Airborne museum exhibit tells story of prisoner of war
October 28, 2011
By ASOM PAO
FAYETTEVILLE, N.C. - A very special exhibit will be on display in the Airborne and Special Operations Museum's main lobby beginning Saturday through Nov. 13. "The Animal Called POW" tells the story of Col. James "Nick" Rowe by depicting the conditions Rowe lived through during his five years as a prisoner of war.
The exhibit includes a realistic "tiger cage", an exact replica of the one that imprisoned Rowe.
Rowe, a United States Army officer, was one of only 34 American prisoners of war to escape captivity during the Vietnam War. He developed the rigorous survival, evasion, resistance and escape training program taught to high-risk military personnel.
Rowe graduated from West Point in 1960. In 1963, 1st Lt. Rowe was sent to the Republic of Vietnam and assigned as executive officer of Detachment A-23, 5th Special Forces Group, a 12-man, "A-team."
Located at Tan Phu in An Xuyen province, A-23 organized and advised a civilian irregular defense group camp in the Mekong Delta region of Vietnam. On Oct. 29, 1963, after only three months in country, Rowe was captured by Viet Cong. He spent 62 months in captivity with only brief contact with fellow American POWs. He was held in the U Minh Forest, better known as the "Forest of Darkness," in southern Vietnam.
Rowe was kept in a cage made of saplings, measuring 3 feet by 4 feet by 6 feet. He tried to escape three times but was recaptured and punished each time. In 1968, Rowe's captors sentenced him to die.
As the Viet Cong escorted Rowe to his execution on New Year's Eve, a flight of American helicopters seemed to appear out of nowhere. Rowe knocked down one of his guards and ran into a clearing, waving his arms.
A Soldier in a chopper at first thought that Rowe, clad in black pajamas, was an enemy guerrilla and nearly killed him. But Rowe's beard identified him as an American and he was scooped up and whisked to freedom.
In 1987, Rowe was assigned as the chief of the Army division of the Joint U.S. Military Advisory Group, providing counter-insurgency training for the armed forces of the Philippines.
On the morning of April 21, 1989, as he was being driven to work, Rowe's vehicle was hit by gunfire in Quezon City. Twenty-one shots hit the vehicle; one round entered through an unarmored portion and struck Rowe in the head, killing him instantly.
During Heroes Homecoming, Nov. 6 through 13, members of N.C. Rolling Thunder Chapter 1 and the Patriot Guard Riders will be standing vigil over the exhibit during museum business hours.
For more information call the ASOM at 643-2774.