Sunday, April 8, 2018

National Former Prisoner of War Recognition Day - April 9

National Former Prisoner of War Recognition Day - April 9

NATIONAL FORMER PRISONER OF WAR RECOGNITION DAY

National Former Prisoners of War Recognition Day on April 9 honors the courageous men and women who have endured brutal treatment at the hands of their captors, separation from family and displayed incredible endurance and faith during their captivity.
On this day in 1942, the largest number of U.S. Forces were captured by Japanese troops in the Bataan Peninsula in the Philippines. After battling through extreme conditions and prolonged battles, the captured troops were forced to march 65 miles to the prison camp. Without medical attention, food or water thousands died. The mistreatment continued for those who survived the brutal journey. In the compounds, deep in the unfamiliar jungle, the hardships, brutality, and suffering lasted more than two years for those who could survive.
Many POWs endure conditions much like this. These heroes deserve a day of recognition. An annual presidential proclamation is signed for National Former Prisoner of War Recognition Day and government officials, veterans, civic and private organizations observe the day with ceremonies and events. Some states require the POW/MIA flag to be flown in this day.
HOW TO OBSERVE

Honor former POWs by helping to organize events.  Ensure your organization flies the POW/MIA flag.  Use #FormerPOWRecognitionDay to share on social media.
HISTORY
President Ronald Reagan first proclaimed National Prisoner of War Recognition Day in 1987.

Tuesday, March 20, 2018

The 50 State Traveling POW/MIA Flag, will be stopping in Meredith

Heads Up ... 

Thanks to Jon Dion, President Rolling Thunder NH-1; 

The 50 State Traveling POW/MIA Flag, will be stopping in Meredith Sunday March 25th on its way for the Transfer to Maine. 

Ceremony Planning is in the works for a Full Ceremony on the Meredith POW/MIA Vigil HILL Sunday 1430 (2:30pm). 

This year is the 30th Anniversary of the Meredith POW/MIA Vigil, please make every effort to attend. 

Please Rearrange your Palm Sunday Dinner for just a little bit, for Our POW/MIA’s! 

Prior to coming to Meredith there will be a Ceremony @ NHSVC 1100 Sunday 25th! 

https://www.facebook.com/POW-flag-50-State-Tour-446276625758621/ 


Monday, March 19, 2018

One last service for WWII flag By Seth Robson, Stars and Stripes

CAMP RED CLOUD, South Korea — A flag colored in part with the blood of U.S. prisoners of war and draped over their coffins for funerals at stalags will be used one last time at Arlington National Cemetery next month.
The flag will cover the coffin of its owner, retired Sergeant Robert Hopkins. The former enlisted Chaplain from the 38th Field Artillery Battalion, 2nd Infantry Division, used the flag at more than 300 POW funerals during World War II.
It will be transported to the Virginia cemetery from its home at the 2nd ID Museum at Camp Red Cloud, where Hopkins left it in 1979.
Hopkins was captured in the Battle of the Bulge at Krinkelt, Belgium, in December 1944 and forced to march with 2,300 POWs to a stalag, or World War II German prisoner of war camp.
“Within two weeks of being a prisoner, it was my sad job to bury over 700 American soldiers. Not because they were all worn out. Not because they were ready to die but because somebody didn’t want them to live. The Germans would shoot them for sport,” he recalled at the time he donated the flag to the museum.
Hopkins was a POW at Stalag VIIIA near Gorlitz and in January 1945 officiated the first formal military funeral service inside Germany, for American POW Bruce Schalm.
The Germans agreed to allow a flag to be used and for Schalm to be buried in a makeshift casket made of boards bound with wire. Prison corpses were normally stripped and tossed in an open pit, Hopkins said.
“The flag … was made from two sugar bags, which two British soldiers stole from the camp,” he recalled.
It was painted with blue and red dye mixed with blood, he said.
“That was easy to come by. Soldiers were always bleeding to death,” he said.
Guards photographed the service for propaganda purposes but POWs stole the photographs. The Germans were furious, Hopkins said.
“Three days later, I watched two British soldiers being shot to death by having bullets fired into their feet, then every six inches up their bodies until they died. Their last words were ‘Don’t let them find the flag, use it for the memory of all who die,’ ” he said.
When Hopkins was transferred to another stalag he took the flag with him. He and other soldiers carried it for more than 2,300 miles all over Germany, he said.
“The flag was hid so no German could find it. After we left Gorlitz the guards were more tolerable and at times we were permitted to use the flag, then the flag would go into hiding again,” he said.
Four months later, Hopkins escaped, taking the flag with him. After the war he became a Methodist Minister in Natural Bridge, Virginia.
After he died earlier this month, his family asked the 2nd ID Museum to loan them the flag for his funeral at Arlington National Cemetery.
The Center for Military History approved the request and the flag is on its way to Arlington. It will return to the 2nd ID Museum after the ceremony, a museum staff member said.
“We are honoring a member of the greatest generation and this is the least we can do. This guy was a real hero,” the staff member said.
Hopkins’ son, Norman Hopkins, who served as a U.S. Army Sergeant in Vietnam, said his father often told the story of the flag, which sat in a cupboard of their home while he was growing up.
“When I was young, I used to see the flag and hold it in my hands. Dad would tell me about the British soldiers who got shot because they would not give it up. The flag meant a lot to my dad and it means a lot to me,” he said.
Norman Hopkins said that although his father was a Chaplain, he carried a .45 revolver and a Thompson machine gun during the war.
“He was asked one time … why he carried guns. He said: ‘A shepherd must protect his flock.’”
Hopkins’s funeral will include an honor guard to fold the flag before its return to the museum, he said.
The British soldier’s sacrifices for the flag are an example for today’s soldiers, Norman Hopkins said.
The last time it was used at a funeral, he said, “was in World War II. I hope… the alliances we have in Europe and in Asia are as strong as they were during World War II. It doesn’t matter if it is a South Korean soldier, a French soldier, an Italian soldier or an Australian soldier. The alliance should be there.”
Museum technician Incha Koslosky prepares a U.S. flag
used for funerals of Allied POWs during World War 
II for shipment to
Arlington National Cemetery, 
where it will be used during its owner's funeral.


Sergeant Robert Hopkins wrote his name on the back of this 
U.S. flag, which is colored with the blood of World War II 
Allied POWs. It will be used at his funeral at Arlington Cemetery next month.



2nd ID enlisted Chaplain Sergeant Robert Hopkins presides over 
the first formal U.S. POW funeral in Germany during World War II. 
Two of the other soldiers in the picture were shot for refusing to 
give up the flag and this photograph, which they stole from the Germans.


This flag was made by American prisoners held at Stalag VIIIA in Gorlitz, Germany 
and was used in the first formal funeral allowed by the Germans in January 1945. 
A German guard was preparing to shoot into the funeral group until a major 
stopped him. The major wanted to take a photograph for propaganda purposes
(Courtesy of the 2nd Infantry Division Museum) 


HOPKINS, ROBERT
SGT   US ARMY
WORLD WAR II
DATE OF BIRTH: 04/26/1919
DATE OF DEATH: 06/24/2004
BURIED AT: SECTION 69  SITE 3420
ARLINGTON NATIONAL CEMETERY 

Thursday, March 1, 2018

Former Prisoners of War Recognition Day ceremony

Former Prisoners of War Recognition Day ceremony
When: Saturday, April 7, 2018
Time: 10:00am - 11:00am
Location: New Hampshire State Veterans Cemetery
The Dept of NH Veterans of Foreign Wars, Auxiliary, and the NH Chapter of the American Ex-Prisoners of War
 cordially invite you and your family and friends to the annual Former Prisons of War
Recognition Day ceremony in the Chapel that starts at 10:00am.





Who is Mike Benge?



Just heard from an old friend who has stood at the vigil with us many times...

