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Interview with Everett Alvarez, 1981

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Summary
Everett Alvarez Jr.’s plane was shot down during Operation Pierce Arrow, America’s 1964 response to the to the Gulf of Tonkin Incident. He was captured by the North Vietnamese and held as a prisoner of war for a eight and a half years. Here Alvarez describes being shot down, captured, and eventually transported to the “Hanoi Hilton” where he endured isolation and torture. He describes incidents during his captivity and how it affected his personal life. Finally, he discusses his feelings about anti-Vietnam war protests in the United States, about the end of the war, and his experience as a POW.
Topics
Propaganda, Bombing, Aerial--Vietnam, Prisoners of war, Communism, Vietnam War, 1961-1975--Motion pictures and the war, Motion pictures in propaganda, Air pilots, military, Divorce, Military interrogation, Torture, Peace movements, Vietnam War, 1961-1975--Prisoners and prisons, American, United States--Armed Forces--Hispanic Americans, Vietnam War, 1961-1975--Prisoners and prisons, North Vietnamese, Vietnam--History--1945-1975, Vietnam War, 1961-1975, United States--History--1945-, Vietnam--Politics and government
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Transcript

Alvarez and the Tonkin Gulf Incident

Vietnam/T880
Sound Roll 2818
Side 1
Interviewer:
Could you just tell me briefly what happened the day you were shot down?
Alvarez:
Well, rather uh...It was one of those peculiar experiences in that sense that, uh, at that time we were...
Interviewer:
Cut.
Interviewer:
Can you describe what happened to you on that day?
Wait, just a minute for Greg to sit down, we have some squeaking in the background. Okay.
Alvarez:
The uh, the day I was shot down, August 4, 19—August 5 ...The day I was shot down, August the fifth, 1964, uh, was a rather norm—a day during a normal period of uh, you know, calm, in that sense that uh, there was no, no uh military, we were not uh actually involved in a mili—in uh, any military actions in Vietnam or uh, not of any significance uh...As far as carriers on the ship, uh...you know, we were just flying normal routine training missions, uh, out in the uh South China Sea, uh...that type of activity.
So when, uh the uh, that day came, I was, I was asleep uh, had been flying late the night before so I had uh slept in, in my room on the ship and I was awakened by, by our duty officer who was rounding up people and uh he informed me at that time that I had been designated to go on a mission. So I immediately got dressed and ran down to our briefing spaces and uh at that time was informed of the situation that had developed with the Tonkin Gulf incident.
In a sense that was uh...the period where we had had some torpe—uh, torpedo boats, North Vietnamese torpedo boats had encountered our two destroyers on the high seas. And, that was quite a distance away. We were about 400, 450 miles away from that area where they, where they had uh, had that encounter. So we were quickly brought up to and briefed in the sense that following that encounter in the Tonkin Gulf we had uh President Johnson, at that time, had uh called an emergency session of Congress and they had passed the Tonkin Gulf Resolution.
Well, at that time they were debating or get, in the process of the, passing the resolution, we were being briefed insofar as the possibility of what we would do in preparedness in case there was action resulting from the Tonkin Gulf Resolution. So we uh naturally were briefed that in retaliation for what had happened we would be uh...prepared to strike uh some uh bases along the coast of North Vietnam. And the one that I was assigned to was one of the furthest north bases near...
Interviewer:
So if you could just pick up with, you're in the air and what happened to you when...
Alvarez:
I was, well, we were assigned a certain targets...
Interviewer:
Could you start again?
Alvarez:
We were assigned certain targets along the coast...and I was assigned a uh, to a target that was a uh North Vietnamese torpedo boat base. And...as soon as had prepared ourselves and had briefed ourselves for, for the flight, word came that uh...apparently the uh Congress had passed the Resolution and President Johnson had ordered a retaliatory strike and we were given the go signal.
