I’m Capt. Charlie Plumb.  I was a POW in Vietnam for nearly 6 years.  I have since made a life of educating and inspiring others with the lessons learned there.  I have had a decent amount of experience with social isolation.  Believe it or not, there are some tried and tested methods, skills, and ways of approaching life which can greatly affect your mental and physical state during these challenging times.

I have been putting out a short video series recently of some of the tools for your mental toolbox:  


Prison Thinking: https://www.instagram.com/p/B-k4EOwJgT3/

Communication: https://www.instagram.com/p/B-iV6WxJVLM/

If you would like to hear more of my story I was interviewed on the Jocko Willink Podcast #76: https://youtu.be/2XgwpDnalZE

I would love to answer any questions you may have about experiences of being isolated, how to thrive in challenging times, and most importantly, your element of control even when you feel powerless to forces bigger than you.

Proof: https://twitter.com/CaptPlumb/status/1248276962109296640

EDIT: I am headed out for now everyone. I was really impressed by the depth of all your questions and thank you very much for the conversation. Please feel free to follow my continuing "A POW TALKS" series on my instagram at https://www.instagram.com/plumbtalk/?hl=en

If you'd like to reach out you can find all my info at my website: https://charlieplumb.com/

Stay Strong.

Great being with you.


Comments: 952 • Responses: 83  • Date: 

SomberBootyDance986 karma

How can we keep the people around us motivated and positive? I’m coping with the quarantine okay, but my son (13) isn’t. He has a negative attitude about the whole situation -focused on what he can’t do and what he’s lost. I’ve tried taking to him but he won’t listen to me.

captcharlieplumb2072 karma

Be the example. Organize your day. Set up a schedule. Make things happen. Don't criticize. Just mentor.

MinimumIndication687 karma

I recall you mentioning in the podcast (unless I am mixing guests) how, when in captivity - ea. POW would prepare and put on a "seminar lecture" to teach the other captives about some subject (to keep things interesting) - I believe one guy did Biology, for instance.

What was the most fascinating thing you learned during one of those lectures? Who gave the most engaging talk, and why?

Apologies in advance if I mixed guests up.

captcharlieplumb1951 karma

Yes, that was me. Fellow POW Joe Milligan was a biology student before he was shot down. He taught us everything from protozoa to metazoan and all things in-between. Other guys taught integral calculus, or French or Russian. The University of Maryland gave us credits for courses we took without professors, or textbooks or power points. I taught a course in sailing. And after we were repatriated, some of my students were amazed that they could actually rent a sailboat and sail on their own!

ruinevil506 karma

As a Navy Captain, did you ever lead your own boat? If you did, what are your views on what Captain Crozier did and what Mr. Modly did?

captcharlieplumb1065 karma

Yes, I was reserve captain of the aircraft carrier USS Coral Sea. It's not an easy job. That entire situation was like a huge train wreck. His seniors should have listened to Capt Crozier from his first request but they apparently didn't know how serious the situation was. When Capt Crozier didn't get the answers he wanted he should have pursued the issue further, not make his problem known to the world. It's never a good idea for a naval officer to jump the chain of command. Then Mr. Modly was in error with his remarks to the crew. I was sad to see such leadership from both of those guys.

TizardPaperclip192 karma

I was reserve captain of the aircraft carrier USS Coral Sea.

Hang on, does that mean that you were potentially in charge of one of those huge ships full of airplanes, like the USS Nimitz?

If so, that's a heck of a thing! And either way, thank you for your service: It's comforting to know that there are guys out there around the world ready to fight so that I don't have to.

captcharlieplumb457 karma

My ship was a little smaller than the Nimitz, but yes we had 90 jets and a crew of about 3500 sailors. It's like a floating city.

serious_black65 karma

If you had been in CAPT Crozier's shoes, were leading an aircraft carrier full of subordinates catching and sharing a pandemic virus amongst themselves, and (correctly) believed that the next link up in your chain of command would refuse to do anything about the issue, what would you have done?

captcharlieplumb120 karma

I wold have resubmitted the request and tagged the message, "CRUCIAL". If that didn't work, I would have sought other sources like medical officers, or personnel officers to take the message up. I would never have jumped the chain of command or let the story leak to the press.

charlie_pony35 karma

Yes, I was reserve captain of the aircraft carrier USS Coral Sea.


holy shit. And you were a POW?

Damn. Jesus jumping christ.

