Doug Hegdahl Bio, Age, Wife, Rank, Awards, Military career, and The Incredibly stupid one.

Doug Hegdahl Biography

Doug Hegdahl is a former United States Navy Petty Officer 2nd Class (E-5) who was held as a prisoner of war(POW) by North Vietnam during the Vietnam War. After he was released, he was able to provide the names and personal information of about 256 fellow POWs, as well as reveal the conditions of the prisoner-of-war camp. 

Doug Hegdahl Age

He was born Douglas Brent Hegdahl III on September 3, 1946, in Clark, South Dakota, U.S.

Doug Hegdahl Wife

Information about his wife is unknown.

Doug Hegdahl Rank

He left the US Navy as a Petty Officer Second Class.

Service Years

He served from 1965-1970.

Doug Hegdahl Background

He was born in September 1946 and graduated from high school in Clark, South Dakota.

Doug Hegdahl Military career

He was knocked overboard by the blast from a 5-inch gun mount from the USS Canberra in the Gulf of Tokin, three miles off the coast on April 6, 1967, when he was 20-years old. He was picked up several hours later by Cambodian fishermen who treated him well.
His shipmates tried to cover for him and did not report him missing for two days and the commanding officer did not conduct an immediate search for him. His rescuers turned him over to the Vietnamese militiamen who cubbed him repeatedly with their rifles before moving him to the infamous “Hanoi Hilton” prison.
His interrogators insisted that he was a commando or an agent. The interrogators found his story of being blown overboard unbelievable and did not buy the idea. He quickly realized that he would be much better off if he pretended to be a lowly fool. For a few days, he was slapped multiple times before he convinced his captors that he was of no value to them.
His bumpkin demeanor, youthful appearance, and country accent helped him in his ability to convince them that he was no threat to them. He pretended to be unable to read or write whenever he was asked to write statements against the United States, which was unbelievable to his Vietnamese captors.
His Vietnamese captors thought they had someone who would be easily turned to their cause, but ended up assigning someone to teach him how to read. After he appeared incapable of learning to read and write, his captors gave up on him. He later came to be known to the Vietnamese as “The Incredibly Stupid One”, and he was nearly given free rein of the camp.
He memorized names, capture dates, method of capture, and personal information of about 256 other prisoners with the help of Joseph Crecca, a U.S. Air Force officer and fellow prisoner. He is still able to repeat the information to this day. He also convinced his captors that he needed new glasses and memorized the route from the prison into the city of Hanoi, where he was taken to be fitted.
He was able to disable five trucks by putting dirt in their gas tanks during his prison stay. He was one of the 3 POWs (along with Navy Lieutenant Robert Frishman and Air Force Captain Wesley Rumble) who were released on August 5, 1969, as a propaganda move by the North Vietnamese.
In 1970, he was sent to the Paris Peace Talks after his discharge and confronted the North Vietnamese with his first-hand information about the mistreatment of prisoners.

Doug Hegdahl
Doug Hegdahl

Doug Hegdahl Awards and honors

  • Prisoner of War Medal
  • Meritorious Unit Commendation
  • Combat Action Ribbon
  • National Defense Service Medal
  • Vietnam Service Medal
  • Vietnam Campaign Medal