I recall I was one of the first launched off the, off the ship...uh, and then our particular group of airplanes heading to a, to our targets uh which was about 400 miles away, it's a good two-hour flight there and two hours back...uh...we uh, we rendezvoused about ten planes and uh off we went. And uh, you know, it was uh, never...you know, never, it never crossed my mind that I would be shot down, of course. I never even considered any possibility of what would happen.
Matter of fact, it was sort of, sort of like a dream in the sense that the reality had not really struck home that we were actually going into war uh, it was a uh combat action. And, not until I was about halfway to, to our target area, did I start to realize that this was actual combat, and things that we had trained and prepared for, the eventual su—you know, the eventuality like this, uh...I never uh, never, you know, thought that it would really actually happen but all of a sudden here we were and uh I was in it.
And I felt a little nervous, but uh we reached the target area and uh...I went in and made uh, with our—I was flying wing on the squadron...uh, the uh executive officer of our squadron...I was flying his wing, and we went in, made an identification pass and uh found the torpedo boats and then we came around and uh made an actual firing pass.
And, at the conclusion of that, as we were leaving the area, I was very low, just skimming the trees and flying about 500 knots, a little, a little faster than that, I was hit and uh...the weirdest feeling, my airplane started to fall apart, I was over strange territory, you know, foreign territory, uh...enemy territory...and I thought well perhaps I could uh keep my airplane together and get back out to sea and if I had to jump out but uh, it didn't take very long before I realized that my plane wasn't going to stay together very long and wasn't going to fly very long and I was going to have to get out of it.
And I had the choice of getting out now and perhaps, uh, because I was so low to the ground and uh perhaps I would survive, the chances of survival were such that in such a case that uh easily when you eject that low and in that particular time, by that time my airplane had lost control and I was rolling and burning...I knew that if I stayed with the airplane I wouldn't live so I ejected and it just so happens that, I guess, luck and fate, I was uh, I had cleared a cliff...and if I had ejected any sooner I would've hit the ground but I cleared the cliff and my parachute opened enough, just enough to break the shock and, and I hit the water below the cliffs, almost instantaneously.
So I was very lucky. But being so close to the shore I was picked up rather shortly thereafter by their militia...their people...and their navy boats came alone later and uh took me captive and that began my experience as a, as a prisoner.
Interviewer:
What happened after they picked you up? Did they take you to another prison or what?
Alvarez:
Yes, initially they took me back to the base where we had struck. I saw damage on the torpedo boats, I was kept blindfolded but I was able to sort of sneak a peek there. I was there for a couple of days, they...I think as surprised to be, to have me there as I was startled and surprised to be there. This was, you know, the first time that we had ever had any activity, any military strikes at North Vietnam and it surprised the population I think.
I feel that perhaps their propaganda had begun to build to anticipate such a move but I don't think people were — I know they weren't prepared - because the guards, the jailers, they didn't know what I was at first. At first, at first when I was first captured, they were speaking to me in French, they were speaking to me in Vietnamese, they were speaking to me in other languages, and finally a fella came up and showed me the American flag, pointed to the flag and pointed to me, and I just nodded.
And they were all amazed and began to look up at the sky to see what, you know, what else was up there. I was kept in that area for a few days. I was kept in a small prison. I was put in a cell, slept with Vietnamese prisoners along side. I recall it was about an eight by eight foot cell with three of us, and there wasn't much room, and I slept with them. Most of the time, after the shock began to wear off, and I was...my joints were aching terribly.
I was injured but they were flaming injuries, and I later learned that I had suffered a compression fracture in my back. And I could hardly walk, move my arms, my neck, and this began to set in. So I found it difficult to move, and they then would take an interrogation, found it very difficult to move in interrogation. And I was interrogated for a few days.
They really didn't press me for anything, uh, in the sense that they uh, they could wait. And finally after a couple of days they moved me to a farm area, a farm house somewhere back in the hills where they told me it would be safer. And by that time I had, they had the English-speaking interregators they'd brought in from Hanoi.
