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A Christmas Story

posted Dec 24, 2014, 4:12 PM by Stephen Black

Tonight I want to change it up a bit and tell a story of Vietnam. To those new to our FaceBook site "U.S. Naval Air Station Ottumwa, Iowa", there are many postings on the base and I would encourage you to explore these pages. Larry Stevens was probably Iowa's longest confined POW in the Hanoi Hilton. Larry was kept in a room with 45-50 other prisoners. Family would send care packages that sometimes actually made it to them. He told of guards smelling of Lifebuoy soap so the guards probably routine pilfered these care packages from home. At Christmas one year Folgers instant crystals and Fruitcakes showed up for many of the guys in his cell. If they had a package they would be taken one by one into a room and allowed to view the contents. Back in the cell they shared what was in the package and the group decided how they would divide up (ration and timing of) the contents of these packages. That year each prisoner in their room got a 1/3 of a pound of Fruitcake and watered down coffee made with Folgers Crystals. The Folgers Crystals were a big deal as at the time it was the instant coffee closest to brewed coffee. This was a real Christmas treat. Their normal meal consisted of bread and soup twice a day. It rotated based on in season crop of Spinach, Cabbage or Pumpkin. They would have each of these on 4 month rotations. Obviously, little to no protein and they suffered the diseases related to this restricted diet. Curled feet and nerve damage for instance.

I'll close by wishing all of you a very Merry Christmas and ask that you don't forget our troops that are deployed, those who have served or those who passed thru this base in our own backyard.

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