Seaman Apprentice Doug Hegdahl

Seaman Apprentice Doug Hegdahl

Taken from War History Online

 

Man Overboard

20-year-old Doug Hegdahl only wanted to see the world that was why he signed up for the US Navy but then, fate had other plans.

A few months after joining, Doug found himself on the gun line of USS Canberra off North Vietnam. The night of April 6, 1967 saw the cruiser shelling North Vietnam and in a bid to get a clearer view of the bombardment, Doug went above deck and was blown overboard by a 5-inch gun mount blast.

USS CanberraUSS Canberra

He stayed afloat South China Sea for about 12 hours until some Cambodian fishermen spotted him and fished him out of the water. The fishermen who found him treated him kindly but when he was turned over to Vietnamese militiamen, they clubbed him repeatedly with their rifles before taking him to the infamous Hanoi Hilton prison camp.

Meanwhile, his shipmates failed to report him going missing for two days in a bid to cover him. Because their commanding officer was left in the dark about Doug Hegdahl going overboard, nobody looked for him.

The Incredibly Stupid One

Initially, his Vietnamese captors believed Doug Hegdahl to be a commando or an agent as his story about being blown overboard was too far-fetched for them. The US Navy apprentice soon realized the he would be better off if he played the “fool” card so . . . he did.

It took a few days of slapping before he convinced his captors he was nothing but an illiterate, foolish US Navy apprentice who had little value to them. His bumpkin attitude, his youthfulness and his country accent did the trick.

US Navy apprentice Doug hegdahl was only 20 when he entered the Navy in a bid to see the world.US Navy apprentice Doug hegdahl was only 20 when he entered the Navy in a bid to see the world.

When his captors asked him to write anti-US statements, Doug Hegdahl agreed to do so but added that he couldn’t read or write. Seeing him as someone they could manipulate for their own interest, the Vietnamese militiamen assigned someone to teach him how to read.

But after many attempts, they gave up perceiving Hegdahl as a lost cause as he appeared to be too stupid to learn. Ultimately, Dough Hegdahl was given the moniker The Incredibly Stupid One.

Sabotage

It wasn’t long after Doug’s arrival in the prison camp when fellow POWs saw his potential. Not only was he able to play the “fool” card very convincingly, he was also able to do small acts of sabotage. On top of that, Doug Hegdahl had a very impressive memory.

With the help of US Air Force officer and fellow POW, Joe Crecca, Doug Hegdahl was able to memorize the names, other personal information as well as capture dates and methods of capture of some 256 fellow POWs to the tune of the old nursery rhyme Old McDonald Had A Farm.

Among the small acts of sabotage he did was putting small amount of dirt in the gas tanks of five trucks. After he was finished with them, all the five vehicles had to be towed out of the prison compound.

Another prison feat Doug Hegdahl did, as shared by his cellmate and senior officer Lieutenant Commander Richard Stratton, was when he was able to convince his captors he was in need of a new pair of glass. When they did take him to Hanoi for the fitting, the US Navy apprentice went on to memorize the route they took from the prison camp to the city.

Release

Doug Hegdahl was one of the three POWs released from Hanoi on August 5, 1969. Very convinced of his “illiterate fool” act, his captors believed that releasing him – a propaganda move for the North Vietnamese – would do them no harm. On the other hand, fellow POWs – who initially made a pact not to accept early releases – saw a great advantage if Doug Hegdahl was indeed released earlier.

“You are the most junior. You have the names. You know first hand the torture stories behind many of the propaganda pictures and news releases. You know the locations of many of the prisons,” his cellmate Dick Stratton told him.

However, Doug was reluctant to accept the early release his captors were offering him. He feared that coming home early would result in his being dishonored from service. In the end, Stratton had to directly order him to comply with the early release.

Fighting Without Bullets

And how right his fellow POWs were in making Doug Hegdahl an exception to the pact they made about early releases!

The information Doug had etched in his memory with the help of a nursery rhyme proved to be very valuable that Ross Perot sent him to Paris to confront the North Vietnamese Peace Talk Delegation about the fate of those servicemen who went missing in action.

