In recognition of Friday, September 15, National POW/MIA Recognition Day 2017 we honor Special Forces, Colonel Nick Rowe.
Nick Rowe (Feb 8, 1938- April 21, 1989) is a legendary Green Beret. James N. “Nick” Rowe was born in McAllen, Texas, 8 February 1938. Rowe graduated from West Point in 1960. He went to Vietnam in 1963, where he served as a Special Officer (Green Beret). His mission was to advise and assist the South Vietnamese government. He organized, trained, equipped and employed the Civilian Irregular Defense Group (CIDG).
Rowe was captured by the Viet Cong on October 29, 1963. The Viet Cong were communist guerillas. He became a Prisoner of War (POW). Rowe was imprisoned along with Captain Humbert R. “Rocky” Versace, and Sergeant Daniel L. Pitzer during a CIDG operation.
During his captivity, Rowe was moved to several POW camps in South Vietnam. He spent the majority of his time in the U Minh Forest, known as the “Forest of Darkness.” Rowe was held in a cage. He was physically tortured and psychologically abused. Rowe continued to resist communist ideology. Row tried to escape three times.
On December 31, 1968, en route to his execution, Rowe escaped his five years of captivity. He outsmarted his guards and flagged down an American helicopter. His escape was one of only two successfully made by US Army personnel during the Vietnam War.
In 1969, Nick Rowe received a hero’s welcome and a parade in his hometown of McAllen, Texas. Rowe’s moving memoir, Five Years to Freedom, tells the amazing story of his time as a POW was published in 1971.
Nick Rowe was recalled to active duty in 1981. As a lieutenant colonel, Nick Rowe became Chief of the Survival, Evasion, Resistance, and Escape training program for the U.S. Army.
SERE training teaches personnel that are at high risk of capture the necessary skills to endure isolation, avoid capture, resist exploitation and survive captivity. The course is based on Rowe’s experience as a POW. Completing the SERE is a requirement for graduation from the U.S. Army’s Special Forces Qualification Course.
In 1987, Colonel Nick Rowe was assigned as the chief Army division of the Joint U.S. Military Advisory Group in the Philippines. In 1989 Rowe, 51 and a Green Beret, who survived five years as a POW, was gunned down by communist rebels. Rowe was providing counter-insurgency training to U.S. allies in the Philippines.
Rowe, James N. Five Years to Freedom: The True Story of a Vietnam POW. New York City: Random House, 1971.