Post-Korean War POW Facts:
The first two POWs of the post-Korea cold war era were John T. Downey and Richard Fecteau, captured by the Chinese 11-29-1952. Downey was released with the majority of the POWs during Operation Homecoming, 3-12-73 after more that 20 years in prison. They were flying a reconnaissance mission (type aircraft unknown) when shot down. They were listed as civilians. Fecteau got out after 19 years on 12-13-71. Col. Phil Smith, USAF, (then a Captain) flying a F104C, joined the China crowd 9-20-65 to 3-15-73. Cdr. Bob Flynn, USN (then a Lt.) flying an A6A, wasn't going to be left out of the fun in China. He was a POW from 8-21-67 to 3-15-73. Three other A6A pilots on that same mission became the first U.S. military to die in China. They were: Lcdr Jim Buckley, Lt. (jg) Dain Scott and Lt. (jg) J.F Trembley. One foreign national, Mr. George Watt, joined the group. A total of five captives were released from China at the end of the Cold War. Phil and Bob are members of NAM-POWs, Inc. (NPI).
The 3rd POW (and the first to be military) captured has been one of our NPI members for the past 24 years. Col. Larry Bailey, USA (Ret) (then a Major) was shot down in a C47 in Laos Mar 23, 1961. He was released 8-15-62. So, he's the first POW for Laos (and Southeast Asia, if you don't count the China POWs, Fecteau and Downey). Bailey was lucky. The other 7 U.S. servicemen aboard his C47 all perished. Larry was the only one wearing a parachute. He jumped clear. Those seven; one Army Warrant Officer, three USAF Lts, three USAF enlisted are listed as the first to die in the Vietnam War.
The eighth POW, and first POW for South Vietnam, is also a member of NPI. He was Army Sgt. (E4) George Fryett. He was captured 12-24-1961. Released 6-24-62. (The first 2 were China, the next 5 were captured in Laos, then George as number eight). George has been knighted by the Knights of Malta.
The 23rd POW captured was the Honorable Everett Alvarez, then a Lt. (jg). Ev was the first pilot captured in North Vietnam, Aug 5, 1964 during the first raids of the Gulf of Tonkin Incident. Ev was released Feb 12, 1973. He retired as a Navy commander and served in the Reagan administration as Deputy Director of the Peace Corps and Deputy Director of the Veterans Administration. The first to be killed in NVN was Navy Lt. (jg) Richard Sather, in an A1H, shot down 8-5-64. Other early 1965 captured pilots in NVN (in order of shoot down) were: Lcdr. Bob Shumaker, 2-11-65; Capt. Hayden Lockhart, 3-2-65; Capt. Scotty Morgan, 4-3-65; Lcdr. Ray Vohden, 4-3-65; Capt. "Smitty" Harris, 4-4-65; Lt. Phil Butler, 4-20-65; Capt. Bob Peel, 5-31-65; Lt. J.B. McCamey, 6-2-65; Capt. Paul Kari, 6-20-65; and Cdr. Jeremiah Denton, 7-18-65.
The first POW to escape was by Army Capt. Issac Camacho, (Ret) (then an E7). Issac is an active member of NPI. He was held from 11-24-63 to 7-13-65. Army Col. Nick Rowe, (then a 1st Lt.) was captured the month before but didn't make good his escape until five years later. Nick was a POW from 10-29-63 to 12-31-68. Nick is deceased. He was killed on 4-21-89 in a Communist insurgency ambush in the Philippines. A total of 36 POWs escaped during the war: 15 Army, 1 USAF, 10 Marines, 2 Navy, 6 civilians and 2 Fornats.
The longest held POW in South Vietnam was Army Col. Floyd Thompson (then a Capt.). Floyd was a POW from 3-26-64 to 3-16-73. He is a NPI member. NPI member, Ev Alvarez, was the longest held in NVN. The first Cambodia POW was Harley Cassell. He was an Army E4. POW from 7-17-68 to 12-20-68. Not a NPI member.
The last military POW captured was Navy Lcdr Al Kientzler. He was shot down just south of the DMZ 1-27-73. He was brought to Hanoi and released with one of the last military release groups, 3-27-73. Cdr. Harley Hall, Al's pilot, was killed. The last military man to be released was Maj. Bob White, USA (then a Capt.). He was captured in SVN 11-15-69, released 4-1-73.
From the time of Lcdr. Kientzler's capture, 1-27-73, until 5-15-75, forty more American servicemen died (7in SVN, 2 NVN, 23 in Cambodia, and 8 in Laos), but none were known captured alive The last to be killed in NVN were Navy pilots Lt. Jim Duensing and Lt. (jg) Roy Haviland, 1-30-73. The last military men to die in SVN were Marines 1st lt. Michael John Shea and Capt William Nystul. They were killed in their CH46D on 4-29-75. That was during the Saigon evacuation. The last to die in Laos were eight USAF crew members of an EC47Q aircraft. During the Mayaguez rescue attempt in Cambodia, on 5-15-75, 18 U.S. servicemen were killed. One Air Force officer, one USAF enlisted, two Navy enlisted, and 14 enlisted Marines. These men were the last to die in the Vietnam War.
A total of 591 POWs were released Feb-April 1973 in Operation Homecoming. A total of 660 Military POWs got out of the South East Asia prisons alive. 141 civilians and foreign nationals were also released. The total number of POWs was 801. Almost 500 pilots were captured. 58,000+ U.S. Military weren't so fortunate. Approximately 2,000 casualties are still unaccounted for. The capture of the USS Pueblo and her crew on January 23, 1968 by the North Koreans is a full story in itself.
NAM-POWs, Inc., is a tax exempt Section 501c (19) Arizona Corporation. Our "Directory" is proprietary and not to be used for mailing or telephone call lists. The Phony POW List, Hanoi Facts sheet and POW Grid may be distributed as you wish. All statistical data comes from the OASD Reference Document, dated May 1996. For official correspondence with the Office of the Assistant Secretary of Defense concerning POW/MIA matters, write: OASD Int'l Security Affairs, Defense POW/Missing Personnel Affairs, 2400 Defense Pentagon, Wash, DC 20301. For contact with NAM-POW, Inc., contact: Retired Navy Captain, Mike McGrath.