Sunday, June 19, 2005


Memory Hold The Door

The tragic fate of a hero's hero

In a post entitled Memory Hold the Door, Wretchard links to the story of Col. James "Nick" Rowe:
Acting on a request from the North Vietnamese, students in a so-called anti-war organization in the United States researched public records and formulated biographies on Americans captured in Vietnam. After reading Lt. Rowe's biography, his Viet Cong captors became furious. They marched him into a cramped bamboo hut and forced him to sit on the damp clay floor. Several high ranking Viet Cong officials were staring down at Lt. Rowe. They held out a piece of typed onion skin paper.
'The peace and justice loving friends, of the National Liberation Front, who live in America, have provided us with information which leads us to believe you have lied to us,' they informed Lt. Rowe. 'According to what we know, you are not an engineer . . . you have much military experience which you deny . . . You were an officer of the American Special Forces.'
Lt. Rowe sat dumbfounded, unable to comprehend that his own people would betray him. He felt it was over. He had lied to the communists for five years. Worse in their eyes, the Viet Cong had believed him. They had lost face and, for that, he would be punished. Soon after, the Viet Cong Central Committee for the National Liberation Front sent orders to Rowe's camp ordering the cadre to execute the uncooperative American prisoner.

On the day Lt. Rowe was being led to a destination for execution, he and his small group of guards were caught on the edge of an American B-52 saturation bombing raid. The guards scattered, leaving Lt. Rowe with only one. Lt. Rowe knew he had nothing to lose. He bided his time until the remaining guard carelessly moved to Rowe's front, whereupon Lt. Rowe bludgeoned him with a log and escaped. Not only did Lt. Rowe survive his ordeal as a POW, he escaped and emerged stronger than before his capture, more committed to the American ideal and more convinced than ever that what the communists had planned for Vietnam and the world was a blueprint for tyranny and human suffering. Nick Rowe frustrated the communists. They never broke him. They never shook his faith in the American system. He was the quintessential American fighting man, unable to be broken mentally or physically.

The communists, however, never forgot Lt. Nick Rowe. They never forgot the threat men such as he posed to them and their view of world domination. Shortly before 7 a.m. on April 21, 1989, a small white car pulled alongside a gray, chauffeur-driven vehicle in a traffic circle in the Manila suburb of Quezon City. The barrels of an M-16 rifle and a .45-caliber pistol poked out the window of the white car and spit out more than two dozen shots. Twenty-one of them hit the gray car. One of the rounds hit Col. James "Nick" Rowe in the head, killing him instantly. The hooded NPA killers had ties to the communist Vietnamese, Rowe's old enemies in Vietnam. It took the communists nearly 25 years, but they finally silenced Nick Rowe. What they could not do in a jungle cage in South Vietnam's U Minh Forest through torture, intimidation, and political indoctrination, they did with a .45 and an American-made M-16 on the streets of Manila.
I wonder where the NLF's 'peace and justice loving' friends are today. Perhaps working on other betrayals of one kind or another?


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