Honor Flight veteran recalls being held prisoner by North Korea

Don Bailey, a former prisoner of war in North Korea in the 1960's

Portland, Ind. (WANE) – This week, 85 veterans will fly to the nation’s capital to see the war memorials with Honor Flight Northeast Indiana. One of those vets is former prisoner of war Don Bailey.

Bailey’s most gut-wrenching war memories began on January 23, 1968. He and 81 other Navy men were in the U.S.S. Pueblo searching for radars in the North Korean waters.
Suddenly, they were attacked by North Korean air planes.

“Bullets were coming through the side of the ship shooting right past my head bouncing off of the equipment,” Bailey explained.

One crew man died during the attack.

All the Pueblo crew members were then held as prisoners of war for 11 months. Bailey said he’ll never forget the torture.

“You’re not living among humans,” Bailey continued. “Those people are not human. They’re animals.”

Every day was filled with fear.

“Well you knew when you wake up every morning before dark, you’re going to get [beat up,]” he said. “It’s just that simple. The guards or somebody is going to get you. It was that way for 11 months. You knew you were going to get something. Somebody’s going to get you before the day’s over. Yes, that’s everyday. Sometimes it wasn’t so bad. They’d knock you around a bit. Sometimes it was really serious.”

Bailey said on November 23, 1968, the North Koreans released them after the U.S. apologized for being too close to their shore, though he said they were attacked unjustly.
The purple heart vet said he’ll remember those traumatic days as he views the memorials in D.C. this week, but will always be thankful he got to serve his country.

“You’re free ain’t you,” He said. “Everybody here is free. You can go and do whatever you want here. Say what you want. You can state your mind. What you feel. What you think.”

Honor Flight 25 takes off this Wednesday.