Cover image for Glory denied : the saga of Jim Thompson, America's longest-held prisoner of war
Glory denied : the saga of Jim Thompson, America's longest-held prisoner of war
Philpott, Tom.
Personal Author:
First edition.
Publication Information:
New York : Norton, [2001]

Physical Description:
xx, 457 pages, 16 unnumbered pages of plates : illustrations, 1 map ; 25 cm
Personal Subject:
Format :


Call Number
Material Type
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Item Holds
DS559.4.T47 P47 2001 Adult Non-Fiction Central Closed Stacks

On Order



An American tragedy reborn, "Glory Denied" is the extraordinary tale of Jim Thompson, who became the first American prisoner in Vietnam and, ultimately, the longest-held prisoner of war in American history. of photos.

Author Notes

Tom Philpott's weekly column, "Military Update", appears in fifty daily newspapers in the United States & overseas. He lives in Centerville, Virginia.

(Bowker Author Biography)

Reviews 3

Booklist Review

What these two books have in common is their subject: Vietnam. Beyond that, they provide very different pictures of war--from the perspective of an American prisoner of war to a gritty portrait of war at the ground level. Anyone who thinks war is about gallantry and glory probably hasn't seen the first 20 minutes of the movie Saving Private Ryan and probably won't be reading Into the Green, for it is not for the squeamish. Here, war is brutal, lethal, gritty, yet moving, as lives are lost on both sides. Told in a series of vignettes, McDonald's book illustrates both the irony and the ferocity of the Vietnam War. In one vignette, McDonald is in a hospital in Pleiku when his family is notified that he is missing. Then two new replacements alight from a helicopter, which crashes on liftoff and slices one of them in two. The replacement was "in country" all of one week. Stark and visceral, yet very moving, this book does not gloss over the reality of war. Jim Thompson was in the Special Forces of the army in Vietnam and has the dubious distinction of being the longest-held prisoner of war in U.S. history. Having served a little more than three months in Vietnam, Thompson was in a plane crash and captured in March 1964. Glory Denied is told to Philpott in the form of an oral history, and it includes Jim's story as told by him, his wife and other family members, friends back home, his fellow prisoners, and those who knew him when he finally got out. For four years Thompson was held in brutal conditions in solitary confinement. He deteriorated to 100 pounds. True to his Special Forces training, Jim tried to escape five times, but failed. However, an equally dark part of his saga came when he returned home, finding his wife had tried to have him declared dead and his children didn't know him. There are no pat, happy endings here. --Marlene Chamberlain

Publisher's Weekly Review

Col. Floyd James "Jim" Thompson of the U.S. Army Special Forces was captured by the Vietcong in South Vietnam in March 1964 and held longer than any other prisoner of war in American history, suffering greatly physically and emotionally. He was released, along with other American POWs, in March 1973. Thompson's troubles, however, only multiplied after his release. During his captivity, Thompson's wife, Alyce, moved with their four young children into the home of an army sergeant and told the children their father was dead. The Thompsons reunited after his release, but their marriage soon dissolved, and Thompson later suffered a stroke that diminished his mental capabilities. For this biography, Philpott, who writes the syndicated column "Military Update," interviewed 160 people over 15 years. In an even more vrit manner than Mailer's The Executioner's Song or George Plimpton's Truman Capote, Philpott tells Thompson's story mainly through the verbatim testimony he gathered from Thompson's family, friends and colleagues, along with various newspaper articles and other ephemera that have collected around Thompson. The Thompson family's postwar lives read like a Jerry Springer show, replete with severe alcoholism, spousal abuse, adultery, teenage pregnancy, bitter divorce and the jailing of Thompson's son on a murder charge. Philpott arranges the entire story deftly, with the most riveting sections covering Thompson's incarceration. Much of Thompson's own contributions come from interviews he gave for another book before his stroke. Philpott himself emerges here mostly through his choices in montage, and his refusal to comment directly gives this work real dignity. (May 14) Forecast: A New Yorker abridgement (Apr. 2 issue), a short foreword from Vietnam POW Sen. John McCain and release in time for Memorial Day should launch this book with verve, and its uncanny mix of human and military interest should quickly propel it onto bestseller lists. Expect serious sales and reviews that dwell on Philpott's primary source-based narrative method. (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

Library Journal Review

As in Jeremiah A. Denton's When Hell Was in Session (1976. o.p.), the odyssey of America's longest-held prisoner, Special Forces Col. Floyd "Jim" Thompson, is told through a series of interviews with members of his family, friends, doctors, and the men and women with whom he served. One of the Vietnam war's earliest American prisoners, Thompson was held captive for nine years four of them in solitary confinement. Despite physical and mental torture, he survived, but he returned to his country a different person. Although reunited with his family, he suffered an inability to readjust to civilian life because of the vicious mental scars left from his internment. His marriage collapsed, and his children, who had been told that their father was dead, were deeply traumatized; eventually, his son was convicted of second-degree murder. After suffering a debilitating stroke, Thompson finally quit heavy drinking, joined AA, and learned to take it "A day at a time." Military writer Philpott's well-researched biography is a remarkable story of survival that will take its place among the testimonies of other POWs. With a foreword by Senator John McCain; recommended for academic and public libraries. Gerald R. Costa, Brooklyn P.L., New York (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.



