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On March 23, 1961, Bob Bailey became the first American prisoner of war in Southeast Asia. A combat veteran of World War II and Korea, Bailey was assistant Army attache in Laos when communist Pathet Lao guerrillas shot down the unarmed C-47 transport plane in which he and seven companions were flying. The only survivor, and suffering from severe injuries, Bailey was captured. The rebels held him in a small, unlit cell - in solitary confinement - for seventeen months while his wife and young children waited. His release was a national event: President John F. Kennedy award him the Bronze Star, the first such honor since the Korean War. Overshadowed by events in Vietnam, of the more than six hundred Americans captured or unaccounted for in Laos, only fifteen escaped or were released.