Enduring Torture in a POW Camp
Profile on: Brigadier General (ret.) Robinson Risner, veteran pilot
If you fall off a horse, as the old saying goes, the best thing you can do is dust yourself off and get back on before you lose your nerve. Few people realize the truth of this adage better than Brigadier General (ret.) Robinson Risner of Austin, Texas. As a veteran pilot of three wars – World War 2, the Korean War and the Vietnam War – Risner was shot down not once but twice over enemy territory. But each time it happened, he wasted no time taking to the skies again, ready to serve his country.
What kept him going?
Upon hearing such a tale, the first thing one wonders is, what motivated this man? This question is especially poignant when you realize the second time Risner went down, he was captured by the Viet Cong and held as a prisoner of war (POW) for the next seven-and-one-half years. During that time, he was also forced to endure frequent torture and solitary confinement. So what kept him going through those darkest of hours? And what made him willing to risk torture and death yet again by training for still more combat missions? According to Risner, it all comes down to faith.
Until he became a POW, Risner had often turned to God during difficult moments, but he wasn’t quite willing to turn his life over to God entirely. That changed, however, after God intervened miraculously in Risner’s life, providing him with a few precious moments of freedom in the “Hanoi Hilton,” as Risner refers to the POW camp.
It all began one day when the Viet Cong were trying to get Risner to make some propaganda for them. He resisted, so they twisted his arms behind his back and handcuffed them. They also put his feet in stocks and chained them to his bunk. Risner was in incredible agony, unable to lie down even for a few moments of sleep. He prayed for endurance, which God gave him. Even so, on the morning of the tenth day, Risner hit his limit, falling over backwards from exhaustion. This movement caused the right handcuff to close one more notch on his already blood-poisoned wrists. Finally, he just couldn’t take it anymore.
“I said, ‘Lord, I’ve had it, now I need help,’ just like that,” Risner says.
Then, without any more conscious thought, he hooked his right handcuff on the edge of his cement bunk, gave it a jerk, and it came off.
God is real
Even though his hand was now free, Risner’s feet were still held fast by a four-inch, rusty padlock. Risner, however, was undeterred.
“I said, ‘Lord, just one more lock.’ ”
Unable to use his fingers – which were now black and swollen like “big, black wieners,” as Risner puts it – he simply bumped the lock with his thumb and it fell loose.
Immediately, Risner got off the bunk to go to the bathroom. What a tremendous sense of relief! Unable to leave his bunk for the past ten days, Risner had been forced to lie in his own body waste. When he heard the guards returning, Risner re-fastened his bonds, but not as tightly as before so as not to cut off his circulation. Thankfully, the guards didn’t notice.
Somehow, Risner managed to survive not only that episode but many more. What he took away from the experience was not bitterness or hatred for his captors but an enduring belief that God is real.
“I finally got to the point where I trusted him enough that I could turn my life over to him,” Risner says. “I lost freedom, of course, but I came back a stronger person.”
Over thirty years later, Risner still marvels at how God met him in his darkest moment, and he encourages anyone else who is struggling as he was to give faith in God a try.
“If you try it and don’t like it, then give it up. But once you’ve tried it, I don’t think you can ever give it up. You will find it is the best thing that has ever happened to you.”
Is someone or something holding you in bondage right now? Why don’t you ask Jesus to set you free?
Take a look at your life. How would you describe it? Contented? Rushed? Exciting? Stressful? Moving forward? Holding back? For many of us it’s all of the above at times. There are things we dream of doing one day, there are things we wish we could forget. In the Bible, it says that Jesus came to make all things new. What would your life look like if you could start over with a clean slate?
Living with hope
If you are looking for peace, there is a way to balance your life. No one can be perfect, or have a perfect life. But every one of us has the opportunity to experience perfect grace through a personal relationship with God through His Son, Jesus Christ.
You can receive Christ right now by faith through prayer. Praying is simply talking to God. God knows your heart and is not so concerned with your words as He is with the attitude of your heart.
If you don’t know Jesus, we encourage you to pray the following:
Lord Jesus, I want to know You personally. Thank You for dying on the cross for my sins. I open the door of my life and receive You as my Savior and Lord. Thank You for forgiving my sins and giving me eternal life. Take control of my life. Make me be the person You want me to be. Amen.
If you invited Christ into your life, thank God often that He is in your life, that He will never leave you and that you have eternal life. As you learn more about your relationship with God, and how much He loves you, you’ll experience life to the fullest. Please contact us by clicking below to let us know about your decision, and let us know how we can help you continue your journey!