You da man.

captcharlieplumb96 karma

Yeah, wasn't much fun, but it makes home NICE!

buttThroat30 karma

As someone who just watched A Few Good Men for the first time I can confirm that you should never go outside the chain of command

captcharlieplumb86 karma

It defeats the whole purpose of military discipline.

carltheawesome402 karma

What would you most like to tell us that no one ever asks about?

captcharlieplumb1074 karma

Suck it up! Take control of your destiny! Pull up your big boy pants (or big girl panties) and get on with your life!

Salsa_de_Pina277 karma

Aside from usual things like see your family and friends, what was the first thing you wanted to do when you were released (like go golfing, eat a Big Mac, watch a movie, etc...)?

captcharlieplumb745 karma

Take a shower and eat some chocolate ice cream.

chappapalooza48 karma

You seem like a simple and amazing person sir thank you for everything

captcharlieplumb113 karma

Truly, I'm more simple and less amazing. But thanks for the nice comment.

TuskenRaiders33 karma

As a current officer I just want to thank you for paving the way for my generation and would like to offer you a sincere welcome home.

captcharlieplumb37 karma

Thanks, that never gets old. And thanks for your service. You are the one who is now at the point of the spear.

OldEfficiency4267 karma

How did they treat you?

captcharlieplumb717 karma

Tortured for two days after capture then periodically for the next three years. Tossed in an 8 ft. by 8 ft. cell with absolutely nothing to do. No books, phone, TV, not a pencil or piece of paper for nearly six years.

CheeezBlue252 karma

That’s terrible , what do you think of Vietnamese people now ? Can you talk to them or does it bring too much bad stuff back

captcharlieplumb1440 karma

I have no ill will towards the Vietnamese. They are wonderful people I took my family back to Vietnam a few years ago and had a wonderful time. I met with the fighter pilots I had fought in the air and the camp commander who was in charge of our torture. My mother taught me forgiveness.

WeaverRektU179 karma

I can't even begin to imagine how much strength it takes to forgive the man that tortured you. What was that like, facing him again?

captcharlieplumb320 karma

It was very interesting. He didn't admit to ever harming an American. He said he was proud to have kept us healthy and happy. I was stunned. But we eventually hugged it out!

SaigonNoseBiter52 karma

That's wild. I've lived over there for 8yrs now, currently in Saigon. I w9uldnt have thought he'd be like that. But maybe the only way he could live with himself is to tell himself that lie. War sucks for everyone. Glad you're doing alright now, and glad you got to being your family here to see life post war.

captcharlieplumb92 karma

I'm still baffled by his comments. You might be right. Or, he might be afraid of some retribution if he told the truth.

OldEfficiency4129 karma

What did you do In ur spare time to make it less brutal. Thank you for ur service

captcharlieplumb433 karma

I went back through my life and tried to recapture every book I'd ever read, every movie I'd ever seen, ever girl I'd ever dated. That took about 3 months!

bealooschzwijg204 karma

thank u for your service! I've suffered severe hearing damage (the ringing) and the loss of that important sense coupled with the nagging noise has turned my life quality down. So i've been, at least mentally, isolated for about ten years since i cant really talk anymore. I often get panic attacks where i dont know what to do since I feellike i'm in a mental prison of sorts. What do you suggest i do in those moments of extreme panic where I feel i lose my footing / grounding? hope this isnt a stupid or to vague of a question...if so i'm sorry. Thank u!

captcharlieplumb388 karma

That's not a stupid question at all. Thanks for asking. I can see that you may be in as much of a prison as I was. I feel for you. From my experience, when I felt I was loosing it, I coached myself. I told my self that, as bad is it was, I still was in control. Then I built plateaus of confidence. I can't do this, but I can do that. Then I would go to the next level. Now I have accomplished this, now I will try that. I hope that helps.

kirtovar1170 karma

What do you think about war movies in general? have you seen one that truly captures the war? And if you did in what way did it capture it?

captcharlieplumb529 karma

Most war movies don't really capture the "fog" of war. It's impossible to make the viewer really feel the effects of screaming through the air in a jet fighter at a thousand miles an hour with a missile coming straight at you at the same speed. Of course I'm partial to TOP GUN. Mostly Hollywood, but the scenes inside the cockpit, where everything was so confusing and you couldn't understand anything that came across the radio, and you were shaking like mad and very confused. That's the way combat was.

