On January 27, 1973, Henry Kissinger met with representatives from North Vietnam and agreed to a ceasefire and the withdrawal of American military forces from South Vietnam. It also included an agreement for the release of nearly 600 American prisoners of war (POWs) held by North Vietnam and its allies to begin within 60 days of the withdrawal of U.S. troops.
“The deal would come to be known as Operation Homecoming and was divided into three phases. The first phase required the initial reception of prisoners at three release sites: POWs held by the Viet Cong (VC) were to be flown by helicopter to Saigon, POWs held by the People’s Army of Vietnam (PAVN) were released in Hanoi and the three POWs held in China were to be freed in Hong Kong. The former prisoners were to then be flown to Clark Air Base in the Philippines where they were to be processed at a reception center, debriefed, and receive a physical examination. The final phase was the relocation of the POWs to military hospitals.
On February 12, 1973, three C-141 transports flew to Hanoi, North Vietnam, and one C-9A aircraft was sent to Saigon, South Vietnam to pick up released prisoners of war. The first flight of 40 U.S. prisoners of war left Hanoi in a C-141A, later known as the “Hanoi Taxi” and is now in a museum.
From February 12 to April 4, there were 54 C-141 missions flying out of Hanoi, bringing the former POWs home.
During the early part of Operation Homecoming, groups of POWs released were selected on the basis of the longest length of time in prison. The first group had spent six to eight years as prisoners of war. The last POWs were turned over to allied hands on March 29, 1973, raising the total number of Americans returned to 591.” (1)
A number of SSS Members were POWs released during Operation Homecoming. We’re so glad you’re home!
Tip Clark recently received an email from William Kane, the Director of the National Vietnam War Museum which included a link to this video, a tribute to the men who returned to the U.S.
Sources: (1) Wikipedia, Email to Tip Clark
If you would like more info on the National Vietnam War Museum, click HERE