January 26

This Day in History

Vietnam War

Jan 26, 1970:

POW spends 2,000th day in captivity

U.S. Navy Lt. Everett Alvarez Jr. spends his 2,000th day in captivity in Southeast Asia. First taken prisoner when his plane was shot down on August 5, 1964, he became the longest-held POW in U.S. history. Alvarez was downed over Hon Gai during the first bombing raids against North Vietnam in retaliation for the disputed attack on U.S. destroyers in the Gulf of Tonkin in August 1964.

Alvarez was released in 1973 after spending over eight years in captivity, the first six months as the only American prisoner in North Vietnam. From the first day of his captivity, he was shackled, isolated, nearly starved, and brutally tortured. Although he was among the more junior-rank prisoners of war, his courageous conduct under horrendous conditions and treatment helped establish the model emulated by the many other POWs that later joined him. After retirement from the Navy, he served as deputy director of the Peace Corps and deputy administrator of the Veterans Administration during the Reagan administration, before founding his own military consulting firm.

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