Long-time readers here know I like to shine the spotlight on military heroes who do not seek attention and whom we tend to forget. Lt Col. Vernon P. Ligon, whose photo is at left, has the distinction of being a prisoner of war four times in three separate wars, World War II, Korea, and Vietnam.
Col. Ligon's bio is here. It includes a life summary in his own words. Excerpt:
My military career began in March 1942 when I joined the Army Air Corps and graduated from flying school in May 1943. I was then assigned as a fighter pilot in the 362nd Fighter Group, a P-47 organization. In November 1943, I went overseas to England and flew some 35 missions when I met my fate of being shot down over Brussels by ground fire. I was captured and interned as a prisoner of war and held in several German prison camps. [Ed.: including the notorious Stalagluft III.] During the latter stages of the war, I escaped for a short period of time and returned into captivity at Mosseburg in Southern Germany, near Munich. On the 8th of May 1945 I was released and returned to the States.If you're wondering why a man who was flying combat misisions in WWII was still flying dangerous missions two wars and 20 years later, an e-mail from reader Tim Gowder tells a little more about Col. Ligon:
[Ed.: Col. Ligon does not mention that "while flying missions in the Korean War, [he] was incarcerated for a short time in a North Korean POW camp."]
Moving on, I was reassigned to Tactical Air Command (TAC), training RF-4C's at Shaw AFB, departing for overseas in August 1967 for Udorn, Thailand, where I was Commander of the 11 th Tactical Reconnaissance Squadron. After 26 missions I was shot down while flying over Hanoi on a reconnaissance mission. Again a prisoner of war I spent the next five and a half years in the Vietnamese prison system along with many other Americans. My experiences while interned are typical of those of my fellow Americans. Unfortunately, they did separate us by rank of Lieutenant Colonel and above and we were not as close to some of the group as those of lower rank. l was released in March 1973. On 17 March 1973, we returned to the United States to Maxwell AFB where I met my family for the first time in many years. After processing in Maxwell for about ten days, I went on convalescent leave to my home in Melbourne Beach, Florida.
There is one thing that will always stand out very vividly in my memory and that is the reception that approximately 3,000 wonderful, loyal friends and Americans gave us returnees at Hickam AFB. It's just one of those things that disturbs your emotions and you haven't any way of expressing them. It also reaffirmed the feelings of the returnees that the greater part of the American public is patriotic and do care about their families, country and servicemen.
Shot down in WW 2, Korea and Vietnam, served as Commander of the Hanoi Hilton until [Jeremiah] Denton arrived (longer time in grade by a few days) and returned a hero but so so badly injured.What a life of service. Tim's right: Let's remember Col. Ligon and talk about him often.
Let's tell about him. Three wars shot down...and why? He refused to lead pilots if he could not fly. Held as a Colonel and denied a star. What a hero! I knew him and wish others did, too.