POW Background

During the Vietnam conflict, POWs suffered malnutrition, general abuse, and various types of torture.  In the North, the torture appeared to have been “standardized” and designed to provide the maximum of pain and discomfort with the minimum of obvious physical traces.  Very restrictive restraints and unusually extreme (ie; against the joint) posture would be used on a daily basis.

Despite this adversity and isolation, the POWs maintained a code of conduct.  They also developed various forms of communication; the TAP Code was the cornerstone.  Through command, control, and communication, the POWs demonstrated remarkable preservation and resilience.

Former POWs have been successful in later years counting among their numbers Members of Congress, Members of State Government, Officials in the Veterans Administration, the first Ambassador to Hanoi and various successful businessmen.


Ropes and over-extended limbs torture.


Rope marks on biceps and forearms
from ropes torture and resulting wrist drop.


"Manacles" originally designed for much smaller wrists


"Tap Code"

Illustrations are courtesy of Captain Mike McGrath, USN (Ret)