And then they told me that they were provide me the information of my family's name, where my family lived, my wife, her name, where she lived, et cetera, et cetera. So I figured that the story had broken in the media, and it had in the papers, in the press. Ah, I spent about a week there, and then they moved me to Hanoi where I began my internment in the ah, what later became known as the Hanoi Hilton.
Interviewer:
Could you give us a description of your treatment, overall, in the Hanoi area? And when it changed, if it changed, and the attitude towards you and the way they treated you?
Alvarez:
Well, initially, they treated me a little differently because I was the only one they had for at least six months. But, given the overall perspective I would say that we had initially three basic periods. The first began when I, when I was shot down to about the end of 1965 to the beginning of 1966. At the end of 1965 there was a pause in the bombing of North Vietnam and by that time we had 60, approximately 60 POWs, so that's a year and a half.
The next period I call the bad years, from that January 1966 to 1970. Those were rough years. Physically, mentally, just, just hard years. And then the spring of '70 things began to improve for us until 1973 there was a gradual, gradual improvement over our physical condition - they left us alone, no more beatings, no more torture, improvement in the quality of the food, they began to let us live in large groups, the groups got bigger and bigger and they began to give us mail, they began to allow us to receive packages from home.
Initially, they tried to keep us apart, separate, so for the first year and a half I was in total isolation for thirteen months, eight days and five hours. I remained in solitary confinement after that. But after that...the initial isolation was completely without any contact with any other American. I made contact in September of 1965 and then I was able to build up my contacts and communications. Initially the first POWs that were captured were kept in solitary confinement from...then in groups of two. But...
Interviewer:
Cut. That's good. "Groups of two," we got up to that and then...
END VIETNAM/T880 SND 2818
SIDE 2
VIETNAM/T880
SOUND ROLL 2819
Interviewer:
I'll ask you to explain what happened on the prisoners' parade in Hanoi, the forced march. Can you explain?
Alvarez:
Well, okay. The "Hanoi March" as we call it, was July 6, 1966. For months the Vietnamese had been increasing their pressures for propaganda purposes. And of course, they initially began by just asking you to write your biography, or write about your hometown or something. The real ploy is to get you to start to write and follow their directions, which is step number one, and then, from then on once they get you to do that, then they get more and more and more. All...the whole thing was designed to obtain from us propaganda.
So initially prior to this they had used less, ah less coercive, physical coercive of means to get us start writing about our hometowns, or what it's like at home, what the furnishings are in our house, describe the kitchen, things like this. They would usually let you sit and think about it until you wrote something. And that was...you sit there on a stool in a room where, with the guards coming around periodically to check on you to see that you didn't fall asleep and you went for days without sleep, and then a little food, and then they began to cut back on the water and things like this.
So they had taken us to a camp, the hills west of Hanoi, I'd say fifty miles west of Hanoi - forty to fifty miles. There were about fifty of us and they began to start this, and then at the conclusion of this as they were going through this process of having everyone do this, they one evening, July the sixth, they came around and gave us new pajamas that we wore, and these had numbers stamped, stamped numbers on our pajamas, and there was some high number like 66 or 88 or 180, you know, just random numbers, high numbers.
And we didn't know what it was and they told us to put 'em on and then they...not all of us, but just a few of us from this camp were taken and put on the trucks. And initially we were always so hopeful, enough convinced this thing was gonna end, we were going to be on our way home and we figured, "Aha! This is step number one and they're going to take us to an airport, air base, and we're gonna be going home, guys." So we were sort of feeling good about this as we were loaded on the truck.
We were blindfolded, we were handcuffed still, so we couldn't see who else was in the truck. But of course, we were able to communicate and find out who they were, ten people to a truck and there were two trucks. Off we went. Well, when we finally stopped we knew were in the city somewhere. They let us out and kept us blindfolded, what have you, and finally when they took me by...they separated me from my partner who was also my cellmate at the time, and I was led down for a distance - I was still blindfolded - and then I was tied to somebody else. And I touched his arm and he told me who he was and I told him who I was and it was Robby Risner. And I explained where I'd come from and he was in Hanoi and I was out at the camp that we used to call the Briar Patch.
