I wrote this book so my two sons and six grandchildren would have a permanent record of my experience in Vietnam. I also wrote it to counter what I believed our government wanted the world and the American people to believe about Prisoner of War treatment in North Vietnam during the Vietnam War. Our government and the senior American POWs wanted all to believe that our treatment was the worst treatment ever of POWs in a war. They wanted the world and the American people to believe this, because they wanted the communists to look bad. Many of our senior officers fought during the Korean War and believed that communism was worse than the devil himself. If you compare our treatment in North Vietnam to the treatment of POWs in other wars, including our own civil war, you will discover that the North Vietnamese treated us comparatively well.
I have always said that the POW experience in North Vietnam was harder on our families than it was on us. We knew that we were getting our two slops and a flop every day. Our families knew nothing. When I came home, my father looked one hundred years old. He was fifty-seven! The Vietnam POW experience destroyed him. My mother could not eat a steak for six years because she did not know if the North Vietnamese gave me enough to eat!
I recommend that you read the afterword of this book first because, I talk about the treatment of POWs in all wars, and I talk about current events and the wars related to American foreign policy today. The afterword is where I get to express myself about POWs, American foreign policy, American domestic policy, and current American wars. I needed to do this because when I came home from Vietnam the Navy did not allow me to express my thoughts on the Vietnam War, because I did not agree with our government or the other senior American POWs. In fact, I wrote a book about my experience and the Navy did not allow me to publish it, while at the same time they let other POWs publish their books. The books that senior American POWs and other POWs wrote supported the propaganda that our government and those senior POWs wanted the world to hear. They wanted the world and the American people to believe the worst about the treatment of POWs in North Vietnam.
Finally, I felt I had an obligation to tell the American people and the world that all is not what it seems, especially when it comes to American political and military leadership. Many American military and political leaders knew that the Vietnam War was a loser but did not say anything publically because they did not want to destroy their careers. In other words, those American leaders cared more about their own careers than about young Americans dying on the battlefield. At the same time those same military and political leaders attempted to demean and discredit those brave and courageous Americans who publically opposed the Vietnam War including Jane Fonda. Thank the Lord for those brave Americans. If it weren’t for them, I and the other POWs would still be sitting in a North Vietnamese prison camp!
Title: UNEXPECTED PRISONER: Memoir of a Vietnam Prisoner of War
Author: Robert Wideman
Publisher: Graham Publishing Group
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About the Book:
When Unexpected Prisoner opens, it’s May 6, 1967 and 23-year-old Lieutenant Robert Wideman is flying a Navy A-4 Skyhawk over Vietnam. At 23, Wideman had already served three and a half years in the Navy—and was only 27 combat days away from heading home to America. But on that cloudless day in May, on a routine bombing run, Wideman’s plane crashed and he fell into enemy hands. Captured and held for six years as a Prisoner of War in Vietnam, Wideman endured the kind of pain that makes people question humanity. Physical torture, however, was not the biggest challenge he was forced to withstand. In his candid memoir, Unexpected Prisoner, Wideman details the raw, unvarnished tale of how he came to understand the truth behind Jean-Paul Sartre’s words: “Hell is other people.”
A gripping, first-person account that chronicles the six-year period Wideman spent in captivity as a POW, Unexpected Prisoner plunges readers deep into the heart of one of the most protracted, deadliest conflicts in American history: the Vietnam War. Wideman, along with acclaimed memoirist Cara Lopez Lee, has crafted a story that is exquisitely engaging, richly detailed, and wholly captivating. Unexpectedly candid and vibrantly vivid, this moving memoir chronicles a POW’s struggle with enemies and comrades, Vietnamese interrogators and American commanders, lost dreams, and ultimately, himself.
With its eye-opening look at a soldier’s life before, during and after captivity, Unexpected Prisoner presents a uniquely human perspective on war and on conflicts both external and internal. An exceptional story exceptionally well-told, Unexpected Prisoner is a powerful, poignant, often provocative tale about struggle, survival, hope, and redemption.
About the Author:
Robert Wideman was born in Montreal, grew up in East Aurora, New York, and has dual U.S./Canadian citizenship. During the Vietnam War, he flew 134 missions for the U.S. Navy and spent six years as a prisoner of war. Wideman earned a master’s degree in finance from the Naval Postgraduate School. After retiring from the Navy, he graduated from the University of Florida College of Law, practiced law in Florida and Mississippi, and became a flight instructor. Robert Wideman holds a commercial pilot’s license with an instrument rating, belongs to Veterans Plaza of Northern Colorado, and lives in Ft. Collins near his two sons and six grandchildren.