Abell255168 karma

As a US Army Soldier currently serving in Iraq for the past 10 months, your words are extremely encouraging. I am missing my family like crazy...while you did 6 years as a POW? I’m blown away by your humbled philosophy on life. Motivation beyond belief. Stay safe.

captcharlieplumb132 karma

Thanks for your comments, and thanks for your service. It ain't easy!

nosmokewhereiam163 karma

Do you have any advice for those asking how to keep your "will to live" in an enduring situation? I'm sure it's different for everyone, but I've always wanted to ask.

Thank you for your service from then until now.

captcharlieplumb426 karma

When you come close to death, life becomes precious and your will to live is a no brainer. Now, I wouldn't wish 6 years of POW life on anyone, but we all live through challenges. The will to live comes from overcoming the little obstacles of life. Challenge yourself to live better and serve more.

nosmokewhereiam111 karma

That's a great answer. I'll value it and pass it where I can.

captcharlieplumb234 karma

The greatest compliment I can get is when someone shares my story and my philosophy of life.

Tbh357149 karma

Hello captain Charlie My question to you sir is Do you think it's never too late to serve? I have always had this burning desire to always see if I have what it takes to serve in the military but I'm getting up there in age(29).

I work at a military facility full of contractors and civilian workers and hearing some of their stories has really inspired me.

But I feel like my smarts are not what they used to be but I do have a college degree associates.

I try to keep in good shape as best I can with this lockdown it's kind of thrown my workout schedule in a loop.

Anyway I appreciate your time if you can get to this question. Thank you for your service

captcharlieplumb432 karma

I think you are already serving your country by working in a military facility. You don't have to wear a uniform. I believe each of us has certain talents. The key is to use those talents for the good of those around you. My talent was flying jets. Yours are different, but just as important.

CalPal_The_Great67 karma

How do you find out what your talent is supposed to be?

I live in Canada right now, I'm a bus driver where I live. My ex broke up with me 6 days before Christmas, probably to pursue her career as a firefighter, and I've been struggling to find my sense of self-worth after being broken-hearted. COVID has made it effectively impossible to hang out with what little friends I have left. I quit social media - facebook, instagram, snapchat - because I felt I do not belong.

I run 60k every week, 10k per day with one day of rest, but it doesn't give me any sense of accomplishment, or even really make me feel any better or worse about myself. I keep making flag designs for local municipalities, but no one seems to really care about adopting new flag designs. I keep reading books on self-esteem and putting in all this work to try and get better, but at the end of the day, I still feel that sense of rejection has broken my sense of purpose, my ideas of who I thought I could be.

Do you have any tips for how to rediscover your purpose after what feels like so many setbacks and so very few sensations of personal gain?

captcharlieplumb135 karma

I came home from Vietnam to find my wife had filed for divorce 3 months prior. That was a gut punch for sure. I feel for you and your loss. But believe this: You CAN find your purpose. My mother told me early on, there's good and bad in every experience in life. The key is to find the good. If you believe this it becomes a challenge ... a puzzle. Find the good in your circumstance.

captcharlieplumb48 karma

I think you are already serving your country by working in a military facility. You don't have to wear a uniform. I believe each of us has certain talents. The key is to use those talents for the good of those around you. My talent was flying jets. Yours are different, but just as important.

Russellinaround115 karma

Hello Sir and thank you for your service. What is your advice to someone (i.e. me) dealing with anxiety about the current health crisis – feelings of being out of control, worried for loved ones, and not knowing what the future holds?

captcharlieplumb257 karma

Be realistic about the situation we're in, but concentrate on the things you can control. Trust that this will end and there's a brighter future ahead. Keep close to your loved ones with frequent phone calls and e-mails. Keep the faith!

BoltzmannSpleen86 karma

I believe you came and spoke to the Brigade once when I was a midshipman at the Academy. Is that correct? It would have been over 20 years ago.

In your talk you laid out the size of a prison cell on the floor and stayed in it during the talk.

captcharlieplumb168 karma

Of the 5,000 speeches I've given in the last 47 years, I've gotten more response from that one than from any other. Of course, as a midshipman, I had been through that "Seapower" lecture series. In my day we called it "SLEEP HOUR"! So, I was bound and determined to keep you guys and gals awake! And apparently it worked. After 20 years, I'm still getting comments!

TheBigGrizzly79 karma

Hi Capt., thank you for your service. What is the most important leadership lesson from your service with the Navy?

captcharlieplumb174 karma

Take care of your people!

