His nickname was Jackie Fe. I immediately thought of the chemical symbol for iron. Isn’t it FE? Indeed it is. Despite Captain Fellowes’s penchant for off-color humor and his flirtatious personality, his DNA was pure strength. He was a big, strapping man — looked like a football player to me. Along with his fellow prisoners, Fellowes endured unimaginable physical and emotional tests in North Vietnam. But he survived and returned home to his family and his career. When he retired, he wasn’t entirely sure what he would do with the rest of his life. But his wife made it clear that it wasn’t going to happen at home. “She asked me, ‘What are you doing at home?’ I said, ‘I live here.’ She said, ‘Not during the day.'” What struck me about Jack Fellowes was his self-deprecating, dry humor — a trait that can mask depression or a lack of self esteem. But not with him. He truly loved to watch people laugh and he loved nothing more than sharing a good joke and seeing his audience’s reaction (I think he missed his calling as a stand-up comedian). His sense of humor probably aided his survival in captivity. Many of the POWs said that a positive outlook and maintaining hope in the midst of tremendous adversity made the difference between life and death.

But he also had a serious side to him — one that kept him focused during his POW experience and one that helped him rebuild his relationships with his family when he returned home. It wasn’t easy. He left a wife and four children at home. After 6 1/2 years away, he had to reestablish himself as a husband and a father, when his family’s household had functioned for years without him. He had to be patient, kind, gentle and tolerant — especially with his sons. When he returned home, they were almost all in their teenage years — tough enough for a dad who has been around to parent. They eventually warmed up to him again, but it wasn’t easy. (Many of the POWs’ kids tell similar readjustment stories.) I always thought it was a tremendous testament to the total manhood of this group of men: they fought, they suffered in silence in North Vietnam, they honorably returned home and quietly rebuilt their lives — as servicemen, as husbands, as fathers, as sons, and as civic neighbors. They didn’t wallow in victimhood or demand special treatment. They continued to serve. Rest in peace, Jackie Fe. I’ll miss you…and your jokes.

Posted by The Bunny in Aviation, History, Navy
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  • UltimaRatioReg

    When we sing or say “God bless America”, those blessings include heroes like Captain Jack Fellowes, whose courage and strength defies quantifying. And his strength of character was as evident after his repatriation, as he refused to let his ordeal ruin him.

    “They didn’t wallow in victimhood or demand special treatment.”

    Men of iron often have a tough time when the society around them is soft and getting softer. That he was able to return to not only his country but his family, and be the man both needed him to be, speaks volumes. Rest in peace, Captain. May this nation always be worthy of the sacrifices you made, and grateful for all you gave.

  • As the POW’s were pictured boarding our US Aircraft upon their Hanoi Release, I had volunteered to be an Aide to one of the Norfolk/ Oceana Aviators. As such I camped out @ Naval Hospital, Portsmouth so I could be there to serve my Guy . . . & any other POW Returnee from that initial Group.

    The Hospital CO had set up 2 Room Suites for each Returnee so the Wives could be with their Guy, day & night. Upon arrival on that difficult weathered-in evening these Families proceeded to their Suites to begin the transition to “Normalcy”. It was about 02:00 hours when Jack Fellows door opened & his head appeared, showing
    a big, broad SMILE. Looking directly at me in front of the Nurse’s Station his grin turned into a very shot “Jack Fellows” exclaimation:
    “IT STILL WORKS “!!! he said, & with that he turned back into the Bedroom of the Suite!
    wes weseleskey

  • Frank Gomba

    He was one of my favorite characters..thanks Jack for knowing you..one of the best things that happened to me

  • Cheryl Smith

    Capt. Jack Fellowes came into my life at the age of ten when I received a POW/MIA bracelet with his name on it. We lived at Clark Air Force Base in the Phillipines and many kids my age were acutely aware of the war taking place a short hop from our base. I’ll never forget the day the POWs were released and came through Clark. It was a series of holidays as the schools let out and thousands of kids lined the flightline to welcome them home. My father later arranged for me to deliver my POW bracelet to CDR Fellowes and tearfully welcome him “almost home.” The memory was locked into my childhood until, at the age of 24, I began working at the Naval Academy Athletic Association. Into my office one day walked General Bill Buse, USMC, and Capt Jack Fellowes on their way to watch football practice. General Buse had heard my husband was stationed at 8th & I in Washington, and came in to chat. His inseparable buddy, Jack Fellowes, tagged along. Imagine Capt Fellowes’ surprise when he found out we had met years earlier at Clark AFB. Imagine my surprise when, the very next week, Capt Fellowes brought me a small box. Inside I found the POW bracelet I had given to him 11 years earlier. What followed was four years of a very special friendship with these two men as I laughed at their stories and sat in awe of the incredible honor these men possessed. I still cherish the bracelet, and the memory of Jack Fellowes, to this day.

  • Jack and I were one of six who participated in a radio taping entitled “They Served With Honor” Radio station WMAL, Washington, D.C. It was about service in Vietnam and coming home–our experiences. The broadcast won a Peabody Award. I recall Jack’s unbelievable humility. He refused to be called a hero He mentioned football and baseball players as heroes and others with whom he was imprisioned as well. We lost another several years ago who appeared on the tape; Linda VanDeVanter a combat nurse in Pleiku who succumbed to a rare blood disease. I wish Jack’s family peace and healing which comes with time. Thank you for allowing me to share my comments. Ben Shapiro