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OPAL TWO IS BACK
John Underwood
April 23, 1973
Through his pain-racked years as a POW, Major Murphy Neal Jones remembered those seasons he played center for Tulane. His idea of a homecoming present would be for the Green Wave to annihilate LSU next fall—something it hasn't done in 24 years
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April 23, 1973

Opal Two Is Back

Through his pain-racked years as a POW, Major Murphy Neal Jones remembered those seasons he played center for Tulane. His idea of a homecoming present would be for the Green Wave to annihilate LSU next fall—something it hasn't done in 24 years

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At 500 feet Opal Two ejected. He landed on his left side, bounced, and came down again hard. When he got to his feet North Vietnamese militiamen were within 50 yards and running toward him. His left arm was dangling, unresponsive, at his side. Later he would learn he had broken it clean through above the elbow and severed the radial nerve. For a brief moment he considered making a fight of it with the .45 he carried. Then he uncocked the weapon, removed the clip and began an ordeal that would not end for 6½ years.

In the first few hours he was questioned, beaten unconscious, very nearly executed, stoned by some angry Vietnamese and put on display at a "press conference." His wound had not yet been treated. Some time afterward, Opal Two memorized a highly entertaining account of his capture in an English-language newspaper, the Vietnam Courier, that was circulated in the prisons:

"Hatred for the enemy had given additional strength to Binh. At 18, small in size, weighing 45 kilograms only, he managed to capture an American captain called Murphy Neal Jones, 2.2 meters high and weighing 120 kilograms. Hardly had this air pirate fallen on a swamp when Binh rushed out from behind a bush, brushed aside his adversary's carbine, and seized his pistol. The air pirate, frightened, raised his hands and begged for mercy."

The story gave strength to Opal Two. When he converted meters and kilograms to feet and pounds, he learned that at the moment of Binh's heroic action he, Major Neal Jones, stood 7'2" tall and weighed 264 pounds.

"You are too thin," the manager of the athletic dining hall tells him. "You should come here more often." Her name is Thelma Hearty, a kindly, worried-eyed woman with flamingo-colored hair. The major says that Mrs. Hearty always fussed over the athletes; that she once actually cried when one of his teammates complained about the frequency of steak on the menu. He smiles at the irony.

Mrs. Hearty tells him that "the boys aren't the same as they used to be, they're not as close." She hugs him then, and turns away. There is a glistening at the corner of her eyes, where the lines have deepened since he last saw her. Then he notices something else. She is thinner, too. "You look wonderful, Mrs. Hearty," he says.

His day at Tulane is a long one. He wants to see it all. He finds that things are not changed, and that everything has changed.

"Do you have to get bigger helmets for all that hair?" the major asks Bennie Ellender as they sit at the training table for lunch, watching the athletes stream through the food line, trays piled high. Ellender is the Tulane head coach. When the major was a senior, Ellender coached the freshman team.

Ellender laughs, running his hand over a glistening dome of skin that stretches from his forehead to the label on his collar. "Hair's not much of an issue anymore. Archie just about finished it, with all his red hair."

"Archie?"

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