In late 2000, CAG Stockdale (Room 7 SRO) asked his old friend, By Fuller to provide a list of the roommates of Room 7, Hanoi Hilton as of Christmas 1970. The roommates of this room were extraordinary, both at the time of incarceration, and then later in freedom.
Room 7 had the first organized church service to be held in the prisons of North Vietnam. Permission was asked for by Stockdale, and twice denied by the Camp Commander. The room was warned not to do it. Room 7 decided to do it anyway. They even had a choir. Their solemn service quickly caught the eye of the guards and authorities. Armed guards rushed into the room to break up the “ominous” unauthorized meeting. Ringleaders, Risner, Coker and Rutledge were led out of the room with guards at each arm (they were headed for more Heartbreak Hotel, solitary confinement and lots of punishment). Bud Day was the one who then jumped up on his bed and started to sing “The National Anthem” and “God Bless America.” The entire room burst into song. Then Rooms Six, Five, Four, Three, Two and One joined in succession.These songs of pride and defiance were loud enough to be heard outside the 15-foot walls of the Hanoi Hilton. As Robbie marched out the door, his back straightened with pride. He held his head high.
Robbie later recalled his thoughts as his roommates burst out in song, “I felt like I was nine feet tall and could go bear hunting with a switch.” Thirty one years later, on November 16, 2001 a nine-foot tall bronze statue of Brigadier General Robinson Risner, USAF would be dedicated on the central plaza of the United States Air Force Academy. To Bud Day (principal speaker), Ross Perot (the sponsor of the project), and dozens of Robbie’s Room-Seven roommates at the ceremony, it seemed more fitting to call the statue “life size.”
CAG, knowing what the V reaction would be, was heard to remark something to the effect, “Well, I guess we just can’t stand prosperity.” Our camp, yet unnamed, from that moment on became known as “Camp Unity.”The guards protested, but the songs continued. Shortly thereafter, Vietnamese troops entered each room in force. They had their hats secured with chinstraps in place, they had fixed bayonets, and they were mad! They quickly backed the POWs against the walls with a bayonet in each POW’s stomach. The singing immediately ceased as the troops burst through the doors. The V later claimed that they had put down a riot. It wasn’t a real riot, but it was a lot of funÖuntil the soldiers entered the room. Several roommates of Room 7 were jerked out the next day. The next day, Orson Swindle in Room 6 tapped the following message on the wall: “Damn, you’d have to get in line to get in trouble in that crowd!!”
Thanks to By Fuller for the gut work of putting together this Mac’s Facts. Paul Galanti and Mike McGrath assisted.This historical document is dedicated to a fearless leader, Vice Admiral Jim Stockdale. CAG, here’s what the men of Room 7 accomplished: