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Captive WarriorsCaptive Warriors

A Vietnam POW's Story

Sam Johnson and Jan Winebrenner

Narrated by E. R. Edwin

Available from Audible

Book published by Texas A&M University Press

Col. Samuel R. Johnson, U.S. Air Force, was shot down in April, 1966, while flying his twenty-fifth mission over North Vietnam. Shortly after his capture and imprisonment in the infamous Hanoi Hilton, Colonel Johnson was labeled a diehard by his enemies. His creative and innovative resistance of prison authority earned him banishment to the high-security prison unit where, unknown to U.S. military intelligence, Ho Chi Minh kept the eleven prisoners believed to be a serious threat to his war efforts. For two years Johnson and the other ten endured leg irons, malnutrition, and appallingly primitive conditions while imprisoned in tiny cubicles built in the earthen-walled facility dug out of the center courtyard of North Vietnam's Ministry of Defense in downtown Hanoi.

Captive Warriors is the story of Alcatraz, where courage and humor thrived amid the madness. It is the story of Colonel Johnson's seven-year battle for his life, limbs, and sanity. It is the story of the hundreds of captured warriors — American POWs — whose lives lay in the hands of angry and vengeful North Vietnamese captors. The book also chronicles America's trek into political confusion and chaos throughout the course of the Vietnam War.

More than a story, Captive Warriors is a tribute to all the American prisoners of war who, without benefit of the conventional weapons of war, waged daily battles against an insidious enemy disdainful of the requirements of the Geneva Conventions and who, in the end, became the final pawn in the peace settlement that ended the longest war in American history.

Sam Johnson served twenty-nine years in the U.S. Air Force, flying sixty-two combat missions in Korea before his two tours of duty in Vietnam. He served as director of the Air Force Fighter Weapons School, wing commander of the 31st Wing at Homestead, Florida, and air division commander at Holloman AFB in Alamagordo, New Mexico, where he retired in 1979 as a command pilot. He earned two Silver Stars, two Legions of Merit, the Distinguished Flying Cross, the Bronze Star with Valor, the Meritorious Service Medal, and nine other medals, including two purple hearts. He holds a bachelor's degree from Southern Methodist University and a Master's degree in international affairs from George Washington University. In 1991 he was elected to the U.S. Congress; he lives in Dallas, Texas.

Jan Winebrenner is a freelance writer who lives in Plano, Texas. She grew up on the Navajo Indian Reservation in northern Arizona and studied English literature and education at Northern Arizona University and John Brown University. She has published numerous feature articles and two books, worked as a staff feature writer, and founded a local writer's guild. She is a frequent speaker for writers' groups and conferences.


“In Sam Johnson, patriotism, smarts, guts and humor are combined. The best actor to play his roll in a movie would be Jimmy Stewart at age 40. His book about Alcatraz will provide major insights on the Vietnam experience.”

—Sen. Jeremiah A. Denton, Rear Admiral USN (Ret.)

“Col. S. R. 'Sam' Johnson, USAF (Retired), paid the full price for his beliefs in freedom and democracy while a prisoner of war in North Vietnam. He is a man of deep conviction, great personal integrity and strong moral character. As a resolute resister and dynamic leader, he won the admiration, love and respect of all the American POW's who served with him in Hanoi.”

—James A. "Jim" Mulligan, Captain USN (Ret.)

“Among the other POW's, Sam Johnson was one of the most respected leaders... Our nation is fortunate to have a man of Sam Johnson's stature defend us.”

—H. Ross Perot

Captive Warriors is, from beginning to end, a thoughtful, well-written, and insightful true story of endurance and survival in some of the most desperate circumstances imaginable.”


“Accounts of military intelligence assessments and operations concerning the POWs in Vietnam and his description of a very daring highly secret rescue attempt of prisoners led by Special Forces Colonel "Bull" Simon ... Highly recommended.”


“Recounts in vivid, chilling detail the horrors of the physical and mental tortures inflicted by the North Vietnamese.... a remarkable testament to courage and the strength of convictions.”

Dallas Morning News

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