Retired Navy Lieutenant Commander John M. McGrath’s Prisoner of War: Six Years in Hanoi (Naval Institute Press, 130 pp., $19.95, paper) is a small book that is divided about equally into text and drawings. Of all the books I’ve read about the POW experience in Hanoi, this one does the best job of communicating the unspeakable horror of being a captive of the North Vietnamese during the Vietnam War.
Where words are not enough, McGrath’s excellent drawings do the job of communicating precisely how the tortures worked to produce pain in the captives, and what the torture exacted on the flesh and bones of the captured Americans. Even the smell and feel of the filth and degradation forced on the prisoners is felt in this book, as much as words and drawings can do that.
McGrath’s book is a triumph of the spirit to survive suffering so as to return home to family and country. This return is shown in his final drawing.
I highly recommend this book—which was published in hardcover in 1975—written and illustrated from McGrath’s own personal experience in Hanoi when he was a POW from 1967-73.