September 29

This Day in History

Vietnam War

Sep 29, 1965:

Hanoi announces that downed pilots will be treated as war criminals

Hanoi publishes the text of a letter it has written to the Red Cross claiming that since there is no formal state of war, U.S. pilots shot down over the North will not receive the rights of prisoners of war (POWs) and will be treated as war criminals.

The U.S. State Department protested, but this had no impact on the way the American POWs were treated and most suffered extreme torture and other maltreatment while in captivity. The first pilot captured by the North Vietnamese was Navy Lieutenant Everett Alvarez, who was shot down on August 5, 1964. The American POW held longest was Army Special Forces Captain Floyd James Thompson, who had been captured in the South on March 26, 1964. American POWs were held in 11 different prisons in North Vietnam and their treatment by the North Vietnamese was characterized by isolation, torture, and psychological abuse. The exact number of POWs held by the North Vietnamese during the war remains a debatable issue, but the POWs themselves have accounted for at least 766 verified captives at one point. Under the provisions of the Paris Peace Accords, the North Vietnamese released 565 American military and 26 civilian POWs in February and March 1973, but there were still more than 2,500 men listed as Missing in Action (MIA).

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