Watch Again

Why Vietnam POWs Refused This CIA Rescue Mission

Watch More
back to video

Why Vietnam POWs Refused This CIA Rescue Mission

Short | 03:49

In May 1972, the CIA launched Operation Thunderhead to rescue escaped American soldiers from a North Vietnamese prison. Here's why James Bond Stockdale and the other "Hanoi Hilton" POWs decided to shut it down.


More About This show

In 1973, 591 American POWs returned home from the Vietnam War, bringing with them harrowing tales of survival. But there was an even more remarkable -- and secret -- story to tell: a feat of incredible spycraft that remained classified for decades...until now. This is the unbelievable story of James Stockdale and his fellow prisoners at the notorious "Hanoi Hilton." Their clandestine communications with U.S. intelligence alerted the CIA and Pentagon to the horrors of the Vietnamese POW camps and prompted a daring, top-secret rescue mission.


  • Danny E. Glenn
  • Sybil Stockdale
  • Red McDaniel
  • Spence Dry
  • Robert W. Wallace
  • Michael Mullen
  • Moki Martin
  • Dr. James B. Stockdale II
  • James Bond Stockdale
  • Danny E. Glenn

    Danny E. Glenn

    Read Full Bio

    Commander Danny E. Glenn was a POW housed in the same cell of the infamous "Hanoi Hilton" as Vice-Admiral James Bond Stockdale -- a senior officer suspected by the North Vietnamese of passing secret messages to the U.S. government.

    Despite being subjected to gruesome and sustained torture, Glenn never betrayed his cellmate. In fact, he went on to become a trusted and key member of the POW covert communications effort, led by Stockdale, which would develop into a major source of intelligence for the CIA.

    After 2,226 days in captivity, Glenn was released by the North Vietnamese as part of Operation Homecoming on March 4, 1973. Upon his return, he was presented with several military awards and honors for his bravery during his time as a POW, including his second Silver Star citation, which references the torture he endured immediately after his capture.

    The citation noted that through his refusal to yield, he contributed significantly toward the eventual abandonment of harsh treatment by the North Vietnamese, and that his determination, courage, resourcefulness, and devotion to duty reflected well on him and upheld the highest traditions of the Naval Service and the United States Armed Forces.

    Commander Glenn would continue his service in the Navy, including several overseas posts, until his retirement in 1983.

Ways to Watch

Have Smithsonian Channel through your TV provider?

Watch this show online now.

Return to Video Page