And we were in a park, sort of, a little like a square area. There were buildings around this park and we were sort of on the road around this park, and there were mobs of people at the end of the park where...we could see like a grandstands. And he looked at me and were being told that we were to follow instructions, not to do anything, not to raise arms, like give any indication that we were going to...we were to be just very submissive, and follow the guard's instructions.
And there was a guard on each side of every one of us. And I looked ahead and there were two other pairs of other POWs ahead of us and I looked back and they were lined up. There must have been about eighteen, twenty pairs of POWs all handcuffed or tied to each other, with guards. And Robby says to me, I think, oh, we were not allowed to talk to each other, we were not allowed to look back, just keep our heads down and follow. And Robby says, "I think this is all for propaganda." And I was hoping he was right and that was all there was to it.
And so then they gave us the order to start marching and as we started walking, I thought we were going to walk right around the park. But no, as we go to the opening of a big street, I looked, we could see down...this was the New Year's Eve parade. There was just thousands of people in stands, along the streets, and as we started to march I could hear the people starting chanting, using megaphones, getting the crowd going, and started calling us names and one of the guards with a megaphone was one of the interrogators we called the Rabbit.
And he saw me and he turned to the crowd and was leading them in this cheer. The cheer said, "Alvarez! Alvarez! Son of a bitch! Son of a bitch!" So pretty soon the whole cheering section started, and you know I had played sports before, but this was a different sport altogether. So we started marching and at first they were just yelling and calling names and waving their fists and the cameras were rolling and there were a lot of television cameras, movie cameras, or what have you.
But as we progressed down, down the street, the crowds became, started to press in and the guards would come along and the interrogators would say, bow to the people, bow to the people. And I sort of tried to keep my head, not to bow, but just head in that direction, and after a few blocks of this the crowd came uncontrollable and started throwing things - shoes, bottles, rocks, and started to come in. And at one point I...somebody came up to Robby and hit him and he went down, and I held him and got him and was holding him, and the guards kept saying, motioning, go, just keep going, and as we were going and Robby was sort of wobbling alone, and he said okay, I'm okay.
And he started walking and somebody came up alongside of me, and he was a European or he was Caucasian, and he had a big camera - and he was a photographer - and he was talking to me in Spanish and he was asking me if I was Cuban. Cuban. And then I looked at him sort of and said, you're Cuban, and he hit me with his camera. I about went down and Robby sort of helped me along and then people started running in and pretty soon the guards couldn't hold them back any further.
And all we could do at that time was to keep physically pushing ourselves through the mob and they, somehow, I remember the guards were right next along side of us pushing the guards, and I don't know where they came...many, many young men and women with red armbands, and they sort of formed a human chain, and sort of right along side of us, between us and the crowd, and walked us. And they went a long way. Things became a blur. I remember seeing a big truck full of cameras, lights, floodlights, or what have you.
And I began praying. And I, boy, when I started praying, from that point on I was just praying to myself. I never really got hit hard again. But I was, you know, I was afraid. Not just afraid, I knew, I figured this was it. And we came, finally came to an end, a dark area, and there was a stadium. And we were being led to this stadium, and the mobs were just pushing against us. It was like a blur by this time. I just kept going, pushing through the crowd and when we got close to the stadium, the crowds were just too strong, too thick, and we were separated, the pairs were separated, the guards could do nothing.
And I remember a distance of about twnety, fifteen, twenty yards from the doors, and just a mob of people, and this one - like an officer in a white shirt and military hat - sort of turned to me and pointed to the door, as if to say, you gotta get in there. And just a mob of people, I could just see piles of people, piles, laying in piles like they had sort of fallen on top of each other. High piles of bodies and people screaming and all worked up. And I, I looked at Robby and he sort of looked at me and we just lowered our heads and drove and pushed our way through the, all the people, between the doors.