When_Ducks_Attack73 karma

I had the pleasure of chatting with General John Borling a few years ago, well after one of his speaking engagements. A truly awe-inspiring individual and the only person whose life intimidated me, he "wrote" poetry during his unplanned visit to Hanoi via a tap code. I found it amazing that his memory was good enough to remember what he created for so many years, considering he was unable to write them down.

Was this something you experienced as well, a sharpening of the memory, or a creative burst, or anything like that? Did it carry over to the "real" world?

captcharlieplumb113 karma

John is a good friend, and a great guy. When you're not distracted with the millions of inputs you and I have every day, sights and sounds and smells and inputs, you find it easier to memorize things, and yes you do get a lot more creative. Some of it carried over to the "real world", but some of it is lost in the "millions of inputs".

_dokeeg_65 karma

Thank you for your service.

What was your experience before becoming a POW? How did that come about? Do you have a particularly interesting story from the prisoner camp?

captcharlieplumb242 karma

I was a farm kid from Kansas. I'd never seen the ocean until I went to the Naval Academy. I learned discipline from my dad and forgiveness from my mom. Those two things were crucial in my survival.

Dodgeshawndra62 karma

I am curious on your thoughts of the U.S prison system, specifically its solitary confinement system. I struggle with a diagnosis of Schizophrenia. I was falsely arrested about a year and a half ago. I successfully got my case dismissed. Had I not been successful in getting the case dismissed I would have likely eventually had a meltdown in prison and been placed in Solitary.

Do you think we should treat our own citizens in similar ways to how the Vietnamese treated POWS? What do you think we should do differently? What would be the first steps?

Thank you for your service, Brother.

captcharlieplumb98 karma

I'm glad you didn't have to go to prison. I'm sorry I don't have an answer to your question. The US prison system needs reform. It doesn't seem to be a deterrent to crime or a method of rehabilitation. About the only value is to isolate evil doers from society. And if that's all it does, there is little reason to place folks in solitary.

CH1CK3NW1N9559 karma

First of all, thank you for your service! I know a couple of veterans and even have one in my family, and I've got nothing but respect for folks in the armed forces :).

Second, how do you stay productive and active in a time of isolation? My father works from home as a programmer, and he's looking to teach me to do the same since I can be an employee at his (currently one man) company. It's something I really genuinely want to do, but I find myself kind of trapped in the "slack-time vacation" attitude, and it's hard to pull myself off my leasure activities and do something like learn to program like he does or do some kind of prison workout in my house.

What advice would you give to someone who wants to use this truckload of free time to be productive and keep marching on the path of self improvement, but finds it hard to do that because of some bad habits regarding goofing off and leasure time?

captcharlieplumb158 karma

Set up a schedule and FOLLOW IT. Times for learning, exercise, meditation, eating. Set alarms if you need to, but get into action!

obnoxygen28 karma

Did you know these techniques before you were imprisoned?

captcharlieplumb111 karma

I went through 4 different survival schools to teach me to be a POW, but the key to my survival I learned in the sand box as a toddler, and from my wonderful mom and dad.

captcharlieplumb98 karma

No, I went through four SERE (survival, resistance, escape, and evasion) schools. All were pretty worthless. Mostly I filled my moral compass.

Amanap6557 karma

First, thank you for your service.

How are you coping with isolation? As someone who has endured physical and mental isolation, how are you dealing with our current situation?

captcharlieplumb349 karma

I'm getting along very well. Like old home week! I was isolated for 2,103 days. This is a breeze! And I've got phones and internet and a knob on the inside of my door!

lovescrabble98 karma


captcharlieplumb40 karma

Some of my favorite people are Navy Brats! You learned a lot from your father. Honor his legacy!

JON-NEESE-57 karma

What was like being the Navy during the Vietnam era like the basic training, A school or AIT/IET. What was it like?

captcharlieplumb183 karma

My life was very exciting. A 24 year old kid farm kid was in command of a gazillion dollar jet fighter. I was living the dream until I was blown out the sky!

BobOblong47 karma

I saw you when as the keynote speaker at the National Junior Achievement Conference around 1982ish. I’ve seen many motivational speakers since then, but you made a lasting impression to me and many of my high school colleagues. I even remember the aircraft carrier joke. How do you keep your speeches fresh and relevant after being a motivational speaker for so many years?

captcharlieplumb60 karma

WOW, you have a good memory. I'm flattered that you remember me from long ago. I try to keep my presentations relevant by imagining what goes through the minds of the people in my audience, and how my story might relate to them. I try to get as much feed back as I can, especially from younger members.

