Charlie Plumb Talks About Life in a POW Camp

Fear. A common bond between all people, whether you are a POW in a Vietnam prison camp or shopping for groceries at a local market. There is a big difference, however, between being the fear of crossing the parking lot and living a nightmare of a war prison — but Charlie Plumb’s message in August at the Estrella Warbird Museum dinner was not about what surrounds you, but instead about what you surround yourself with.
After spending 2,103 days locked up in isolation in a POW camp during the Vietnam war, along with hundreds of others including John McCain, Charlie learned a thing or two while communicating in silence with other POWs.

“You think of sunny beaches, and places back home and daydream and eventually you get used to it,” Charlie said. “In fact, you get so comfortable in your dark and dingy cell that the last place you want to go is ‘out there.’ Because it is dark and lonely out there.”

He began his speech walking back and forth on the stage at Warbirds, giving a visual guide for what his cell was like. 1-2-3 steps one way, 1-2-3 steps back. “What happens is you get a restriction going up, and it is not the eight feet between the walls,” Charlie said. “It’s the eight inches between your ears — within a mental box.”
Charlie served the crowd a one-of-a-kind perspective using real-life experiences very few will know first-hand.
“One of the reasons I survived is that I had my parachute packed,” Charlie said, and went on to explain, “…mom and dad, and coaches, teachers, preachers, and the people that give you the strength to survive in times of need — they’ve packed your
parachute for life.”
Several years after being released from the POW camp, Charlie received that bit of wisdom when he randomly met the rigger who packed his parachute before he was shot down in Vietnam. They met in a restaurant in Kansas City, Kansas, where
Charlie lived.
Read more about Charlie Plumb’s experience in his book “I’m No Hero.”
The Warbirds host a dinner every first Wednesday of the month at 4251 Dry Creek Rd. On Sept. 5, test pilot and engineer Zach Reeder will be the evening’s speaker. Deadline for reservations is Monday, Sept. 3 at 6 p.m. at 805-296-1935 or ewarbirds.org.