Operation Homecoming

It was 36 years ago yesterday, Feb. 12, 1973, that the Air Force began an eight-week airlift mission known as Operation Homecoming to repatriate 597 US prisoners of war from North Vietnam. The US had just signed the Paris Accords about two weeks prior that ended the US involvement in the Vietnam War. As a condition of the accord, the POWs were released. C-141 transports began flying the freed POWs out of Hanoi on Feb. 12, while C-9 aircraft flew smaller numbers of them out of locations in South Vietnam and Hong Kong. During the first phase of the operation, the returning servicemembers were flown to Clark Air Base in the Philippines. Later, they were transported to bases in the continental US. The operation concluded on April 4, 1973. In 2006, the Air Force placed the “Hanoi Taxi,” the first C-141 that flew into Hanoi into the National Museum of the US Air Force in Dayton, Ohio, after one final flight with about 100 former Vietnam War POWs aboard. (For more, read this week’s Airman’s Roll Call and Air Force Magazine’s Honor Bound.)