Bob:  Great to hear from you.  I'm happy to hear that you're still at it and come June it will be your 30th anniversary.  I well remember when I joined you for the remembrance.  Us Hard Corps types will never forget.  I'm still active in the issue in spite of the government's opinion.  Attached is a paper (still in draft) I wrote on the POW//MIA situation and presented at last year's National Alliance of Families annual meeting.  I wrote it for inclusion in the book I'm writing on my memories.  It's a sad tale"

Semper Fi Brother.  Mike.

So who is this Mike Benge?....

BENGE, MICHAEL DENNIS

Name: Michael Dennis Benge
Rank/Branch: U.S. Civilian
Unit: Agency for International Development
Date of Birth: 6 August 1935
Home City of Record: Oregon
Date of Loss: 31 January 1968
Country of Loss: South Vietnam
Loss Coordinates: 124049N 1080235E (AQ800030)
Status (in 1973): Released POW
Category:
Acft/Vehicle/Ground: Ground
Refno: 1008

Other Personnel in Incident: Betty Ann Olsen; Henry F. Blood (both
captured); Rev.Griswald (killed); Carolyn Griswald (daughter of
Rev.Griswald, survived first attack, died of wounds); Rev. Zeimer (killed);
Mrs.Robert Zeimer (wounded, first attack, evaded, survived); Rev.&
Mrs.Thompson; Miss Ruth Whilting (all killed)
Source: Compiled by Homecoming II Project 30 June 1990 from one or more of
the following: raw data from U.S. Government agency sources, correspondence
with POW/MIA families, published sources, interviews. Updated by the P.O.W.
NETWORK 1998 with material from Michael Benge.  2017
                                          
REMARKS: 730305 RELEASED BY PRG
SYNOPSIS: Michael D. Benge was born in 1935 and raised on a ranch in eastern
Oregon. After college at Oregon State, he applied to the CIA, because he
wanted to travel the world. CIA told him to try the Agency for International
Development (AID). AID sent him to International Voluntary Services (IVS).
After two years in Vietnam with IVS, Benge transferred to AID and served as
an AID agricultural advisor. By the time of the Tet offensive of 1968, he
had been in-country five years, working almost the whole time with the
Montagnards in the highlands. He spoke fluent Vietnamese and several
Montagnard dialects.

On January 31, 1968, Benge was captured while riding in a jeep near Ban Me
Thuot, South Vietnam. Learning of the Tet offensive strikes, Benge was
checking on some IVS volunteers who were living in a hamlet with three
companies of Montagnard rebels who had just been through a lot of fighting
as the NVA went through the Ban Me Thuot area. His plan was to pick up the
IVS "kids" and then go down to pick up some missionaries in the area.
Benge was captured a few miles from the Leprosarium at Ban Me Thuot. This
center treated anyone with a need as well as those suffering from leprosy.
It was at the Leprosarium that Rev. Archie Mitchell, Dr. Eleanor Vietti and
Daniel Gerber had been taken prisoner in 1962. The Viet Cong regularly
harassed and attacked the center in spite of its humanitarian objectives.
During the Tet offensive, the Viet Cong again tried to wipe out the
Christian missionary influence in Dar Lac Province, and over a three day
period attacked the hospital compound several times.

Betty Ann Olsen was born to Missionary parents in Bouake, Ivory Coast. She
had attended a religious school and missionary college in Nyack, New York.
Curious about the way the other part of the world lived, she went to Vietnam
in 1964 as a missionary nurse for Christian and Missionary Alliance, and was
assigned to the Leprosarium at Ban Me Thuot. Henry F. Blood was a missionary
serving as translator and linguist for Wickcliff Translators at the
Leprosarium.

During one of the earlier attacks on the hospital compound, three staff
homes were destroyed, one housing Rev. Griswald, who was killed, and his
grown daughter Carolyn, who survived the explosion but later died of her
wounds. During the same attack, Rev. and Mrs. Zeimer, Rev.and Mrs. Thompson
and Miss Ruth Whilting were trapped and machine gunned. Only Mrs. Zeimer
survived her 20-30 wounds and was later evacuated to Cam Ranh Bay. Blood and
Olsen escaped injury for the moment.

