Date of Award
Doctor of Philosophy
North Vietnams cruel treatment of captured American pilots included music torture which rivaled the CIAs program in Guantnamo Bay, but the aural persecution suffered for nearly a decade by the American prisoners of war has never been documented. Unlike other victims of music torture, the prisoners consistently turned to music as a healing, empowering, and unifying force, which raises several questions. Why did the POWs fare better than Guantnamo detainees? Can music reverse the trauma that music torture caused? How do we determine which music will cause harm and which music will heal? Through numerous interviews with repatriated POWs and extensive research of memoirs, biographies, and military sources, I evaluate the damage caused by musical torture, the effectiveness of musical propaganda, and the ability of music to counteract the damage it caused. First, I show how faith (in God, country, family, and other prisoners) was key to survival, inspiring POWs to risk punishment and death for the chance to express their faith musically. Next, I demonstrate their incredible methods of creating, performing, and teaching music in hostile environments to keep hope alive. Finally, I examine the torture techniques utilized by the North Vietnamese, analyzing their music torture and propaganda programs to determine why their attempts at brainwashing failed and why the POWs suffered no long-term effects.While certain music caused harm, most POWs thought music helped them survive. Music was essential for their mental health and unity, providing an outlet for frustration, a method of communication, and hope for the future. By reclaiming music for their own purposes, the POWs overcame the trauma of music torture.
Dissertation or thesis originally submitted to ProQuest
Brunson, Angela Michelle, "Faith, Hope, and Torture: Music in the Prisoner-of-War Camps of North Vietnam" (2021). Electronic Theses and Dissertations. 2887.