The Most Famous Prisoner of War: Ranking the Notable Captives in History

Choose the Prisoner you think is the most famous!

Author: Gregor Krambs
Updated on Apr 18, 2024 08:19
Imprisoned, yet unbroken! Dive into the gripping tales of the most famous Prisoners of War who stood against all odds and etched their names in history. StrawPoll now brings you an enthralling ranking of these courageous survivors whose indomitable spirit can inspire generations. Unveil the untold stories, explore their arduous journeys, and let your voice be heard as you vote for your favorite POW. Think we've missed someone? Don't hold back - suggest their name and make their legacy shine! Join us now in this captivating quest and unravel the chronicles of resilience, strength, and triumph, like never before.

Who Is the Most Famous Prisoner of War?

  1. 1
    John McCain
    United States Congress · Public domain
    American politician and military veteran who was held as a prisoner of war for over five years during the Vietnam War. He went on to become a U.S. Senator and presidential candidate.
    John McCain in other rankings
  2. 2
    Louis Zamperini
    Floatjon · CC BY-SA 3.0
    American Olympic athlete and World War II veteran who was captured by the Japanese and held as a prisoner of war for over two years. His story is chronicled in the book and movie "Unbroken."
    Louis Zamperini in other rankings
  3. 3
    Ernest Hemingway
    Lloyd Arnold · Public domain
    American author and journalist who served as an ambulance driver in World War I and was later captured and held as a prisoner of war during the Spanish Civil War.
    Ernest Hemingway in other rankings
  4. 4
    Swedish diplomat who saved thousands of Jews from the Holocaust by issuing protective passports and sheltering them in safe houses. He was later captured by the Soviet Union and held as a prisoner of war until his mysterious disappearance.
  5. 5
    American Air Force pilot who was the first African-American astronaut candidate. He died in a training accident before he could go into space and was posthumously awarded the Congressional Space Medal of Honor.
  6. 6
    Jessica Lynch
    Mamie Mae Burke · Public domain
    American Army soldier who was captured by Iraqi forces during the Iraq War and rescued by U.S. Special Forces. Her capture and rescue made international headlines.
    Jessica Lynch in other rankings
  7. 7
    Wendell Fertig
    unknown U.S. military photographer, taken on Mindanao, Philippines during WW II · Public domain
    American military officer who organized and led a guerrilla resistance movement against the Japanese in the Philippines during World War II. He was later captured and held as a prisoner of war, but continued to resist the enemy from within the prison camp.
  8. 8
    Jerzy Popiełuszko
    Unknown authorUnknown author · Public domain
    Polish Roman Catholic priest who spoke out against the communist government and was murdered by members of the secret police. He became a symbol of resistance against the regime and is considered a martyr by the Catholic Church.
  9. 9
    Wendell Phillips
    Mathew Benjamin Brady · Public domain
    American abolitionist who was arrested for his anti-slavery activities and held as a prisoner of war during the Civil War. He later became a leader in the suffrage and labor movements.
  10. 10
    German politician and Nazi official who was captured by British forces during World War II and held as a prisoner of war for the rest of his life. His mysterious flight to Scotland in 1941 remains a subject of debate and speculation.
    Rudolf Hess in other rankings

Missing your favorite Prisoner?


Ranking factors for famous Prisoner

  1. Public Awareness
    The level of public awareness and recognition of the POW's story is important. More widely known cases tend to have a greater impact and are likely to be considered more famous.
  2. Historical Significance
    The historical significance of the individual's capture and imprisonment can contribute to their fame. POWs who were involved in significant events or conflicts that shaped world history may be considered more famous.
  3. Duration and Conditions of Captivity
    The length of time spent as a POW and the conditions endured play a role. POWs who were held captive for extended periods or endured extreme hardships and suffering may be seen as more famous.
  4. Media Coverage
    The extent and impact of media coverage during and after the POW's captivity can influence popularity. If their story received widespread media attention, it can contribute to their fame.
  5. Cultural Impact
    The impact the POW's story had on society, including any influence on popular culture, literature, movies, or other forms of media, can enhance their fame.
  6. Symbolism and Iconic Status
    If the POW became a symbol or an icon representing a particular cause, such as resilience, resistance, bravery, or sacrifice, they may be considered more famous.
  7. Personal Achievements
    The individual's personal achievements before, during, or after their captivity can contribute to their fame. This could include military service, leadership, escape attempts, or post-war contributions.

About this ranking

This is a community-based ranking of the most famous Prisoner of War. We do our best to provide fair voting, but it is not intended to be exhaustive. So if you notice something or Prisoner is missing, feel free to help improve the ranking!


  • 199 votes
  • 10 ranked items

Voting Rules

A participant may cast an up or down vote for each Prisoner once every 24 hours. The rank of each Prisoner is then calculated from the weighted sum of all up and down votes.

More information on most famous prisoner of war

During times of war, prisoners of war (POWs) are individuals who have been captured and held captive by the opposing side. These individuals often endure unimaginable suffering, including physical and emotional abuse, torture, and starvation. Over the years, many individuals have become famous for their experiences as POWs. One such individual is John McCain, a former United States Senator who was held captive for over five years during the Vietnam War. Another well-known POW is Louis Zamperini, an Olympic athlete who survived 47 days at sea before being captured by the Japanese during World War II. The most famous POW, however, is likely to be James Stockdale, a Vice Admiral in the United States Navy who was held captive for over seven years during the Vietnam War. Stockdale was the highest-ranking officer to be held as a POW and was known for his leadership and bravery during his captivity. These individuals, along with countless others, have become symbols of resilience and strength in the face of adversity. Their stories serve as a reminder of the sacrifices made by so many during times of war and the importance of never forgetting their bravery and sacrifice.

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