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Five Years To Freedom

4.40  ·  Rating details ·  1,044 ratings  ·  85 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
Mass Market Paperback, 465 pages
Published May 12th 1984 by Ballantine Books (first published May 1971)
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Average rating 4.40  · 
Rating details
 ·  1,044 ratings  ·  85 reviews

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Nov 20, 2009 rated it it was amazing
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.
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.
Dawn Michelle

It is tough to review this book and do it justice; how do you write a review about a book that describes in horrifying detail what one man went through at the hands of oppressors? How do you write about those horrors without sounding trite [as you sit in your warm house, enjoying the very things he went without for 5 years]? You don't.
Nick Rowe was a hero. He survived a horrific ordeal and never lost his faith in God and faith in his country; even while being barraged with lies being told to
Jul 27, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: military
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 ...more
Sep 11, 2007 rated it it was amazing
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 rated it it was amazing
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.
May 29, 2008 rated it it was amazing
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.
Bob Mayer
May 29, 2011 rated it it was amazing
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.
Dec 15, 2011 rated it it was amazing
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
Oct 26, 2011 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: nonfiction
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
Tommy Stubblefield
Jul 05, 2008 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: anyone
Recommended to Tommy by: Bill O'rielly
Shelves: top-5
Another great read. LTC Rowe is an American hero. RIP
Aug 16, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Forget the history books - this is the way that we should learn history, from those who lived it. Anyone who reads this book will never forget it.
Robert F.
Jul 05, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition

I rarely give books five star ratings. Many of my reads have gotten 4 stars because they were well written and about subjects that I am interested in.

This book goes beyond being interesting. It is superbly written, much of it in first person. The author takes us back to 1962, he a young Army Officer, Special Forces. It is Vietnam. But this is not an action packed military thriller, nor an analysis of of how, why or should we have been there, though those issues are covered in some
Dan Rabbia
Apr 22, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Five Years to Freedom is the most intense, emotionally-exhausting book I have ever read. I can't imagine going through what Rowe went through... reading about it was hard enough. The fact that he was able to remember everything so vividly and then put it into words is incredible. From the time he entered Vietnam with his Special Forces Group, to his capture and details about each year as POW, Rowe really makes you feel like you were there. The amount of physical and psychological abuse that he ...more
Christine Rothrock
This was a book that made me realize how much a human can go through physically, mentally, and emotionally. Captured by the Vietnamese in 1963, this solider was a POW for 5yrs. Even thought they never physically beat him, they would take away cloths, food, or his mosquito net as punishment. He spent 5yrs having dystentary and a fungus that covered him from neck to foot and made his fingernails and toenails fall off. He was severely malnourished, living on a diet of rice and salt with very little ...more
Jun 09, 2017 rated it really liked it
I honestly don't know what to say after reading this book. If you want a glimpse of the sacrifice some have paid for us, give this a read. If you want some perspective on what is really important, give this a read. Not only was it interesting and enlightening to read how some POWs were treated (not really a surprise, but the details and repercussions of his treatment really make an impact), but his recall of what was running through his mind during his time in captivity and the perspective he ...more
Al Lock
Jul 05, 2017 rated it it was amazing
This book changed my life. It's been years since I read it, but Nick Rowe remains one of my heroes. This man and his actions demonstrate what a man who will not sacrifice himself, who retains his essential rights under the hardest conditions, can accomplish. I was fortunate enough to meet Nick Rowe at Fort Bragg, NC many years after his time as a POW and to hear him tell a bit of his story in his own words. Colonel Rowe was a man of great humility, great vision and great bravery. I strongly ...more
Diane Dickinson
Oct 20, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
An amazing story.

This is a long story, but worth the reading, especially if you recall the times. As I read I marveled at the strength of spirit the author exhibited. It was almost unreal and seemed like a work of fiction, even then sending shivers down your spine. The reader comes away with a real understanding of what freedom truly means.
May 19, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Very inspiring tale of a US Marine Lieutenant who was captured by the Viet Cong in 1963, and, after several unsuccessful attempts, manages to escape in 1968. His feelings as he resists the attempts to brain wash him, and as he sees fellow prisoners being released or dying are all told in extremely moving detail.
Andrew Scholes
Aug 28, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A well done realistic biography

This is a very well done account of his capture, years as a POW and his rescue. It is a compelling tale because I really cared about him and what happened to him. I appreciated that the story was on him and did not delve into the politics of the war much.
Sep 12, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Excellent read. I little slow in the beginning, but more than made up for it later on.

Easy to read, and could almost put myself with James. Worth your time if you have any interest in the subject.
Kirby Calhoun
Oct 31, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Inspirational story. Humbling and enlightening to read.
Mike Hill
Mar 15, 2018 rated it really liked it
Short and sharp.
Melanie Barbarito
Aug 15, 2019 rated it it was amazing
I read it many years ago, twice. I still remember much of it.
Michael Murphy
Mar 08, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Awesome read! Sad story of perilous trials. Survival spirit and watching your comrades backs. To be hailed a hero and criminal all in one breath...
John Smith
Apr 12, 2018 rated it it was amazing
How do you write about those horrors without sounding trite ?
James Chally
Jan 15, 2018 rated it really liked it
The definitive work on the subject of life as a POW.
Jan 11, 2019 rated it liked it
3.5 stars
Apr 12, 2018 rated it liked it
How did anyone survive that? Good read.
Lonnie Heidtke
Apr 13, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Great book

An amazing true story of faith and strength of will from a true American hero. I wish him many years of happiness and success after his 5 years in hell.
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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 ...more
“The world is not interested in the storms you encountered, but did you bring the ship in?” 0 likes
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