Two days later, on February 1, 1968, as Olsen was preparing to escape with
the injured Griswald, she and Henry Blood were captured during another
attack on the hospital.

For the next month or so, Benge, Blood and Olsen were held in a POW camp in
Darlac Province, about a day's walk from Ban Me Thuot, and were held in
cages where they had nothing to eat but boiled manioc (a large starchy root
from which tapioca is made).

The Vietnamese kept moving their prisoners, hiking through the jungles and
mountains. The camp areas, swept very clean of leaves to keep the mosquito
population down (and the ensuing malaria threat), were clearly visible from
the sky. Once, Benge reports, an American aircraft came so close to the camp
that he could see the pilot's face. The pilot "wagged his wings" and flew
away. The Vietnamese, fearing rescue attempts and U.S. air strikes, kept
moving.

For months Olsen, Blood and Benge were chained together and moved north from
one encampment to another, moving over 200 miles through the mountainous
jungles. The trip was grueling and took its toll on the prisoners. They were
physically depleted, sick from dysentery and malnutrition; beset by fungus,
infection, leeches and ulcerated sores.

Mike Benge contracted cerebral malaria and nearly died. He credits Olsen
with keeping him alive. She forced him to rouse from his delirium to eat and
drink water and rice soup. Mike Benge describes Olsen as "a Katherine
Hepburn type...[with] an extra bit of grit."

In the summer of 1968, the prisoners, again on the trail, were left exposed
to the rain during the rainy season. Hank Blood contracted pneumonia,
weakened steadily, and eventually died in July. (July 1968 is one of the
dates given by the Vietnamese - the other, according to classified
information the U.S. gave to the Vietnamese through General John Vessey
indicates that Mr. Blood died on October 17, 1972. Mike Benge says Blood
died around July 4.) Blood was buried in a shallow grave along the trail,
with Olsen conducting grave-side services.

Benge and Olsen were kept moving. Their bodies were covered with sores, and
they had pyorrhea from beri-beri. Their teeth were loosening and gums
infected. They spent a lot of time talking about good meals and good places
to eat, planning to visit their favorite restaurants together when they went
home. They moved every two or three days.

Benge and Olsen were moved near Tay Ninh Province, almost to Da Lat, then
back to Quang Duc Province. Olsen was getting weak, and the Vietnamese began
to kick and drag her to keep her moving. Benge, trying to defend her, was
beaten with rifle butts.

Just before crossing the border into Cambodia, Olsen weakened to the point
that she could no longer move. Ironically, in this area, near a tributary to
the Mekong river, fish and livestock abounded, and there was a garden, but
the food was denied to the prisoners. They were allowed to gather bamboo
shoots, but were not told how to cook it.

Bamboo needs to be boiled in two waters to extract an acid substance. Not
knowing this, Olsen and Benge boiled their food only once and were beset
with immobilizing stomach cramps within a half-hour; diarrhea soon followed.
Betty Ann Olsen weakened and finally died September 29, 1968 (Vessey
information indicates this date as September 26), and was buried by Benge.
Finally, Benge was taken to Cambodia, turned over to the North Vietnamese,
and another long, grueling trek began. Benge, however, had made his mind up
that he wouldn't die. He treated his ulcerated body by lying in creeks and
allowed small fish to feed off the dead tissue (a primitive debridement),
then caught the fish and ate them raw. He caught small, green frogs and
swallowed them whole. He did everything he could to supplement his meager
food ration.

By the time he reached the camp the Vietnamese called "the land of milk and
honey" his hair was white and he was so dehydrated and emaciated that other
POWs estimated his age to be over seventy years old. He was, at the time,
only thirty-three.

After a year in Cambodia, Benge was marched north on the Ho Chi Minh Trail
to Hanoi. He spent over three years in camps there, including a total of
twenty-seven months in solitary confinement. Upon his return, he verified
collaboration charges against eight of his fellow POWs, in a prosecution
effort initiated by Col. Theodore Guy (this action was discouraged by the
U.S. Government and the effort was subsequently abandoned.) Mike Benge then
returned to Vietnam and worked with the Montagnards until the end of the
war.

