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Five Years to Freedom: The True Story of a Vietnam POW
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Five Years to Freedom: The True Story of a Vietnam POW

4.3 of 5 stars 4.30  ·  rating details  ·  447 ratings  ·  55 reviews
When Green Beret Lieutenant James N. Rowe was captured in 1963 in Vietnam, his life became more than a matter of staying alive.

In a Vietcong POW camp, Rowe endured beri-beri, dysentery, and tropical fungus diseases. He suffered grueling psychological and physical torment. He experienced the loneliness and frustration of watching his friends die. And he struggled every day
ebook, 480 pages
Published March 9th 2011 by Presidio Press (first published June 1st 1971)
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I will start off by highly recommending this book. I bought the book off the shelf in a truck stop. I was hoping it wasn't about John McCain. I had never heard of James N. Rowe. After getting through the first chapter, and learning about the firefight and capture I was completely hooked. I ended up reading the book in 2 days.

After getting about halfway through, I thought that I would write Col. Rowe a letter telling my thoughts. I discovered that this book was in reprint from 1970's, and Col. R
A not to be forgotten account by James 'Nick' Rowe. A US Green Beret captured in Vietnam and held for 5 years under the toughest of conditions.
The reader will find that most of this book is designated to his ordeal with a small amount at the beginning on his training and his readying himself for the mission and subsequent capture, then at the end his escape and return to the US. The majority of the book is a very detailed retelling of his time with the Viet Cong as a prisoner of war.
Sometimes i
I don't know what to say about this book other than Read It! The experiences this man went through as a POW for five years, and the fact that he was able to keep surviving is a testament to his character and human resolve in the face of adversity. If you think you're going through hardships and life is so tough on you, this book will put things into perspective. I can imagine it was difficult for the author to put all these things on paper and relive the experiences while writing, but it is to t ...more
An incredible story... there are many like this out there, but it was Rowe's account that got the Army to start training people in Survival, Evasion, Resistance and Escape. This is virtually a textbook in SERE training..
Jan 20, 2012 Zach rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Anyone
A riveting account of a man who went through hell and survived. This book chronicles the events leading up to and his eventual capture by the Viet Cong. It gives an account of his interactions with his captors, fellow prisoners, and how he was able to survive even when there was no reason to keep on hoping.

What made this book so captivating was that the author did not hold back in his account, and told the tale even when it was obviously painful to remember and recite the most horrible moments.
AWESOME book! I highly recommend this to anyone who has an interest in Vietnam or war stories or just stories of amazing survival. It is very readable and gives a lot of background into the Vietnam culture and the politics of the war. The man kept a diary throughout his captivity and it showed an interesting side to the indoctrination/policies of the Vietnam people.
Although at times a difficult read, both emotionally and just the amount of detail involved, it was also a harrowing account of Rowe's experience as a POW. It's hard to give a memoir of such personal disclosure and detail anything less than 5 stars. This man's courage, honor and determination were amazing.

(view spoiler)
Melissa T
This one rivaled Unbroken for me. Though this prisoner-of-war was not "physically" tortured (technically), the mental anguish they put him through was horrifying. And that was added to the deplorable physical conditions they kept him in. I was amazed at how he managed to keep his sanity and sense of reasoning throughout those five years.

I must say, though, that if you're offended by language, this is not the book for you! The author does not censor the language he or other soldiers used, and th
Erin C. Healy
Then-Lt. Nick Rowe's resilience is an incredible example for anyone facing a challenging time, be it SERE training or just a down time over some circumstance of life. You'll be a whole lot more grateful for the life you have after reading it. It is a five-star book, but I almost gave it four because I suspect he suffered much more that he was able to discuss because of future SERE students and because of POWs still in captivity at the time of the book's publication. I wish he'd updated it once t ...more
Tommy Stubblefield
Jul 05, 2008 Tommy Stubblefield rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: anyone
Recommended to Tommy by: Bill O'rielly
Shelves: top-5
Another great read. LTC Rowe is an American hero. RIP
Wow, this was a great book to read. I've never read such an account of life as a prisoner of war, even more, someone who survived. James Rowe was someone who only comes along once in a lifetime. He never broke under the pressure of the VC, for 5 years, and held his honor and courage to survive. I would recommend this book to anyone who is interested in the subject or wants to learn more about Vietnam. I learned a lot from reading this book, about Rowe and the war, even though I have read several ...more
A harrowing story of Nick Rowe's POW experience in South Vietnam. It's a story of life with the Viet Cong and at once the relative freedom and extreme depravity the VC POWs were subjected to.