HighOnGoofballs46 karma

What are your thoughts on the Crozier situation?

captcharlieplumb45 karma

That entire situation was like a huge train wreck. His seniors should have listened to Capt Crozier from his first request but they apparently didn't know how serious the situation was. When Capt Crozier didn't get the answers he wanted he should have pursued the issue further, not make his problem known to the world. It's never a good idea for a naval officer to jump the chain of command. Then Mr. Modly was in error with his remarks to the crew. I was sad to see such leadership from both of those guys.

YokosBigman44 karma

I’ve never served, but I’m always compelled to salute and thank every Nam Vet I meet. Is the Salute a little too much?

captcharlieplumb96 karma

Never, thanks. You don't have to fly a jet or carry a rifle to serve. I think you are doing it!

Bowfinger_Intl_Pics34 karma

As a former POW, what’s your take on Trump’s remarks about McCain? Do you think he does (or should) inspire confidence in the US military?

captcharlieplumb110 karma

John McCain was my flight instructor. I knew him very well. He never called himself a hero. (Most good military people don't) So, Trumps comment was somewhat of a moot point. My autobiography is called "I'M NO HERO". I've been pleasantly surprised at how Trump has rebuilt the military. He doesn't have to think of us as heroes to respect us.

Scollins932 karma

Thanks for your service.

So clearly being a POW is the more obvious, visceral form of “social isolation”, but do you have any advice for someone who feels social isolation, despite being surrounded by people that they know?

captcharlieplumb131 karma

In the POW camps, when we were lucky enough to have a cell mate, we loved it for the first few weeks. When we ran out of things to talk about, there were conflicts. Then if the enemy would take him out of the cell, you realized how much you missed him. We found that taking the focus from each other to a third subject made a big difference. So, find a project that you can work on with your people. Do a jig saw puzzle. Build some furniture. Paint the garage. Good luck!

Scollins924 karma

My family is all pretty reserved and we’ve clocked in so many hours of playing random board games that we don’t even like. Just a defense against coming to terms with the fact that we might not have anything interesting to say to each other.

captcharlieplumb65 karma

Get creative. Go though all the old pictures on your computer or phone and talk about the "good old days". Find a project you all can enjoy. Clean out the garage!

RainbowDonkey47331 karma

What’s your opinion of Capt Crozier? Is he a patriot whistleblower? Or traitor with loose lips?

He’s now tested positive.

captcharlieplumb104 karma

A navy captain isn't supposed to be a whistle blower. He should be better than that. But his seniors didn't help him out either. I'm saddened by the lack of good leadership in my navy.

jasjeff30 karma

Thank you for everything you’ve done and continue to do, sir.

I wonder how your experience applies to the “after” of this pandemic. When you got home, did you experience times when you felt over-exposed and actually missed the isolation? Did you have to relearn any social skills?

captcharlieplumb77 karma

Interesting question. Yes there are times when I long for the solitude of the prison camp. I think each of us should spend 15 minutes a day in meditation or prayer. It cleanses the soul.

JediAlec30 karma

Are you familiar with the new Naval Museum exhibit about the Navy’s role in Vietnam? It is a temporary exhibit housed in the Hampton Roads Naval Museum in Norfolk, VA. It is worth checking out if you aren’t yet.

captcharlieplumb31 karma

I hadn't heard of it. I'll check it out. Thanks!

belinck29 karma

Best sailboat for social distancing?

captcharlieplumb68 karma

lol, how about a 50 foot cat. My family sails two of them in the BVI every year. My son commands one and I the other and we terrorize the natives of Tortola! :-)

belinck19 karma

Heh! Well if you're ever interested in patrolling the Manitou islands in Lake Michigan, I've got a berth for you on my 25' Hunter once this whole thing blows over.

