Freedom Fighters: Glenn Daigle

(Source: KLTV News Staff)
(Source: KLTV News Staff)
Daigle as he returned from Vietnam (Source: Glenn Daigle)
Daigle as he returned from Vietnam (Source: Glenn Daigle)

(KLTV/KTRE) - It was on Glenn Daigle's thirteenth mission that he was shot down over Vietnam. He would spend the next seven years as a prisoner of war of the North Vietnamese.

For Daigle, a Navy bombardier and navigator on an RA5 supersonic jet in Vietnam, thirteenth did indeed prove to be his unlucky number. It was on his thirteenth mission in January 1966 that he was shot down by North Vietnamese gunners. 

"It was about 30 miles from Hanoi and about 30 miles from Hipong, and I got hit," he recalled.

Even though his pilot had told Daigle that he would always be warned before he was ejected, his ejection came without warning.

"I just went right out of the airplane with both arms out. That's when I broke my right arm and hurt the left, and I had burns on my right side from the ejection seat."

As soon as he hit the ground, Daigle was captured by the North Vietnamese soldiers.

"When I was first captured they hung me from the ceiling for about two hours, wanting me to write a propaganda slip, but my hand was so swollen I couldn't write," he said about that experience.

Even though Daigle was badly injured, he was taken to the infamous Hoa Lo prison, sarcastically called "Hanoi Hilton" by American prisoners. It wasn't until five days later he was taken to a hospital for treatment.

"In January of 1966 the Vietnamese took me to the hospital and operated on the right arm.  I still have the scar right here and they put a clamp in the arm to fix it and they put me In the hospital for a a week.  They put me in a chest cast with posts here," he said.

Daigle was then sent back to the Hanoi Hilton where his roommate, Ray Alcorn, cared for him.

"He bathed me, he fed me," he remembered.

"To this day every January ...At three o'clock he and I get on the telephone because he was shot down two minutes before me."

Daigle was a prisoner of war for over seven years. Seven years of bread and rice, constant interrogation, and even torture.

"Most of the time it was either hit in the shoulders with gun butts, or something, everyday."

The American prisoners weren't allowed to talk to one another, so they devised a special code. 

"We communicated with a tap code through the wall."

After a series of peace talks and negotiations, Daigle was released from prison on February 12, 1973. His first press conference was to remind everyone of those who didn't make it back. 

"The people in my town lined up six deep for 20 miles," he said, becoming tearful at the memory.

Unlike the protests suffered by other Vietnam vets, Daigle was welcomed home with a parade, which is still one of his favorite memories. 

A silver star, bronze star, distinguished flying cross, and purple heart are just a few of the medals signifying Glenn Daigle's 20 years in the navy.

And he said of his service, "I feel like I did a good job, and I'm proud of my country."

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