Orien Judson Walker, Jr.
Died In Captivity - 1966
|SYNOPSIS: Capt. Orien J. Walker, Jr. was an advisor to the South Vietnamese and
attached to Headquarters, MACV. He was working with an ARVN unit on May 26,
1965 in An Xuyen Province, about 10 miles northwest of the city of Quan Long when
the unit was ambushed and he was captured by the Viet Cong. For the next year,
Walker was held in several POW camps throughout South Vietnam.
For Americans captured in South Vietnam, daily life could be expected to be brutally
difficult. Primarily, these men suffered from disease induced by an unfamiliar and
inadequate diet - dysentery, edema, skin fungus and eczema. The inadequate diet
coupled with inadequate medical care led to the deaths of many. Besides dietary
problems, these POWs had other problems as well. They were moved regularly to
avoid being in areas that would be detected by U.S. troops, and occasionally found
themselves in the midst of U.S. bombing strikes. Supply lines to the camps were
frequently cut off, and when they were, POWs and guards alike suffered. Unless
they were able to remain in one location long enough to grow vegetable crops and tend
small animals, their diet was limited to rice and what they could gather from the jungle.
In addition to the primitive lifestyle imposed on these men, their Viet Cong guards
could be particularly brutal in their treatment. For any minor infraction, including
conversation with other POWs, the Americans were psychologically and physically
tortured. American POWs brought back stories of having been buried to the neck;
held for days in a cage with no protection from insects and the environment; having
had water and food withheld; being shackled and beaten. The effects of starvation
and torture frequently resulted in hallucinations and extreme disorientation. Men
were reduced to animals, relying on the basic instinct of survival as their guide.
Walker was seen by other Americans in POW camps, and several reported that he
was in very bad shape. One day he was removed from the camp and never returned.
The POWs were told he was taken to a hospital and he died. At least one returnee
stated that he died of starvation. The Vietnamese informed the U.S. that Walker
died February 4, 1966. They have made no effort to return his remains.
In the fall of 1985, a CIA document was declassified which contained drawings of a
Viet Cong detention center which held U.S. servicemen in 1969 prior to their being
sent north to Hanoi. It was located just 20 miles southwest of Camp Eagle, a major
American base near Hue, South Vietnam. In the document were greatly detailed
drawings, lists of personnel and lists of U.S. servicemen identified from photographs.
Orien Walker's name was on a list of possible identifications. Along with Walker's
were the names of several POWs who were released in 1973. One of them has verified
the authenticity of the report as far as the camp itself is concerned.
The document was obtained by a private citizen who had obtained it through the
Freedom of Information Act. The family of one man on the "positive" list had never
been told there was even the remotest possibility that he had been captured. The
Defense Department maintains that the report was a fabrication, because the source
could not have known what he reported, even though much of it has been verified by
returned POWs who were held there.
Since the war ended, and 591 Americans were released from prison camps in Vietnam,
over 10,000 reports relating to Americans missing in Southeast Asia have been received
by the U.S. Government intelligence analysts have correlated over 80% of the data to
Americans who have been returned. Therefore, a very high percentage of it is true and
verifiable. Many officials, having reviewed this largely classified information have
reluctantly concluded that hundreds of them are still alive in captivity today. Since no
one actually saw Orien Walker die, and the Vietnamese have not made any attempt to
return any remains, perhaps he could be one of those said to be alive today. If so, what
must he think of us?