War College Professor Reflects on POW Experience

Story Number: NNS060329-08Release Date: 3/29/2006 1:43:00 PM
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By Ryan Gallucci, Naval War College Public Affairs

NEWPORT, R.I. (NNS) -- Retired Navy Cmdr. Porter A. Halyburton, professor of strategy at the Naval War College, delivered his lecture "Reflections on Captivity" for the final time March 24 at Spruance Auditorium.

Halyburton was a prisoner of war (POW) in Vietnam from 1965 through 1973. For the past few years, he has addressed the student body, staff and faculty on his experience in captivity at the hands of the North Vietnamese.

"It is not so important what happens to us," Halyburton said. "But what we do about what happens to us. The most important freedom we have is the freedom of choice."

Halyburton flew in 75 combat missions over Vietnam off of USS Independence. He was shot down near Hanoi Oct. 17, 1965. He spent the next 2,675 days as a prisoner of war and was released Feb. 12, 1973.

Halyburton's lecture focused on the lessons learned from that experience, the importance of leadership and communications, the relationships that were forged with his fellow prisoners, and the decisions made that ultimately allowed him and the other POWs to survive the ordeal and to do so with honor.

"Dr. Halyburton's presentation never fails to be inspirational, and provides concrete examples of ways to cope in the most difficult of situations," said Professor John Jackson. "His message is of great value to members of our military, who may find themselves held prisoner in a future conflict," he continued.

Halyburton received a standing ovation from the capacity crowd in Spruance Auditorium.

"This was amazing to see," said Marine Corps Maj. Andrew Ryan, as he waited to meet Halyburton. "The military talks about [survival] all the time; but this is how it really sinks in."

Halyburton will retire from the War College in April, after 22 years of civilian service.

"We're losing another generation of people with valuable experiences we need to draw from," said Chief Hospital Corpsman William "Doc" Wood as he reflected on the lecture and Halyburton's upcoming retirement. "It hit home."

For related news, visit the Naval War College Navy NewsStand page at www.news.navy.mil/local/nwc/.

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