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Experiencing War (Prisoners of War): Stories from the Veterans History Project

The undeclared wars fought against the communist regimes in North Korea and North Vietnam brought on the worst treatment yet of American POWs. Physical torture and punishment were meted out with little regard for established rules of warfare. Moreover, there was psychological mistreatment, from simple taunting of POWs in Vietnam with stories of anti-war protests back home to attempts at brainwashing prisoners into believing they had committed war crimes. Camaraderie within the prison camp became an even more important tool in maintaining morale and discipline; all these prisoners had on any given day was each other.

Featured Story: Jose Mares
Image of Jose Mares

"We heard that there was a country in trouble and they asked for volunteers and I volunteered."

As a troubled teenager, 16-year-old Jose Mares was given the choice of joining the Army or going to jail. He chose the Army, but when he volunteered for duty in Korea, he wound up a prisoner, held captive in North Korea for nearly three years. As a POW, Mares continued to defy authority; he helped organize an escape committee and was sentenced to thirty years’ hard labor for his activities. He managed to smuggle out details of his circumstances in the hollow artificial leg of a released prisoner, and Mares eventually gained his freedom.

Go to Violet Hill Gordon's StoryGo and experience
Jose Mares' story
Experience more Stories of POWs in Korea or Vietnam more stories

"I've had my bonus days, because I should have died ten times while I was in Korea."  -- Donald Griffith

Image of Donald Griffith - story

"If we don't tell our story, then nobody will know."

Donald Griffith's story

Image of Roger Ingvalson - story

"It's very important to exercise your mind in prison."

Roger Ingvalson's story

Image of John McCain, III - story

"I was privileged to observe a thousand acts of courage and compassion and love."

John S. McCain III's story

Image of James Mulligan, Jr.  - story

"The man who appreciates freedom the most is the free man who has become a slave."

James Mulligan, Jr.'s story

Image of Donald Peppard - story

"We could hear the screams from down the passageway ... We knew people were getting beat real bad."

Donald Richard Peppard's story

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  September 14, 2004
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