|Name:||Douglas K. Ramsey|
|Rank/Branch:||Civilian/US State Department|
|Unit:||Agency for International
Hau Nghia, South Vietnam
|Date of Birth:|
|Home of Record:|
|Date of Loss:||17 January 1966|
|Country of Loss:||South Vietnam|
Click coordinates to view maps
|Status in 1973:||Prisoner of War|
|Other Personnel In Incident:||(none missing)|
REMARKS: 730212 RELEASED BY PRG
SYNOPSIS: In January 1966, Douglas Ramsey was on his second tour of duty in Vietnam as a State Department Foreign Service Officer attached to the Agency for International Development (USAID) stationed at Hau Nghia as the Chief Provincial Representative.
On 17 January 1966, he was riding in a province-owned truck that was transporting food and medical instruments to the village of Trung Lap to assist refugees and evacuees from a joint ARVN/US search and destroy operation. As he and his Vietnamese driver were traveling toward Trung Lap, a VC ambush party appeared at the side of the road when they were approximately 8 miles north-northeast of Khiem Cuong, 16 miles due west of the South Vietnamese/Cambodian border, 20 miles northwest of Tan Son Nhut Airfield located on the northwest edge of Saigon and 23 miles southeast of Tay Ninh, Dinh Tuong Province, South Vietnam.
Mr. Ramsey ordered the driver to try to run the ambush; and he did so, but the truck's engine stalled when they were only 100 feet past the guerrillas. He fired an AR-15 at the VC who fired back. An enemy bullet struck an oil can at Douglas Ramsey's feet and splashed oil into his eyes. Before he could clear his vision, the VC reached the side of the truck. He decided it was better to exercise his prerogative as a civilian non-combatant and yelled "dau hung" - I surrender! The guerrillas marched him off toward Tay Ninh.
When Douglas Ramsey arrived at the POW camp, he soon learned three other Americans were already imprisoned there. Two of them were US Army advisors, Sgt. Harold G. Bennett and Pvt. Charles E. Crafts, who were captured on 29 December 1964. The third was a US Marine Corps advisor, Capt. Donald G. Cook, who was captured on 31 December 1964. The forth was Army Capt. John R. Schumann who was captured on 16 June 1965. They were held in several camps constructed deep within enemy-held territory and all hidden in the dense jungle of extreme southern South Vietnam. They were also located between the area of capture near the coast to the Cambodian border.
Some of the camps were actually way stations the VC used for various reasons, others were regular POW camps. Regardless of size and function, conditions in them frequently included the prisoners' being tied at night to their bamboo bunks anchored by rope to a post in their small bamboo shelters. In others they were held in bamboo cages, commonly known as tiger cages. In yet other camps the dense jungle itself provided the bars to their cage. There was rarely enough food and water to sustain them, and as a result, the Americans suffered a wide variety of illnesses in addition to their injuries and wounds. The Americans were being moved toward the west where they would join another group of American POWs, referred to as "The Camacho Group" and so named for SFC Issac Camacho, the senior POW in the group.
Even though Douglas Ramsey was aware of other prisoners in the camp, he did not speak to them until July when he made contact with Donald Cook and Charles Crafts at the funeral service held for John Schumann, an Army Captain who was captured by the VC on 16 June 1965 and died on 7 July 1966. The prisoners did not talk again until they broke camp three months later. However, in the interim, they were able to slip notes to each other.
For Mr. Ramsey, these months were filled with more interrogations than civilians were normally exposed to because the communists were convinced he was a CIA agent since he could speak Vietnamese fluently. That belief first manifested itself when captured because he was carrying a large amount of cash they suspected was to bankroll covert activities rather than to fund a USAID construction project. Further, American reporters in Saigon filed stories identifying him as a prominent US official and there had been at least one high-level attempt early in his captivity to secure his release with an offer of ransom.
Although the VC did not torture him, they terrorized him with threats of execution and tormented him with elaborate atrocity skits that depicted him as a murderer and spy. The combination of fear and guilt, coupled with his isolation and difficulty in sleeping, drove him almost insane until late August when he had a bout of "near hysteria." At that point, he summoned the strength to fight back and regain a degree of control over his own life.
On 7 October 1966, Army Sgt. Sammie N. Womack was a squad leader whose infantry unit was ambushed and decimated in a firefight with the VC. He was immediately marched north to the camp. Shortly after Sgt. Womack arrived, the guards broke camp on 28 October and began a two-week trek over some of the roughest terrain in South Vietnam. Donald Cook, Charles Crafts, Douglas Ramsey and Sammie Womack clambered across steep ravines on slippery log bridges and plodded through dense forest heavy with humidity and mosquitoes. The move was hard on all the POWs, but it was especially difficult on Donald Cook. He contracted malaria the day before they broke camp, and suffered from night blindness that affected his equilibrium. Douglas Ramsey reported that "by sheer willpower, Capt. Cook traversed the march's 150-200 miles. It was a super-human performance." Donald Cook's courage and adamant resistance always impressed his fellow POWs.
