Welcome Home Colonel Sam Johnsonby Representative Ted Poe
Posted on 2015-02-12
in the house of representatives
Thursday, February 12, 2015
Mr. POE of Texas. Mr. Speaker, flying in his F-4 Phantom over North
Vietnamese was Air Force pilot Colonel Sam Johnson. On his second tour
of duty in Vietnam, Colonel Johnson was flying with the fighter
squadron called Satan's Angels, when his plane was shot down by ground
fire. It was April, 16, 1966 and Colonel Johnson became a POW.
Colonel Johnson was a career pilot who had already flown 62 combat missions during the Korean War and was on his 25th in Vietnam in his F- 4. On that fateful day in April, a foreign land claimed him captive. He was in the Vietnam prisoner of war camp for 7 years, but Colonel Johnson never wavered.
He was put through serious torment for those 7 years; one can't even imagine the hell he lived.
Because of the way he would not give in to torture and interrogation, the enemy moved him to the famous Hanoi Hilton, or ``Alcatraz,'' as it was appropriately coined. It was as bad a POW camp that ever existed. Alcatraz was where they put the most obstinate men. The POWs, calling themselves the ``Alcatraz gang,'' were so hard-nosed they had to be segregated. The North Vietnamese even had a name for Colonel Sam Johnson, ``Die Hard.'' For 7 years, Colonel Johnson was beaten and tortured, but they got no information out him. He was a pillar of patriotism and strength. He never broke. All of his patriotic stubbornness landed him in solitary confinement, where he remained for 4 years. He was subjected to a cell that was 3- by 9-feet. During those 4 years, all that was in the cell was a light bulb above his head that the enemy kept on for 24 hours a day. During the nighttime, they put him in leg irons, and during those 4 years, he never saw or talked to another American. It was brutal, it was harsh, it was cruel, it was mean.
While he was in the POW camp, he and other POWs communicated with each other using a code by tapping on the wall. It was then, that Colonel Johnson memorized the names of the other POWs in captivity. He kept this memory close so that when he escaped or was released, he would be able to tell their loved ones who they were and where they were.
The enemy laughed at Colonel Johnson. They made fun him. And his response ``Is that the best you can do?'' He entered the prisoner of war camp a strong and sturdy 200 pounds. On a diet of weeds, pig fat and rice, he lost 80 pounds, but never let it get to him.
After 7 years of confinement, captivity and nightmare, he was released, 42 years ago, on February 12, 1973. Today we proudly celebrate his ``returnniversary.'' After his release, Colonel Johnson continued to serve in the United States Air Force, serving for a total of 29 years. After he left the Air Force, he served in the Texas State House. He had his own business and in 1991, he came to the United States House of Representatives, where he still serves and represents the folks from the great state of Texas.
He is tenacious, unyielding and more than anything he is patriotic. He was willing to risk his own life in a foreign land for people just like you and me. Not only is the Texas Delegation lucky to have such a man serving alongside them, but so is the House of Representatives.
Just simply saying thank you could never suffice. I am honored to know such a man and call him my friend.
To Colonel Sam Johnson and all who served in Vietnam: welcome home, welcome home, welcome home.
And that's just the way it is.