When Lieutenant Robert Wideman’s plane crashed on a bombing run in the Vietnam War, his worst fears became reality when he was captured in North Vietnam and held captive as a Prisoner of War for six long years. Unexpected Prisoner: Memoir of a Vietnam POW tells his harrowing story and explores Wideman’s struggle with enemies and comrades, Vietnamese interrogators and American commanders, his lost dreams and ultimately -- himself.
“His story of captivity is the most accurate version of the events that occurred in the North I have ever heard,” says Captain William Roberts, a retired U.S. Marine. “It’s truly refreshing.”
A sentiment many veterans have shared upon completing Wideman’s memoir. “Especially those who were in the infantry,” says Wideman. “I think it supports what they went through and what they feel.”
Born in Montreal, Canada, Wideman grew up in East Aurora, New York. His father flew over the Himalayan Mountains in Burma during World War II. One uncle served as a pilot for the Royal Canadian Air Force and flew for Britain during WWII. Another uncle was captured at the battle of Dieppe at the beginning of WWII and was held as a German prisoner until the end of the war.
It seemed natural that after attending the University of Toledo, Wideman joined the navy as a naval aviation cadet in 1963. Upon receiving his wings and commission in 1965, Wideman served on the USS Enterprise in 1966 and on the USS Hancock in 1967. In 1967, Wideman’s plane went down over North Vietnam where the story of Unexpected Prisoner begins.