Since Flag Day was June 14, I am again sharing the story of Mike Christian’s flag.
From April 1967 to March 1973, Christian was a POW in North Vietnam. The following is part of a speech by Leo Thorness, a recipient of the Congressional Medal of Honor who was imprisoned with Christian. It can be found on the POW Network.
“Then a Major in the U.S. Air Force, I had been captured and imprisoned from 1967-1973,” Thorness said. “Our treatment had been frequently brutal. After three years, however, the beatings and torture became less frequent. During the last year, we were allowed outside most days for a couple of minutes to bathe. We showered by drawing water from a concrete tank with a homemade bucket.
“One day as we all stood by the tank, stripped of our clothes, a young Naval pilot named Mike Christian found the remnants of a handkerchief in a gutter that ran under the prison wall. Mike managed to sneak the grimy rag into our cell and began fashioning it into a flag. Over time we all loaned him a little soap, and he spent days cleaning the material. We helped by scrounging and stealing bits and pieces of anything he could use. At night, under his mosquito net, Mike worked on the flag. He made red and blue from ground-up roof tiles and tiny amounts of ink, and painted the colors onto the cloth with watery rice glue. Using thread from his own blanket and a homemade bamboo needle, he sewed on stars.