Chapter One DYING Jim Thompson I don't really know how far they would have gone, whether they would have killed me or not. I don't really know. But from the 21st of July 1964, my most recent escape attempt, until The 18th of August that year, I knew one of two things was going to happen. I would either go insane or I would die. Either my mind or my body was going to crack.     One thing they harped on was "This isn't worth dying for." That more than anything preyed on my mind. I had some intelligence training, so I understood what they were doing. But even knowing, I couldn't change it. That was the hell of it. I couldn't change it. When they control your environment so completely, your morale can be manipulated at will. You can fight it to a certain point; you can minimize the effects of it. You can't completely get away from it.     Longer interrogation sessions, less and less sleep. The simple task of cutting wood became almost insurmountable. To pick up an ax, to bend down and blow on a fire, was enough to make me pass out. Just from weakness. They placed all manner of frustrating situations in front of me. Interrogation would last until well after dark. Then I had to scrounge around for wood. Or they waited to end a session until it was raining and the wood was too wet to build a fire. They took my boots and made me go barefoot in the jungle. They woke me up in the middle of the night and early in the morning and forced me to cut brush around the hut. Anything to cause me physical pain, to lose rest. It was a series of little things that together made daily life miserable.     Longer and longer interrogation sessions, more and more pressure, and finally the physical torture. Beatings, mostly, with bamboo across my back, legs, arms. An interrogator would stand in front of me and a guard behind. He would nod, signaling the guard to punctuate his remarks. Not an outright beating. Just punctuation. "You must answer!" Snap!     One day he said, "You must abide by regulations of the camp." I said I understood. He said, "The regulations are that you must not leave your hut without permission. You must obey the guards. Do you agree?"     "Yeah," I said, "I understand."     The next day he called me out and blandly said, "All right. Now we're ready to take your statement."     "What statement?"     "You agreed yesterday to answer all our questions."     "I never agreed to that!"     "You agreed to obey camp regulations! One regulation is you must do everything you're told! Now write a statement!"     "I refuse" Snap!     Far more severe than the physical abuse was the constant mental pressure. It's hard to describe in a meaningful way. I've racked my brain to figure how to portray this. But without the threat of death, you can't recreate it. I sincerely felt the end was within sight. I didn't think these people were going to stop and I didn't think I would crack. I was absolutely determined not to crack. And I believed they would continue until ... until I died. Excerpted from GLORY DENIED by TOM PHILPOTT. Copyright © 2001 by Tom Philpott. Excerpted by permission. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.

Table of Contents

Senator John McCain
Forewordp. xi
Author's Notep. xv
Vietnam Mapp. xvii
Introductionp. xix
Part I Prisonerp. 1
1 Dyingp. 3
2 The Pitp. 5
3 Key Westp. 8
Part II America's Son, 1933-1963p. 13
4 Bergenfieldp. 15
5 Alycep. 21
6 Marriagep. 26
7 The Armyp. 31
8 Special Forcesp. 40
9 Ordersp. 46
10 Gone Againp. 52
Part III War and Dreams, 1964-1973p. 57
11 In-Countryp. 59
12 Camp Khe Sanhp. 63
13 Patrolsp. 73
14 Friendly Firep. 80
15 Final Lettersp. 88
16 Capturep. 93
17 Missingp. 96
18 Confinementp. 110
19 Haroldp. 116
20 Massachusettsp. 130
21 A New Lifep. 135
22 Settling Inp. 140
23 North Vietnamp. 145
24 Christmas '67p. 151
25 Bao Caop. 155
26 Camp K-77p. 165
27 Roommatesp. 170
28 Shaping Upp. 186
29 Rockpilep. 195
30 Escapep. 199
31 Peace Talksp. 211
32 No Braceletp. 221
33 Going Homep. 226
Part IV The War Comes Home, 1973-1980p. 239
34 The First Liep. 241
35 Reunionp. 250
36 The Childrenp. 258
37 Pulling Up Rootsp. 267
38 Power of Faithp. 277
39 The White Housep. 289
40 Hurting Timep. 295
41 Wild Streakp. 303
42 Dreamhousep. 310
43 Broken-Heartedp. 315
44 Divorcedp. 320
45 New Partnersp. 326
46 Tennesseep. 333
47 Simple Negligencep. 339
48 Place in the Sunp. 347
49 Bridge Playersp. 356
50 Turnaroundp. 364
Part V No Reprieve, 1981-1992p. 373
51 Captive Once Morep. 375
52 Rehabilitationp. 381
53 Disappearedp. 387
54 Separate Movesp. 390
55 Murder Suspectp. 401
56 A Tennessee Trialp. 407
57 The Sentencep. 416
58 Survivorp. 421
Epiloguep. 429
Acknowledgmentsp. 431
Biographical Sketchesp. 435
Illustration Creditsp. 443
Indexp. 445