WRIGHT-PATTERSON AIR FORCE BASE, Ohio -- Retired Col. Henry P. Fowler Jr., a Vietnam prisoner of war, was the guest speaker at the Wright-Patterson Air Force Base POW/MIA Recognition Day wreath-laying ceremony Sept. 21 at the Arnold House in Area A.
Fowler, then a first lieutenant, was flying an F-4 Phantom II when he was forced to eject over North Vietnam on March 26, 1967, 24 miles from the capital city of Hanoi. Fowler was taken as a prisoner of war and forced to march 12 miles in six hours with serious back injuries.
Fowler described his normal day in captivity being locked up in a 7-foot-by-nine foot concrete room with one boarded up small window. His bed was a flat board with a black bucket for a toilet, no hot water, and two daily contaminated bowls of soup that consisted of turnips, cabbage or grass. The first strand of meat Fowler had to eat, he found out later was rat.
“Without any visitors and locked in a small single cell you had to keep yourself in shape by running in place or die,” said Fowler. “The two friends I did have were rats the size of small cats that came through an opening at the bottom of my door each day, for small pieces of bread.”
Surviving the summer heat exceeding 120 degrees and extreme cold during the winter months, Fowler was able stay alive and was released following the Paris Peace talks after spending 2,157 days in captivity, during Operation Homecoming Feb. 18, 1973.
“We were the lucky ones as we were able to come home,” said Fowler. “Let it be known in honor of those who did not come home.”
Fowler finished his talk at the Hope Hotel luncheon by saying, “One of the things worth dying for is Freedom.”
Also during the ceremony, three runners from the Overnight Vigil and Torch Run with the memorial torch, flag and scroll concluded their final leg at 7:30 a.m., leaving from the Air Force Institute of Technology track and finishing at the Arnold House at 9 a.m.
Retired Air Force Col. Cassie Barlow, president of the Miami Valley Military Affairs Association, and retired Senior Master Sgt. David McCoy, president of Chapter 751 of the Air Force Sergeants Association, laid the wreaths at the POW/MIA Recognition Day memorial, and the Honor Guard presented the colors.