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Short Story: The Nightmare of a Prisoner of War
Beatty Secondary School
     
Air sirens wailed loudly for the fourth time this month. Everyone scrambled for their protective suits and masks. I had mine on in 28 seconds, 7 seconds faster than my last attempt. Then it was everyone for himself to the underground bunker. Within 6 months, an announcement came through the speakers – another Scud bits the dust. The Patriots had done their job. All cheers rang out and I heaved a relief.

It has been 21 days since the allies made their first air raid into enemy territory but the enemy was still holding out no signs of negotiation from either side.



But deep down inside, I knew it was silent prayers for all. I reached for my lucky dime in my breast pocket and ...

79th Tactical Bomber squadron was among the first to be ordered into action. Our mission to conduct low altitude bombing of suspected enemy entrenchments and hide – outs. Our tornadoes have flew over 300 sorties. So far, we have been lucky, no causalities yet in our squadron. The others haven’t been so lucky. Still, I couldn’t help wondering … will our luck hold out?

Tuesday, 0800 hours. 79th Squadron was scheduled to conduct a heavy aerial bombardment of a suspected enemy stronghold – well dug-in troop entrenchments. After a thorough briefing by our mission commander, we headed towards our tornadoes parked nearby in sleek formation on the runway.

Our aircrews have just completed their routine aircraft tune up, and bombs and missiles have been fixed under the wings. As usual my wingman, Vinnie, patted my arm and I gave him my good old jab-in-the arm. But deep down inside, I knew it as silent prayers for all. I reached for my lucky dime in my breast pocket and rubbed it.

It was already 0925 when we taxied the runway. Within 8 minutes we were all airborne at 20,000 feet and ready to carry out our mission. Visibility was good.
“Today is gonna to be a good hunt”, I said to myself. At Mach 1.1 supersonic speed, we zoomed in on our target area at low altitude, closely hugging the contours to avoid radar and anti-aircraft detection. At about 5 miles to our target grid, we began our individual aerial runs, two planes at each go.

As far as I could see after my third run, we had leveled the entire area by the time our wing commander signalled the squadron to regroup. There was little resistance from the enemy – only sporadic anti- aircraft fire that were mostly off target. I radioed Vinnie, who was supposed to be behind me, but there was no reply. Funny, I thought to myself. Why didn’t he answer?


But I was wrong. I had actually landed right into a camouflaged enemy troop hide-out!


When he did not reply the second time I radioed him, I figured something was wrong. I turned my plane around and circled back to see if Vinnie’s tornado was still in sight. At this moment, a funny feeling suddenly came over me. Before I knew it, warning lights flashed across on my radar screen. SAMS! A heat – seeking surface-to-air was locked onto my plane. I tried evasive manoeuvres immediately but too late, the missile was too close and it slammed my starboard wing 2 seconds later. The plane broke into a spiral spin. Instinctively, I ejected.

I thought if I could parachute myself into a gorge I spotted earlier, I could escape enemy detection for a while. But I was wrong. I had actually landed right into a camouflaged enemy troop hide-out! I had no chance of escape and they caught me the moment I landed. The next thing I knew, my hands and legs were tied and a sack put over my head. Kicks rained on me from all over. Before I knew, I had passed out.

Sometime later, when it was dark, I was blind-folded, put on a truck and driven to another place. It was a long, rough journey but I sensed that they were deliberately making a lot of detours, perhaps to avoid detection. All these while, I still clutched my lucky dime, hoping that someone will spot us.


They clammed his hands using an extremely large pair of clams. He screamed like a madman.


Soon, I was dragged into a small room where I was interrogated by a person who seemed to be a high ranking officer. He wanted to know specifically where allied troop positions were but I stubbornly feigned ignorance. All I offered was my rank, name and pilot’s identification serial number. He was furious and slapped me repeatedly. But at least he didn’t get anything from me ... yet.

I was put into a cage with a few other American prisoners-of-war. For the next 33 days, we were family, and they were all I had.

Friday morning. One prisoner was taken out and tortured in front of us. Two soldiers held him down while the third used a pair of pliers to pull out his nails. I will never forget the screams that followed. He was punched and kicked until he was bled from his nose and mouth. When they used electric prods on him, white foam gushed out of his mouth. It was a gross sight and we were all visibly shaken. He was almost dead when they threw him back into the cage. And that was only the beginning.

Another prisoner was randomly taken. This time we made a lot of noise but it was to no avail. We were butted in our faces when we tried to resist. They clammed his hands using an extremely large pair of clams. He screamed like a madman. I turned away. The sight was too much for me to take. Silently, I said my prayers for the poor soul.

After being scorched repeatedly with lighted cigarettes, the interrogators shoved his head into a barrel of water. The sadists laughed devishly while we all looked on in naked horror. After what seemed to be eternity, they let him up. He was choking and gasping for air, barely alive.

The poor soul didn’t make it the second time. I felt rage burning inside of me. What insanity, what inhumanity!

That night, my whole world flashed in front of me. Lisa, my wife. Tommy, my six-year-old son who had just started Elementary school and little Vicky, only three. I could still see their faces at the sending off. – Lisa in my arms, Tommy and Vicky yelling “Daddy, Daddy, come home quick.”Oh god, what will they be without me. Tears trickled down uncontrollably. I took out my lucky dime …

Thursday, 10 days since my capture. I was summoned out by name. Fear gripped me but I did not resist. The others looked at me, no words, only pain, sorrow and worry in their eyes.


That night, my whole world flashed in front of me. Lisa, my wife. Tommy, my six-year-old son who had just started Elementary school and little Vicky, only three.


I was asked to cooperate in a simple propaganda ploy – denounce the allied invasion as unjustified, unlawful and evil while they video – taped me. It was a stupid ploy, I had blue-black bruises all over my body, including my face. Nevertheless, I cooperated. A dead hero was not what I had in mind.

13 days later, in an abrupt turn or events, the allies scored successive victories and the combined land forces were rapidly closing in on key cities including the capital city. Enemy soldiers started surrendering in massive numbers and desertion was like a disease. We could see that our captors were heavily demoralised. They started to treat us better but that did not take away the hate and anger we felt towards them.

Day 33. A group of soldiers came in with a set of dull-grey clothing.

“Put these on, all of you are going to be released.” The leader said.


Back home, I was given a hero’s welcome. Lisa was the first in my arms, her tears streaming down her slender cheeks. It never felt so good to be with loved ones .... A family together at last!

We couldn’t believe what we heard. I even thought that it was another of their ploys. But later, when soldier brought us a radio and tuned it to a BBC broadcast channel, we realized that the allies had already won the battle and the enemy had agreed to an unconditional surrender, including an unconditional release of all prisoners-of-war. We were finally going to be FREE ...

Back home, I was given a hero’s welcome. Lisa was the first in my arms, her tears streaming down her slender cheeks. It never felt so good to be with your loved ones. Together with Tommy and Vicky, we hugged around each other. A family together at last!

My story was told and retold a thousand times. But each time I tell my story, the pain come rushing back fast and furious. I seem to be reliving the nightmare again. The anger, the fear, the insanity of it all. What has become of humanity?

I fear the memories will remain for a very long time but Lisa and the children are with me. I am continuing my life where I left it before this nightmare, but there are some things that will never be the same. I’ll never touch a pair of pliers again as long as I live ...
     

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