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The real Dieter Dengler story (Not MooseShit's bullshit)!
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Dieter Dengler (May 22, 1938 – February 7, 2001) was a United States
Navy pilot during the Vietnam War. He was one of the two survivors
(the other being Pisidhi Indradat), out of seven, to escape from a
Pathet Lao prison camp in Laos. He was rescued after 23 days on the
run.[1]


[edit] Family and early life
Dieter Dengler grew up in the small town of Wildberg in the Black
Forest region of Germany. He was very close to his mother and
brothers. Dengler did not know his father, who was killed while
serving in the Wehrmacht during World War II. His grandfather was
declared a political enemy of the Nazis for being the only citizen in
his town who did not vote for Hitler. Dengler later credited his
grandfather's resolve as a major inspiration during his time in Laos.
His grandfather's steadfastness, despite great danger, was one reason
Dengler refused to sign a document decrying American aggression in
Southeast Asia, presented to him by the North Vietnamese after his
crash.

Dengler's first experience with aircraft came when he was very young
and witnessed enemy allied aircraft flying over his town from his
bedroom window. From that moment, he wanted to be a pilot. He became
an apprentice in a local machine shop, but after seeing an ad in an
American magazine expressing a need for pilots, he decided to go to
the United States. Although a family friend agreed to sponsor him, he
lacked money for passage and came up with a scheme to steal and
scrounge brass and other metals to sell.

When he turned 18 and upon completion of his apprenticeship, he
hitchhiked to Hamburg and set sail for New York City with the dream of
becoming a pilot. He lived off the streets of Manhattan for just over
a week and eventually found his way to an Air Force recruiter. He was
assured that piloting aircraft was what the Air Force was all about,
so he enlisted and in June 1957, went to basic training at Lackland
AFB in San Antonio, Texas. After basic, Dengler was initially assigned
duty as a motor pool mechanic. His qualifications as a machinist led
to an assignment as a gunsmith. He took and passed the test for
aviation cadets, but his enlistment expired before he was selected for
pilot training.

After his discharge he joined his brother in a bakery shop near San
Francisco and enrolled in San Francisco City College, then transferred
to College of San Mateo where he studied aeronautics. Upon completion
of two years of college, he applied for the US Navy aviation cadet
program and was accepted. After completion of flight training he went
to Naval Air Station Corpus Christi, Texas for training as an attack
pilot in the Douglas AD Skyraider. He joined VA-145 while the squadron
was on shore duty at Naval Air Station Alameda, California. In 1965
the squadron joined the carrier USS Ranger. In December the carrier
set sail for the coast of Vietnam, stationed initially at Dixie
Station off South Vietnam, then moving north to Yankee Station for
operations against North Vietnam.

[edit] Shot down

A Navy AD Skyraider from VA-15 catches a wire during carrier
operations.On February 1, 1966, the day after the carrier began flying
missions from Yankee Station, Lieutenant, Junior Grade Dengler
launched from Ranger with three other aircraft on an interdiction
mission against a truck convoy that had been reported in North
Vietnam. Thunderstorms forced the flight to divert to their secondary
target, a road intersection located west of the Mu Gia Pass in Laos.
At the time, U.S. air operations in Laos were classified "secret."
Visibility was poor due to smoke from burning fields, and upon rolling
in on the target, LTJG Dengler and the remainder of his flight lost
sight of one another. Dengler was the last man in and was hit by anti-
aircraft fire. He managed to crash-land his Skyraider in Laos.

When his squadron mates realized that he had been downed, they
remained confident that he would be rescued. Dengler had a reputation
from his experiences at the Navy survival school, where he had escaped
from the mock-POW camp run by SERE instructors and Marine guards three
times. He had also set a record as the only student to actually gain
weight during the course — his childhood experiences made him unafraid
of eating whatever he could find and he had feasted on garbage.
Unfortunately, immediately after he was shot down, he smashed his
survival radio and hid most of his survival equipment to keep the
enemy from finding it. When a rescue helicopter came near the next
day, he had no means with which to signal it. He tried not to be seen
as much as possible but the day after he was shot down he was spotted
by Pathet Lao guerrillas and captured. At the prison camp to which he
was taken, he met Duane W. Martin, Eugene DeBruin, Prasit Thanee, Y.C.
To, Pisidhi Indradat, and Prasit Promsuwan.

[edit] Evasion, captivity and rescue
This article reads more like a story than an encyclopedia entry. To
meet Wikipedia's quality standards and conform with our Neutral Point
of View policy, please help to introduce a more formal style and
remove any personally invested tone. (December 2007)

[edit] Capture
The day after being shot down, Lt. Dengler was apprehended by Pathet
Lao troops. Bound, he was led through several villages. Escaping once
he failed to signal a passing aircraft. He was later recaptured while
drinking from a spring. In retaliation, he was tortured numerous ways
while in captivity.