Sidenote, my late father was an officer on a Belgian minesweeper in the 50s and I have always beat myself up that I didn't join the Navy. Thank you for your service.

captcharlieplumb24 karma

I love Hunters. My friend has one. Nice boat.

jigglewigglejoemomma28 karma

Watching Ken Burns' documentary on the Vietnam War I was astounded how regular these seemingly futile land grabs were, where the US forces would fight day and night to take control of a mountain or hill, losing scores of men, only to abandon the gained territory in search of another such hill just to be taken control of by the Vietcong immediately after leaving. Were you at the time or even now aware of / reflective of how much futility to the point of carelessness or hypocrisy there was in this war? If so, did / does this reality affect how you feel about your time as a PoW and what it was really for?

captcharlieplumb80 karma

I do understand the tragedy and futility of the Vietnam war, and I regret so many losses. I hate war. War is nearly always a failure of our diplomats and political leaders to ever resort to mortal combat. And you're right, from a historical perspective, there was carelessness and hypocrisy and even deception throughout. I chose to look at my POW time from a personal perspective. Like any other adversity in life, I grew from the experience. I can't imagine being the man I am today had I not been through that challenge.

MikeTorelloMCU28 karma

Sir: Do you have an opinion on Jane Fonda and her actions during the conflict?

Thank you for your tremendous sacrifice to this great country.

captcharlieplumb123 karma

I don't hate Jane Fonda (or anyone else, for that matter) but I don't go see her movies. I didn't see her when she came into our prison camp but she made broadcasts to demoralize us which we all heard. I was extremely disappointed to see this Hollywood beauty take the side or our enemy. But in a broader sense, I was in uniform to defend her right to descent, I just didn't appreciate her visiting the enemy to do it. Also, as a seeker of truth, I must tell you there's a lot of misinformation on the internet about "Hanoi Jane". She never got any of us killed and didn't expose us when some of the guys met her. We try to set the record straight on our POW website: http://www.nampows.org

ConsortiumofAncients28 karma

Capt. Plumb, thank you for your service. Vietnam veterans are a very special breed. Possibly some of the most self-aware, introspective and humble people I’ve ever met.

Putting that aside, what are some of your fondest memories of your time in the Navy?

captcharlieplumb46 karma

The flying was amazing, but what I cherish most are the wonderful friends I met along the way and the memories we created.

tripztf226 karma

Did you ever wake up with limited to zero motivation? If so how did you make it through with out limiting yourself or others?

captcharlieplumb89 karma

I wake up every morning with "limited motivation"! I talk to myself a lot. I'm my own coach. I tell my self I have an important purpose in life, then I break it down into things I need to do, right now, to advance that purpose. It still isn't easy. I catch myself answering my own self-talk, "HUH? What was that? And why do I have to get out of bed?"


happytrees8925 karma

Thank you for your service and sacrifice for our country and our people. I'm not sure if you are still answering questions, but if you are, what cropped up for you mentally after you got out? How did you transition out of survival mode? What helped you? Thanks for doing this AMA

captcharlieplumb83 karma

When I was repatriated I went immediately back to normal life and it was WONDERFUL! There was very little problem in driving cars and flying planes. I found that the things I thought about the most were the easiest things to get back into. Like my golf game suffered!

fireman4624 karma

My school superintendent used to tell a speech about a veteran meeting you and realizing that you packed his parachute (and saved his life). Can you tell your side of this story?

captcharlieplumb64 karma

Several years after I was repatriated, I accidentally met the navy enlisted "rigger" who packed my parachute. Of course I was quick to thank him for saving my life. His response was that he only packed my physical parachute. My mom and dad and preachers and teachers and coaches packed my psychological and spiritual parachutes which allowed me to survive, and even thrive through that experience. The longer (and more dramatic) story of the parachute packer can be found on my website: www.CharliePlumb.com

nateCod20 karma

What jets did you fly in Vietnam?
when you were captured, did any Vietcong show any empathy towards you?

captcharlieplumb47 karma

I flew the F-4 Phantom jet. GREAT airplane! The enemy showed no empathy at all. They were sadistic and brutal.

TheKentuckyRifleman20 karma


First, I'd like to say it's an absolute honor to be able to ask you a question. In your opinion do you believe there were still POWs held captive well after the War ended in Vietnam?

captcharlieplumb39 karma

I don't believe there are any Americans being held against their will in Vietnam.

D6P619 karma

What was it like to be shot down? Do you remember what was going through your mind?

captcharlieplumb30 karma

I was in total shock. This can't be happening to me! I must be dreaming this!

