I think the very best thing I can say about this book is that it forced me to challenge myself, which I guess is somewhat rare when you get to self-select what you read. It is ironic, then, that Denton is the one to present the reader with these nuanced issues, while also himself being such a blind patriot, and such an arbiter of how, exactly, everyone should be behaving in any given situation. He also glosses over more personal details that would have been more informative to a reader (like listing off his torture routine like a grocery list instead of telling us what this torture was doing to him psychologically or emotionally), and delegates some of the most fascinating nuances of POW camp life, like intricate communications systems and surprise Christmas presents from the guards, to a tier of storytelling below boring stuff like "Who is the highest ranking officer at any time?" Towards the end of the book, things go horribly wrong. There may have been something wrong with my Kindle version, but in the last chapter things suddenly stop making sense completely. Denton also makes angry references to two traitors who are on his airplane, and makes a big deal of which door they will use to leave (or something like that), but I seemed to have missed whichever part in the book explains why he hates these two guys so much. As a modern, generally Liberal reader who was not born for years to come, reading this homecoming reaction from Denton's perspective was enlightening. The bulk of this book was written in 1975, only a couple years after his return, and it makes sense to have a couple pages summarizing Denton's thoughts about his return. The second epilogue is absolute garbage, and it made it extremely difficult for me as a reader to still have any respect for the man and author from the rest of the book. But he makes it oh-so-difficult to respect him when he goes off on a diatribe about how abortions are a threat to national security, and how he single-handedly halted cartoonishly evil communism in all Central America with a patriotic Marine Todd speech.
Denton was joining this despicable class of professional soldiers of fortune including among others , Cherokee Paul MacDonald ( Into The Green), Collin Powell ( My American Journey), James Bond Stockdale ( In Love and In War) .---Readers are invited to read my book reviews about the above mentioned memoirs via Goodreads) His memoir and the memoirs of the above mercenaries all shared the same characteristic : Trying to justify, glorify and white wash their war criminal activities while building their blood soaked profession of robbing and killing the "national enemies" , "defending" America, "protecting" American way of life and other similar hogwash.It was little concern to them that these "enemies" were thousands of miles away from American soil, who posed no threat whatever to America , who has done nothing harmful and has absolutely no potential to do any harm to the U S .But the saddest part was the majority of these "enemies" were unarmed civilians who were indiscriminately massacred .Their evil acts became , according to these criminals , the "necessary evil". Right on the first page, one can see how stupid Denton is .( Maybe "was" is the correct term .Maybe he has joined his brother-in-arm ADMIRAL James Bond Stockdale, who also was imprisoned in the same infamous Hanoi Hilton .May Heaven rest his soul )....He dedicated his "memoir" to the people "who are willing to sacrifice to PROTECT (America)". Denton did not understand much less recognize his role as a hired gun,a cannon fodder and a gun runner for the BIGWIGS in their war games.The BIGWIGS in the White House and the Pentagon were the only ones who gained BIG TIME in this war game, together with their sinister, faceless, wicked , devious BOSSES, the chief stockholders in all companies who are manufacturing deadly military hardware including , but not limited to Denton' s A6 Intruder that cost the American tax payers $5,000,000 and that despite of his arrogance (or maybe because of it) and his blind faith in its superior power , it was shot down even before he was about to commit another atrocious war crime in a foreign soil. When the hired guns obeyed the orders of theirs wicked bosses, they all suffered severely, mentally and physically .Limbs, organs and all.They endured the most painful injuries.They faced the most dangerous situations.They were dogs, who jumped into any bush, not knowing what were inside as soon as the masters ordered.Sadly, they only can eat the bones , not the meat and fat of their catch , but no mater, they were very content, happy even for the little rewards they got. With that sorry history that he must have known being a "scholar" of sorts, Denton still had the nerve to babling about his "heroic" act of robbing and killing the Viet-Namese people to further the interest of the war profiteers in the White House . They had robbed the right to live undisturbed by any foreign barbarian.They had robbed their thatch huts, their livestock, their crops because of the American bombing, burning (with ZIPO---all mercenary criminals had the infamous lighter in their pockets to (you guest it correctly) ZIPO all thatch huts once they enter any village .They had robbed the peaceful Viet-Namese families their sons, their daughters, their mothers , their fathers , these "white devils" . A criminal has no honor simply because of the terrible nature of his war crime.How much honor , regardless how much he