The long-term Hanoi Hilton cohort was a unique group—almost all aircrews, average age at capture of 30.5. Most were officers (> 95%), most had a college degree, quite a few had a masters degree and several had been in the astronaut program. Though we had no books or magazines, other than an occasionally propaganda piece that was laughable, we did have an amazing source of knowledge and talents. In the early years when cells were smaller and we were more isolated, knowledge was passed through the walls and across the camp via the tap code and other covert communications.
After the Son Tay raid in November 1970, almost all POWs in the system were moved back into the HH into large rooms previously occupied by hundreds of Vietnamese prisoners. These large open bay rooms of 40-60 men each became the campus for our “Hanoi University” where you could study subjects of math, foreign language, engineering, history and geography. Many of the men wrote poems—a couple of them even published a book of poems after the war.
Once the day-today torture ended, we moved to more of a live and let live environment and our energies were freed for various types of creative entertainment. There were various special programs. We had movies (told by experts), toastmasters, physical fitness training, and even dance lessons in one room. Most all cells had a chaplain and a weekly church service with amazing homilies delivered by grizzly old fighter pilots. Bridge and chess provided lots of time passing competition.