April 3, 2023
Col. John Gallemore, Director SECAF-CSAF Strategic Execution Group, moderated a session on “Classes from Vietnam: 50 Years Later” to kick off the AFA Warfare Symposium on March 6, 2023. The panel featured three heroes from the Vietnam Conflict: Col. Charles B. DeBellevue, USAF (Ret.), the best scoring ACE of Vietnam Conflict and final American ACE; Col. Lee Ellis, USAF (Ret.), Vietnam Conflict POW (1967-1973); and Lt. Col. Gene Smith, USAF (Ret.), Vietnam Conflict POW (1967-1973). Watch the video or learn the transcript beneath.
For 40 years, it has been my privilege to talk to you at AFA occasions most frequently because the voice of AFA. Once I say Airmen, Guardians, girls and gents, welcome to the 2023 Air and Area Forces Affiliation Warfare Symposium. Normally you hear me from the manufacturing desk on the facet with my colleagues from GPI, however as we speak I’m privileged to be on the stage to introduce a panel who will discuss Vietnam, 50 years later.
These legendary Airmen will share with you about their experiences and their reminiscences. Earlier than I flip it over to the moderator, nevertheless, I wish to take a degree of non-public privilege to speak about one of many panelists. Again once I was AFA Director of Authorities Relations, Lieutenant Colonel Gene Smith, within the first chair right here, was the president and chairman of the Air Pressure Affiliation at the moment. Throughout his tenure, he accompanied me to Capitol Hill many instances the place we labored a lot laws of significance to our air pressure, our Airmen, and our households. Gene was a dynamic spokesperson for all of you. He delivered outcomes by means of his private contacts and his passionate case statements for help. Thanks, Gene.
Now please give a heat welcome to your panel moderator, Colonel John Gallemore.
Col. John Gallemore:
I don’t know why they clapped for me. They need to be clapping for you.
Lt. Col. Gene Smith, USAF (Ret.):
Yeah, yeah, yeah.
Col. John Gallemore:
So Common Allvin, CMSAF, Common Wright, Common Raaberg, Common Skoch, thanks a lot for permitting me the chance to share the stage with actually what I’ll name and I believe you’ll all agree, three true American heroes. Now earlier than we transfer into the formalities, sir, I’m unsure who signed and authorized the flight schedule, however I’m going to level out the truth that you may have a College of Georgia Bulldog, a Mississippi State Bulldog, a raging Cajun from southwestern Louisiana and a Aggie all on the stage with microphones on the similar time with clearance to interact. So I’m pretty sure we’ve got busted our acceptable stage of danger. So with that being mentioned to my left are two former prisoners of battle and the final serving American ace in our lively responsibility army.
The scheme of maneuver for as we speak is pretty easy. Every of those advantageous gents will discuss eight to 10 minutes. They’ll let you know their experiences and their tales after which from there we’ll attempt to get by means of a couple of questions realizing that we don’t have an entire lot of time. We’ve received about 40 minutes. I do know that the majority of y’all are accustomed to these three gents, however let me simply fill you in on a couple of fast info. So Lieutenant Colonel Gene Smith. Instantly to my left, he grew up in Mark Mississippi. As I alluded to, he attended Mississippi State College the place my daughter’s going to go this fall. He mentioned he’s going to take excellent care of her. He presently lives in West Level, Mississippi there on the outdated Waverly Golf Course and for individuals who’ve ever been there, it’s a improbable place to play golf. And his lovely spouse Lynn is up right here within the entrance row simply as stage left in a tennis as we speak,
Colonel Smith began his flying profession as a radar intercept officer within the F-101 Voodoo. He subsequently attended UPT and was off to fly the F-102 Delta Dagger after which the 105 Thunder chief, aka the thud. On his thirty third fight mission, and as he’ll say his thirty second and a half fight mission, he was shot down, captured, after which remained within the notorious Hanoi Hilton for 5 and a half years. He was repatriated alongside Lee Smith who was simply to his left on the 14th of March 1973.
So we’re closing in on 50 years on each of their repatriations and he continued his distinguished Air Pressure profession alongside the way in which, incomes two silver stars, a distinguished flying cross with Valor, a bronze star with Valor, a Purple Coronary heart in addition to a POW medal and an entire host of different awards alongside the way in which. He completed his profession at 14th flying coaching wing there at Columbus Air Pressure Base, Mississippi and in addition served and has already been referenced as each the president after which the chairman of the board for the Airspace Forces Affiliation.