Piestatick39617 karma

What do you have to say to people thinking about enrolling in the army? Was is worth it? "to fight a war where you dont know who's wrong and who's right"

captcharlieplumb63 karma

Every American needs to serve, to give back to this great nation, but it doesn't have to be in the military. It's just not for everybody.

itsokay32115 karma

What are your perceptions on the Americans inability to remove Nguyễn Văn Thiệu and his admittedly corrupt regime? Thanks a bunch!

captcharlieplumb33 karma

That was all so political. We could have pulled him at any moment. Our big mistake throughout the war was propping up leaders who weren't supported by the people.

SirLoftyCunt14 karma

Did you obsess about leaving the camp or escaping? Did the thought of it help you or make it harder for you as the days went by?

captcharlieplumb38 karma

We though about escape every day. We planned and practiced and prepared. It never happened in any formal camp in Vietnam, but it kept us busy and kept our hopes up. We never gave up hope!

Bill_Rizer13 karma

I read Ernie Brace’s book years ago. Did you know him? Any good stories involving him?

captcharlieplumb21 karma

I didn't know Earnie, but his story makes mine look like a birthday party!

MattR4713 karma

Capt Plumb, as cliche as it sounds thank you for your service, especially for your time as a POW.

As you were shot down over Hanoi, were you imprisoned at the Hanoi Hilton for most of your time?

Additional question for you. Did you ever meet COL Nick Rowe, USA, Retired, before he passed? I ask because we learned his story when we went through the US Army SERE school. I know he was not a POW in Hanoi but wondered if after the war your paths would have crossed because of this shared experience of being a POW.

captcharlieplumb20 karma

I was in and out of 6 different prison camps. They moved us around a lot. The first and last camp was the Hanoi Hilton. I never met Nick Rowe but have the greatest respect for what he went through.

TinyIrishGuy12 karma

Good afternoon Capt.

  1. I'll be commissioning into the Air Force in about a year as a pilot. With your experience, what lessons & advice regarding your career and life in general do you wish you had back when you were in similar place to me?

  2. The world is always changing. Sometimes we need new skills to adapt, and some skills are timeless. What skills do you think have become increasingly important over the years, and that we could all benefit from in the future?

Thank you for your service, and your time!

captcharlieplumb43 karma

You are about to enter an exciting part of life. The training is difficult, but amazingly satisfying. Just DON'T QUIT! If I had it to do over, I would keep a journal of every flight, every day. I would make a data base of every person I ever met. Because, in life you'll keep running into those people! And beyond the fancy uniforms and screaming jets, the most important part of life is the people.

neuromorph11 karma

Have you served on a sub? What is your favorite dry goods meal?

captcharlieplumb21 karma

I spent 2 weeks on a diesel boat and decided I wanted to be above the water, not below it!

gutterandstars11 karma

What was your doctors thought during the six years?

captcharlieplumb61 karma

They thought we'd come home with lots of physical and mental problems. We fooled them. Today they tell us we are healthier, mentally and physically than had we not been in prison camps. From 591 men we have produced 17 generals, 7 admirals and several hundred colonels and navy captains. We have a bunch of congressmen, two US senator, two ambassadors, and a presidential candidate. Our docs were amazed.

TheHandsomePo-ta-to9 karma

First of all, thank for taking the time to talk to us! If I may, what do you think about David Goggins?

captcharlieplumb15 karma

I don't know David personally but I totally respect his discipline and dedication. The SEAL I do know and respect as well is Jocko Willink. I did a podcast with him: https://youtu.be/2XgwpDnalZE

UnoriginalNoxian9 karma

Is there any notable song you or your team sung/listened to during the Vietnam war?

captcharlieplumb45 karma

Once in the middle of the night in a giant storm, when the guards couldn't hear us, we broke out into Battle Hymn of the Republic.

pb_n_jdams9 karma

What are your best tips when it comes to leadership? I can't imagine the dynamic of having to be a leader in a POW camp.

captcharlieplumb50 karma

Adversity reveals the greatness in leaders. And we had some great ones. Commander James Bond Stockdale (later Admiral and VP candidate) was the finest leader I've ever met. And he couldn't see his direct reports, or fire us, or give us the day off. He couldn't even talk to us except through a cumbersome code tapped through the prison walls. He told us, "We are not on the defensive! We are warriors, and we will fight this war till our last dying breath!" That turned everything around. So, as a leader I suggest you redefine the mission. Give your team purpose. And take care of your people.