While I enjoyed the story and can appreciate the horrors that Rowe faced living with the VC, I also felt like only half the story was ever reported. Missing words or phrases in the text (it may be because I was reading the Kindle version? Sometimes that messes stuff up, man) obfuscated key elements of his ti
Incredibly difficult to read due to subject matter. It's hard to believe he was able to survive all that he went through. It also made me think about how disheartening it must have been to be held prisoner and stay true to your code and hear about how a vast majority of the country was no longer supporting you. I'm glad we have learned our lesson in that regardless of how we feel about being at war with a people or country we still remember to honor and support our troops.
Mark Fallon
A very difficult, and very important book to read. James Rowe shares his story of being a POW in Vietnam from 1963-1969. Kept in jungle camps with minimal food and clothing, beaten and tortured, Rowe was somehow able to keep alive, and keep his honor intact.

Should be mandatory reading for every incoming Army officer, and every politician elected to national office.
A must read

This true and moving account of life as a POW in Vietnam is a must read. Anyone who desires to understand the role of the U.S. in Southeast Asia in the 60's will walk away with insight with this reading. Major Rowe does an excellent job of bringing to life his experiences before and after his capture and escape.
Cari Savage
This ought to be required reading in every American university. Nick Rowe not only managed to survive 5 years as a POW in Vietnam, he did it without compromising his honor. Through the telling of his story, Nick Rowe not only manages to paint a very vivid picture of the twisted thoughts and ideas of his Communist captors, he also paints a picture of what true American resolve can accomplish. After reading this book, I was left wondering what shapes a person into a "Nick Rowe"? Primarily, I was l ...more
Juan A. Perez

Amazing survival story. Interesting field perspective for a poorly understood conflict. A bit repetitive at times. Recommended for those wanting to know more about CPT H. Roque Versace, the early involvement in Vietnam and the power of unwavering determination.
Great story of the first Green Beret POW during the Vietnam War. Green Beret lieutenant James Rowe was captured in 1963 and was held for five years by the Vietcong.
Paul Sasse
Great book did not Hollywood up his story!
When an ex-Army Special Forces veteran finds out you're interested in military history, and THIS is the book he gives you to read, it would be wise to read it. That's what happened to me, and I was not let down. Little did I know until after reading the book that my veteran friend actually KNEW Nick Rowe personally, bringing the reality of the horrors he faced even closer to home. The fortitude and faith that Rowe exhibits throughout five years of suffering is absolutely inspirational.
Brenda Rothert
This may seem like a random pick for me given the rest of the books on my shelf, but it is probably the best book I've ever read. Rowe's true story of his Vietnam imprisonment is at once harrowing, sad and uplifting, strange as that may sound. His spirit, patriotism and will to live stayed with me long after I finished this book.
People thank veterans for their service, but if you really want to know what you are thanking them for, this is one of those books that will tell you.
I wish that I could give a star or two more. The guy went through pure hell, for a long time. I couldn't understand why he didn't take the easy way out to get home (won't go into it any further, don't want to spoil it for anyone). But I wasn't there, I wasn't him. Its a pretty gritty story and its amazing that he didn't seem to suffer physically or mentally after his imprisonment. I just really didn't like his writing style. A good story, it just didn't grab me
Bob Mayer
A classic story of true courage, especially poignant as tomorrow is Memorial Day. I remember when they brought Nick Rowe back on active duty to start up the SERE-- survival, evasion, resistance and escape course at Camp Mackall-- which would be renamed in his honor.
If you want to understand true bravery, read this book.
Kenneth Nordqvist
I have read a lot of good books during the years and this is one of the best books sins i started reading.(48 years ago)!I am so impressed that a human can endure such treatment and to survive it.I ts a very emotional book and my tears was falling down my face when i was finished with this marvelous story
The autobiography of Vietnam POW Nick Rowe, this book is above and beyond what I had expected. Rowe does a great job sharing his story in a manner that keeps the reader wanting to turn to the next page. If you want a glimpse into what Vietnam POWs went through this book is for you.
Darren Sapp
Nick Rowe developed the SERE (Survival, Evasion, Resistance, & Escape) School used by the United States Military based upon his experiences as POW in Vietnam. This book is about those five years and his daily fight for survival as well as numerous escape attempts.
Allison Wilhelm
So many times I wanted to put this book down, the story is painful and so detailed. But the ending of this true story makes slogging through James Rowe's five years of torture as a POW worth it. I laughed, I cried, I felt really patriotic. A must-read.
Tom Olmsted
A personal account of a Green Beret's 5 years as a POW in Vietnam. Learned about the communist's brainwashing techniques. Sorry to learn this hero was killed by terrorists in the Philippines in 1989.
Troy Cook
An unimaginable existence of suffering and will to survive.I thoroughly enjoyed reading this book for it shows how the human mind can overcome all the suffering and degradation thrown at it.
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Rowe graduated from West Point in 1960 and was commissioned as a second lieutenant in the United States Army. In 1963, First Lieutenant Rowe was sent to the Republic of Vietnam and assigned as Executive Officer of Detachment A-23, 5th Special Forces Group, a 12-man "A-team". Located at Tan Phu in An Xuyen Province, A-23 organized and advised a Civilian Irregular Defense Group camp in the Mekong De ...more
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