[edit] POW camp
Dengler was eventually brought to a prison camp near the village of
Par Kung where he met other POWs. The other six prisoners were:

Pisidhi Indradat (Thai)
Prasit Promsuwan (Thai)
Prasit Thanee (Thai)
Y.C. To (Chinese)
Duane W. Martin (American)
Eugene DeBruin (American)
Except for Martin, who was an Air Force helicopter pilot who had been
shot down in North Vietnam nearly a year before, the other prisoners
were civilians employed by Air America, a civilian airline owned by
the Central Intelligence Agency. The civilians had been in Pathet Lao
hands for over two and a half years when Dengler joined them. The day
he arrived in the camp, Dengler advised the other prisoners that he
intended to escape and invited them to join him. They advised that he
wait until the monsoon season when there would be plenty of water.
Shortly after Dengler arrived, the prisoners were moved to a new camp
ten miles away at Hoi Het. After the move, a strong debate ensued
among the prisoners, with Dengler, Martin and Prasit arguing for
escape which the other prisoners, particularly Indradat, initially
opposed. One of the Thais heard the guards discussing the possibility
of shooting them in the jungle and making it look like an escape
attempt. With that revelation, everyone agreed and a date to escape
was set. Their plan was to take over the camp and signal a C-130
Hercules flareship that made nightly visits to the vicinity. Dengler
loosened logs under the hut that allowed the prisoners to squeeze
through. The plan was for him to go out when the guards were eating
and seize their weapons and pass them to Indradat and Promsuwan while
Martin and DeBruin procured others from other locations.

[edit] Escape
On June 29, 1966, while the guards were eating, the group slipped out
of their hand and foot restraints and grabbed the guards' unattended
weapons, which included M1 rifles, Chinese automatic rifles, an
American carbine and at least one submachinegun. Dengler went out
first followed by two of the Thais. He went to the guard hut and
seized an M1 for himself, and passed two Chinese automatic rifles to
the Thais. The guards realized the prisoners had escaped and five of
them rushed toward Dengler, who shot at least three with the M1. One
of the Thais shot a popular guard in the leg. Two others ran off,
presumably to get help, although at least one had been wounded. The
seven prisoners split into three groups. DeBruin was originally
supposed to go with Dengler and Martin but decided to go with To, who
was recovering from a fever and unable to keep up. They intended to
get over the nearest ridge and wait for rescue. Dengler and Martin
went off by themselves with the intention of heading for the Mekong
River to escape to Thailand, but they never got more than a few miles
from the camp from which they had escaped.

With the exception of Indradat, who was recaptured and later rescued
by Laotian troops, none of the other prisoners were ever seen again.
DeBruin was reportedly captured and placed in another camp, then
disappeared in 1968.

[edit] Rescue
Dengler and Martin found themselves in a jungle filled with leeches,
insects and other creatures that made life miserable. They made their
way down a creek and found a river, but when they thought they were on
their way to the Mekong, they discovered that they had gone around in
a circle. They had spotted several villages but had not been detected.
They set up camp in an abandoned village where they found shelter from
the nearly incessant rain. They had brought rice with them and found
other food, but were still on the verge of starvation. Their intent
had been to signal a C-130 but at first lacked the energy to build a
fire using primitive methods of rubbing bamboo together. Dengler
finally managed to locate carbine cartridges that Martin had thrown
away and used the powder from them to enhance the tinder, and got a
fire going. That night they lit torches and waved them in the shape of
an S and O when a C-130 came over. The airplane circled and dropped a
couple of flares and they were overjoyed, believing they had been
spotted. They woke up the next morning to find the landscape covered
by fog and drizzle, but when it lifted, no rescue force appeared.

