Compensation for POWs During the Vietnam War

Compensation for POWs During the Vietnam War

Among the guests on a recent "Welcome Home Show," which airs on Saturdays from 2 to 4 pm on WIBG Radio, were Ralph Galati and Dave Drummond, both of whom were shot down over North Vietnam and were interned as POWs in the notorious Hanoi Hilton.

The show, hosted by Vietnam veteran Joe Griffies, explored a variety of issues of interest to veterans, but nothing focused the attention of the guests, and the listeners, as much as the fact that Americans who were prisoners of war in Vietnam received $5 per day for the period of time they were interned.  As Ralph Galati exclaimed, "Wow. Sign me up again for that program!"

It was Galati's guess that the $5 a day for "inadequate quarters and messing" and inhumane treatment was derived from the 1948 War Claims Act, which (in part) stated that $2 per day was for the failure of the hostile force to furnish the quantity and quality of food prescribed for prisoners of war under the Geneva Convention of August 12, 1949, and $3 per day for failure to meet the conditions and requirements under the provisions of the Geneva Convention.

Obviously, that amount is ridiculous, no matter how you want to calculate it, and our veterans and POWs deserve better. There is no way to calculate what our service men and women endured as prisoners of war, and this area of southern New Jersey has its share of these "heroes," as Griffies rightfully called them.  Among those he cited were Vincent Pale, who was a POW in Stalag 17 during World War II; George Beichel, also a POW during WWII; Deacon Steve Hopkins, who was 18 years old when he was a POW during the Korean War, and Jessica Lynch, who was 19 when she was interned as a POW in Iraq.

Joe Griffies summed it up this way: "Our courageous POWs must endure cruel treatment, beatings, starvation, loneliness and never knowing from one minute to the next what pleasures the enemy would put upon them for their own satisfaction. POWs take beatings for all of us. I guess the best that five dollars can buy is freedom."