has suffered ( terribly ) inside HANOI HILTON , the majority of people in the whole world , American included has conferred upon him ? Rather, how much scorn, hate and contempt WE THE PEOPLE OF THE WHOLE WORD have been heaping upon all the top criminal BIGWIGS in the White House and the Pentagon and the "babies killers" that Denton and all of his brother-in-arms were known ? All because of the stupid , full of greed,brainwashed, less-than-bright , sleepwalking, self-grandiose,lying,Bible-thumbing (religious!)and idiotic robot-slaves like Denton,MacDonald, Stockdale , Powell, etc .Without them, the BIGWIGS could not have been able to start and prolong unrest, conflict and wars all over the whole world to reap huge profit from selling weaponry .They were the foxes in the lamb clothing. Actually those hired guns of the yesteryear were not much different from their brothers of the 1970's.They eagerly jumped onto the Viet-Nam soil , well armed , well fed and well supplied for the sole purpose of plundering, robbing , killing and rapping .They had no knowledge , much less care and absolutely no desire to understand and respect the "little monkeys" ( Denton's word or rather his cohort 's word to whom they were supposed to "liberate", "rescue" and "protect"! HOWEVER , just like the shower of soft drink plus a splash of saliva upon Cherokee Paul MacDonald's face from one of his "fan" on his "victorious" ( my word) return to the U S (in Into The Green) , or the shoe threw at G W BUSH JR , Denton was "rewarded" by a Viet-Namese woman who broke the protecting human cordon , the North Viet-Namese soldiers, and smacked his face with her purse (page 27) .Another Viet-Namese woman had threw a small rock on his head,knocked him down, and a Viet-Namese man slugged him in his stomach not one but twice. Buried among tons of garbage of lies, stupidity, pseudo religious and political propaganda and most important of all, REDNECK MENTALITY, laid a gem of real truth, real humanity, real courage, real democracy and REAL POWER ....from the very pen of the redneck DENTON : that act of that nameless, voiceless,(SEEMINGLY) powerless woman, a member of the silent ( and silenced ) mass was more powerful than the most sophisticate weaponry , including the $5,000,000 Intruder A6. One of the most curious aspect of this memoir ( and all above mentioned memoirs ) was the about face CONVENIENT FORGETTING about the humiliating defeat of the American armed forces in the Viet-Nam war.They might have won some battles among many losses, but as a whole , they failed miserably in their effort to dominate the Viet-Namse, North and South , in their evil AND arrogant ambition (cleverly hidden by all the hogwash the like of FIGHTING COMMUNISM, PRESERVE FREEDOM, DEMOCRACY , EQUALITY ...etc...just ask any people of colors in the U S how much they have those bull sh....
I wanted to learn more about the plight of Vietnam War POWs, not a grandstand of conservative Republican beliefs. I had to struggle to remember the REST of the book to give it even three stars.
Wow. So I read this book a second time. The first time I read this, I was struck by Denton's indomitable spirit and the cruelty of human beings to each other. I also loved the way Denton triumphed over all the efforts of his captors to manipulate him and managed to blink a in Morse Code to the world that he was being tortured. Denton devotes the majority of his discussions of fellow inmates to the heroism and unity of the group (especially the Alcatraz Gang), but he also exposes the people who collaborated or caved in to NVN demands. After reading this, Jim Stockdale's book made much more sense! Given that some soldiers died to uphold the code, it was horrible to realize that others submitted quickly and received far better treatment or release and in a sense contributed to the harsh conditions of others by not holding the line.) Denton was also much more sensitive to and open about the NVN soldiers. I found it frustrating in this book (as in Stockdale's) how Denton comments that they "could have ended the war right then 1966" based on his view from the prison camp. Both of these memoirs, WHWIS and James Stockdale's In Love and War, evoke triumph of the human spirit in horrendous conditions. Denton's understandable admiration for Nixon, who got him out of prison camp, must be tempered by the other questionable choices the former president made in an effort to maintain and augment his presidential authority. Even though this book is far shorter than Love and War, it really managed to convey the long drag of time and the desperate conditions the prisoners endured.
The accounts of the torture and the awfulness of their imprisonment are hard to forget, but the aspect of the book that made the biggest impression on me was simply the sense that the author really was of an entirely different time than I was. This book is a good read for anyone interested in history, in the viewpoints of the pre-Vietnam war generation and the old patriotism I think few in my generation could relate to, and an interesting background to current debates about enhanced interrogation techn in Guantanamo and the war on terror.
On another note: out of all the books concerning Vietnam POWs this one covers the communications systems used by the prisoners more extensively to include: more information on tap code, verbal codes (coughing, sneezing, hacking etc.), message drops, and written code such as letter slanting.
This was a difficult book to read.