The following day, they were demoralized after a rescue force did not
appear in response to their signal of the C-130 flareship. Martin, who
was weak from starvation and was suffering from malaria, wanted to
approach a nearby Akha village to steal some food. Dengler knew it was
not a good idea, but refused to let his friend go near the village
alone. They saw a little boy playing with a dog, and the child ran
into the village calling out "American!" Within seconds a villager
appeared and they knelt down on the trail in supplication, but the man
swung his machete and struck Martin in the leg. He swung again and hit
him behind the neck, killing him. Dengler jumped to his feet and
rushed toward the villager, who turned and ran into the village to get
help. Dengler managed to evade the searchers who went out after him
and escaped back into the jungle. He returned to an abandoned village
where the two had been spending their time and where he and Martin had
signaled a C-130. That night when a C-130 flareship came over, Dengler
set fire to the huts and burned the village down. The C-130 crew
spotted the fires and dropped flares, but even though the crew
reported their sighting when they returned to their base at Ubon,
Thailand, the fires were not recognized by intelligence as having been
a signal from a survivor. When a rescue force again failed to
materialize, Dengler decided to find one of the parachutes from a
flare for use as a possible signal. He found one on a bush and placed
it in his rucksack. On July 20, 1966, after 23 days in the jungle,
Dengler managed to signal an Air Force pilot with the parachute. A 2-
ship flight of Air Force Skyraiders from the 1st Air Commando Squadron
happened to fly up the river where Dengler was. Eugene Peyton
Deatrick, the pilot of the lead plane and the squadron commander,
spotted a flash of white while making a turn at the river's bend and
came back and spotted a man waving something white. Deatrick and his
wingman contacted rescue forces but were told to ignore the sighting,
as no airmen were known to be down in the area. Deatrick persisted and
eventually managed to convince the command and control center to
dispatch a rescue force. Fearing that Dengler might be a Viet Cong
soldier, the helicopter crew restrained him when he was brought
aboard.


Dengler after being rescuedAccording to the documentary, Little Dieter
Needs to Fly, Dengler said one of the flight crew who was holding him
down pulled out a half eaten snake from underneath Dengler's clothing
and was so surprised he nearly fell out of the helicopter. The person
who threw Dengler to the floor of the helicopter was Air Force
Pararescue specialist Michael Leonard from Lawler, Iowa. Leonard
stripped Dengler of his clothes, making sure he was not armed or in
possession of a hand grenade. When questioned, Dengler told Leonard
that he escaped from a North Vietnamese Prisoner of War camp two
months earlier. Deatrick radioed the rescue helicopter crew to see if
they could identify the person they had just hoisted up from the
jungle. They reported that they had a man who claimed to be a downed
Navy pilot who flew a Douglas A-1H Skyraider.

It wasn't until after he reached the hospital at Da Nang that
Dengler's identity was confirmed. A conflict between the Air Force and
the Navy developed over who should control his interrogation and
recovery. In an apparent attempt to prevent the Air Force from
embarrassing them in some way, the Navy sent a team of SEALs into the
hospital to literally steal Dengler. He was brought out of the
hospital in a covered gurney and rushed to the air field, where he was
placed aboard a Navy carrier delivery transport and flown to Ranger
where a welcoming party had been prepared. Deprivation from
malnutrition and parasites caused the Navy doctors to order that he be
airlifted to the United States.

[edit] Later life and death

Eugene Deatrick and Dieter Dengler, NAS Miramar, 1968. (USN
Photo)Dengler remained in the Navy for a year, was promoted to
Lieutenant, and was trained to fly jets. When his military obligation
was satisfied, he resigned from the Navy and applied for a position as
an airline pilot with Trans World Airlines. He continued flying and
survived four subsequent crashes as a civilian test pilot.[2]

In 1977, during a time when he was furloughed from TWA, Dengler
returned to Laos and was greeted as a celebrity by the Pathet Lao. He
was taken to the camp from which he had escaped and was surprised to
discover that at one point he and Martin had been within a mile and a
half of it. His fascination with airplanes and aviation continued for
the remainder of his life. He continued flying almost up until his
death, as a pilot for TWA until his retirement at age 59. In 2000,
Dengler was inducted into the Gathering of Eagles program and told the
story of his escape to groups of young military officers.[3] Dengler
was diagnosed with ALS, an incurable neurological disorder, and on
February 7, 2001 he rolled his wheelchair down to the driveway of a
fire station and shot himself.[4] He was buried in Arlington National
Cemetery.[5] An exemplary guard of honor was present at the burial as
well as a fly-over by Navy F-14 Tomcats.[6]

Dengler had three wives, Marina Adamich (1966 – March 1970), Irene Lam
(September 11, 1980 – April 3, 1984) and Yukiko Dengler (until his
death). Dengler is also survived by two sons: Rolf and Alexander
Dengler, and two grandsons.

[edit] Military honors
Dengler is a recipient of the following medals:

Navy Cross
Distinguished Flying Cross
Purple Heart
Air Medal
Prisoner of War Medal (retroactive)
[edit] In film and literature
Dengler made an appearance as one of the contestants on the January
30, 1967 episode of the television game show I've Got a Secret. His
secret, as told to host Steve Allen, was that he had escaped from a
POW camp in Laos. Dengler said that his weight had dropped to 93
pounds by the time he was rescued. During this appearance, both of
Dengler's hands were bandaged in large casts. He explained that he had
recently cut his tendons by accidentally falling through a sheet of
plate glass.

