View Single Post
Old 11-30-2009, 23:09   #2
Join Date: Jan 2007
Posts: 3,751
One siesta period he said: "Hey Beak, you went to college and studied government, do you know the Gettysburg address?" We got a brick [no paper or pencils for the criminals] and started to write it out on the tile floor until we got it correct. Then he stopped me with the question: "Can you say it backwards?" Well, who would want to say the Gettysburg address backwards? Certainly not the Jesuits at Georgetown and especially not me. Doug could say it backwards, verbatim, rapidly. I know because I could track him from the written version we had on the floor.
"So what?" you might say. The so what is that when they threw him out of Vietnam, and throw him out they did, he came out with the 256 names that Joe Crecca had taught him memorized by service, by rank and alphabetically; next to each name the had a dog’s name, kid’s name or social security number to verify the quality of the name which we had picked up by tap code, deaf spelling code or secret notes. He still has those names memorized today and sings them to the tune of "Old McDonald Has a Farm". One of our intelligence officers asked him if he could slow the recitation down to make for easier copying. Doug replied "No" that it was like riding a bike, you had to keep moving or you would fall off. If it weren’t for Joe Crecca, Doug and our government would not have had those names until the end of the war five years later.
In trying to get people to accept early propaganda releases, the Communists would have some "good cop" interrogator like the one we called the "Soft Soap Fairy" talk to the prospect and sound him out for pliability. They got Doug one day and asked what we eventually learned to be the lead question: "What do you want more than anything else in the world?" The answer of the weak & willing was: "To go home to my family." Doug thought for a long time, then cocked his head with a smile and said: "Why, I’d like a pillow, Sir." This was not an unreasonable response since we had no pillows on our cement pads or bed boards. However, the response sure confounded the enemy. They eventually came up with a name for Doug amongst the guards and interrogators: "The Incredibly Stupid One." His original resistance ploy had paid off.
Because they thought him stupid they would let him go out in the cell block courtyard during the siesta to sweep up the grounds period monitored by only one sleepy peasant guard. I thought that was great since it kept him from skipping and I could get some rest. However, curiosity got the better of me and I started to watch him through a peep hole we had bored in the cell door. He’d go sweeping and humming until the guard was lulled to sleep. Then Doug would back up to a truck, spin the gas cap off the standpipe, stoop down and put a small amount [Small, because it’s goin’ to be a long war, sir.] of dirt in the gas tank and replace the cap. I watched him over a period of time do this to five trucks.
Now, I’m a liberal arts major who shot himself down, so all I can do is report what I saw. There were five trucks working in the prison; I saw Doug work on five trucks; I saw five trucks towed disabled out of the prison camp. Doug Hegdahl, a high school graduate from the mess decks fell off a ship and has five enemy trucks to his credit. I am a World Famous Golden Dragon [VA 192] with two college degrees, 2000 jet hours, 300 carrier landings and 22 combat missions. How many enemy trucks do I have to my credit? Zero. Zip. Nada. De Rien. 0. Who’s the better man? Douglas Brent Hegdahl, one of two men I know of who destroyed enemy military equipment while a prisoner of war.
Later on, Doug, having left his eyeglasses on board Canberra, discovered that he had difficulty linking up isolated cell blocks throughout the prison compound with his defective distance vision So he went to the authorities and asked if he could read some of their propaganda. They were delighted. Here was a prisoner, without being tortured, volunteering to read their swill. But then Doug cautioned them with his "Small thing [They never learn]; I cannot read without glasses." So they trotted out a dime store clerk who fitted him with glasses by trying one on after the other until Doug said he could see. . His near vision was OK. Unbeknownst to the clerk, he was fitting Doug out for distance vision. Now, in between sweeps and gas tanks he was able to link up the cell blocks not only by sweeping in code but now also using the deaf spelling code.
The Vietnamese were big on token propaganda releases of prisoners to make various peace groups look good and our government look impotent. They would try to pick people who had not been tortured or in jail long enough to look emaciated. Usually they were volunteers, violators of direct orders from their Seniors and traitors to our cause of resistance. These releases always were of three at a time. The magic of the number three was always a mystery to us. As our leaders exercised greater internal communications and controls, it became harder for the Communists to make up a Propaganda release party. Seeking to round out the number they finally turned to "The Incredibly Stupid One" who, although not volunteering, was certainly too dumb to do them any harm.
As part of this conditioning they had both Doug and I examined by "the Doctor". This was a female soldier we saw through a peep hole we had in the door get briefed up and then dolled up like a physician. The physician made a grand entrance worthy of a world famous brain surgeon. The effect was somewhat spoiled by the face mask protecting her chin rather than covering her mouth - she really had no idea what the mask was for. The exam, after looking in all the holes in your head and listening to your heart, consisted of "feeling you up" under the guise of palpitating your internal organs while the translator asked "The Doctor wants to know if you miss your wife [girlfriend]? Wouldn’t you like to be with her now?"
Then they would pull Doug out for interrogations sounding him out for an early release. They told him not to tell me as I was an officer who did not care about his welfare like they did. They informed him: "Stratton would never even speak to you if you were in America". Doug would come back from each go around and immediately tell me everything that was said. One time he plaintively asked: ‘Beak, you’d speak to me if we were home now, wouldn’t you?"

Last edited by Dozer523; 11-30-2009 at 23:31.
Dozer523 is offline   Reply With Quote