Doug Hegdahl memorized many names of servicemen that the government did not have. Furthermore, he was a firsthand witness of the brutalities that occurred inside the prison camps where the POWs were interred. These brutalities were largely unknown, kept in secret until the US Navy apprentice brought them out to the light.

doug-hegdahl

In the end, Doug Hegdahl fought the Vietnam War but not with bullets. He was able to make a very important strike against the enemy without ever firing a gun.

Post Vietnam War

After returning to the United States, Doug Hegdahl became a Survival School instructor for the US Navy’s SERE [Survival, Evasion, Resistance and Escape]. He teaches in the institution until today.

And of course, he can still memorize the wealth of information he committed to memory some four or five decades ago using the tune of Old McDonald Had A Farm.

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Hallmark doesn’t make a card for Sea Daddys. (But maybe they should)

theleansubmariner

Warning: Some salty language may have snuck past the censors

There was a Navy training film many years ago called “The Lost Sailor”.

The idea behind the film was for Navy leaders to recognize all the things that could go wrong with a young sailor when they first report on board a ship or submarine. The newly arriving boot was probably fresh from school and this was his first assignment at sea. He reports on board and suddenly gets disillusioned when everyone is too busy to pay any attention to him. In fact, the sailor that ultimately takes him to his berthing assignment is a sub-standard sailor who is only available for such duty because he is on restriction. It doesn’t take long for the squared away recruit to turn into a derelict just like his “mentor”. The entire film is based around leaders not letting this kind of thing happen…

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The Restless Wave

The Restless Wave

By CPO1 Jim Hunt CD, (Retired)

Royal Canadian Navy

“When I go down to the ocean

I watch the restless wave

It is nature’s only tombstone

In memory of the brave

Beneath the ocean’s surface

In the dark and silent deep

In God’s hands are the heroes

For whom our hearts still weep

The years have passed so quickly

But my vigil I still keep

They are not dead but resting

In the ocean fast asleep

There are no special markers

In this graveyard far from shore

Just restless waves above them

For now and evermore.”

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Excellent leadership isn’t hard… but it can be difficult.

theleansubmariner

Excellent leadership isn’t hard… but it can be difficult.

There are probably hundreds of thousands of books on leadership written in every language on earth. In these books you will find words like “character”, “strength”, “wisdom”, and any number of words that define what competencies a leader should possess.

What makes an excellent leader?

It is always great to observe the rare occasion when all of the core competencies come together in a person that make them the one people choose to follow. This can happen regardless of their age, sex, race, background, or physique. They just managed to build the needed skills and competencies that help them to offer a path forward for the group they are leading. They are the ones who found the North Star, understood its significance, and show others the way to use that guiding element for success.

I have observed good and bad leaders…

View original post 900 more words

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Lt. Collins Flag Day Speech

Lt Collins’ Flag Day Speech

(from “The Sand Pebbles”)

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As I’m sure most of you know, today is Flag Day, a day meant to honor the United States flag and to commemorate the Flag’s adoption.

Unfortunately, it is apparently more popular now to stomp on or burn the Flag, or not to fly it, because it may offend some fringe group or other…

The United States Flag is the third oldest of the National Standards of the world; older than the Union Jack of Britain or the Tricolor of France.

The flag was first authorized by Congress June 14, 1777. This date is now observed as Flag Day throughout America.

The flag was first flown from Fort Stanwix, on the site of the present city of Rome, New York, on August 3, 1777. It was first under fire for three days later in the Battle of Oriskany, August 6, 1777.

It was first decreed that there should be a star and a stripe for each state, making thirteen of both; for the states at the time had just been erected from the original thirteen colonies. The colors of the Flag may be thus explained: The red is for valor, zeal and fervency; the white for hope purity, cleanliness of life, and rectitude of conduct; the blue, the color of heaven, for reverence to God, loyalty, sincerity, justice and truth. The star (an ancient symbol of India, Persia and Egypt) symbolized dominion and sovereignty, as well as lofty aspirations. The constellation of the stars within the union, one star for each state, is emblematic of our Federal Constitution, which reserves to the States their individual sovereignty except as to rights delegated by them to the Federal Government.