In early 1968, Dengler was a contestant on the nighttime edition of
the comedy game show Hollywood Squares.

Dengler appears in the 1988 documentary We Can Keep You Forever[7]
about the POW/MIA issue generally. The documentary was written and
directed by Christopher Olgiati. Gerry DeBruin, brother of Eugene
DeBruin, is also interviewed. Information in the documentary appears
at greater length in the 1990 book The Bamboo Cage: The Full Story of
the American Servicemen Still Missing in Vietnam by Nigel Cawthorne.

Dengler was the subject of Werner Herzog's 1997 documentary Little
Dieter Needs to Fly. Herzog went on to direct a dramatized version of
the story, Rescue Dawn, which stars Christian Bale as Dengler. The
film was shown at festivals throughout the end of 2006 and received a
limited theatrical release in the USA on July 4, 2007 before a general
release later that month. The film was released as a DVD in November
2007.

The movie Rescue Dawn was subjected to severe criticism by members of
the family of Eugene DeBruin and Pisidhi Indradat, the other survivor
of the group.[8]

Herzog acknowledged that DeBruin acted heroically during his
imprisonment, refusing to leave while some sick prisoners remained,
but Herzog was unaware of this fact until after the film had been
completed. Herzog states that this narrative aspect probably would
have been included had he learned it earlier. Family members, however,
said that Herzog was uninterested in speaking with them prior to the
completion of the movie.[9]

Dengler documented his experience in the book Escape From Laos.[10]

Bestselling author Bruce Henderson, who was serving on the same ship
as Dengler at the time he was shot down, tells Dengler's story in a
2010 book, Hero Found: The Greatest Escape of the Vietnam War.[11]

[edit] See also
Biography portal
United States Navy portal
Eugene DeBruin
Duane W. Martin
Pisidhi Indradat
Rescue Dawn – 2007 film based upon Dengler's escape
The Bamboo Cage – book on Vietnam War POWs and MIAs which covers
Dengler
[edit] References
1.^ Rescue Dawn: The Truth Retrieved January 13, 2008.
2.^ Werner Herzog. (2007). Rescue Dawn. [DVD].
3.^ Dengler Gathering of Eagles 2000 Biography Retrieved June 3, 2008.
4.^ Sense of History Drives Writer to Tell POW Tale San Francisco
Chronicle
5.^ Non-official Arlington National Cemetery Information on Dengler
Retrieved January 29, 2008
6.^ Photo of F-14 Flyover at Dengler Funeral Retrieved January 29,
2008
7.^ Released on VHS videocassette
8.^ "Rescue Dawn: The Truth". Family, Friends of Gene DeBruin Critical
of Herzog Film. http://www.rescuedawnthetruth.com.
9.^ Herzog, Werner, The Making of a True Story, documentary feature on
the American DVD release of Rescue Dawn
10.^ Dengler, Dieter (1979). Escape from Laos. Presidio Press. ISBN
0891410767.
11.^ Henderson, Bruce B. (2010). Hero Found: The Greatest POW Escape
of the Vietnam War. New York: Harper. ISBN 9780061571367.
[edit] External links
Dieter Dengler at the Internet Movie Database
Excerpt from Dieter Dengler's book, Escape from Laos
Arlington National Cemetery Website Page For Dieter Dengler
Little Dieter Needs to Fly at the Internet Movie Database
Rescue Dawn at the Internet Movie Database
Rescue Dawn: The Truth addresses inaccuracies in the movie Rescue Dawn
Persondata
Name Dengler, Dieter
Alternative names
Short description
Date of birth May 22, 1938
Place of birth Wildberg, Baden-Württemberg, Germany
Date of death February 7, 2001
Place of death Mill Valley, California
Retrieved from "http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dieter_Dengler"