Colonel Gene Smith. Sir, maintain on one second. I received another. I received two extra intros to do.
Lt. Col. Gene Smith, USAF (Ret.):
You’re reducing into my time.
Col. John Gallemore:
We’re good. We nonetheless received 36 and a half minutes. To Colonel Smith’s left is Colonel Chuck DeBellevue. Excuse me… On the finish is Colonel Chuck DeBellevue. So Colonel DeBellevue grew up in New Orleans, Louisiana. As I referenced earlier, he went to the artist formally generally known as Southwestern Louisiana. Now the College of Louisiana Lafayette as a raging Cajun. He presently lives in Edmond, Oklahoma and is married to his spouse Sally, who can be in attendance there proper subsequent to Lynn within the entrance row. Colonel DeBellevue began his profession as a weapon techniques officer within the mighty F-4 Phantom. Following a fast stint at Seymour Johnson, he was off to Udorn Royal Thai Air Base in November of 1971.
Throughout his fight deployment to Southeast Asia, he flew 220 fight missions and is credited with six air-to-air victories. Colonel DeBellevue got here again, continued his distinguished profession, retiring with 30 years of service and once more retired because the final American ace to serve on lively responsibility. Alongside the way in which right here into Air Pressure Cross three silver stars, six distinguished flying crosses and 18 air metals. He continues to volunteer and converse world wide and was honored with incomes the congressional medal gold medal in 2015. Colonel Chuck DeBellevue.
Bracketed by Colonel DeBellevue and Colonel Smith is Colonel Lee Ellis. Colonel Ellis grew up in Commerce, Georgia, college of Georgia Bulldog lives in Atlanta and is married to his spouse Mary. Colonel Ellis began his flying profession within the F-4 Phantom and was shortly thereafter deployed to Da Nang Air Base. He was shot down on his sixty-eighth mission, captured and remained in captivity for over 5 and a half years and was repatriated alongside Colonel Smith on 14th March 1973 and continued his illustrious profession with 25 years of service again the place all of it started, at his alma mater, the College of Georgia. He earned two silver stars, the Bronze Star with Valor, the Purple Coronary heart and the prisoner of battle medal. Colonel Ellis is a nationally acknowledged speaker and publicist. Women and gents, I current to you three true American heroes. Colonel Smith, the clock’s counting.
Lt. Col. Gene Smith, USAF (Ret.):
Is that this factor on? Good. I believe it’s. Effectively one, let me let you know how good it makes me really feel to look out right here and see all you Airmen and Guardians and simply those who consider in the USA and help our army and help our Air pressure. Orville, you and your employees have finished an exquisite job. I’ve received 10 minutes to let you know what it was prefer to fly fight in Southeast Asia in 105 and be a POW that I used to be for 5 and a half years.
I used to be flying deuces in Germany in late 1966, having a good time. I had my very own wine Keller down on a muzzle the place I may purchase Trenton Heimer Rosenberg Spate laser for a greenback and 15 cents and it was good as any sauvignon blanc I can get in the USA as we speak. Once I got here again from a ski journey with my household and this good friend of mine walked as much as me and says, you higher maintain on you and I’ve received a 105 task to Southeast Asia. And I completely didn’t wish to fly that airplane, however we very quickly received out of USAF, Europe and on en route.
Fortuitously I received Nellis and never McConnell and I began my checkout in a 105. I in a short time came upon that airplane was actually not what I believed it was. It was one of many quickest airplanes, if not the quickest airplane beneath 10,000 ft on the planet. I realized that and the way secure it was. Someday early on in my checkout, I used to be getting back from the Indian Springs gunnery vary the place we did once I was wanting round and studying to fly the airplane and I used to be 4 and the flight lead had us in all probability at 200 ft and we had been smoking down into the Vegas Valley. And I seen shock waves bending upon the wings of their airplanes and I mentioned, “Holy smokes, how briskly are we going?” And I took a look on the air pace indicator 0.95 and it was similar to sitting in that chair proper there.
