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American pilot’s daring escape during Vietnam War on No Man Left Behind

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No Man Left Behind tells the remarkable story of U.S. pilot Charlie Klusmann’s daring escape

Tonight’s episode of  No Man Left Behind is titled Memories Of Hell and tells the story of the first American pilot to be captured during the Vietnam War.

U.S. Navy pilot Charlie Klusmann’s jet was shot down whilst he was flying over Laos in 1964. He was forced to eject and things soon went from bad to worse.

Lt. Klusmann ejects from his damaged plane and is captured
Lt. Klusmann following his capture after he ejected from his damaged plane

He landed on some trees, dislocating his hip — meaning he could not move or take evasive action. A rescue plane did arrive but it soon came under fire and he bravely waved it off.

Lt. Klusmann was then captured by the communist Pathet Lao, the Laotian version of the Viet Cong.

They kept him in solitary confinement and he soon became very ill. Eventually, after being promised his freedom in return, he signed a confession saying he was guilty and that the foreigners who came to Laos to wage war were crazy.

This was used as propaganda against America, but his hopes of release were soon dashed. Instead he was transferred to another military camp.

Despite signing a confession under duress he is not released
Despite signing a confession under duress Lt. Klussman was not released

But he decided enough was enough, and vowed to get himself out of the situation. With his leg still bothering him he needed to build his strength back up, so started training.

He would walk from one corner of the room to the other. It was only 20 feet but he would mark each time on the wall so he could work out miles.

Teaming up with a Laotian POW called Buon Mi and communicating only via sign language, they hatched a plan to escape.

After 80 days in captivity, Lt. Klusmann managed to evade Pathet Lao troops for several days before he was finally rescued.

Watch the full episode No Man Left Behind, Memories of Hell, to find out more about his incredible story.

No Man Left Behind airs tonight at 9pm ET on National Geographic Channel.

James has worked for Monsters and Critics since it started back in 2003. He oversees the business and technical side of things. You can contact... read more
James Wray


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