There were guards and they saw us and they were opening these doors, and they opened it a crack, let us through, and closed it right after us. This is how they were going it. The pairs came through, we were pushing our way through, and I sort of breathed a sigh as I stood and then somebody hit me from behind, and I was...went out again. Next thing I know I was sort of drowsy and we were led to the infield, sat there. They brought us all in, we all made it. We sat on the infield of this stadium, I just couldn't believe it.
Interviewer:
I would like to talk about the feelings you had, the statements and things like that, did you feel you were being brainwashed? What was it that you felt?
Alvarez:
No, I didn't feel I was being brainwashed. I felt that perhaps if they were attempting brainwashing they were doing a poor job of it. I don't think they were attempting to brainwash at this point. When they came after propaganda statements, letters, things of this nature and they finally resorted to brutal force to get these things, that wasn't brainwashing, that was just the means they achieved to get their product.
I think through the whole period for many years, they did attempt a form of indoctrination and by having tapes, and broadcasting these tapes over speakers they put in the room, we had to sit there and listen to them for many hours during the day. And they did this for periods, you know. And periods would last weeks and then they'd knock it off and then they'd go on and they'd ask us what we thought, and we'd tell them. It was, it was...they weren't very professional about it.
And perhaps if they had really decided to do it, they probably could have become more professional but this was sort of an amateurish way of doing it, total failure, and it frustrated them and all it did was to make them come back to us and punish us because we refused to listen, that type of thing.
Interviewer:
What about East German propaganda film, Pilots in Pajamas? Could you explain what they did and how they sort of softened you up, or whatever for that performance?
Alvarez:
At that particular time, it was in the summer of 1967. Well,we had gone through several stages at that time. In the months prior to that we had been taken to a different room outside our...excuse me. We had been taken to a different area, taken out of our cells and removed from the building so we no longer had communication with others. At this time, there were my two roommates at that time, there were three of us, myself. We were tied, chained to a bed and handcuffed and kept that way for almost two weeks - about a week and a half.
That type of...they would let, they would un-handcuff us and allow us to ah, to eat, they would let us out of the chains about ten minutes a day to wash, what have you. But basically that was one of the things - they had kept us in a separate area, another roommate and myself for a period of time completely separate. They had started a program with the Cubans...came in and had taken some people, they were processing and more or less see if they would come under the Cuban program, and I had been processed and for some reason decided that no, they wouldn't include me in that group, and so they put me back.
And also they had several days before this incident, they had taken me and put me in a place we called the carriage shed, which was like a little garage and I was tied up on the floor and we'd come in, the guards would come in and harass you and beat you and knock you around. You knew they were preparing for something but really didn't know what it was for. I think at the time they wanted me to say something or do something, make a tape, and I said no. So they were working on me.
But that really wasn't what they wanted and finally after several days of this they came in and said we want you to go and see a delegation. And then when you said no, and then you went back and then after a day, what do you think now, and that day I think you spent on your knees the whole day with your hands up in the air like this and the guards would come in and knock you around and...Your physical resistance was down a bit and at this point you know you have to draw, you have to start saying to yourself, gosh if I keep this up...what you do is you say, well if I keep this up with my resistance at the point, you know, will I be physically, you know, if I let them come after me and let them really get hard on me again, physically hard, will I be able to bounce up and bounce back.
Besides that, at that particular time we had seen a delegation before, we had seen a priest for Christmas, I had, my first year. And we really didn't know what the process was. You could go or not go. I think at that time they said, you know you have no choice now. You're going to go or things will get rougher for you. Oh, I know what happened. A few days before that they had just put me in a jeep, taken me downtown Hanoi, put me in a roof and took a picture of me on a rooftop in Hanoi, put me back down, didn't say a word, down in the jeep, back to the thing.
So I figured well, if it's something like that, you know, no sweat. I just won't say anything. And beside that if anybody saw me, the way it was, you know, I wasn't the healthiest looking specimen. I think I was down to about 115, perhaps a little less, and so when I got to this place they told me it was going to be a television, you're going to make a tape. Well, what do you mean a tape? Well, they're going to film you. And so I was lead to this room. I was told to sit down on the chair and all of a sudden there's this person asking me questions.