Plus I had about an inch of throttle left and I believed to myself, if I’m going to battle, that is the airplane I wish to do it in. Effectively, we rapidly checked out, realized no techniques that they had been doing in Southeast Asia. We ask and ask and ask, mentioned they’ll educate them to you while you recover from there. And I received to Southeast Asia in July of 1967. I didn’t even get my luggage set down Takhli Lee earlier than I used to be taken up on a familiarization journey and three different guys had been alongside, too, of their airplanes and we had been proven the pod formation that we’d fly going north. That’s how fast it occurred and we didn’t even know what the pod formation was. I flew 5 missions within the decrease root pack after which I went north on my first mission. I may spend half-hour telling you about that mission.
However rapidly it refueled out over the Gulf of Tonkin was my flight of 4 and three different flights of 4 and we had been the third flight. Our goal was the Bach Gang bridge on the Northeast railroad going out of Hanoi. Three minutes earlier than we received to the goal,, nonetheless a protracted methods down, 30 miles plus the sky turned black with flack. Now I says, “Oh shucks,” actually loudly. And about that point the Weasels had not made a name of Sam’s, however about that point a SA-2 two glided by me so shut I may learn the Russian writing on it and it scared the snot out of me amongst different issues.
After which we received the decision to get an echelon to roll in and a man proper in entrance of me received hit and it was only a huge torch in my windscreen as I’m following my flight lead down and stuff going by me.” And I mentioned, that man by no means received out of that airplane. We didn’t hear a beeper or see a shoot or something.” He got here out on the identical airplane I did after being captured by the Chinese language.
Effectively, issues went fairly quickly after that. I made flight lead. They made me a flight lead. I don’t know whether or not I made it or not. After concerning the tenth mission or so and we began flying missions north. Each mission was 16 airplanes with a flight of 4 Weasel. From the primary a part of September up till the center of October, not very most of the targets we hit had been price hitting. We misplaced some airplanes on these. In actual fact, in my class, the primary man we misplaced was on his third mission within the southern a part of North Vietnam the place he bumped into the bottom on a 3rd strayfen go on a suspected truck park.
And all of us requested ourselves the query, is life price that? And the reply isn’t any. Issues went alongside fairly good and in the course of October issues began heating up with some higher targets. On the afternoon of October the twenty fourth, 1967, we walked… I used to be scheduled that afternoon and we walked in and we’d had a goal change from the one we had deliberate for. And it was the goal was Fu Kin Air Base, which was the final MiG base apart from Giam downtown Hanoi that we had not hit. Man, you’re speaking concerning the heartbeat going up and getting excited. We had been excited. I used to be supposed to guide the primary bomb flight, however a younger good friend of mine he’s nonetheless round, he really adopted me to Columbus after we went there. He mentioned he needed that flight and I flew the wing commander’s wing. We completely obliterated Fu Kin. However one other wing, two Navy wings hit it proper after I did after which one other 105 wing.
And we simply had been actually excited as a result of we felt like we had lastly completed one thing within the battle. The following morning the wing was scheduled to hit it once more. That’s after we misplaced the second man in my class. Ray Renning was shut shot down and he got here out on the identical airplane I did. He was a POW and we had been scheduled to hit it that afternoon, however they modified it and we didn’t. We had been scheduled to hit it the subsequent morning. We didn’t. We had been scheduled to hit it the afternoon of October the twenty fifth and the goal was modified and I used to be to guide the final flight that day, Wildcat flight. And the goal was modified to the Doma Bridge. In actual fact, I used to be a tender within the tower when my quantity three man known as me. He mentioned, “Gene, we’ve had a goal change”.
I mentioned, “Effectively go forward and plan it and I’ll be over there as quickly as I get free.” He mentioned, “Man, you in all probability wish to be over there.” So he mentioned, “Are you aware what the variety of the goal was this morning?” I mentioned, “Yep.” He mentioned, “Double it. JCS 1200, the Doma Bridge.” We had been fairly properly jacked up after the mission briefing and we went as much as have lunch and my quantity 4 man checked out us and shook his head and says, “You guys aren’t going to make it by means of 100.” And I mentioned, “Oh yeah, we are going to try this.” We took off that day and delightful afternoon, shot a couple of SAMs after us, however I rolled in because the fourth flight. I had fastidiously briefed the blokes. I mentioned, “I don’t give a rattling the place your pipper is, however you pickled at 9,000 ft. Don’t attempt to do any maneuvering in any respect.”
