U.S. Air Force ex-POWs, CPT Edward J. Mechenbier, (Captured 14 Jun 67) and CPT Kevin J. McManus (Captured 14 Jun 67) salute the Honor Guard colors on the flight line prior to boarding the C-141 Starlifter for the flight to the United States. Both men were released in Hanoi by North Vietnam on 18 Feb 73
The original finding aid described this photograph as:
Subject Operation/Series: HOMECOMING
Base: Clark Air Base
Country: Philippines (PHL)
Scene Camera Operator: SGT William L. Lee
Release Status: Released to Public
Combined Military Service Digital Photographic Files
Beginning in 1950, American military advisors arrived in what was then French Indochina. U.S. involvement escalated in the early 1960s, with troop levels tripling in 1961 and again in 1962. U.S. involvement escalated further following the 1964 Gulf of Tonkin incident, in which a U.S. destroyer clashed with North Vietnamese fast attack craft, which was followed by the Gulf of Tonkin Resolution, which gave the U.S. president authorization to increase U.S. military presence. Regular U.S. combat units were deployed beginning in 1965. Operations crossed international borders: bordering areas of Laos and Cambodia were heavily bombed by U.S. forces as American involvement in the war peaked in 1968, the same year that the communist side launched the Tet Offensive. The Tet Offensive failed in its goal of overthrowing the South Vietnamese government, but became the turning point in the war, as it persuaded a large segment of the U.S. population that its government's claims of progress toward winning the war were illusory despite many years of massive U.S. military aid to South Vietnam. Gradual withdrawal of U.S. ground forces began as part of "Vietnamization", which aimed to end American involvement in the war while transferring the task of fighting the Communists to the South Vietnamese themselves. Despite the Paris Peace Accord, which was signed by all parties in January 1973, the fighting continued. In the U.S. and the Western world, a large anti-Vietnam War movement developed as part of a larger counterculture. The war changed the dynamics between the Eastern and Western Blocs, and altered North–South relations. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Vietnam_War Direct U.S. military involvement ended on 15 August 1973. The capture of Saigon by the North Vietnamese Army in April 1975 marked the end of the war, and North and South Vietnam were reunified the following year. The war exacted a huge human cost in terms of fatalities (see Vietnam War casualties). Estimates of the number of Vietnamese soldiers and civilians killed vary from 800,000 to 3.1 million. Some 200,000–300,000 Cambodians, 20,000–200,000 Laotians, and 58,220 U.S. service members also died in the conflict, with a further 1,626 missing in action.
On January 27, 1973, Unites States agreed to a ceasefire with North Vietnam allowing withdrawal of American military forces from South Vietnam. The agreement also included the release of about 600 American prisoners of war. On Feb. 12, 1973, three C-141 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". From February 12 to April 4, there were 54 C-141 missions flying out of Hanoi, bringing the former POWs home, the total number of returned was 591. The return of the nearly 600 POWs increased the polarization of public and media. A majority of the POWs returned in Operation Homecoming were bomber pilots shot down while carrying out the campaign waged against civilian targets located in Vietnam and Laos. Many viewed the freed POWs as heroes, while others were questioning if treating these men as heroes served to distort and obscure the truth about the war. Some felt these men deserved to be treated as war criminals or left in the North Vietnamese prison camps. Many worried that Homecoming hid the fact that people were still fighting and dying on the battlefields of Vietnam and caused the public to forget about the over 50,000 American lives the war had already cost. Veterans of the war had similar thoughts concerning Operation Homecoming with many stating that the ceasefire and returning of prisoners brought zero sense of an ending or closure. Operation Homecoming has been largely forgotten by the American public.