The VC could not have found a more inhospitable location for the new camp. Torrential rain and poor soil prevented cultivating crops to the point that even rice was in short supply. Prisoners and guards alike had to make do with a meager diet of manioc, bamboo shoots and an occasional rat for protein supplement. When monsoon rains hit early in 1967, the water table would periodically rise several feet saturating the camp for days and flooding the prisoners out of their dugout cells. Shortly after arriving in this camp, Douglas Ramsey and Charles Crafts also came down with malaria. Mr. Ramsey's case was particularly severe and generally evolved into the cerebral type that caused convulsions and usually death. In spite of his own serious illness, Donald Cook's caring attention; along with a senior cadre's decision to share the guerrilla's limited supply of quinine with their prisoner, brought Douglas Ramsey out of a sinking coma.
By January 1967, all the men were reasonably healthy and being given indoctrination up to 6 hours a day with the sessions split between the morning and afternoon. The guards now numbered 10 men who rotated shifts and were for the most part considerate and friendly. Shortly after the first of the year, the communists informed Pvt. Crafts that he and SSgt. Womack were candidates for release. Neither man knew what the VC had in mind, except that with Tet (the Vietnamese New Year) approaching, the communists' might try to make propaganda points by releasing a pair of POWs with one being black and the other white in a non-discriminatory manner.
On 7 February 1967, Charles Crafts and Sammie Womack were taken to a specially constructed hut for a formal release ceremony presided over by a senior official and attended by the entire camp including Capt. Cook and Mr. Ramsey. However, because Pvt. Craft's malaria flared up, they did not actually leave the camp until 16 February. As they left, they carefully studied the area noting a small clearing that could serve as a drop zone for a rescue operation. Unfortunately, they were unable to identify enough landmarks along the departure route to ever find the place again. By 23 February they reached a main highway where their escorts put them on a civilian bus that took them to a US checkpoint that afternoon.
Charles Crafts smuggled out a letter from Douglas Ramsey to his parents and two letters from Donald Cook, one to his wife and the other to "Big Sam," his cover name for the US government should the letters be intercepted by the enemy. In Douglas Ramsey's letter, he made several prophetic observations when he wrote: "We have a tiger by the tail and can't let go." He hoped that "our leader have no illusions about the ultimate political victory here and that they do not entertain ambitions going beyond a minimum face-saving roll-back which will permit our withdrawal without undue loss of military prestige." The State Department Foreign Service Officer concluded by writing: "Anything more is wishful thinking, and any attempt to achieve it would be to compound the past folly with future folly."
On 29 June 1967, Capt. William H. Hardy, was an agricultural development advisor assigned to Team 91 and on temporary duty to USAID when he was captured. William Hardy was marched toward the north and he arrived at the prison camp in September. In late 1967, the guards again broke camp; moved Douglas Ramsey, Donald Cook and William Hardy northwest toward the Cambodian border and the drier climate of the highlands. Because he was in the best shape, Capt. Hardy made the trip in 10 days despite having to carry the bulk of the prisoners' equipment.
Donald Cook and Douglas Ramsey followed at a slower pace. After a month of struggling to climb the steep slopes, Mr. Ramsey arrived at the new camp. As soon as he arrived, he noticed that Capt. Cook was not there. He asked the guards where Donald Cook was and was told that he had been taken to "a distant camp." It was not until his own release that Mr. Ramsey learned from a VC interpreter that his friend had died along the trail, probably from another malaria seizure, only a week or so after the two were separated.
On 22 December 1970, the Provisional Revolutionary Government (PRG), better known as the Viet Cong, released a list of names of American POWs who they reported died while under their control. The PRG list included Harold Bennett, Donald Cook and John Schumann. While Harold Bennett, Donald Cook and John Schumann died while under the control of the communists, each man has the right to have his remains returned to his family, friends and country. For other Americans who remain unaccounted for in Southeast Asia, their fate could be quite different.
Since the end of the Vietnam War well over 21,000 reports of American prisoners, missing and otherwise unaccounted for have been received by our government. Many of these reports document LIVE American POWs remaining captive throughout Southeast Asia TODAY.
Military men in Vietnam were
called upon to fight in many dangerous circumstances, and they were prepared
to be wounded, killed or captured. It probably never occurred to them that
they could be abandoned by the country they so proudly served.
Of the eight Americans captured in the Heartland of South Vietnam before 1968, only Douglas Ramsey and William Hardy survived captivity and returned to US control during Operation Homecoming.