Guess who exceeded the 9,000 ft? Me. And once I pulled off the goal, my airplane received hit. I felt it, hit it, after which immediately the airplane tumbled and I later discover out it simply pitched up after which went into an uncontrollable tumble. My thought within the airplane was, I’m not going to die on this son of a bitch. And I couldn’t… I had a tough time getting my palms to the ejection seat deal with, however lastly I did squeeze the set off and all the things labored routinely and now I’m floating down over Hanoi. Hit the bottom. There have been one million folks, no, it in all probability was solely a few thousand round me they usually immediately had been on me, Vietnamese with an AK 47, ripped a burst by means of me and two bullets went by means of my left leg, got here out the within, didn’t hit the artery or the femur or I wouldn’t be right here speaking to you as we speak.
Had an enormous gap in my proper leg the place I may see the shin bone that I received will need to have gotten getting out of the airplane. After which they undressed me with a machete and off we went to the Hilton. You may have all examine the entire issues that they did to you. And I mentioned, “I can get by means of this, I can get by means of this.” And after about an hour of being left within the Knobby room, I believe it was later known as, these three Vietnamese officers with an enormous dude got here in and I received up and stood up and saluted them they usually pointed to a low stool in entrance of a desk and I went over and began my interrogations. You’ve all examine these. However the first you could possibly… The code of conduct says title, rank, serial quantity, date of delivery and nothing else however that.
Effectively, I gave them that and the subsequent query, what sort of an airplane? I mentioned, “I can’t let you know that.” After which I received tied up within the ball so small, I checked out spots on my physique I had by no means seen earlier than and at last they left the room and I mentioned, “I’ll go out.” Effectively, I didn’t. It was essentially the most intense ache I’ve ever acquired. Once they got here again in, they requested me that query once more and I refused once more. And I mentioned, “That is essentially the most silly factor you’re ever doing, Smitty, is to not inform them what sort of airplane you may have. 16 of them simply rolled in proper down the road.” So after they got here again requested for the third time, I advised them. Then what number of? Effectively, I didn’t reply. This simply went on for a very long time.
And eventually I mentioned, “I’ve received to determine a approach to get this.” So I began up making up stuff however answering questions. I spent about 5 to seven days… I by no means knew precisely how lengthy and this query and reply interval. And the toughest factor for me to recover from once I received out was realizing that I had damaged the code of conduct and that I might be endlessly ashamed. And I came upon later that there was an terrible lot of men that did the identical factor they usually began doing it. The code of conduct has since been modified.
We spent 5 and a half years and that’s the toughest half to know about our circumstances is how lengthy it was, the horrible indefiniteness of all of it. Lee says, “Gene, you bought to speak about resiliency.” That’s a buzzword I believe within the air pressure now could be resiliency. Effectively, let me let you know one thing about resiliency. You may’t educate resiliency. I don’t suppose you possibly can educate among the components within the equation, however you be taught resiliency. You be taught resiliency as a baby. You be taught resiliency while you’re in highschool, in faculty, you be taught resiliency in your first days within the army, I hope.
However the way in which we received by means of that was religion to me, religion in God, religion in your nation, religion in your loved ones that they might all the time be there for you. Religion in your fellow POWs. That’s how we received by means of there. That was a resilience that received by means of there. And eventually in December of 1972, we lastly, our nation lastly discovered air energy. Air energy is the equation that brings it to the knees. I do know I in all probability solely received 10 seconds left however I’m going to inform their story.
Throughout Linebacker II, Ross Perot, who’s been such an integral half, was such an integral a part of our POWs for years. He saved a man that was a PhD at Florida State in Paris to watch the talks. The title was Harris. Dr. Jack Harris I believe was his first title. And he advised somebody that one of many vital negotiators advised him throughout Linebacker II says, we’ve got two selections as a rustic. We are able to both negotiate severely or we are able to commit nationwide suicide.
That’s our air energy. And that received us out of North Vietnam. Probably the most lovely flag I’ve ever seen, I’ve ever seen in my life was on the tail of a C-141 that pulled up in Giam and took me, Lee Ellis, John McCain, Chuck Rice, and an entire listing of others that had been in that group. I shall all the time be grateful. I shall all the time be grateful to my nation. I shall all the time be grateful to the Air Pressure for the great life I’ve headed.
And one of many issues I made a dedication to once I was in North Vietnam is I’ll by no means stand on the sidelines once more. I might be concerned within the combat and since then I’ve, I’m getting in my elder years, however I nonetheless received somewhat kick in me. So I’ll strive to try this. God bless to every certainly one of you and don’t ever overlook that you’re a citizen of the USA of America and you might be part of the USA of America’s Air Pressure. Thanks.
