Friday, June 29, 2018

Fullbore Friday

Some days, you miss the passing of a giant. Not in size, but in deed.

These men make you stop and wonder, are you ready to endure what they endured?
Navy Cmdr. Robert J. Flynn, who spent five and a half years in a Communist Chinese prison during the Vietnam War...
Read that again.

Then-Lieutenant Flynn, a bombardier-navigator, was taking part in a raid on Aug. 21, 1967, targeting rail yards near Hanoi, the North Vietnamese capital, about 75 miles from the Chinese border, when his two-man A-6 Intruder came under attack. The Pentagon later said his plane and another Intruder on that raid had been downed after straying over southern China while seeking to escape North Vietnamese jets.

Lieutenant Flynn and his pilot, Lt. Cmdr. Jimmy Lee Buckley, ejected from their craft. Lieutenant Flynn, suffering severe spinal injuries, found the pilot’s body near the spot where he had come down, and he was soon captured. The Chinese news agency Xinhua reported six days later that one of four American airmen whom China had just downed had been paraded before peasants and Red Guards at an anti-America rally. It did not identify that airman, but Lieutenant Flynn was the only survivor from the two Intruders.

Mrs. Flynn said in an interview on Wednesday: “I saw on TV he was being beaten, and the streets were lined with people. That’s how I knew he was alive.”
His experience, almost unknown to his countrymen, is hard to grasp.
For the remainder of the Vietnam War, he spent virtually all his prison time in a small cell in Beijing
“The most terrible part was the solitude, the solitude, the solitude,” Commander Flynn told The Pensacola News Journal in 2008. “What do you do with all that time? All those hours? All those days and years?”
To be so alone for so long, but not alone.
Freedom finally came on March 15, 1973, when he was taken across a covered bridge into Hong Kong, wearing a blue Chinese cap. He was released to the American authorities there together with Maj. Philip E. Smith of the Air Force, who had been imprisoned by the Chinese since his plane was downed over their airspace in September 1965.

Two C.I.A. agents, John Downey and Richard Fecteau, who had been captured in China in 1952 during the Korean War, were also at the prison where Lieutenant Flynn and Major Smith were held. Mr. Fecteau was freed in December 1971, and Mr. Downey in March 1973.
He served until 1985, retiring as a Commander.
“I wouldn’t want to do it again,” he told The News Journal in recalling his captivity. “But it was part of the experience of my life. Life is sort of an adventure. Sometimes, the adventure gets out of hand.”
Cmdr. Robert J. Flynn ... died on May 15 in Pensacola, Fla. Commander Flynn ... was 76.

The cause was a heart attack, said his wife, Kathy.

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