Categories: United States Navy officers | United States naval aviators
| Shot-down aviators | German immigrants to the United States |
American military personnel of German descent | American military
personnel of the Vietnam War | Vietnam War prisoners of war | Burials
at Arlington National Cemetery | Recipients of the Navy Cross |
Recipients of the Distinguished Flying Cross (United States) |
Recipients of the Purple Heart medal | Recipients of the Prisoner of
War Medal | American prisoners of war | American torture victims |
Recipients of the Air Medal | 1938 births | 2001 deaths
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Post by NEMO
Dieter Dengler (May 22, 1938 – February 7, 2001) was a United States
Navy pilot during the Vietnam War. He was one of the two survivors
(the other being Pisidhi Indradat), out of seven, to escape from a
Pathet Lao prison camp in Laos. He was rescued after 23 days on the
run.[1]
[edit] Family and early life
Dieter Dengler grew up in the small town of Wildberg in the Black
Forest region of Germany. He was very close to his mother and
brothers. Dengler did not know his father, who was killed while
serving in the Wehrmacht during World War II. His grandfather was
declared a political enemy of the Nazis for being the only citizen in
his town who did not vote for Hitler. Dengler later credited his
grandfather's resolve as a major inspiration during his time in Laos.
His grandfather's steadfastness, despite great danger, was one reason
Dengler refused to sign a document decrying American aggression in
Southeast Asia, presented to him by the North Vietnamese after his
crash.
Dengler's first experience with aircraft came when he was very young
and witnessed enemy allied aircraft flying over his town from his
bedroom window. From that moment, he wanted to be a pilot. He became
an apprentice in a local machine shop, but after seeing an ad in an
American magazine expressing a need for pilots, he decided to go to
the United States. Although a family friend agreed to sponsor him, he
lacked money for passage and came up with a scheme to steal and
scrounge brass and other metals to sell.
When he turned 18 and upon completion of his apprenticeship, he
hitchhiked to Hamburg and set sail for New York City with the dream of
becoming a pilot. He lived off the streets of Manhattan for just over
a week and eventually found his way to an Air Force recruiter. He was
assured that piloting aircraft was what the Air Force was all about,
so he enlisted and in June 1957, went to basic training at Lackland
AFB in San Antonio, Texas. After basic, Dengler was initially assigned
duty as a motor pool mechanic. His qualifications as a machinist led
to an assignment as a gunsmith. He took and passed the test for
aviation cadets, but his enlistment expired before he was selected for
pilot training.
After his discharge he joined his brother in a bakery shop near San
Francisco and enrolled in San Francisco City College, then transferred
to College of San Mateo where he studied aeronautics. Upon completion
of two years of college, he applied for the US Navy aviation cadet
program and was accepted.
NOTE: I am Roger L. Johnson. I was a NAVCAD in class 23-63 - several classes behind, and a good friend of Dieter at Pensacola. One of the tests that every Naval Aviator had to pass was the Morse Code - both light signals and audible tones. Dieter came to me very worried that he would fail the test and be kicked out of flight training. He asked if I would take the test for him. I agreed. We switched name tags, I took and passed the test for Dieter, and he went on through flight training.

