There were three major treatment eras in the POW camps. For the early months of 1965, they did not know how to handle POWs and though they were isolated, there was not routine torture and beatings, etc.
Then in late summer of 1965, it cranked up and all hell broke loose. Torture and various types of punishment were always going on in every camp. Some of it was to keep us fearful—so we would obey the rules—but most was for propaganda. They wanted us to help them win the war by getting Americans to turn against the government and end the war. Of course, we were bound to live by the Military Code of Conduct for POWs (shown in the book’s appendix) and so the battle lines were drawn. It’s hard for most people to understand why they would torture us to get statements, but you have to understand that there were no moral restrictions on the policy.
In late May of 1969, there was an escape attempt at the Zoo camp in Hanoi torture surged in all the camps. I was at the Son Tay camp about 25 miles NW of Hanoi and by July that year, when the US was landing on the moon, they were torturing guys to sign a statement saying they had received “lenient and humane treatment. When we confronted them with the fact that we could not sign a statement with a lie, they told us no—it was the truth.
When we confronted them on that they said that “Truth is that which most benefits the party.” In other words, the end justifies the means. Sadly, it seems that mindset is spreading around the world.
The bad treatment continued until the fall of 1969 when it suddenly stopped and life in the camps for the three was more became more “live and let live.” We knew this change was related to the death of Ho Chi Minh died in September of 1969 and the decision of the new leadership in power, but we did not know then the real reason it changed.