The Genius the Vietnamese Called “The Incredibly Stupid One”

In 1966, Doug Hegdahl shipped out to boot camp at San Diego, after which he was assigned to the USS Canberra in the Gulf of Tonkin off the coast of Vietnam. As it turned out, he fell overboard during maneuvers and swam for his life until picked up by fishermen and wound up at the famous “Hanoi Hilton.” There, Heghdal feigned a heavy country accent and mannerisms, eventually convincing prison guards that he was an illiterate fool. They even began calling him “the incredibly stupid one.” Using his captors’ naiveté to his advantage, Hegdahl was able to memorize the names, dates and methods of capture of 256 POWs…… the tune of Old MacDonald. The North Vietnamese considered Hegdahl worthless as a means of getting information about U.S. maneuvers, and Hegdahl was pressured to take early release. He initially refused, in solidarity with the other POWs, waiting for everyone to be released. Hegdahl’s fellow captives knew his value, though, and told him to go. Hegdahl continues to work as a human rights activist today, and can still sing the names of all 256 POWs he helped free in the Vietnam War.