After completion of flight training he went
Post by NEMO
to Naval Air Station Corpus Christi, Texas for training as an attack
pilot in the Douglas AD Skyraider. He joined VA-145 while the squadron
was on shore duty at Naval Air Station Alameda, California. In 1965
the squadron joined the carrier USS Ranger. In December the carrier
set sail for the coast of Vietnam, stationed initially at Dixie
Station off South Vietnam, then moving north to Yankee Station for
operations against North Vietnam.
[edit] Shot down
A Navy AD Skyraider from VA-15 catches a wire during carrier
operations.On February 1, 1966, the day after the carrier began flying
missions from Yankee Station, Lieutenant, Junior Grade Dengler
launched from Ranger with three other aircraft on an interdiction
mission against a truck convoy that had been reported in North
Vietnam. Thunderstorms forced the flight to divert to their secondary
target, a road intersection located west of the Mu Gia Pass in Laos.
At the time, U.S. air operations in Laos were classified "secret."
Visibility was poor due to smoke from burning fields, and upon rolling
in on the target, LTJG Dengler and the remainder of his flight lost
sight of one another. Dengler was the last man in and was hit by anti-
aircraft fire. He managed to crash-land his Skyraider in Laos.
When his squadron mates realized that he had been downed, they
remained confident that he would be rescued. Dengler had a reputation
from his experiences at the Navy survival school, where he had escaped
from the mock-POW camp run by SERE instructors and Marine guards three
times. He had also set a record as the only student to actually gain
weight during the course — his childhood experiences made him unafraid
of eating whatever he could find and he had feasted on garbage.
Unfortunately, immediately after he was shot down, he smashed his
survival radio and hid most of his survival equipment to keep the
enemy from finding it. When a rescue helicopter came near the next
day, he had no means with which to signal it. He tried not to be seen
as much as possible but the day after he was shot down he was spotted
by Pathet Lao guerrillas and captured. At the prison camp to which he
was taken, he met Duane W. Martin, Eugene DeBruin, Prasit Thanee, Y.C.
To, Pisidhi Indradat, and Prasit Promsuwan.
[edit] Evasion, captivity and rescue
This article reads more like a story than an encyclopedia entry. To
meet Wikipedia's quality standards and conform with our Neutral Point
of View policy, please help to introduce a more formal style and
remove any personally invested tone. (December 2007)
[edit] Capture
The day after being shot down, Lt. Dengler was apprehended by Pathet
Lao troops. Bound, he was led through several villages. Escaping once
he failed to signal a passing aircraft. He was later recaptured while
drinking from a spring. In retaliation, he was tortured numerous ways
while in captivity.
[edit] POW camp
Dengler was eventually brought to a prison camp near the village of
Pisidhi Indradat (Thai)
Prasit Promsuwan (Thai)
Prasit Thanee (Thai)
Y.C. To (Chinese)
Duane W. Martin (American)
Eugene DeBruin (American)
Except for Martin, who was an Air Force helicopter pilot who had been
shot down in North Vietnam nearly a year before, the other prisoners
were civilians employed by Air America, a civilian airline owned by
the Central Intelligence Agency. The civilians had been in Pathet Lao
hands for over two and a half years when Dengler joined them. The day
he arrived in the camp, Dengler advised the other prisoners that he
intended to escape and invited them to join him. They advised that he
wait until the monsoon season when there would be plenty of water.
Shortly after Dengler arrived, the prisoners were moved to a new camp
ten miles away at Hoi Het. After the move, a strong debate ensued
among the prisoners, with Dengler, Martin and Prasit arguing for
escape which the other prisoners, particularly Indradat, initially
opposed. One of the Thais heard the guards discussing the possibility
of shooting them in the jungle and making it look like an escape
attempt. With that revelation, everyone agreed and a date to escape
was set. Their plan was to take over the camp and signal a C-130
Hercules flareship that made nightly visits to the vicinity. Dengler
loosened logs under the hut that allowed the prisoners to squeeze
through. The plan was for him to go out when the guards were eating
and seize their weapons and pass them to Indradat and Promsuwan while
Martin and DeBruin procured others from other locations.
[edit] Escape
On June 29, 1966, while the guards were eating, the group slipped out
of their hand and foot restraints and grabbed the guards' unattended
weapons, which included M1 rifles, Chinese automatic rifles, an
American carbine and at least one submachinegun. Dengler went out
first followed by two of the Thais. He went to the guard hut and
seized an M1 for himself, and passed two Chinese automatic rifles to
the Thais. The guards realized the prisoners had escaped and five of
them rushed toward Dengler, who shot at least three with the M1. One
of the Thais shot a popular guard in the leg. Two others ran off,
presumably to get help, although at least one had been wounded. The
seven prisoners split into three groups. DeBruin was originally
supposed to go with Dengler and Martin but decided to go with To, who
was recovering from a fever and unable to keep up. They intended to
get over the nearest ridge and wait for rescue. Dengler and Martin
went off by themselves with the intention of heading for the Mekong
River to escape to Thailand, but they never got more than a few miles
from the camp from which they had escaped.
With the exception of Indradat, who was recaptured and later rescued
by Laotian troops, none of the other prisoners were ever seen again.
