The Arnold A. Saltzman Institute of War and Peace Studies, the Columbia-Harvard China and the World Program, and the Weatherhead East Asian Institute present:
‘Lost in the Cold War’: A Book Talk with Thomas Christensen and Jack Downey
Thomas Christensen, James T. Shotwell Professor of International Relations and Director of the China and the World Program, Columbia University
Jack Downey, John Henry Newman Professor of Roman Catholic Studies, University of Rochester
Monday, October 31, 2022
International Affairs 918
This is a CUID only, in-person event.
Register here for in-person: https://forms.gle/VeCUPs9oSZGQzsZB6
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.