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"You learn pretty quickly this is a dangerous thing, but you always think it's going to be someone else and not you." (Video Interview, 9:30)

   Edwin Allen Nixon, Jr.
Collection image
Edwin Nixon [2007]
War: Korean War, 1950-1953
Branch: Navy
Unit: Squadron VF 91, Philippines Sea Aircraft Carrier
Service Location: United States; Japan; North Korea
Rank: Lieutenant
POW: Yes
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When Edwin Nixon enlisted in the Navy out of college just after the Korean War started, he thought it would be over by the time he finished training. He became a Navy pilot and flew his first mission over Korea in January 1953. On his 25th mission, he took crippling fire intended for another plane. He managed to crash land his craft, breaking his back in the process. For four months, he was interrogated and kept in isolation, then spent time in a camp with other POWs. Meanwhile, he was declared killed in action, with a funeral held for him. (A later arriving POW told Nixon he attended it.) The day he was repatriated, his wife had a baby daughter. Nixon has some harsh words for the way the war was prosecuted, but he knows that his unique experiences made him a more confident person in his professional career.

Interview (Video)
»Interview Highlights  (18 clips)
»Part 1 | Part 2 
Download: video(1) | 
Download: video(2) (131 min.)
»Book: Dead…Wrong by Lt. Edwin A. Nixon
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»Korean War
 Video (Interview Excerpts) (18 items)
Enlisted in Naval aviation because he didn't want to be drafted; figured the war would be over by the time they finished their training; one of his training buddies took care of arrangements after he was "killed." (01:48) First days in service; training in Pensacola; walking through the various steps in learning how to fly; learning that it's a "dangerous thing" but "you always think it's going to be someone else and not you." (03:03) Getting intel when they arrived off the coast of North Korea; information was "lousy;" told to surrender to the Chinese rather than the North Koreans if they were captured; first mission out, supposed to rendezvous with planes from another squadron but couldn't find them; pilot in his duo decided to strafe and when they dove they were met with antiaircraft fire, and he recalled an admonition about avoiding this area, known as Death Valley; missions schedule; variety of his missions, from bombing to "reco" (reconnaissance); flew the F9F at about .9 Mach. (05:14)
Some of the guys he flew with were "kind of kooky;" covering for a Lt. Commander who had flown in World War II and often seemed distracted during the mission; overall morale was good; Navy pilots who have to land aboard ship no matter what the weather don't tend toward daredevil behavior. (03:24) The 25th mission; going into a spot with heavy AA fire; mission was to hit a bridge; the leader, the unreliable pilot, peeling off too early, pulling in front of Nixon, who is hit by fire intended for that plane; tried to maneuver closer to Wonsan to give himself better chance of rescue; could not navigate that freely; came in for a crash landing that broke his back; face was burned; soldiers playing target practice with him; introduced to the AA battery; farmer giving him chance to wash his burned face, important to help it heal properly. (10:05) Interrogated for four months; attacked by locals, protected by soldiers; trying to urinate, women looking on with amusement as he undoes his flight suit; initial interrogators were not professionals and were rough with him; at one point, threatened with execution. (06:04)
Was in his uniform for four months; had lice all over him; lost a lot of weight; did not see another American all that time; only company was brief stay by some South Korean spies; originally kept in a horse's stall inside a cave; trying to keep his mind active by recounting his life to then; finally was taken to POW camp and got new clothes; the only Navy airman there; mostly Air Force and some Marines, all shot down in planes; didn't think of escaping when he was alone; didn't know where he was, would stick out too much from locals; in the camp there was talk of it but never got anywhere for the same reasons. (07:20) Finding out he was "dead;" running into prisoner from another squadron on same ship who had attended Nixon's funeral; when he went to "check in" at the camp, they had no record of him because of his "death." (02:05) Was in the camp for only about two weeks when they returned him to his previous isolated area; after a week, given a book of communist propaganda; given other books, including War and Peace, works by Lenin and Marx; became obvious they were trying to brainwash him; sent back to the camp. (03:26)
Before they were repatriated, were fed three times a day on rice and gravy to fatten them up; Ed Sullivan Show interrupted to announce names of released prisoners, including his; people called his parents to tell them. (02:46) Debriefing with Marine, because they didn't know anyone from Navy was coming through; to Seoul, enjoying the comfort of a bed; told that his wife had a baby; because of his health problems, taken to a hospital in Tokyo for treatment and interrogation to make sure he hadn't been brainwashed; wife learning he is still alive, so he's shipped back to States; traveling with soldiers from recent action who were suffering from psychological problems and traveling under restraint; was repatriated on the day his daughter was born and two days before his first wedding anniversary. (07:27) Taken to the hospital where his wife was with their daughter; once he was cleared, assigned to training pilots at Sand Point until he was released from service. (00:58)
Not interested in seeing some of the men in his squadron; one ensign claimed he followed Nixon's damaged plane all the way down, that Nixon was slumped over and appeared dead; the ensign called off the rescue helicopter that would have spared Nixon six months in captivity. (01:06) How you handle fear as a pilot; "fear keeps you on your toes." (00:43) What he took away from his service; in business, trying to sell is made easier if you're confident from your unique experiences as a pilot who has crash-landed a place or survived captivity as a POW; talks about a buddy who survived Bataan Death March; they did speaking engagements together. (06:07)
Praise for his comrade who took care of business after Nixon was declared "dead;" went into the Navy same time he did; fraternity brother; wrote letters to Nixon's family and "widow;" he believed the story that Nixon's squadron told about him going down; he now has Alzheimer's and does not remember Nixon. (02:09) Disappointed with the way the Korean War was conducted; intelligence was terrible; all prisoners he met were upset about that; North Koreans able to warn villages of incoming U.S. planes; addresses the "forgotten" moniker on the war; thinks inability to win it carried over to Vietnam; now he sees the same defeatist attitude in some attitudes to war on terror; believes in maintaining strong military. (04:01) Unity of purpose in WWII; young people should serve their country in some way. (01:38)

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  October 26, 2011
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