DeBruin was reportedly captured and placed in another camp, then
disappeared in 1968.
[edit] Rescue
Dengler and Martin found themselves in a jungle filled with leeches,
insects and other creatures that made life miserable. They made their
way down a creek and found a river, but when they thought they were on
their way to the Mekong, they discovered that they had gone around in
a circle. They had spotted several villages but had not been detected.
They set up camp in an abandoned village where they found shelter from
the nearly incessant rain. They had brought rice with them and found
other food, but were still on the verge of starvation. Their intent
had been to signal a C-130 but at first lacked the energy to build a
fire using primitive methods of rubbing bamboo together. Dengler
finally managed to locate carbine cartridges that Martin had thrown
away and used the powder from them to enhance the tinder, and got a
fire going. That night they lit torches and waved them in the shape of
an S and O when a C-130 came over. The airplane circled and dropped a
couple of flares and they were overjoyed, believing they had been
spotted. They woke up the next morning to find the landscape covered
by fog and drizzle, but when it lifted, no rescue force appeared.
The following day, they were demoralized after a rescue force did not
appear in response to their signal of the C-130 flareship. Martin, who
was weak from starvation and was suffering from malaria, wanted to
approach a nearby Akha village to steal some food. Dengler knew it was
not a good idea, but refused to let his friend go near the village
alone. They saw a little boy playing with a dog, and the child ran
into the village calling out "American!" Within seconds a villager
appeared and they knelt down on the trail in supplication, but the man
swung his machete and struck Martin in the leg. He swung again and hit
him behind the neck, killing him. Dengler jumped to his feet and
rushed toward the villager, who turned and ran into the village to get
help. Dengler managed to evade the searchers who went out after him
and escaped back into the jungle. He returned to an abandoned village
where the two had been spending their time and where he and Martin had
signaled a C-130. That night when a C-130 flareship came over, Dengler
set fire to the huts and burned the village down. The C-130 crew
spotted the fires and dropped flares, but even though the crew
reported their sighting when they returned to their base at Ubon,
Thailand, the fires were not recognized by intelligence as having been
a signal from a survivor. When a rescue force again failed to
materialize, Dengler decided to find one of the parachutes from a
flare for use as a possible signal. He found one on a bush and placed
it in his rucksack. On July 20, 1966, after 23 days in the jungle,
Dengler managed to signal an Air Force pilot with the parachute. A 2-
ship flight of Air Force Skyraiders from the 1st Air Commando Squadron
happened to fly up the river where Dengler was. Eugene Peyton
Deatrick, the pilot of the lead plane and the squadron commander,
spotted a flash of white while making a turn at the river's bend and
came back and spotted a man waving something white. Deatrick and his
wingman contacted rescue forces but were told to ignore the sighting,
as no airmen were known to be down in the area. Deatrick persisted and
eventually managed to convince the command and control center to
dispatch a rescue force. Fearing that Dengler might be a Viet Cong
soldier, the helicopter crew restrained him when he was brought
aboard.
Dengler after being rescuedAccording to the documentary, Little Dieter
Needs to Fly, Dengler said one of the flight crew who was holding him
down pulled out a half eaten snake from underneath Dengler's clothing
and was so surprised he nearly fell out of the helicopter. The person
who threw Dengler to the floor of the helicopter was Air Force
Pararescue specialist Michael Leonard from Lawler, Iowa. Leonard
stripped Dengler of his clothes, making sure he was not armed or in
possession of a hand grenade. When questioned, Dengler told Leonard
that he escaped from a North Vietnamese Prisoner of War camp two
months earlier. Deatrick radioed the rescue helicopter crew to see if
they could identify the person they had just hoisted up from the
jungle. They reported that they had a man who claimed to be a downed
Navy pilot who flew a Douglas A-1H Skyraider.
It wasn't until after he reached the hospital at Da Nang that
Dengler's identity was confirmed. A conflict between the Air Force and
the Navy developed over who should control his interrogation and
recovery. In an apparent attempt to prevent the Air Force from
embarrassing them in some way, the Navy sent a team of SEALs into the
hospital to literally steal Dengler. He was brought out of the
hospital in a covered gurney and rushed to the air field, where he was
placed aboard a Navy carrier delivery transport and flown to Ranger
where a welcoming party had been prepared. Deprivation from
malnutrition and parasites caused the Navy doctors to order that he be
airlifted to the United States.
[edit] Later life and death
Eugene Deatrick and Dieter Dengler, NAS Miramar, 1968. (USN
Photo)Dengler remained in the Navy for a year, was promoted to
Lieutenant, and was trained to fly jets. When his military obligation
was satisfied, he resigned from the Navy and applied for a position as
an airline pilot with Trans World Airlines. He continued flying and
survived four subsequent crashes as a civilian test pilot.[2]
In 1977, during a time when he was furloughed from TWA, Dengler
returned to Laos and was greeted as a celebrity by the Pathet Lao. He
was taken to the camp from which he had escaped and was surprised to
