Tag Archives: Vietnam

Book Review: Unexpected Prisoner – Memoir of a Vietnam POW

unexpected-prisonerUnexpected Prisoner – Memoir of a Vietnam POW

By Robert Wideman & Cara Lopez Lee

What were you doing when you were twenty-three? Were you in college? Working a full time job? Robert Wideman (Bob) was flying a Navy bomber over Vietnam.

Then his plane was hit. He did what he was trained to do, trying to gain control, then eject to safety. More accurately, he was alive, but not exactly safe. Bob was immediately captured, and began what would turn into six long years in North Vietnam as a POW.

His experiences were often difficult to read, his fear of the unknown at first, and then the fear of the known. Each time he was pulled from his cell to go to be interrogated he might be tortured or asked to do something to turn on other prisoners. Some of the guards treated the prisoners better than others, but there was always the chance of being told to kneel on the concrete floors for hours or far worse.

Many of the prisoners had injuries from their plane crashing in the jungle or from overzealous questioning by some of the harsher prison commanders. But the prisoners banded together to help each other in most incidents. But, like any group of people that don’t necessarily choose to live together, some of the prisoners didn’t get along with other prisoners. Personalities clashed sometimes to the point of fights.

What I found very interesting was Bob’s take on fear. He said a person cannot live in a constant state of fear – so eventually you can sleep through bombings nearby and drive out thoughts of what might happen until it actually does. I believe this was what helped him and some of his other comrades through the long years of captivity when others did not fare as well.

I am not suggesting his time as a POW did not affect him, but maybe not as much as other prisoners that lived in constant fear.. He left Vietnam in March 1973, a very different man than the one that was shot from the sky in 1967. In many ways he was not the man he would have been if he had done his tour during the war and gone home to his wife. But no one can say how experiences, good and bad, affect the rest of their life. Certainly these experiences season our judgment and reaction to situations, but our attitude also plays a big part.

In the afterword to his book, Bob tells the readers his opinions on war in general. He doesn’t appear to be a bitter man as many would have living through his experience. He felt he was treated more humanely than some of the other prisoners, but doesn’t minimize the experience of other POWs that had much worse treatment while imprisoned.

Copyright © 2017 Laura Hartman

DISCLOSURE OF MATERIAL CONNECTION: I have a material connection because I received a review copy that I can keep for consideration in preparing to write this content. I was not expected to return this item after my review.

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Writing 101 Day 10 – Home in 1969

Tell us about the home where you lived when you were twelve. Which town, city, or country? Was it a house or an apartment? A boarding school or foster home? An airstream or an RV? Who lived there with you?
We moved into the little white house on Weston Avenue the summer I turned three. One might think that I would be too young to have memories of the move. Surprisingly I do. Of course I have many, many more memories of the following 15 years I grew up there. These include the birth of my brother, dad putting an addition on to accommodate said brother and the horrible task telling my parents he died while working in another state.
Our house was in a fairly large city, but it seemed smaller then. We knew everyone on our street and most of the people a block or two over. If one of the kids in the neighborhood did something they weren’t supposed to do, the mom of your friend would either tell you to knock it off, send you home, or do the worst thing they could possibly do – call your mom and tell her what you did. We all pretty much behaved, who wanted to be grounded to the house when there were so many things to do outside with the other kids?
I have so many fond memories of that house, they tumble around in my head like a slide show. Snippets of happiness from Christmases, birthdays, graduations and everyday life can be brought to life again as I remember and share them with family and friends.
channel 7 newsIn the spring of 1969, with the war in Vietnam raging on the nightly news with Fahey Flynn and Joel Daley, life was still pretty carefree for me. The front porch was one of my favorite places to be. Dad screened it in to keep out the bugs. It was shaded by the huge maple tree in our front yard.  I was way too mature to play on the swing set, but not to old to still love to swing. Dad made a porch swing that fit perfectly on one side of the porch between the front door and the side yard where Mom’s climbing rose-bush spread up the side of the house. (photo of the channel 7 News Team from Google Images)
The summer of ’69 brought hot weather and lots of free time. After I got up in the morning, I would help mom with whatever chores she had for me. Usually making my bed, helping with dishes and dusting the furniture. It didn’t take long, then I was free to do as I wanted. Most days that would be reading books while swinging on the porch swing.
Sometimes I would ride my purple Sting Ray bicycle to my friend’s house, or go down to the neighbor’s front porch to play gin rummy. We had games that lasted all day, stopping briefly to run home for a sandwich and chips in our small cozy kitchen. Mom always had WJJD, the local Country station playing. I hated it. My taste ran to rock and roll  Tommy Roe, CCR, Bread and Neil Diamond. I had a transistor radio that Icarried around to listen  to their music where ever I wanted to go.
Our house was small, but big enough for Dad, Mom and my brother and me. It made me feel safe to be within the walls that sheltered us. We always sat down for dinner together in the kitchen without TV for distraction. No internet, no cell phones, no running around from activity to activity to fill the hours of summer. It was good to grow up in a home that was a small oasis in the midst of a turbulent time.
Easter 1969 Easter Morning 1969, my brother and me
If you look closely, you can see the porch swing inside the porch window. That same swing is on the front porch of our current home. My dad gave it to me when they moved from the house on Weston. A better picture of it is the one on the top of my page with the shawl draped over it.

 

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