Lost in the Cold War by John T. Downey, Thomas J. Christensen, and Jack Lee Downey

Lost in the Cold War by John T. Downey, Thomas J. Christensen, and Jack Lee Downey

Lost in the Cold War | The Story of Jack Downey, America’s Longest-Held POW by John T. Downey, Thomas J. Christensen, and Jack Lee Downey recounts the story of Jack Downey’s time as a prisoner in Cold War China.

In 1952, John T. “Jack” Downey, a twenty-three-year-old CIA officer from Connecticut, was shot down over Manchuria during the Korean War. The pilots died in the crash, but Downey and his partner Richard “Dick” Fecteau were captured by the Chinese. For the next twenty years, they were harshly interrogated, put through show trials, held in solitary confinement, placed in reeducation camps, and toured around China as political pawns. Other prisoners of war came and went, but Downey and Fecteau’s release hinged on the United States acknowledging their status as CIA assets. Not until Nixon’s visit to China did Sino-American relations thaw enough to secure Fecteau’s release in 1971 and Downey’s in 1973.

Lost in the Cold War is the never-before-told story of Downey’s decades as a prisoner of war and the efforts to bring him home. Downey’s lively and gripping memoir—written in secret late in life—interweaves horrors and deprivation with humor and the absurdities of captivity. He recounts his prison experiences: fearful interrogations, pantomime communications with his guards, a 3,000-page overstuffed confession designed to confuse his captors, and posing for “show” photographs for propaganda purposes. Through the eyes of his captors and during his tours around China, Downey watched the Great Leap Forward, the Cultural Revolution, and the drastic transformations of the Mao era. In interspersed chapters, Thomas J. Christensen, an expert on Sino-American relations, explores the international politics of the Cold War and tells the story of how Downey and Fecteau’s families, the CIA, the U.S. State Department, and successive presidential administrations worked to secure their release.

 

John T. Downey (1930–2014) was the longest-held prisoner of war in U.S. history. He went on to serve as commissioner of the Department of Public Utilities for the state of Connecticut and as a Connecticut Superior Court judge. In 2013, the CIA awarded Downey the Distinguished Intelligence Cross, the agency’s highest honor.

Thomas J. Christensen is the James T. Shotwell Professor of International Relations and the director of the China and the World Program at Columbia University’s School of International and Public Affairs. He served as deputy assistant secretary of state for East Asian and Pacific Affairs from 2006 to 2008, and his books include The China Challenge: Shaping the Choices of a Rising Power (2015).

Jack Lee Downey is the John Henry Newman Professor of Roman Catholic Studies at the University of Rochester. He is the author of The Bread of the Strong: Lacouturisme and the Folly of the Cross, 1910–1985 (2015).

  • ISBN: 978-0-231-19912-4
  • 344 pages
  • August, 2022

Publisher: Columbia University Press