Col. John Gallemore:
I’m glad I don’t must comply with that speech. However I’ll hand it over to the final serving American ace on lively responsibility. Colonel DeBellevue, ground is yours. You would sit, take the rostrum, your world.
Col. Charles B. DeBellevue, USAF (Ret.):
You realize, as a former nav. We did okay.
Lt. Col. Gene Smith, USAF (Ret.):
Col. Charles B. DeBellevue, USAF (Ret.):
The Phantom within the MiG 21 feels like a pleasant film. It could’ve been higher had we been higher skilled, however we weren’t allowed to fly towards the rest however an F-4. You don’t be taught a lot doing that. Subsequent slide. Flew with the triple nickel squadron within the 5 fifty fifth Tack Fighter squadron. That’s all? We had 39 MiG kills. 20 from Rolling Thunder, one other 19 from Linebacker. That’s over three squadrons of enemy airplanes. That’s fairly a rating. Subsequent… French Indochina… The French didn’t… No one preferred the French over there, however that’s the place the goal, the place Vietnam was. Hanoi was 285 miles from Udorn because the crow flies. By no means flew that means, however that’s how far it was. So each time you went into Hanoi, you needed to have sufficient gasoline left to fly nearly 300 miles. That units your fascinated by the way you’re going to combat. Subsequent slide.
The Phantom and the MiG 21. What allowed me to enter Hanoi each day? You needed to have the correct mindset, the main focus. It was self-discipline. In fact we had been a army group and self-discipline what it was all about. It was integrity. Your phrase is your bond. Should you inform anyone you’re going to do one thing, do it. Should you can’t do it, inform them as a result of in any other case anyone could die. Might be you. Teamwork, it’s a staff sport. It’s not simply you. It’s all of us collectively that make the pressure what it’s. Coaching, the outdated adage that you simply’re going to combat such as you skilled is true. So be sure the coaching is nice. Subsequent slide.
The staff, we had two guys within the F-4. We had been married up. We flew with the identical eight guys for about eight to 10 weeks. It was superb what we didn’t must say within the air. Everyone knew which means we had been going. We had been all the time getting into. We had been all the time shut with the enemy. However the staff was greater than that. Steve and I’ve Reggie Taylor between us, Employees Sergeant. He may do superb issues with 463, the airplane with all the celebs on it. He received the engines heated up. They’d detune the engines to make them last more. Effectively on the D mannequin F-4, the engines had been screwdriver managed. He had the screwdriver. It took us about 4 rides to get to the place the bur engines had been burning at max CGT. You would not catch the airplane. Tech Sargent Ames and his weapons load crew, they saved the missiles picked up. The Ames seven had a nasty rep, they removed that. We used to fireside two missiles to get one kill. We give up losing a missile. They made it occur. Subsequent slide.
That is my map that I drew. 50 one thing years in the past, 50 years in the past, it’s a bullseye map of Hanoi. It’s received asmet and DME rings on it. That’s how we navigated up there. The Mickey Mouse ears you see, that’s the SAM rings. Should you’re inside these rings at a medium altitude, 12 to 14,000 ft, the SAM radar floor steering, missile radars can see you. So that you’re in hurt’s means. Someone requested me, “How a lot time did you spend contained in the cockpit?” About 85% of the time. How a lot time did you spend exterior the cockpit? About 85% of the time. I’m unsure what I did with the opposite 15%, however I’m positive I used that up, too. On the eighth of July, we had been the egress cap. We had been the rear guard. Because the strikes are popping out of Hanoi, we’re getting into to verify no person follows them out.
Two strikers name out with hearth lights. In our squadron, in our flights, should you, your airplane is falling aside, all you needed to say is lead RTB. RTB, return to base. We didn’t care what was mistaken with the airplane, we couldn’t repair it anyway. We’d head out. These two guys, I hate to say it, however they had been from Ubon, I believe, had been making plenty of noise. Get the noticed prepared, received a firelight, get the… North Vietnamese had extra radios that monitor our freaks than we did. So we began heading east. The MiGS had been northeast of Hanoi, then east, then southeast. We ended up in a valley southwest of Hanoi. When disco, our model of AWAC, the controller known as out Paula, which was our name signal, you’re merged. Which meant on his scope all people was in the identical radar bin. He was now ineffective and we didn’t see anyone.
