in the middle of the desert all year 'round? It was to match their helmets.