FIVE YEARS TO FREEDOM by Major James N. Rowe


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Nick Rowe, a young West Point Lieutenant, was advising South Vietnamese strike troops for the Special Forces when he was captured by the NLF in the fall of 1963 and held prisoner in the South. This book describes his five year captivity in an intensely, if understandably, astigmatic way. He suffered considerably more than Richard Dudman in his shorter Forty Days With the Enemy (p. 404) and the account is full of his recurrent beriberi, diarrhea and dysentery as well as the descriptions of three other prisoners' deaths from illness. The sensational aspect of a war-prisoner story carries one along but Rowe's complaints about delayed medical treatment, dull needles, peculiar medicines and ""no dental care"" may evoke less sympathy than he intends. Rowe repeatedly recalls bis distress as the news of an American anti-war movement kept coming through. His comments on the political unsophistication of the low level cadres guarding him rings true. And the facts of his discomfort are undeniable. But, though one can hardly expect a captured Green Beret to be objective about his experiences, or to compare his situation with the way the South Vietnamese and American armies treat their prisoners when they take them, his only acknowledgement of the conditions under which his captors were operating is a comment about the fact that, unlike him, the NLF soldiers had no mosquito netting: and he seems basically disingenuous in equating his extreme discomfort with extreme maltreatment. Owing to the Calley case, the book will receive considerable attention.

Pub Date: June 2nd, 1971
Publisher: Little, Brown