And they're filming away. And I'm looking at a European individual - I guess he was East German or something - and he was asking, talking in German and I don't know what he's saying and somebody is translating to my earphone...dumb questions. And I said something to the effect that, I think one of the questions was how do I like it. I said, I don't like it - I'm hot, I'm tired, I'm sick - things like this. Well, tell us about your ship. Oh, the ship was nice, we had popcorn, candy, ice cream, saw a movie. Well, what else did you see on the ship? Tell me about who your political propagandist was? Things of this nature. We don't have political propagandist people on our ship, things like this.
And I believe they asked me how my family, about my family, things at home. And I said well, I hope they're all well. That was the extent of it, I don't remember much more. But they were more or less I think interested in just filming me...and then there was nothing about, now are you going to make statements about the United States, anti-war statements. You're not going to make anti-US statements. There was no way I was going to do it, unless they beat it out of me again.
Interviewer:
On to your contact with home, and your discovery of the letter from your family, about your wife's divorce?
Alvarez:
That was probably you know, given what we had been through, physically, emotionally, what have you, that was probably the hardest thing to swallow while I was there. And this was in 1971, when I received the news. Emotionally, I was just...it was like a big wallop, you know, this big feeling that just settled in my stomach. I couldn't get rid of it for months. I was just...I lost...I didn't care, when I received the news. All of a sudden I didn't care. But fortunately for me I was living by that time in large groups. We were looking out for each other, you know, we were able to get outside. We were able to exercise, we were able to have that diversionary material to read, to play cards and things like that.
'71. It was Christmas of 1971 when I got the news. It took me six months to finally one day in the summer of '72 I just woke up, I just looked around and there was a blue sky, there were people around me talking, and I was alive and I was well. And I don't remember much in that period in there in the sense that...things that happened. I just, remember, I just probably didn't care much. And I'm very fortunate that it didn't happen before, I don't know what would have happened to me if I didn't have my friends to keep my spirits up, to help keep me going. Things like this.
Interviewer:
What did you think about anti-war protests, back in America while you were in Vietnam?
Alvarez:
We were made aware of what was going on, and they would ask us, what do you think? What do you think? And we would say, well listen, that goes to show you we really have freedom in our country, you know. But I knew that this...well what I was getting was very slanted, was very one sided. You know, you're not going to get a broad, two sides of the story, good coverage of what was happening. And I had to take it with that view, keep that in mind that some of the stuff that we were actually getting was a lot of propaganda too. So how much was actual truth? And it was true, we realized that it was true, but there was a lot more that was given to us that wasn't. And we realized that there was a division at home, there were people that were, you know, wanted the war to end. We wanted the war to end! But the whole thing was different, I know, because from our point of view...
END OF SIDE 2
VIETNAM/T880
SOUND 2819
VIETNAM/T880
SOUND ROLL 2820
SIDE 1
Interviewer:
If you could just describe about the impact of the anti-war thing.
Alvarez:
Well, we were made aware of the uh anti-war movement back home uh...of course we were shown films, a few times we were shown films of the demonstrations at home. We also had to keep in mind that uh being where we were we weren't going to get the whole story uh...You had to sift out through the propaganda what was actual, what was, what was uh...you know, not true, if you could do it. So, in other words, you had a keep in mind that uh we were being fed this information by the Vietnamese. Uh, but, in reality we were aware that uh that there was a feeling back home, of course, that, that uh people were against the war. And it was, it was demoralizing because all we saw, we saw it as...as uh, as uh it would really wind up in prolonging the war, whereas if we had been completely united back home, we the Vietnamese would've, I think, come to terms earlier. But they thrive on things like this, they thrive on, on divisions. They're very, very patient and this was what they were looking for and these kinda sides and they rely that it'll have a big effect for, you know, for them to, so that they could achieve their purpose. Uh, when we would be questioned about this, we'd ask, they'd ask us what, what do you think about that, we'd say well that goes to show you, you know, the freedoms that we have in the United States - and they'd shake their heads, say don't you agree with that? No. I mean I'm an American military officer. I support my government, regardless of who it is, who the president is, he's my, I support him.
