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John A. Dramesi
Born February 12, 1933(1933-02-12) (age 88)
Place of birth Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
Allegiance United States of America
Service/branch United States Air Force
Years of service 1956 - 1982
Rank US-O6 insignia.svg Colonel
Battles/wars Vietnam War
Awards Air Force Cross ribbon.svg Air Force Cross (2)
Silver Star Medal ribbon.svg Silver Star
Legion of Merit ribbon.svg Legion of Merit
Distinguished Flying Cross ribbon.svg Distinguished Flying Cross

Colonel John Arthur Dramesi (born February 12, 1933) is a retired U.S. Air Force officer who was held as a prisoner of war at the Hanoi Hilton in North Vietnam during the Vietnam War.[1] Dramesi is one of only four members of the USAF to be twice awarded the Air Force Cross, the first for the mission on which he was shot down and captured, 2 April 1967, and the second for the six month period following his second escape and recapture, from May to November 1969, when he was beaten and tortured. He also received an award of the Silver Star for gallantry during an escape on 10 May 1967 and the month following his recapture, when he also beaten and tortured.

Dramesi is one of the very few captives who never broke under torture. He was held along with Senator John McCain and has criticized McCain's conduct as a prisoner and after release. McCain would later hail him as "one of the toughest guys I've ever met."[2] Dramesi has also criticized the conduct of a number of his fellow POWs.Cite error: Invalid <ref> tag; invalid names, e.g. too many

Dramesi was born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania on 22 February 1933 and grew up in Blackwood, a neighborhood in Gloucester Township, New Jersey.[3]" He graduated from Rutgers University and its Air Force ROTC program in 1956, and was trained as a fighter pilot flying first F-100 Super Sabres and then F-105 Thunderchiefs. He was shot down over North Vietnam and captured on 1 April 1967.[4]

While a prisoner, Dramesi twice attempted to escape, without success. On the second occasion, his partner, Edwin Atterbury, was killed, and the entire prison population was subjected to "barbaric" reprisals.[1] Plans for a third escape attempt, to be assisted by Navy SEALs in Operation Thunderhead, were cancelled after the SEALs were injured, and one killed, when jumping from a helicopter.[5]

Dramesi was released in 1973. Following his release, he continued his career in the Air Force, serving as a planner for U.S. forces in Europe, commander of the 390th Tactical Fighter Squadron, flying the F-111F Aardvark, and as commander of the 509th Bomb Wing (Strategic Air Command), Pease Air Force Base, New Hampshire. While the commander of the 390th TFS, his autobiography, "Code of Honor" which was initially published in 1975 and again in 1990. He retired in 1982 with the rank of colonel.[6]

Dramesi ran as a Republican for the Congressional seat held by James Florio in 1982, and switched parties in 1990 to run in the Democratic primary to fill Florio's then-vacant seat following his election as Governor of New Jersey.[6]

References[edit | edit source]

  1. 1.0 1.1 Reynolds, Jon A., Question of Honor, Air University Review, Vol. XXVIII, No. 3 (March–April 1977): 104-110.
  2. Dickinson, Tim, Make-Believe Maverick, Rolling Stone, October 2008.
  3. via Associated Press. "Ex-Pease Commander May Seek Elective Office: Brother sys Ex-POW relieved of duty pending retirment", Nashua Telegraph, December 26, 1981. Accessed May 30, 2013. "Dramesi, a Gloucester Township native whose defiance of his captors while a prisoner of war in Vietnam earned him nationwide respect, was replaced suddenly as commander of Pease Air Force Base in Newingon, N. H., on Monday under circumstances which remain unclear."
  4. Dramesi, John A., Code of Honor. New York: Norton, 1975.
  5. Eisman, Dale, Navy honors SEAL killed in secret mission in Vietnam, The Virginian-Pilot, February 26, 2008.
  6. 6.0 6.1 Sipress, Alan. "Each Party Sees Chance To Seize Florio's Seat", The Philadelphia Inquirer, May 30, 1990. Accessed July 20, 2011. "Also seeking the Democratic nomination is John A. Dramesi, 57, of Blackwood. A former prisoner of war in Vietnam, Dramesi said he was asked to run by senior citizens and fellow veterans. Until this winter, Dramesi was a Republican and ran against Florio for Congress in 1982.... Dramesi, who retired from the Air Force in 1982 as a colonel, said he exceeded his opponents in expertise in national-security affairs."

Further reading[edit | edit source]

  • Dramesi, John A., Code of Honor. New York: Norton, 1975. ISBN 0-446-36055-4.
  • Rochester, Stuart and Frederick Kiley, Honor Bound: American Prisoners of War in Southeast Asia, 1961-1973. Naval Institute Press: 2007. ISBN 1-59114-738-7.
  • Stockdale, Sybil, In Love and War: The Story of a Family's Ordeal and Sacrifice During the Vietnam Years. Naval Institute Press, 1990. ISBN 1-55750-784-8.

External links[edit | edit source]

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