<%@ Language=Inherit from Web %> PFC Robert Garwood Story Summary

Taken from a Garwood Interview with the BBC 1981

Marine PFC Robert (Bobby) Garwood's Capture and Prosecution - According to Garwood

In the summer of 1965, Marine PFC Robert (Bobby) Garwood was 19 years old and served as a staff driver for the G-2 Intelligence section of the Third Marine Division in DaNang, South Vietnam.

On September 28, Bobby had just 10 more days to serve to complete his tour in Vietnam. Late that afternoon, he was ordered to drive out alone to China Beach and pick up an officer, but he couldn't find the officer and night was falling.

As he was deciding to return to the Base, he found himself surrounded by about 30 armed Viet Cong guerrillas.

He jumped to the ground, drew his .45 automatic pistol and fired twice into the advancing circle of VC. He shot one square in the face, killing him instantly. A bullet ripped clean through his right forearm between the bones.

The VC swarmed him, seized his pistol, took off his boots and stripped him down to his skivies.

Garwood went into shock as they tied his elbows tightly together behind his back.

They looped the rope around his neck and back down between his elbows. Next they stuck a stout bamboo pole through the crook in his bound elbows and across his back.

When he came out of shock, his forearm began to throb with intense pain. In the struggle, the bullet hole through his arm had become almost completely packed with sand and dirt. His wound was left to fester untreated in this filthy condition for the next three days.

Garwood expected to be executed at any moment. Instead, they blindfolded him and led him off into the night. One VC always held the end of the rope around his neck.

Barefoot, unable to see and with no arms for balance, he stumbled often. Each time he did, the noose around his neck would be jerked tight and begin to strangle him.

They led Garwood through one VC village after another, all around DaNang.

It seemed that he was the first American Marine they had captured and they wanted to show everyone that these giant aliens could be made to look miserable and, especially, to feel pain.

At each village, young boys threw stones at his head, at his wounded arm and at his testicles. Whenever he yelped in pain, they squealed in delight.

They would sneak up behind him and jab sharp bamboo sticks up his unguarded anus.

The VC marched him all through the second night in a cold, bone-chilling rain.

Garwood, wearing only his shorts, shivered violently as he stumbled along on his bleeding and swelling feet.

By the third day, his would had become infected and his arm had swollen up to three times its normal size and it began to stink like rotting meat.

On the 10th night, his guard fell asleep and Garwood escaped. They found him at dawn and marched him up into the mountains to a permanent POW camp.

He was the only American there. They put him in a small bamboo cage.

The next morning Garwood awoke to the fever and chills of a severe malaria attack.

For the next 7 days he lay helpless in his cage, too weak to move and unable to eat.

As soon as the malaria attacks subsided and he began to eat a little, his bowels were seized by amoebic dysentery.

He had to defecate so fast and often that all he could do was squat on the floor of his cage and let it go. No one came to clean up after him and the overpowering stench kept the guards well clear.

Between his violent bowel movements he slept constantly, but he never felt rested.

When he began to recover and saw how emaciated he was, he became extremely alarmed.

He guessed that his weight had dropped from 187 to under 120 lbs.

He was suffering from hunger edema.

His joints were swollen and his belly bloated.

He couldn't see the large dark circles around his sunken eyes.

He escaped again one night before his arm was completely healed.

This time they caught him and threw him into a freshly dug hole 7 feet deep and barely big enough for him to sit in.

For 6 days he sat in complete darkness as his own excrement piled up around him.

When they pulled him out, they locked his ankles into raised bamboo stocks.

His slightest movement caused the bamboo to cut cruelly into his flesh.

He lay immobilized flat on his back for 7 more days.

When they finally unlocked the stocks, he was so weak that he had to be carried and thrown back into his cage.

Three months later, Green Beret Capt. "Ike" Eisenbraun was led into camp.

He looked like a survivor of a Nazi death camp, weighing less than 100 lbs.

Garwood was never so glad to see anyone in his life.

Ike spoke fluent Vietnamese and knew how to survive.

He was weak and sick from months of brutal mistreatment, but to Garwood he was a tower of strength and wisdom.

Ike forced him to catch and eat rats for precious protein.

Garwood had an ear for languages and, with Ike's expert tutoring, he became fluent in Vietnamese amazingly fast.

As the war ground on, more Americans were taken prisoners and brought into the camp.

The new prisoners were invariably shocked by the ghastly appearance of Ike and Garwood.

The camp administrators kept the two confined away from the new POWs.

Garwood was forced to translate for the cadre when they held propaganda and interrogation sessions.

They wanted the new POWs to believe that he couldn't be trusted.

They succeeded!

After several cruel beatings by guards, Ike died on September 17, 1967.

Garwood had loved him like a father. He buried Ike with his own hands and thereafter sank into deep and prolonged depression.

More than a dozen POWs died while in the camp.

Garwood tried to convince them to eat the rats to stay alive. They refused to believe him. Most died of hunger edema.

When a man would stop eating and start sleeping constantly, he was doomed to die within days.

Garwood stole handfuls of rice and sometimes an egg for them whenever he could.

In late 1969, Garwood was finally caught stealing and sentenced to death.

He was led away alone to a camp near the Ho Chi Minh Trail.

In May 1970, this camp was bombed by our B-52s.

After the blast, Bobby was blind for 6 months and deaf for a year.

When he could walk again, he was marched up into North Vietnam. He worked alone under guard on a farm, growing pumpkins for the enemy.

Upon hearing Radio Hanoi announce in early 1973 that the Paris Peace Accords were signed and prisoners would be released, his spirits soared.

He listened intently as 591 names were read.

When he didn't hear his name, his heart sank.

As weeks passed and no one came to get him, he guessed the awful truth, they weren't going to let him go.

Garwood was moved to a large prison camp closer to Hanoi.

A guard and a driver took him all around Hanoi to fix broken down vehicles.

In the summer of 1977, a stopped train blocked their way.

Suddenly a boxcar right in front of them opened and 30 to 40 Americans climbed out cursing the heat in English.

He knew then that he wasn't the only one left there for dead.

Garwood beguiled his driver into dealing on the black market.

He was hoping for a chance to slip a note to a foreigner near the hotels.

During Tet in 1979, he got his chance.

Ossi Rahkonen, a Finnish diplomat took his note to London.

The BBC broadcast it to a stunned world.

The U.S. State Department diddled around for a month arranging his release.

His captors were furious.

They subjected him to 20 days of intense electric shock treatments in a desperate attempt to fry his memory.

They threatened to execute all of the other POWs if he dared speak of them after his release.

On the jetliner out of Hanoi, Garwood was toasted with champagne by a weeping French flight crew. Garwood wept with them. He couldn't believe he was finally free.

Upon landing in Bangkok, the first Marine he saw, a Gunnery Sergeant Langlois, read Garwood his rights and arrested him as a suspected deserter.

The charge had to be dropped 2 years later when the Marine Corps failed to produce any evidence that he had deserted.

On February 5, 1981, Garwood was found guilty of collaborating with the enemy.

His appeal is still pending.

Recently declassified files prove that the Pentagon knew Garwood was alive after 1973.

He was abandoned by his own government!

They told his father he was dead.

On his own, he escaped and returned to the United States.

He was charged with Desertion. If convicted, he could have been executed.

Were the other American POWs he saw executed by Hanoi?  Nobody's talking!

Fellow Soldier LetterActual Soldier Letter

Garwood 1965 - 1969Garwood 1970 -1979

Garwood Comes HomeGarwood DeBunks the DeBunkers