Plano Rep. Sam Johnson to donate his Vietnam prisoner of war possessions to Smithsonian
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WASHINGTON â" War hero and Plano Rep. Sam Johnson will donate a tube of toothpaste and the tin cup he used to communicate with fellow Vietnam prisoners of war to the Smithsonian's National Museum of American History, his office announced Friday.
The 87-year-old congressman served 29 years in the Air Force, fl ying combat missions in the Korean and Vietnam wars. He was shot down in 1966 and spent nearly seven years as a prisoner in the infamous North Vietnamese prison known as the "Hanoi Hilton." Johnson spent 42 months in solitary confinement.
"Forty-five years ago I returned home after nearly seven long years in what can only be described as hell on earth," Johnson said in a statement Friday. "The only two possessions I took from the 'Hanoi Hilton' from that time were my toothpaste and tin cup."
The museum will host a donation ceremony Tuesday, marking 45 years since "Operation Homecoming," when Johnson and 590 other POWs were returned to American soil. Johnson will deliver remarks in front of the museum's Bell UH-1 "Huey" helicopter that was deployed to Vietnam in 1966, according to a news release.
Johnson called the tube of a toothpaste "a reminder of the bleak conditions we were in," and said the tin cup was an important way for Johnson and fellow captives to communicate.
In a 2015 Veterans Day speech, Johnson recalled the code he learned to communicate with other POWs.
"I got through those years by the grace and mercy of God and he gave me all the support I needed in my fellow POWs â" great men like Jerry Denton and Jim Stockdale," Johnson recalled. "We weren't allowed to talk. So the first night in my cell â" after I got out of the torture room â" they taught me the tap code. The three of us did everything we could to fight back against our captors. So we were blacklisted as hardcore resisters."
In a 2003 interview with The Dallas Morning News, Johnson said his time as a POW strengthened his faith, rather than broke it. He recounted the day his captors pulled him from his cell and told him he was to be executed. They lined him up against a wall.
When the order to fire was given, "they all went click-click-click-click-click. I praised the Lord and started laughing at them," he said. "I was probably not a very good Christian when I got shot down. ... We did a lot of praying."
On Friday, Johnson said the tin cup was a reminder of that faith .
"That tin cup was a lifeline for so many years, and it reminds me of God's faithfulness to provide friendships that give you strength to survive through even the darkest times," he said. "It was by his grace that I'm alive and well at home today."
After Johnson was released, he served seven more years in the Air Force and retired as as colonel in 1979.
Ahead of Tuesday's ceremony, Johnson explained why he is donating the items to the museum: "It's my hope that these small possessions will help today's generation and those to follow have a more tangible understanding of the service and sacrifice all our servicemen and women are willing to make."
Johnson has served the state's 3rd Congressional District for more than two decades. He announced last January that he would retire when his term ends this year. Three Republicans and four Democrats are running to fill the seat.Source: Google News Vietnam | Netizen 24 Vietnam