Vol. 14


Before Honor

1967; Hanoi, North Vietnam1

“Before honor comes humility.” This is a quote from the Bible.2 This verse became an important life lesson to my uncle, Captain Eugene “Red” McDaniel. He was a pilot in the United States Navy during the Vietnam War. During an alpha strike3 bombing raid over Van Din, sixty miles south of Hanoi, on May 19, 1967, he was shot down and captured by the North Vietnamese. While in captivity, he learned about humility and about being honorable.

Red was born in Kinston, North Carolina, in 1931. He was the oldest of eight children. Before he entered the navy, he was a remarkably talented student and athlete. He was the hometown basketball and baseball star, and he went on to play baseball on scholarship at Campbell Junior College in Buies Creek, North Carolina. Red was popular and had many friends. It was at Campbell that he met his future wife, Dorothy Howard. He succeeded in almost everything he attempted to do personally, academically, and athletically.

When Red finished college in 1955, he entered the United States Navy. He immediately had an interest in aviation. Over the next decade, Red trained diligently to become a pilot. He was eventually deployed for a combat tour to Vietnam in 1966. From November 1966 through May 1967, Red flew eighty-one combat mission air strikes. It was on his eighty-second alpha strike bombing raid that he was shot down by the enemy with a surface-to-air missile. He crashed his plane but ejected out of the cockpit. He was then captured behind enemy lines.

Red was held as a prisoner of war for the next six years. He was tortured in ways the average person cannot even begin to understand. The North Vietnamese would make Red kneel on his knees on cold, dirty floors for days. They kept him in isolation. They would run electricity through his body. They mostly kept him locked in a cage, but at times would chain him to a wall.

It was during those darkest hours, thousands of miles from home and family, that Red came to understand the true meaning of humility. He had lost everything — his plane, his family, and even his freedom. This was a new concept for the always-successful, always-in-control pilot. In his darkest hour, Red learned to lean fully on God for strength.

After six long years, Red was finally released from captivity on March 4, 1973. His family welcomed him with open arms. Red spent almost a year recovering at Portsmouth Naval Hospital in Virginia. He eventually resumed active duty in the navy and retired in 1982.

For many years Red advocated for the return of other American prisoners of war. He considers himself one of the lucky ones, because he got to return home alive. Many prisoners of war did not. Despite the torture and abuse from the enemy, Red found strength in God to survive and to return home with a heart filled with love and hope.

A. W. Tribula; North Carolina, USA


1. In 1976 North Vietnam and South Vietnam were merged to form one country: Vietnam.

2. Proverbs 15:33, New American Standard Bible.

3. An alpha strike is a large air attack by dozens of planes from an aircraft carrier.



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