Orange County businessman Edgar Dale "Eddie" Allen tells many exciting stories of his wartime heroism, but the best one goes like this: it's late 1963, and the U.S. military is gearing up for a major land war in Asia. Air Force Captain Eddie Allen, on loan to the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), is flying a U-2 spy plane over the jungles of Laos with a crew of three. Their mission: to find the spot that will serve as a key radar beacon for the future bombing of Hanoi. Then disaster strikes. The plane is shot down; only Eddie (who suffered severe smoke inhalation) and one other crewman survive the fiery crash. While fleeing Viet Cong guerrillas, Eddie runs through a river and cuts his foot on a piece of coral. Unable to continue, he is captured, marched to a POW camp and tortured mercilessly for months. He is kept in a tiger cage partially submerged in water; he fends off rats; withstands bamboo shoved under his fingernails; and offers nothing but his name, rank and serial number in relentless interrogations. But Eddie has friends in high places: Henry Kissinger enters into secret talks with the Viet Cong, who agree to release Eddie in exchange for $100,000 in gold bullion. A CIA helicopter arrives at the camp and ferries Eddie—every bone broken—back to Bangkok and then to Hawaii, where he is rewarded for his service with a secret promotion to the rank of colonel.
Careful readers will note several problems with Eddie's story, however. The U-2 carried just one crew member. According to the CIA, it was never used over Southeast Asia. There is no coral in landlocked Laos.