The Michael Christian Story

[June 2, 2021]  I’ve known about the Michael Christian story for many years.  Recently, a buddy of mine sent me a speech that addressed the actions this brave man and said that I might want to share it with my readers.  I wholeheartedly agree.

The following is condensed from a speech by Colonel Leo K. Thorsness, USAF (Retired) and a recipient of the Medal of Honor.1

You’ve probably seen the bumper sticker somewhere along the road. It depicts an American Flag, accompanied by the words “These colors don’t run.” I’m always glad to see this, because it reminds me of an incident from my confinement in North Vietnam at the Hao Lo POW Camp, or the Hanoi Hilton, as it became known. Then a major in the U.S. Air Force, I had been captured and imprisoned from 1967-73. Our treatment had been frequently brutal. After three years, however, the beatings and torture became less frequent.

During the last year, we were allowed outside most days for a couple of minutes to bathe. We showered by drawing water from a concrete tank with a homemade bucket. One day as we all stood by the tank stripped of our clothes, a young naval aviator named Mike Christian found the remnants of a handkerchief in a gutter that ran under the prison wall. Mike managed to sneak the grimy rag into our cell and began fashioning it into a flag.

Over time we all loaned him a little soap, and he spent days cleaning the material. We helped by scrounging and stealing bits and pieces of anything he could use. At night, under his mosquito netting, Mike worked on the flag. He made red and blue from ground roof tiles and tiny amounts of ink and painted the colors onto the cloth with watery rice glue. Using thread from his own blanket and a homemade bamboo needle, he sewed on stars.

Early in the morning a few days later, when the guards were not alert, he whispered loudly from the back of our cell, “Hey gang, look here.” He proudly held up this tattered piece of cloth, waving it as if in a breeze. If you used your imagination, you could tell it was supposed to be an American Flag. When he raised that smudgy fabric, we automatically stood straight and saluted, our chests puffed out, and more than a few eyes had tears.

About once a week, the guards would strip us, run us outside and go through our clothing. During one of those shakedowns, they found Mike’s flag. We all knew what would happen. That night they came for him.

Night interrogations were always the worst. They opened the cell door and pulled Mike out. We could hear the beginning of the torture before they even had him in the torture cell. They beat him most of the night.

About daylight they pushed what was left of him back through the cell door. He was badly broken; even his voice was gone. Within two weeks, despite the danger, Mike scrounged another piece of cloth and began another flag. The Stars and Stripes, our national symbol, was worth the sacrifice to him. Now whenever I see the flag, I think of Mike and the morning he first waved that tattered emblem of a nation. It was then, thousands of miles from home in a lonely prison cell, that he showed us what it is to be truly free.


Author: Douglas R. Satterfield

Hello. I'm Doug and I provide at least one article every day on some leadership topic. I welcome comments and also guests who would like to write an article. Thanks for reading my blog.

14 thoughts on “The Michael Christian Story

  1. Doug Smith

    Another spot-on blog post by Gen. Satterfield. Thanks. Others have pointed out some important lessons in this story so I won’t do so again. But I will note that this is what is not taught to our kids. Stories like this are hidden from them in an attempt to feed the garbage about the US and ignore all the good and brave.

    1. Max Foster

      Mike Christian was not making that flag because it made him feel better. He was making that flag because he knew how important it was for his fellow prisoners to be able to pledge allegiance to our Flag and to our country. For Mike Christian, maintaining that Flag was the right thing to do. There are many men and women who love this country for its consistent support for freedom all across the world. While many say we are horrible people and a terrible country, the facts say otherwise. The basement dwelling liberals are an insult to human intelligence and are themselves exactly what they say the US is about.

      1. Darryl Sitterly

        Well said, Max. As typical, you hit a home run with your comment. Thanks………

  2. Orange Man

    Thanks to Gen. Satterfield for highlighting another great story. It is, however, a story that will be ignored and when it comes up, downplayed. Sad for our country that men like Michael Christian are not honored as much as they should be.

    1. Dead Pool Guy

      Goes to show you what depravity we now see in our govt.

  3. Greg Heyman

    Having been in the Navy for many years, we were taught about LtJG Christian and what he did with the US flag. The beatings he took and the depravity of the communist Vietnamese. There is a huge lesson every single article fails to tell us about. The lesson is that ALL communist nations with which we’ve fought ALL use physical and mental torture routinely. And, the international community ignores it.

    1. Bryan Lee

      Right Greg. The use torture because the person is irrelevant except when they support the “state.” That is why the “ends justify the means” attitude of all Marxists. Just like the social democrats in the US and elsewhere who want to hide their hideous past.

    2. Benny

      Good point, folks. Not just a lesson in overcoming fear but a lesson in what communism is about. If you align yourself with this marxism, then I hope you can explain its benefits.

      1. Nick Lighthouse

        Benny, Marxists just ignore history because history is just old and irrelevent. They are more woke today … smarter and superior to old people in the past.

  4. Willie Shrumburger

    If you want to see the opposite of courage, read this story. Thank you, Gen. Satterfield for giving us a review of a great man.

  5. Rev. Michael Cain

    Great story. I recommend others go further and read more on Michael Christian by searching his name on the Internet. Plenty of good info to give us examples of bravery at its finest and under the most arduous conditions.


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