The F-4 leaves a telltale smoke path until you’re in burner. So we had been heading northeast, we had been weaving to verify no person received behind us. And after two minutes we hadn’t seen anyone. We turned southwest and as quickly as we rolled out southwest, I picked up a black fly speck on a white cloud, 11 o’clock. Fights on. Our sign to the flight that we had been on the brink of combat was after we blew the tanks off the airplane, went to full after burner and catch me should you can.
We ended up line abreast with the MiG 21 going reverse instructions from us. It was a model new shiny MiG 21. He turned away from us in a stage flip. If an American ended flying that airplane, he changed into us. However he turned away. He was the bait. That tactic solely works should you haven’t learn his e book, which we had. The F-4 isn’t an F-16. It’s not a 9G airplane. Should you learn the F-4 e book, it’s an eight and a half G airplane. Should you don’t learn the e book, it’s a 12G airplane.
And the way in which to get the airplane circled is to roll it as much as 135 levels a financial institution, full after burner, 500 knots, put the stick in your lap and 17 seconds later you come by means of at 500 knots. So we did that. Effectively, we began it. We rolled up and waited and right here comes the quantity two MiG. The shooter turns away from us to comply with his buddy. The MiG 21 is a delta wing airplane. It bleeds air pace within the stage laborious flip. So as an alternative of getting to go all the way in which across the flip, we lower the flip. Ended up 6,000 ft in path with the MiG. Locked onto the mig. It’s an analog radar and analog missiles. It takes two seconds for the radar to have good knowledge. One other two seconds for the missiles to be programmed. 4 seconds. That’s 12 eternities I assure you.
Launched the primary missile, instantly dedicated the second missile to comply with. That first missile went by means of the airplane, lower it in two, burned each ends. The second missile went by means of the fireball. At that time we unloaded to get our air pace again. Tommy Feesel, our quantity 4 known as out that he’s on him, got here again into the combat. We’re now 4,000 ft from the opposite MiG, half missile. First time I noticed the missile was an exited wing tip space. I believe the missile motor was nonetheless burning when it hit him. Minimize him in two and burned each ends.
We came upon later that this was a inexperienced bandit. Inexperienced bandit was an ace. We colour coded all the things. Purple, white and blue. 17, 19, 21. They wouldn’t commit, the opposite MiGS that had been up there. Subsequent, return two slides. That is Fu Kin Air Base. MiG 21 is on closing. We’ve simply slowed down from 650. Who within the hell would… They advised us to go orbit Fu Kin. No one in his proper thoughts would try this. But, there we had been. That MiG died. Our aspect lead received him. We had no gun on the airplane. And 10 minutes later we received two MiG 18s that had been pruned to protection for Hanoi. So the flight received three kills. Probably the most harmful a part of all of our missions was the air present. And should you’ve seen the Thunderbirds, they placed on an ideal present. They apply. We’d discuss it on the tanker.
The following battle we combat. It’ll be you folks prosecuting the battle. It’s perspective, it’s love of nation, love of household, love of God, understanding that you simply’re the perfect at what you do and freedom is in your palms. I recognize all the things you’re doing. You’re carrying the material of this nation. It means an terrible lot. Could God bless you and God bless the USA to the earth.
Col. John Gallemore:
Colonel Ellis, take us dwelling. The ground is yours.
Col. Lee Ellis, USAF (Ret.):
Nice. My spouse will let you know I by no means thoughts speaking. So I’ve to be taught to hear lots at dwelling although. Effectively, it’s nice to be with you all. We’re all honored to be right here and to have the ability to share these tales with you. I’ve identified Gene for a very long time. As a matter of truth, I lived in the identical cell with Gene for greater than a 12 months and a half. So I noticed him 24 hours a day, seven days every week, and we all know one another properly. That was an incredible expertise in these cells, and I’m going to let you know about that in a minute, however I had a pair slides. Yeah, thanks.
I needed to point out you a few footage and let me again up. Right here we go. Okay. This was me, a child who all the time needed to fly. I grew up plowing mules on a farm in Georgia, however I might have a look at… This was through the Korean Conflict and I’d lookup and see these airplanes overhead and I mentioned, that’s me following this mule at his six o’clock isn’t me. And so three days after I graduated from… I completed College of Georgia, I went straight to Valdosta. 53 weeks later I received my wings and the task mentioned F-4 Phantom Pipeline, Southeast Asia. 50% of the category, 67A, which we graduated in ’66, received the identical task. F-4 Phantom Pipeline, Southeast Asia. Effectively, we went to Georgia Air Pressure Base and received some coaching. However on the way in which we went by means of Survival College and it was just like the second or third group out at Fairchild.