The Vietnamese have never attempted return the remains of Henry Blood and
Betty Olsen. They are two individuals that the Vietnamese could provide a
wealth of information on. Since they pride themselves on being
"humanitarians," it would not be in keeping with this image to reveal the
horror Olsen and Blood endured in their hands. It is not surprising, then,
that the Vietnamese have not publicly told their stories.

Olsen and Blood are among nearly 2500 Americans, including several
civilians, who are still unaccounted for, missing or prisoner from the
Vietnam war. Since the war ended, over 10,000 reports have been received
concerning these missing Americans which have convinced many authorities
that hundreds are still alive in communist hands. While Blood and Olsen may
not be among them, they went to Vietnam to help. They would not turn their
backs on their fellow man. Why has their own country turned its back on
them?

SOURCE: WE CAME HOME
copyright 1977 Captain and Mrs. Frederic A Wyatt (USNR Ret),
Barbara Powers Wyatt, Editor
P.O.W. Publications, 10250 Moorpark St., Toluca Lake, CA 91602
Text is reproduced as found in the original
publication (including date and spelling errors).
MICHAEL D. BENGE
Civilian
Captured: January 28, 1968
Released: March 5, 1973
From 1956 through 1959 I served in the Marine Corps. After I competed my tour
of duty, I returned  to Oregon State University and completed my studies in
Mechanical Technology in Agricultural Engineering. I served with the
International Volunteer Services (the forerunner of the Peace Corps), in
Vietnam from 1963 to 1965, as an advisor in education and agriculture. I
joined the Agency for International Development (AID), in January 1965 and
returned to Vietnam to work chiefly with the Montagnards (an aboriginal people
of the Malayan-Polynesian extraction living in the western highlands). Here I
acted as a civilian economic and community development advisor to the Darlac
province chief. During this period I  was named the adopted son of a tribal
chief and his wife. The brass bracelets given to me by the Montagnards were
removed when I was captured. However, since my return I am again wearing the
bracelets.
     
Three years later on January 28, 1968, while attempting to group people for
evacuation, I was captured by the North Vietnamese in South Vietnam. For five
silent years I endured forced marches through South Vietnam, Laos, and
Cambodia, into North Vietnam. I was tortured by the hands of the Communists
for my "bad attitude". While in captivity I was kept in solitary confinement
for 27 months. At intervals I was forced to maintain a difficult position on
my knees with my hands over my head for between 11 and 16 hours at a time. If
I dropped my hands I was beaten. While marching for several months, I had only
a small amount of rice and salt to eat. Perhaps once or twice a month I
received a tiny portion of  monkey or lizard meat. I ate anything I could pick
up or catch, small crabs, frogs, minnows, bugs, etc. If caught doing this I
was beaten so I swallowed them raw when no one was looking.
     
About two months after I was captured I came down with cerebral malaria.
During this period of  time  I was delirious for thirty-five days and suffered
periodic blindness. No medical assistance was offered. As a  result of
malnutrition, I began suffering from beri-beri, scurvy, jungle ulcers, loss of
hair, and loose teeth.  From 160 my weight decreased to less than 100 lbs. As
I marched through Cambodia and Laos I passed an endless stream of North
Vietnamese uniformed soldiers walking South and supplies being trucked from
Port of Sianookville, Cambodia and from Hanoi In Cambodia and Laos there were
rest camps every four hours along the trail flying the North Vietnamese flag.
     
The 85 men held captive with me would never had been taken prisoner if the
U.S. had struck the safe havens in Cambodia prior to the launching of the Tet
offensive in 1968. The only reason the P.O.W.'s  were released was because the
Americans eventually bombed Hanoi.  I was taken all the way to Hanoi. In the
early part of December 1969,1 spent about two months in  a camp in Laos
somewhere around Highway 9. I was then trucked into Hanoi and taken to a camp
outside of the city. At this location I was put into solitary confinement for
the next year, seeing no other American. I was kept in an isolation hut, where
they had sealed off all of the ventilation holes allowing no air. The walls
were painted black with coal dust and cement. There was no light. I had
contact with no one else. The room was filled with mosquitoes and flies. There
was one hole in the back of the hut which allowed little or no air to come in.
Only rats! And frequently I had eight or ten of them with me. My well was
right outside the hut. About fifteen yards uphill they had placed a cesspool.
Everytime it rained the water turned brown with pollution.
     
