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Texas veteran shot down in Vietnam on 7 decades as POW at ‘Hanoi Hilton’ jail camp: ‘You maintain faith’

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Five many years ago, Col. James Lamar was participating in poker against fellow prisoners of war with cards designed of bathroom paper and chips manufactured of matchsticks at the “Hanoi Hilton” in North Vietnam on the tail close of his almost 7-12 months stint at the infamous jail camp. 

Nowadays, 94-yr-old Lamar enjoys taking part in Texas Hold ’em from a rotating forged of higher education learners, tech bros, retirees and fellow veterans who recurrent Texas Card House in the condition capital of Austin. 

Lamar in-depth the working day he acquired shot down in Vietnam and his expertise as a prisoner of war in an job interview with Online News 72h Electronic at the card house. 

Col. James Lamar in the 1950s when he was a pilot teacher at an Air Drive foundation in Arizona. 
(Online News 72h Electronic)

Lamar joined the Air Pressure in 1948 just after a few many years in the Naval Reserve and accomplished pilot teaching in 1949. He was deployed to a fighter squadron in Japan just ahead of the Korean War broke out and flew 100 beat missions in that conflict in 1950-51. 

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Right after returning from Korea, Lamar served in several pilot instructor roles prior to deploying to Thailand at the commence of the Vietnam War. 

“When we bought the news that we ended up heading to go, I bought an quick premonition that some thing was likely to come about to me — I would be shot down, killed, prisoner — I did not know what, but I knew something undesirable was going to materialize,” Lamar stated. 

Col. James Lamar shares his story with Online News 72h Digital at Texas Card House in Austin, Texas. 

Col. James Lamar shares his story with Online News 72h Digital at Texas Card Dwelling in Austin, Texas. 
(Online News 72h Electronic)

Absolutely sure more than enough, on Lamar’s 101st mission in North Vietnam on May perhaps 6, 1965, he was shot down all through a bombing run about a railroad garden.

“We got to our concentrate on space, I was the very first 1 to go in,” Lamar mentioned. “I pulled up to 12,000 toes, rolled in excess of, and when I was headed down, I would like to have been some spot else, due to the fact the flak (anti-plane fireplace) was just a good layer beneath me. As I dive by means of it — growth — I bought hit, my plane acquired hit in the fuselage ahead of the cockpit, but there was an fast fireplace in the cockpit.”

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Lamar pulled out of his dive and began jinking aspect-to-facet to stay clear of further more anti-aircraft fire, then radioed his team to explain to them that he was heading to a safe bailout location about 50 miles away. 

Two F-84 jet fighters, one of the many planes Lamar flew in his three-decade military career, fly overhead in this 1958 file photo. 

Two F-84 jet fighters, just one of the many planes Lamar flew in his 3-10 years armed service job, fly overhead in this 1958 file image. 
(Denver Publish via Getty Photos)

“Quickly following I reported that, there came the incredibly energized voice of my No. 4 guy, who yelled at me, ‘Get out, guide, you have acquired a big fire going,'” Lamar recalled. 

“So I just reached for the handles … the still left just one, the cover went, and the ideal one particular, I went. A person dilemma, the handbook on the aircraft explained do not eject over 525 knots, nautical miles for every hour. If you do, all kinds of bad issues can occur. Properly, the past time I saw the airspeed tape, just ahead of I still left that cockpit, it was going quickly by means of 700 knots. So I ejected at above the velocity of sound.”

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Lamar woke up with a damaged arm and his parachute hanging from a tree. A group of Vietnamese peasants inevitably found him and took him to a armed service publish to flip him above to the North Vietnamese army, which tortured him and attempted in vain to get Lamar to entice other fighter pilots into an ambush. 

American POW soldiers inside their jail cell at the Hanoi Hilton prior to their release in 1973 in Hanoi, Vietnam.  

American POW soldiers inside of their jail mobile at the Hanoi Hilton prior to their launch in 1973 in Hanoi, Vietnam.  
(David Hume Kennerly/Getty Pictures)

Soon after failing to get any information out of Lamar, the soldiers took him to Hỏa Lò Prison, which People prisoners of war facetiously identified as the “Hanoi Hilton,” exactly where he would spend just about 7 yrs. 

In the course of the initially number of yrs in the jail camp, his captors subjected him to a variety of degrees of psychological and bodily abuse, but the Americans figured out that they could safely and securely connect all around lunchtime when the guards took a split. 

“1 day in our noon conversation, I explained to the men that I’m very frustrated. What do you do to fight depression? Jerry Denton (another prisoner of war) reported, ‘I’ll tell you what you do, Jim. You pray. You maintain faith in God, your state and your family. And then you live each individual working day, a person day at a time. Which is the way you get by way of,'” Lamar recalled. 

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“And he was proper. My melancholy lifted, and I begun living just one working day at a time. And that’s how I went by means of the whole 2,400 and some odd times.”

Lamar was eventually released Feb. 12, 1973 with many hundred other prisoners of war in Operation Homecoming. 

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