discover that at one point he and Martin had been within a mile and a
half of it. His fascination with airplanes and aviation continued for
the remainder of his life. He continued flying almost up until his
death, as a pilot for TWA until his retirement at age 59. In 2000,
Dengler was inducted into the Gathering of Eagles program and told the
story of his escape to groups of young military officers.[3] Dengler
was diagnosed with ALS, an incurable neurological disorder, and on
February 7, 2001 he rolled his wheelchair down to the driveway of a
fire station and shot himself.[4] He was buried in Arlington National
Cemetery.[5] An exemplary guard of honor was present at the burial as
well as a fly-over by Navy F-14 Tomcats.[6]
Dengler had three wives, Marina Adamich (1966 – March 1970), Irene Lam
(September 11, 1980 – April 3, 1984) and Yukiko Dengler (until his
death). Dengler is also survived by two sons: Rolf and Alexander
Dengler, and two grandsons.
[edit] Military honors
Navy Cross
Distinguished Flying Cross
Purple Heart
Air Medal
Prisoner of War Medal (retroactive)
[edit] In film and literature
Dengler made an appearance as one of the contestants on the January
30, 1967 episode of the television game show I've Got a Secret. His
secret, as told to host Steve Allen, was that he had escaped from a
POW camp in Laos. Dengler said that his weight had dropped to 93
pounds by the time he was rescued. During this appearance, both of
Dengler's hands were bandaged in large casts. He explained that he had
recently cut his tendons by accidentally falling through a sheet of
plate glass.
In early 1968, Dengler was a contestant on the nighttime edition of
the comedy game show Hollywood Squares.
Dengler appears in the 1988 documentary We Can Keep You Forever[7]
about the POW/MIA issue generally. The documentary was written and
directed by Christopher Olgiati. Gerry DeBruin, brother of Eugene
DeBruin, is also interviewed. Information in the documentary appears
at greater length in the 1990 book The Bamboo Cage: The Full Story of
the American Servicemen Still Missing in Vietnam by Nigel Cawthorne.
Dengler was the subject of Werner Herzog's 1997 documentary Little
Dieter Needs to Fly. Herzog went on to direct a dramatized version of
the story, Rescue Dawn, which stars Christian Bale as Dengler. The
film was shown at festivals throughout the end of 2006 and received a
limited theatrical release in the USA on July 4, 2007 before a general
release later that month. The film was released as a DVD in November
2007.
The movie Rescue Dawn was subjected to severe criticism by members of
the family of Eugene DeBruin and Pisidhi Indradat, the other survivor
of the group.[8]
Herzog acknowledged that DeBruin acted heroically during his
imprisonment, refusing to leave while some sick prisoners remained,
but Herzog was unaware of this fact until after the film had been
completed. Herzog states that this narrative aspect probably would
have been included had he learned it earlier. Family members, however,
said that Herzog was uninterested in speaking with them prior to the
completion of the movie.[9]
Dengler documented his experience in the book Escape From Laos.[10]
Bestselling author Bruce Henderson, who was serving on the same ship
as Dengler at the time he was shot down, tells Dengler's story in a
2010 book, Hero Found: The Greatest Escape of the Vietnam War.[11]
[edit] See also
Biography portal
United States Navy portal
Eugene DeBruin
Duane W. Martin
Pisidhi Indradat
Rescue Dawn – 2007 film based upon Dengler's escape
The Bamboo Cage – book on Vietnam War POWs and MIAs which covers
Dengler
[edit] References
1.^ Rescue Dawn: The Truth Retrieved January 13, 2008.
2.^ Werner Herzog. (2007). Rescue Dawn. [DVD].
3.^ Dengler Gathering of Eagles 2000 Biography Retrieved June 3, 2008.
4.^ Sense of History Drives Writer to Tell POW Tale San Francisco
Chronicle
5.^ Non-official Arlington National Cemetery Information on Dengler
Retrieved January 29, 2008
6.^ Photo of F-14 Flyover at Dengler Funeral Retrieved January 29,
2008
7.^ Released on VHS videocassette
8.^ "Rescue Dawn: The Truth". Family, Friends of Gene DeBruin Critical
of Herzog Film. http://www.rescuedawnthetruth.com.
9.^ Herzog, Werner, The Making of a True Story, documentary feature on
the American DVD release of Rescue Dawn
10.^ Dengler, Dieter (1979). Escape from Laos. Presidio Press. ISBN
0891410767.
11.^ Henderson, Bruce B. (2010). Hero Found: The Greatest POW Escape
of the Vietnam War. New York: Harper. ISBN 9780061571367.
[edit] External links
Dieter Dengler at the Internet Movie Database
Excerpt from Dieter Dengler's book, Escape from Laos
Arlington National Cemetery Website Page For Dieter Dengler
Little Dieter Needs to Fly at the Internet Movie Database
Rescue Dawn at the Internet Movie Database
Rescue Dawn: The Truth addresses inaccuracies in the movie Rescue Dawn
Persondata
Name Dengler, Dieter
Alternative names
Short description
Date of birth May 22, 1938
Place of birth Wildberg, Baden-Württemberg, Germany
Date of death February 7, 2001
Place of death Mill Valley, California
Retrieved from "http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dieter_Dengler"
Categories: United States Navy officers | United States naval aviators
| Shot-down aviators | German immigrants to the United States |
American military personnel of German descent | American military
personnel of the Vietnam War | Vietnam War prisoners of war | Burials
at Arlington National Cemetery | Recipients of the Navy Cross |
Recipients of the Distinguished Flying Cross (United States) |
Recipients of the Purple Heart medal | Recipients of the Prisoner of
War Medal | American prisoners of war | American torture victims |
Recipients of the Air Medal | 1938 births | 2001 deaths
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