How a Thai Special Forces Soldier Ended Up within the Pentagon’s Corridor of Heroes

Contained in the Pentagon is a particular room devoted to preserving the recollections and actions of America’s bravest troops. The Corridor of Heroes is devoted to the greater than 3,400 U.S. troops who’ve acquired the Medal of Honor, and options all of their names.

The room, devoted in 1968, additionally has a number of particular options, together with one photograph of a overseas nationwide, Chaicharn Harnavee. A world away, Chaicharn was locked in North Vietnam’s notorious “Hanoi Hilton” jail that 12 months. He wasn’t the primary resident, however he could be the final. Alongside the way in which, he would save the lives of numerous American prisoners there. That is how his photograph ended up within the Corridor of Heroes.

In Could 1965, then-Sgt. Chaicharn Harnavee accompanied an American civilian pilot on a resupply mission to assist assemble a hospital in Laos. Chaicharn was a member of the Thai Special Forces in Laos, and it was his day without work, however Ernest Brace wanted a spotter and the development crew wanted provides.

Alongside for the journey had been a Laotian Special Forces soldier, a Lao girl and her child. They arrived on the airfield in Sayaboury Province, Laos, and offloaded their cargo. As they ready to return house, they began taking heavy small arms fireplace. When the pictures killed their human passengers, Brace and Chaicharn darted for the treeline, however discovered themselves nose to nose with 300 communist troopers.

The 2 had been taken prisoner and compelled to march for about two weeks towards Dien Bien Phu, with little meals and no medical therapy. They spent three years on the camp in North Vietnam in ankle shares, palms sure and unable to speak with one another. In addition they underwent routine beatings.

In 1968, they had been moved to Hua Lo Jail in Hanoi, identified to the People because the Hanoi Hilton. There have been already American prisoners of conflict incarcerated there, however Chaicharn did not know that straight away. He was instantly positioned in solitary confinement, the place he spent two years.

When he was launched from solitary, he could be allowed out of his cell for 2 hours a day to scrub within the water purification plant. After a 12 months of cleansing the plant, he would make contact with one other prisoner, his first in practically six years. A South Vietnamese Air Power pilot he knew as “Maz” taught him the prisoners’ “faucet code” so he may talk with others.

Via the faucet code and a collection of hand alerts he picked up from Maz, Chaicharn started to study English and will higher talk with different prisoners. Ultimately, Chaicharn used the entry he needed to the ability throughout his cleansing; he started to steal for himself and the opposite prisoners.

Small gadgets like pencils and paper had been used to assist prisoners sign to 1 one other. As his English improved, he obtained prisoners gadgets they wanted. He even smuggled his personal meals to the People who had been slowly ravenous to dying. Chaicharn is the explanation lots of the downed U.S. pilots who had been repatriated after the Vietnam Warfare made it house in any respect.

Sgt. Chaicharn Harnavee was not launched in 1973 with the People, nevertheless. After one month of being alone within the jail, Chaicharn was taken to a jail camp alongside North Vietnam’s border with China, the place he was positioned in command of 216 different Thai POWs. This camp was completely different from Hua Lo; it was a “re-education” camp.

The North Vietnamese instructed Chaicharn to make sure the Thai prisoners accomplished their re-education work and have become loyal communists. He refused and was positioned in a three-foot-by-six-foot field, with only one gap within the high, for six months. On the finish of the punishment, he was requested whether or not he would assist re-educate the prisoners; he once more refused.

Chaicharn had no concept that the freed People had begun to ask questions on him and had been pressuring the U.S. to seek out out. He was lastly launched on Sept. 29, 1974, after 9 years, 4 months and eight days held captive. After he returned to Thailand, King Bhumibol promoted Chaicharn to captain.

Capt. Chaicharn was quickly invited to the U.S. by the previous POWs he helped throughout their captivity. He visited the Pentagon, the place he was introduced with the Silver Star and the Legion of Advantage.

In the present day, a photograph of Chaicharn Harnavee hangs within the Corridor of Heroes due to his service to these prisoners at Hua Lo. He retired from the Thai armed forces as a colonel in 1992 and continued serving as a public official till his dying in 2018.

— Blake Stilwell will be reached at He can be discovered on Twitter @blakestilwell or on Fb.

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