|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
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
| 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
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
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
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 ...