And on the market I met this man proper right here, a man named Lance Sijan. And we received to be buddies and properly, we circulated the women fairly a bit. And we performed golf collectively as we received right down to George and we had plenty of enjoyable collectively. A part of the time we roomed collectively. We went to battle collectively. After we received to the Philippines and we’re going to Jungle Survival College, they mentioned all people going to eighth Fighter wing at Ubon get up. Sijan and Ellis, you’re going to Da Nang. Your orders have been modified. We each went. I went down on the seventh of November. Lance went down two days after me. I put this slide in right here as a result of I would like you all to listen to about him. You realize Who he’s. He’s solely Air Pressure Academy man to obtain the medal of honor. However Lance Sijan was an unbelievable individual.
He was athletic. He was handsome. He was powerful and he was form. I consider that if Lance hadn’t been shot down, he in all probability may have been chief of employees of the Air Pressure. He was an ideal chief, an ideal individual, a wholesome individual. And I simply all the time like to consider Lance as an ideal instance of the person who all of us wish to be as we put on our uniform. Effectively, in that cell within the Hanoi Hilton, once I first received there a few weeks after I used to be captured, it was six and a half by seven ft. Okay, that’s like a toilet and a gasoline station down in Texas or Georgia or someplace. Three different guys in there. There are 4 of us in there. And this photograph is from Hill Air Pressure Area Museum. Proper exterior the gate, should you go there, it’s precisely the identical dimension as our cells had been within the Hanoi Hilton, those within the heartbreaks, you bought properly… Las Little Vegas part the place we first went.
And I used to be in there with three different guys for the primary eight months. The headline there says, keep constructive. Generally it’s laborious to remain constructive, however you bought to bounce again. You’ve received to consider that a greater day is coming. You bought to consider you’re going to get by means of this. And that’s so essential. And resilience, it’s essential in all places. And the nice factor was we had some cellmates that sooner or later if one individual’s down, the opposite individual can say, man, we’re going to make it. Sometime we’re going to stroll out of right here. Encouragement by your teammates could be very, crucial.
Effectively, we had some nice leaders up there and these three guys had been all O5’s, two woman commanders and one lieutenant colonel. The one on the correct over right here, Commander Stockdale, the Medal of Honor, brave, reserved, quiet, powerful man. A outcomes throw in man, a mission targeted man. On the left you bought Commander Denton, a extra outgoing political who ran for senator in a single and after he got here dwelling. A relationship, folks, okay? Within the center, Colonel Reisner, a few of each 40% of the inhabitants wired to be like the correct facet outcomes mission targeted, 40% wired to be just like the left facet, folks targeted. So consider Common Brown over right here on the correct and Common Robin Ran on the left. Okay?
And so they’re each nice. You could be a common, you may be an animal, you could be a CEO irrespective of which means you’re wired, however it’s a must to be taught to adapt and do a few of that different facet, too. Effectively these guys did they usually had been so… Their character was so nice, their dedication, their braveness as they set an ideal instance for us. They received there two years earlier than Gene and I received there they usually had been by means of hell.
They spent greater than 4 years in solitary confinement they usually bounced again and bounced again. And while you really feel like you might be having a tricky time, and you may look throughout the room and see a man like Smitty Harris who… Man’s been there was a complete there of eight years. However Smitty received there earlier than these guys did who’s been by means of hell and anyone’s been by means of harder than you may have. It makes it lots simpler to remain constructive and bounce again and be resilient.
They’d nice confidence and nice humility. However one factor they did was they clarified, took the code of conduct and clarified it for our scenario. And right here’s what they mentioned, I’m in cost. Roger mentioned, and right here’s what I would like you to do. Be a very good American, resist as much as the purpose of psychological and bodily harm. Go forward and provides in. In fact, to begin with, comply with the code of conduct. Do your greatest. Resist and be able to bounce again as a result of they will make you give in they usually gained’t allow you to die. They may torture you to the purpose the place you’ll have to give in they usually gained’t allow you to die. So you bought to be sensible sufficient to have the ability to offset what they need. Don’t give them what they need.
