Five Useful Resources to Learn About Prisoners of War

As news organizations continue to cover the conflict in Europe, prisoners of war (POWs) and their treatment are top-of-mind for many. A POW is a soldier, sailor, airman, or marine captured during war. Each war imprisonment experience and method of conveyance is different, resulting in varying but consistently compelling stories. As interest in the POW experience grows, so does the need for reliable sources of information. We’ve put together a list of five resources that would help advance anyone’s journey to learn more about POWs:

  1. Master Wings’ 2013 title “Taps on the Walls: Poems from the Hanoi Hilton” by Major General USAF Ret. John Borling is a poetry book that shares General Borling’s experience as a prisoner of war. His story stems from his imprisonment at the Hanoi Hilton during the Vietnam War. Without a pencil or pen during those times, he found a way to memorize and share his poems through the use of a forbidden tap code. This book shares some of the many poems that General Borling tapped to other prisoners to encourage them to be resilient during their confinement.
  2. Hero Found: The Greatest POW Escape of the Vietnam War” by Bruce Henderson is a New York Times bestseller that shares the story of Dieter Dengler. Dengler was the only pilot to escape captivity from a POW camp in the Laotian jungle during the Vietnam War. This book is based on in-depth personal interviews as well as military archival materials. Readers will learn all that Dengler endured and how he overcame some of his most significant endeavors.
  3. Beyond The Call: The True Story of One World War II Pilot’s Covert Mission to Rescue POWs on the Eastern Front,” by Lee Trimble, is a must-read. This book outlines the true story of Captain Robert Trimble, who laid his life on the line to rescue hundreds of World War II POWs, including women and children, on the Eastern Front. With no food, shelter, or supplies, the POWs were an army of dying men. Captain Trimble risked everything to bring his fellow soldiers home to safety and freedom.
  4. Unbroken is a 2014 American biographical war drama film produced and directed by Angelina Jolie and written by the Coen brothers, Richard LaGravenese, and William Nicholson. It is based on the 2010 non-fiction book by Laura Hillenbrand, “Unbroken: A World War II Story of Survival, Resilience, and Redemption.” The movie is based on the true story of Louie Zamperini’s capture and perseverance as a prisoner of war.
  5. Immerse yourself in the lives of POWs at the Pritzker Military Museum & Library’s latest exhibit, “Life Behind the Wire: Prisoners of War,” on display until 2023. This extraordinary exhibit addresses what happens when a soldier, sailor, airman, or marine is captured during war. The artifacts, archival materials, photographs, and oral histories provide insight into the drastic differences between POW experiences and focuses on POWs from WWII and the Vietnam War.

Please visit the Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency website to learn more about prisoners of war from the United States and read their stories.