Kpenney8 karma

What's the best way to mentally deal with sudden and unexpected change of forced isolation? Is it mostly about staving off boredom?

captcharlieplumb13 karma

Yes, keeping the mind and body active is paramount. It's not easy when all hope seems to have gone, but one has to keep moving. Watch this short video on that topic:


slayer_f-1508 karma

What was your favorite aircraft to fly?

captcharlieplumb17 karma

Every airplane I've ever flown is my favorite. I fly a Long EZ today and love it.

PyViet7 karma

How thick was the jungle cover in Vietnam while you were serving?

I've been back a few times and it doesn't seem as thick as depicted in the movies or my memories. The monsoon season doesn't seem to be as rainy as depicted in the movies either. Are you optimistic or pessimistic about the prospects for the Uighur people in China who may (or may not) be going through what you went through?

captcharlieplumb16 karma

I guess the density of the jungle depends on where you are. I've been on the ground with 5 canopies of flora up to 200 feet, so thick I couldn't tell red from green and it would take an hour to hack your way through 10 feet of it. I know Hollywood exaggerates, but it gets pretty rainy. I have great empathy for anyone being held against their will.

muck_hard6 karma


captcharlieplumb65 karma

For the first 3 months I was livid! I blamed everyone for my pain. I had a body full of hate and vitriol. Then I got a message from the POW next door. He passed me a quote, "Acid does more harm in the vessel it's stored than on the subject it's poured." And I learned to forgive ... simply for my own survival.

Rand0mhero806 karma

How did you get captured?

captcharlieplumb13 karma

A SAM (surface to air missile) shot down my F-4 Phantom jet over a very populated area. All on my website: www.charieplumb.com

One-eyed-snake6 karma

As a POW did you ever do something like this this? Or know anyone that did?

captcharlieplumb14 karma

Pretty funny clip. But yes, we hid things from the guards. Any place we could.

Smith-Corona5 karma

Considering your sacrifices and heroism and presumed respect for the chain of command, what are your thoughts and feelings about the current commander in chief and are there any instances where the respect for the rank doesn’t square with respect for the individual holding the rank?

captcharlieplumb15 karma

You respect the rank or position. You don't necessarily have to respect the personality holding that rank or position. But in the military, it's mandatory that we follow orders of those appointed above us. That's the only way we can fight wars.

im_gonna_stop3 karma

What advice would you have for people who will be joining the Navy soon? Stories like yours are incredibly inspiring but it feels like you have had such an incredible life that we who live blander lives may never get to your level of discipline and wisdom

captcharlieplumb4 karma

Thanks for that thought, but I'm not sure I am very disciplined or wise! My experience is just a little more dramatic than most. And luckily ... I've lived longer! My advice for someone joining the Navy is, as John Paul Jones said, "Don't give up the ship"! And as my friend and classmate, Admiral Tom Lynch says, "Ship, Shipmate, Self! Keep your priorities in that order!"

exportablue882 karma

Thank you for your service.

How did you cope with depression while in isolation? I am struggling to be active, going from working every day to not, from having and income to not, knowing my industry will probably not recover for a year to a few years. I want to keep busy, but I struggle to get up. I’m a chef professionally, and I struggle to even cook a meal for myself. Do you have any tips on how to force through this?

Also what did you do to occupy your time while in a cell with nothing?

Thank you

captcharlieplumb12 karma

It's a tough discipline for sure. You may have to find another purpose in life while you go through this. You define yourself as a chef. Redefine yourself as a mentor. Teach cooking on line. Or be a carpenter. Build something from wood or ... You get the picture. Redirect your talents and energies until your job comes back. And it will!

douko2 karma

John McCain, also a Vietnam War POW, decades after his imprisonment was over, was an avowed racist using both racial slurs and proudly declaring his eternal hate of "the g**ks".

How do you feel?

captcharlieplumb7 karma

I personally have no ill will toward my former enemy, and when John died, he didn't either. I knew him well. But, I feel it's unfair to condemn anyone today for using terms which were onetime commonplace (in everyone's vocabulary) and call it racism.

Emebust2 karma

How did you keep track of the days? Our schedules have changed so much I am having a hard time keeping track.

captcharlieplumb12 karma

The first few minutes were like hours, hours like days, days like months. My mind adjusted to the slow pace. When I was repatriated, the opposite was true. The good news is, you eventually adjust.

Grimacepug1 karma

How do you feel about a person who has dodge so many drafts and then became president?

captcharlieplumb1 karma

I try to look at the good in everybody.