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tobacco box. I watched him carefully to find out where he put that box. After sunset on the eighth day it soon got pitch dark. On the way up a steep hill I kept moaning and flopping my hands over the shoulders of the guard with the mirror, who was walking ahead of me. He'd stuck the tobacco in the upper pocket of his jacket. I leaned on him hard, reached over and pulled it out without his ever knowing what happened. Then I flicked the box into the bushes and stuck the mirror in my trousers. A few hours later we reached another village and went to sleep. As usual, one guard slept on my left, another on my right, and they had tied me so that I couldn't move without waking one of them. But when the guard on my left kept putting his leg over mine, and I kept kicking it back, he didn't wake up. The other guard was sound asleep too. This was my chance. I strained to free myself, trying to wriggle out of the ropes. Sweat ran into my eyes; I struggled with the loops at my wrists, afraid my panting would wake someone. Finally I slipped free and crept to the porch. Almost immediately a flock of chickens and pigs started screeching. I raced back inside and lay down next to the guards with my heart pounding like a subway train. When they still didn't wake up, I decided to try again. The moon was just coming out from behind the clouds. In They tied me, then led the rope to the buffalo.' a nearby but I could see a man sitting smoking a cigarette. He was watching me. I froze. The man got up. But he didn't say a word. He just went inside his hut. My shoes were hanging on the porch, but I didn't stop to put them on until I'd crawled about 300 yards. I knew now that the trail was dangerous, so I dived into the jungle. Somewhere in the distance I heard a dog barking. If I could climb a mountain. I could use that mirror to signal an aircraft. Then a helicopter would come. But now I was exhausted. I lay down and slept until dawn and then started for the nearest mountain. About nine o'clock I reached the top. There was nothing to do but wait, and there was no tree, no shade. I hadn't had anything to drink in hours, and the sun was so hot that I almost passed out. Then I saw two Royal Laotian Air Force T-28's. I signaled, and one of them turned in my direction. I was sure he had radioed a helicop- ter, so I waited for a few more hours. But nobody came. At three o'clock I thought I'd better get down from there before I died of thirst. My strength was really gone: I kept falling and sliding down vines, and when I reached the bottom, I was barely able to crawl. Somehow, I found an animal trail and followed it to a water hole. Boom—in I fell, head over heels. I had taken just one drink when they caught me again. There were about 20 of them in blue Pathet Lao uniforms, and they were yelling and screaming. One of them smashed at my head with the butt of his rifle, and as I moved back he hit me on the shoulder. The gun went off and shot another guard through both legs. I thought they were going to kill me then, but they made a stretcher for their buddy and took care of him before turning back to me. They put a rope around my legs and tied my hands behind my back—so tight that after a while my hands were completely numb. Then they hung me upside down from a tree. They kicked me in the face and whipped me until I passed out. When I came to, I was lying on the ground. One of the guards hung me upside down again and shoved a large ant hive in my face. Thousands of little black ants started biting my nose and eyes and mouth. I think I screamed for almost a minute before I passed out again. Later that afternoon—this was the ninth day Welcomed by the squadron executive officer (left) and surrounded by his fellow pilots, Dengler tells of his escape. 29


1966_12_03--27-33--I_Escaped_From_a_Red_Prison
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