Colonel Jack Pitchford

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The Independent Online

Colonel Jack Pitchford, who died on 2 December aged 82, was a fighter pilot from Mississippi who survived seven years in the notorious Vietnamese prison camp known as the Hanoi Hilton.

Pitchford was shot down over North Vietnam in 1965 and taken to Hoa Lo prison, where many Americans, including the former presidential candidate John McCain, endured brutal torture.

Pitchfordhad volunteered for a perilous assignment with the Wild Weasels, a group of pilots who flew low-altitude missions hunting down and destroying surface-to-air missiles. He became the first Weasel pilot taken prisoner after bailing out of his F-100 Super Sabre in December 1965. Pitchford was shot in the arm three times and the man flying with him, Bob Trier, was killed in a gun battle on the ground.

Pitchford was released in 1973, the same year as McCain. The pilot never fully recovered from his injuries, but never regretted his service to his country, his brother Jim said, adding: "His achievement in life was really sustaining himself through the ordeal in prison camp, and he considered himself a very fierce resister."