The symbolism of the Flag was thus interpreted by Washington: “We take the stars from Heaven, the red from our mother country, separating it by white stripes, thus showing that we have separated from her, and the white stripes shall go down to posterity representing Liberty.”

The following speech from a movie is appropriate for today’s Blog post. There are many Americans who respect and honor the flag, who get a tightness in the chest, and watery eyes when we they see the Stars and Stripes proudly flying from the yardarm of a Ship of War, or raised on the flagpole in some foreign land.

So this post is for those of you who are currently serving, have served, or who just respect and honor the Flag and what it stands for…

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“Today we begin cruising to show the flag on Tungting Lake and the Hunan Rivers. I want all honors rendered smartly.

At home in America, when today reaches them it will be Flag Day. For us who wear the uniform every day is Flag Day.

It is said that there will be no more wars. We must pretend to believe that.

But when war comes, it is we who will take the first shock, and buy time with our lives. It is we who keep the Faith…

We serve the Flag. The trade we all follow is the give and take of death.

It is for that purpose that the people of America maintain us. And anyone of us who believes he has a job like any other, for which he draws a money wage, is a thief of the food he eats, and a trespasser in the bunk in which he lies down to sleep.”—Lt. Collins

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Big Orange

Big Orange

By: Garland Davis

I was killed in the Nam,

My name does not adorn that wall,

I have not yet died, I still live and,

Walk the streets among you,

I was not killed by the Cong,

My country killed me instead,

There should be a wall with names of,

Those whose deaths attribute to the agent,

Known among us as Orange.

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Ten Commandments of the Flight Deck

Ten Commandments of the Flight Deck

An old Chief Aviation Boatswain’s Mate named Mose led his people out upon the flight deck. He bade them wait patiently while he climbed the mountain known as the island to confer with the Gods. After forty minutes he returned with the Ten Commandments of the Flight Deck etched in a wheel book:

TEN COMMANDMENTS OF THE FLIGHT DECK

I. THOU SHALT NEVER VENTURE UPON THE ROOF DURING FLIGHT OPS UNLESS ABSOLUTELY NECESSARY, FOR THOU KNOWEST IT IS THE MOST DANGEROUS PLACE ON THE SEA.

II. THOU SHALT CARE FOR AND MONITOR DAILY THE STATUS OF THY FLIGHT DECK GEAR AS IF THY LIFE DEPENDED ON IT, FOR IT DOES.

III. THOU SHALT ALWAYS ENDEAVOR TO KEEP THY HEAD ON A SWIVEL, LEST THE TOMCAT’S TAIL OR THE CORSAIR’S MOUTH HURT THEE BADLY.

IV. THOU SHALT NEVER BE WITHOUT THY FLASHLIGHT AT NIGHT.

V. THOU SHALT NEVER WALK OR CRAWL UNDER AN UP TAILHOOK.

VI. THOU SHALT CARRY THE GOSPEL TO ALL ENDS OF THE SHIP THAT THE PORT CATWALK IS A NO-MAN’S-LAND DURING LAUNCHES AND RECOVERIES.

VII. THOU SHALT NOT ANGER THE HANDLER, NOR THE FLIGHT DECK OFFICER, NOR THE CATAPULT OFFICER, NOR THE ARRESTING GEAR OFFICER, NOR THE AIR BOS’N, NOR ANYONE THAT IS A SERVANT OF THE AIR BOSS.

VIII. THOU SHALT FOREVER RECOGNIZE THY RESPONSIBILITY, REGARDLESS OF PAY GRADE, TO DISPLAY COMMON SENSE AND A LITTLE INITIATIVE WHENEVER THOU OBSERVETH A SAFETY VIOLATION IN PROGRESS.

IX. THOU SHALT ALWAYS BE VIGILANT AGAINST THY INCESSANT ENEMIES: COMPLACENCY, EXPEDIENCY, IGNORANCE, FATIGUE, AND F.O.D.

X. THOU SHALT NEVER FORGET THAT THE BOTTOM LINE IS TO PROTECT THE NATIONAL INTERESTS OF OUR COUNTRY.

Carry out these commandments all your tour on the roof and thou shalt live a long and fruitful life.

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