Black Prisoner of War
A Conscientious Objector's Vietnam Memoir
Sales Date: October 30, 2000
298 Pages, 6.00 x 9.00 in
- Published: October 2000
- Published: October 2000
Black Prisoner of War chronicles the story of James Daly, a young black soldier held captive for more than five years by the Viet Cong and North Vietnamese and subsequently accused (and acquitted) of collaboration with the enemy. One of the very few books about the Vietnam War by an African American, Daly’s memoir is both a testament to survival and a provocative meditation on the struggle between patriotism and religious conviction.
First published in 1975 as A Hero’s Welcome, Daly’s memoir had only a brief exposure before it sank from sight. At the time, most Americans simply wanted to forget about the war. But, as Jeff Loeb argues, Daly’s story is a compelling one that merits a much wider readership.
Raised in Brooklyn's Bedford-Stuyvesant area, Daly fought to overcome difficult circumstances through hard work and religion. When the Vietnam War intervened, he was denied conscientious objector status, despite his strong pacifist beliefs. He then enlisted in the U.S. Army, but only after a black recruiter assured him he would receive a non-combat assignment. Instead, he was sent to fight in Vietnam, where he was denied repeated requests for reassignment. In protest, he refused to load or fire his weapon, even when sent out on patrol.
When his unit was ambushed by the Viet Cong, he began his long ordeal in captivity, first in the jungles of South Vietnam and then in the infamous “Hanoi Hilton.” As a POW, he was still an outcast: a black “grunt” and pacifist among mostly white air force officers who considered any sort of accommodation treasonable. Such charges were eventually leveled at Daly for joining the so-called Peace Committee and signing a letter condemning American actions in the war. Although Daly’s decisions were in keeping with his pacifism and he was later cleared of the charges, he remains a controversial figure for many Vietnam veterans.
Exploring the limits of both accommodation and resistance, Daly’s memoir forces us to reassess the POW experience and race relations in Vietnam, as well as the complex relationship between personal belief and public duty.
"An honest and moving account."—Christian Science Monitor
"A fascinating memoir that offers a unique perspective on events that have been contested in American culture for decades. . . . An astonishing treasure chest filled with priceless gems of insight."—H. Bruce Franklin, author of M.I.A.: Mythmaking in America
"An important account that illustrates the profound moral, ethical, and intellectual dilemmas faced by many of the young men of Daly’s generation."—James E. Westheider, author of Fighting on Two Fronts: African Americans and the Vietnam War
Introduction, Jeff Loeb
1. Bedford-Stuyvesant, Brooklyn, 1966
2. Basic Training
3. Fort Polk, Louisiana, Spring 1967
4. Fort Polk, Louisiana, Spring 1967
5. Exploring Options
6. In Country
7. Chou Lai, November 1967
8. Que Son Valley, Christmas 1967
10. South Vietnam, Tet, January 1968
11. On the Move
12. POW Camp, South Vietnam, March 1968
13. The Escape Attempt, April Fool's Day, 1968
14. The Letter, South Vietnam
15. Rat Face and Mr. Thieu
16. 1970: Camp to Camp
17. Ho Chi Minh Trail, March 1971
18. Plantation Gardens, Hanoi, Spring 1971
19. The Peace Committee
20. Plantation Gardens, Hanoi, Christmas 1971
21. The Letter, North Vietnam
22. Studying the War
23. Plantation Gardens, Hanoi, Christmas 1972
24. Free at Last
25. Back in the U.S.A.
26. The Real Enemy
27. The End of the Ordeal
An Afterword, Lee Bergman