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Rescue Dawn - A big disappointment

by Denny Breslin |

As a former Navy pilot, I read Jerry DeBruin's critique of Rescue Dawn with interest because of the reputation Dieter Dengler had. Going through SERE (survival escape rescue evasion) prior to going overseas to my first squadron in 1973, we were given Dengler's evasive accomplishments as "goals" in our evasion and escape training. I hadn't heard of Dengler before that, but I figured if he could avoid getting caught in the evasion course, then so could I. If he could escape from the mock-POW camp, then surely I could as well.

The first part was easy, I was never caught and walked the length of the course at the end unscathed as my brethren were caught and "tortured." However I wasn't able to escape in the POW camp because I was never allowed an opportunity

Fast-forward to the end of the war in 1975 and return of POW's, several of whom were in my squadron in Pensacola, Fla. My utmost respect for Ross Terry, Gene Sierras and John Heilig was born of the actions and attitudes of truly great, generous and genuine men who had endured 7 years of literally death-defying brutality.

Then came the POW books, and among them, "Escape from Laos." It was impressive and filled in the blanks about Dengler from SERE school. Later, as an American Airlines pilot I was flying from Chicago to San Francisco one night and a TWA flight was just in front of us. Dengler was a TWA pilot at the time. I asked pilots if they knew Dengler and was surprised by the sarcastic response framed by the words, "...don't believe everything you read."

So last night my son brought the video over and we watched the -sequel- to "Little Dieter Needs to Fly." Understanding a certain amount of literary license is granted to film writers/producers, one can give some leeway in the telling of the story. But after reading the critical comments from Gene DeBruin's family and the account from Phisit, it is clear that Mr. Herzog went beyond the bounds of "literary license" into what amounts to mean fiction.

It is sad that Americans will not see the truth about those prisoners in Laos. Herzog had every opportunity to make them all the courageous heroes they were. Jerry DeBruin gave it the proper perspective with the notion that Gene, Duane, YC and others - are no less heroes because they didn't make it out...

Denny Breslin
NCSB 1969