1st POW Killed In Vietnam Is Given Honors

Dick Bennett, right, brother of slain Vietnam POW Staff Sgt. Harold George Bennett, speaks with well-wishers near a display of medals presented to the Bennett family. Harold Bennett was the first American POW executed during the Vietnam War.
Dick Bennett, right, brother of slain Vietnam POW Staff Sgt. Harold George Bennett, speaks with well-wishers near a display of medals presented to the Bennett family. Harold Bennett was the first American POW executed during the Vietnam War. (By Danny Johnston -- Associated Press)
By Annie Bergman
Associated Press
Saturday, April 22, 2006

PERRYVILLE, Ark., April 21 -- In what the State Department called a "wanton act of murder," the Viet Cong executed Harold George Bennett of Perryville 41 years ago, after Bennett injured a soldier while trying to escape from a prison camp for the third time.

Bennett, the first U.S. prisoner of war put to death during the Vietnam War, was remembered Friday for his long-forgotten "courage and honor." A fellow soldier quickly documented Bennett's heroism, but recognition efforts stalled.

"It means a great deal. I don't know just how to express it," said Eloise Wallace, 85, Bennett's sister.

Sen. Blanche Lincoln (D-Ark.) presented Bennett's family with a Combat Infantryman's Badge, National Defense Service Medal, Vietnam Service Medal, Prisoner of War Medal, Army Good Conduct Medal and Purple Heart.

At the ceremony, Lincoln said of Bennett: "In the jungles of Vietnam, he displayed courage and honor before and after he was captured by the Viet Cong after a furious firefight. Before being captured, Sergeant Bennett twice called off American helicopter pilots who were attempting to rescue him and his radioman because he wanted to save them from being shot down."


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