Navy Lt. Jeffrey Zaun's swollen face in Iraqi captivity was one of the harrowing images of the Persian Gulf war. The cuts and bruises shocked Americans when he was paraded on television shortly after his capture.
Although it appeared then that Zaun might have been beaten by his captors, medics now say he was injured when he ejected from his aircraft.Zaun was among 21 former prisoners of war greeted by thousands at Andrews Air Force Base upon their return home Sunday. Although his wounds appeared to have healed, he nonetheless was taken with other former Navy and Marines POWs to nearby Bethesda Naval Hospital for examination.
Air Force Col. Wynn Mabry, a flight surgeon who flew home with Zaun and the other freed POWs, recalled that the young bombardier had enjoyed a taste of freedom, albeit a brief one, while in captivity in Baghdad.
At one point during an American bombing raid on Feb. 23, Zaun's cell door popped open, presumably from shock waves, and he got out and went to the roof, Mabry said.
"He thought it was not a very smart thing to do," Mabry said, and headed back inside trying to find keys to help his fellow prisoners.
At least one of the bombs hit close to where they were being held, next door to the headquarters of Iraqi's ruling Baath Party.
"Thank God the Americans had such precision weapons," Mabry said. "They survived because of the high-tech precision of the bombs."