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Tom Philpott

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Tom Philpott, USCG “enlisted after college, attended Officer Candidate School and served as a public information officer.  On leaving service in 1977, he became a writer and editor for Army Times Publishing Company.  His 17 years there included six as editor of Navy Times.  In 1994, Philpott launched Military Update.” Tom Philpott is the author of Glory Denied: The Saga of Jim Thompson, America's Longest-Held Prisoner of War.

Publisher’s Weekly said of Glory Denied: The Saga of Jim Thompson, America's Longest-Held Prisoner of War, “Col. Floyd James "Jim" Thompson of the U.S. Army Special Forces was captured by the Vietcong in South Vietnam in March 1964 and held longer than any other prisoner of war in American history, suffering greatly physically and emotionally. He was released, along with other American POWs, in March 1973. Thompson's troubles, however, only multiplied after his release. During his captivity, Thompson's wife, Alyce, moved with their four young children into the home of an army sergeant and told the children their father was dead. The Thompsons reunited after his release, but their marriage soon dissolved, and Thompson later suffered a stroke that diminished his mental capabilities. For this biography, Philpott, who writes the syndicated column "Military Update," interviewed 160 people over 15 years. In an even more violent manner than Mailer's The Executioner's Song or George Plimpton's Truman Capote, Philpott tells Thompson's story mainly through the verbatim testimony he gathered from Thompson's family, friends and colleagues, along with various newspaper articles and other ephemera that have collected around Thompson. The Thompson family's postwar lives read like a Jerry Springer show, replete with severe alcoholism, spousal abuse, adultery, teenage pregnancy, bitter divorce and the jailing of Thompson's son on a murder charge. Philpott arranges the entire story deftly, with the most riveting sections covering Thompson's incarceration. Much of Thompson's own contributions come from interviews he gave for another book before his stroke. Philpott himself emerges here mostly through his choices in montage, and his refusal to comment directly gives this work real dignity. (May 14) Forecast: A New Yorker abridgement (Apr. 2 issue), a short foreword from Vietnam POW Sen. John McCain and release in time for Memorial Day should launch this book with verve, and its uncanny mix of human and military interest should quickly propel it onto bestseller lists. Expect serious sales and reviews that dwell on Philpott's primary source-based narrative method.”


One reader of Glory Denied: The Saga of Jim Thompson, America's Longest-Held Prisoner of War said, “Special Forces Captain Jim Thompson was shot down (while an observer on a reconnaissance flight) over South Vietnam on March 24, 1964. Held first in jungle camps in South Vietnam and later moved to North Vietnam, Thompson would not see another American for 4 years and would spend a total of 5 years in solitary confinement and isolation. Suffering brutal torture, disease, and starvation, he would endure some of the worst treatment ever imagined for almost 9 unbelievable years. Eventually, he would be recognized as the longest held prisoner of war in American history. During his confinement, Thompson never wavered in his defiance of his captors and continually upheld his convictions in America, his patriotism, his pride, and his beliefs.


Upon returning to the United States, hoping to re-establish a stable home life, Jim Thompson is quickly immersed in tragic events that would continue several years after his return. Starting with the revelation of his wife's infidelity during his captivity, major turmoil would befall his family soon thereafter. He is unprepared for 9 years of change that has influenced his family and this sadly leads to, among other things, alienation of his children, addiction to alcohol, estrangement from his wife, and eventual divorce.In a constant uphill struggle, Thompson painfully suffered through many subsequent events in his life that literally brought him to the edge of despair and his attempting suicide. Glory Denied is quite possibly the saddest, most tragic, and totally heart-wrenching accounts of POW captivity ever written. It is also a story of love, understanding, forgiveness, hope, faith, and survival. Sixteen years in the making, this book is exceedingly well written and prepared and evokes much emotion in its content. Deserving of 10 stars, this book is very highly recommended to everyone.”

Glory Denied: The Saga of Jim Thompson, America's Longest-Held Prisoner of War
Tom Philpott  More Info

One reader of Glory Denied: The Saga of Jim Thompson, America's Longest-Held Prisoner of War said, “I've read a number of autobiographies of Vietnam POWs and "Glory Denied" is certainly the most disturbing one. Army Col. Jim Thompson's story reminded me of the biblical story of Job, except in the end, unlike Job, Thompson loses even his faith and is left simply with his stubborn sense of personal survival. If there was ever a man who never got a break in his life, it was Jim Thompson. Raised by a domineering and abusive father, drafted into the Army he at first hates military life but then comes to love it. But even in the military things do not come easily for Thompson. Commissioned through OCS, he does not volunteer for Special Forces but is ordered into it when the Army, at JFK's directive, rapidly expands the Green Berets. Sent to Vietnam, Thompson and his team are sent to one the most remote and potentially dangerous outposts the Army has and he and his team find themselves very quickly in over their heads.


An interesting aspect of the book is that most of it is not about Thompson's actual experiences as a POW but rather deals with is pre- and post-Vietnam life. His saga as a POW for nearly 9 years is a brutal one---isolation, malnutrition, torture. It is not until he has been a prisoner over 4 yrs that he finally meets other Americans, a group of soldiers and civilian personnel captures at Hue during the Tet Offensive. By this point Thompson is reduced to about 100 lbs and looks to the other POWs to be in his 70s when he's actually in his mid 30s. His story after his return is even more brutal---betrayal by his wife, divorce, alcoholism, post-traumatic stress disorder, career problems, totally dysfunctional children, attempted suicide, psychiatric hospitalization, struggling with his sexual identity, his son convicted of murder, suffering a stroke which handicaps him and finally a loss of faith in God.

Unlike other POW stories, I found nothing in this book to be uplifting. The Thompson family is literally destroyed by the Vietnam War and there are almost no survivors. The book is well-presented as an oral history of the Thompsons although his wife Alyce does come across as a villainess in the story. And despite her attempts to paint herself in a better light, her own behavior is just inexcusable.

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