Interviewer:
Could you explain your reaction and the others' reaction to the Christmas Bombing of '72.
Alvarez:
Well, by that time, you must realize that uh, the uh...
Interviewer:
Sorry, can we start again? You can say, "you must realize by the time of the Christams Bombings..."
Alvarez:
You must realize, by the time of the Christmas Bombing we had had four years of negotiations with the Paris peace talks. We had had a cessation in bombing. We'd had many ups and downs emotionally and by this time we began to have a pretty good understanding of what it was going to take to get us out of there, generally. We realized it was going to take...this is the only way we were going to end this war. We could have negotiated it and withdrawn completely. I don't think all of us would have come home. But we, I think, we were one of the main bargaining points. And the only way for all of us to come home...because the Vietnamese had us classified with bad attitudes and this and you never go home if you don't change your attitude. The only way we were all going to come home is if we forced them. And I and others were...just knew that...we were so relieved in a sense that this...I mean I knew that this...I knew this was the only way I was going to come home. And as the bombings became heavier and heavier, and the Christmas of '52 bombings...I...just a matter of time. And when they ended, you could tell. The people no longer had the will. The guards wouldn't even man their post anymore. And they kept giving us more food and more food. So it was over. We knew it was over.
Interviewer:
Could you just go back over, you said "the Christmas of '52."
Alvarez:
I'm sorry, the Christmas Bombings with the B-52's as they intensified and the bombings increased in tempo, the guards no longer...the guards lost their will, they'd no longer even man their post. And they just gave us more food and let us alone and...so finally, when the bombings ceased, that was it. We knew. That was it.
Interviewer:
And finally, the most difficult of all: Looking back at the war, what about your opinion, what do you think about it, looking back?
Alvarez:
Personally I think that our goals, our...perhaps our policies, you might say, were correct in what we were trying to achieve. As President Reagan said that it was a noble cause. We have lofty ideals, we have...we, we, this country, our government, because of the freedoms we have and the democracy we have, would like to see other nations also have this type of...of a, of a government, of a democracy. And one of the things we wanted to prevent was the oppressive, totalitarian regime that we knew existed from North Vietnam. And it is, it's oppressive. And so to attempt to halt that attitude, re-instill and to help instill or have our type of government in South Vietnam and other areas was a goal, I think it was an ideal. And so, you know it has to be good. But I think we lacked the support within the country. That country was like all countries in that part of the world, you know...have been, for thousands of years, have corruptive, they've had corruption in various governments, perhaps elements. Not all the governments I'm saying, but just...you know. And even in the North Vietnam and those parts, you know they're still, you know they still have graft and corruption and what have you. So you're never going to really get rid of that, and I think we try to do it too fast. We were forced to try to do it too fast. And I think evidence shows, what we were trying to prevent, as seen in the refugees, and the flow of refugees and the boat people coming out. This is what we wanted to prevent in the long run.
Interviewer:
Could you also...
Alvarez:
But we also...Excuse me.
Interviewer:
Could you also explain how you felt personally, about being a prisoner.
Alvarez:
Personally? A prisoner? I think it was just uh, uh, I was unfortunate and I was there and I had to survive. I wanted to survive and I had to do it in the most honorable means, that was, you know, so I could come home and, and not be ashamed of anything. Uh, I think, you know, we, we, of course, all look for the day to come home, but uh...I feel, I feel more positive, I feel positive about my experience in the sense that I...I gi—I have a broader, I think, uh, outlook on life, I know what it is to be without...without necessities, what we consider necessities, clothing, shelter, things like this. I appreciate what we have in this country, in our, in our civilization...and I want to, you know, instill this in my children, I want to...tell my story, I want to...relate my experience because I think it's uh it's valuable. Very, very interesting experience.
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