And that’s what we did. Bounce again to withstand once more. Keep united by means of communications. And naturally they advised us we couldn’t talk with anyone, however we did. Pray each day. Go dwelling proud would flip with honor. So easy however so highly effective for our tradition. As a frontrunner, it’s worthwhile to construct your tradition, make clear your tradition over and over. So all people is aware of the tradition. Joe Brown is doing an ideal job of making an attempt to push that tradition perspective all the way in which to the bottom ranges in as we speak’s Air Pressure. I believe that’s actually sensible. Effectively, we did keep linked. We tapped on the partitions. These partitions are about 16 inches thick. We’re making an attempt to speak. We’re going to remain linked since you’ve received to remain linked. The important thing to resilience is don’t be alone.
We needed to collaborate. We needed to give you methods to defeat the enemy and offset them. We needed to help one another. You may’t let anyone who’s alone be alone. You bought to get to them. We’d danger our lives to get to anyone in solitary confinement and say, man, we’re happy with you. We’re not going dwelling with out you. Grasp in there, another day. And so we did.
Effectively, the ladies again dwelling, the wives particularly and households, however the girls, the wives, they had been advised to maintain quiet. The army didn’t know what to do with MIA wives. They had been advised to maintain quiet. And so they did for a pair years after which they mentioned, “No extra. You bought to do one thing for our males as a result of they’re not following the Geneva conventions on remedy of POWs.”
Effectively, you see that civil Stockdale on the left. She began the group in San Diego, the group of wives and Phyllis Skelani on the correct, she had the group in Virginia. However they had been all throughout the nation. And these wives stood up and altered the coverage of the US authorities and altered the coverage of the communist authorities by placing stress on them internationally in order that when Ho Chi Minh died in September 1969, as fast as they may determine who the subsequent leaders had been going to be they usually received in energy, they stopped the torture each day. Sometimes there was somewhat bit, however for essentially the most half, the torture stopped and we modified to a reside and let reside coverage. And that’s why we had been in a position to come dwelling so wholesome. The ladies modified our lives. It’s superb what they did. Effectively, we bounce again and bounce again. Hallelujah. Sure.
I’m going to let you know somewhat bit extra about that as I shut out right here in a minute. We bounce again, we bounce again, we bounce again. And that is my day, March 14th. And Gene Smith is simply in a bunch proper in entrance of me. He’s proper in entrance of us. And that’s Tom Kirk who talked about. Tom’s 94, he nonetheless goes to the fitness center. And that’s me again there on the correct. It was an ideal day. We got here dwelling, spent two days in Clark Air Base. We received a bodily, received a uniform, known as dwelling. We flew again and I landed at Maxwell Air Pressure Base since you went to the closest regional hospital to your loved ones and we refueled in Honolulu or in Hickum on the way in which dwelling.
I’ve had an ideal life. However at many reunions I saved listening to the wives of the POWs discuss their romance and their love and all. And so a pair years in the past I mentioned, “Someone’s received to jot down a e book about this ’trigger Hollywood couldn’t write a film with this wild tales.” So I put along with a romance author. We put collectively 20 tales of POWs who had been there 5 to eight years. Two of them had been married and stayed there eight years as POWs. And so they got here dwelling they usually’re nonetheless married. One of many wives handed away final 12 months, however lots of them had been married greater than 60 years. I used to be a single man and I date plenty of women. Once I got here dwelling and at last I met Mary the correct one. And we’ve been married 48 years. So these tales right here and there, you possibly can go to your on-line to powromance.com and see the e book. It’ll be out in Could. Go test it out. Thanks a lot. Glad to be with you all. God bless.
Col. John Gallemore:
I’ve 40 seconds to make sure this isn’t a no stepper and I go my first moderator mission. So I believe it’s going to be a no stepper. Colonel Smith, colonel DeBellevue, colonel Ellis, thanks in your true dedication and your service to your nation. I can’t consider three people who really epitomize, responsibility, honor, and nation. I don’t suppose anyone on this room can relate to the experiences that every of you endured throughout your outstanding careers. If there’s 4 issues that I may take away from this could be self-discipline, resilience, perseverance, and teamwork. As a result of you possibly can’t do it alone. Thanks in your views and thanks in your sacrifices and I’m glad that good People such as you did and can proceed to swear to help and defend the Structure of the USA towards all enemies, each international and home. Thanks very a lot. God bless.
Women and gents, the subsequent session will start momentarily. Please stay in your seats.