The free people of South Vietnam learned the nature of the North Vietnamese
communists in 1968  when they invaded Hue. The systematic massacre that
followed belied the N.V.A.'s persuasive propaganda. First they murdered
thousands on their lists of opponents or neutralists. Then they turned on the
pro-communists and student groups whom they did not consider reliable. Then as
they retreated they killed anyone they thought might have witnessed the
wholesale slaughter. Two missionaries, with whom I was imprisoned, told of
seeing six other missionaries, in Ban Me Thuot, gunned down in cold blood as
they emerged from bunkers with their hands over their heads. Two women
missionaries in Laos were tied inside grass huts by the NVA and burnt to
death. In another area three villages were overrun by the North Vietnamese and
they drove the women and children into a ditch and burnt them alive with
flame-throwers.
     
I was elated when I first learned of the peace talks. However, even with peace
and my return home I continue trying to awaken the people in the U.S. and
elsewhere about many facts of the Vietnam war.  I am very concerned about the
American, South Vietnamese and third country prisoners of war who are still
held by the North Vietnamese. We have documented proof of 53 Americans whom
the North Vietnamese had captured and used for propaganda purposes. There has
been no accounting of them on any of the POW or MIA lists. I feel that the
North Vietnamese may use the remaining prisoners to justify to their people
their claim of winning the war.
     
I am happy to have been home to rejoin my mother, father, and sister even for
such a short period of time. At present I am still a bachelor and have
returned to college in the Philippines for my M.S. degree in community
development. I returned to South Vietnam for four months to see my many
friends. I shall again return to work again with the Montagnards in Vietnam if
"The Tide Doesn't Turn Red." Unlike many others, my going to Vietnam wasn't
just "Doing My Thing". I still feel that I have a commitment. A commitment
that "they too might have the freedom of choice, of beliefs and political
alternatives."
     
It was great to return to America and be back in a country, even with all its
social ills, where one can enjoy the freedom of speech, the freedom of
thought, and the freedom of political choice in the free world, things that
are unknown to those, still in the lands where I was held as a POW.





Tuesday, February 27, 2018

Congressional Actions



H. RES. 129 PASSES HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES:

H. RES. 129 PASSES HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES:  On February 12th, the US House of Representatives passed this important resolution by a vote of 411 – 0, sending a unified message to the American people – including our Armed Forces serving today and our veterans, as well as foreign nations.  Introduced by Representative Sam Johnson (R-TX), a returned POW from the Vietnam War, His strong message on the Floor of the House occurred almost precisely 45 years after he and America’s other returned POWs were released from many years of captivity in Vietnam.  Passage of this resolution reflects true bipartisan, non-political support for the humanitarian accounting mission.

It is now the US Senate’s turn to act.  The identical measure was simultaneously introduced in the US Senate by Senator John S. McCain (R-AZ) as S. RES. 61.  Non-partisan, non-political passage by the US Senate would further reinforce our country’s support for achieving the fullest possible accounting for those who serve our nation – past, present and future.  That needs to happen quickly

CONTACT YOUR SENATORS TO URGE IMMEDIATE PASSAGE OF S. RES. 61.

115th CONGRESS
1st Session
S. RES. 61
 
 
  Calling on the Department of Defense, other elements of the Federal
      Government, and foreign governments to intensify efforts to
  investigate, recover, and identify all missing and unaccounted-for
                    personnel of the United States.

Write, call, or email congress urging bipartisan support for US priority on accounting for America’s unreturned veterans.
To find your Representative go to:

http://www.house.gov/representatives/
To find your Senator: 
https://www.senate.gov/general/contact_information/senators_cfm.cfm