Saturday, September 30, 2006

Today's War Hero: Vernon P. Ligon, Jr.

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.

[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.
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:
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.

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.
What a life of service. Tim's right: Let's remember Col. Ligon and talk about him often.

8 Comments:

Anonymous tim daley said...

Dear Lt. Col Ligon, I wore your POW bracelet as a young boy growing up in KY and recall (amazingly) seeing you on TV upon your return. Unfortunately we sent the bracelet to an org to be used in a Vietnam memorial. My father in law was in the Marines and he too was in WW II, Korea and Vietnam. For some reason your name came to mind today and I hit google and came upon this blog. Best regards-Tim Daley (jdpres06@yahoo.com)

Friday, May 16, 2008 9:45:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I wore our bracelet in high school and just ran across it yesterday. I am so glad to read about you. Thank you for all your sevice.

Wednesday, September 03, 2008 6:49:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I am from Pennsylvania and I wore your bracelet also. I don't remember what ever happened to it but I have OFTEN wondered about you over the years. I had 4 brothers in the USAF and 2 in Vietnam. I too hit Google and was SO grateful to read about you.
God Bless You ALways

Wednesday, October 01, 2008 3:52:00 AM  
Anonymous judi mills said...

Lt.Col. I also wore a bracelet bearing your name in the early 1970's. always wondered what happened. I was in high school and out of high school during that time and I lived in Trenton, NJ. Thank you so much for your duty to our country. I prayed for you....We were talking about those bracelets today, and I found this blog...Sincerely, Judi Mills

Wednesday, August 03, 2011 7:12:00 AM  
Blogger kimB said...

Dear Lt. Col. Ligon - I also wore your bracelet when I was in high school in the 70s. I never heard if you made it back home or not, so I kept the bracelet in my jewelry box for many years. I regret to say that it was lost when a wildfire burned down our home and property in 1996, but I am thankful that you did make it back to the states and am happy to read about your story here on the Hedgehog Blog.

Bless you for your commitment and dedication to your country. We are so proud of you and thankful for your sacrifice and that of your family and loved ones.

kimB from Alaska
http://kimzphotoblog.blogspot.com/

Sunday, October 30, 2011 9:24:00 PM  
Anonymous Chuck said...

I wore your bracelet in high school in Shreveport ,La. I watch the tv very closly when the pows returned and saw him come of the plane. I am now a high school history teacher and use the bracelet in class. So scores of students have heard his name

Monday, January 23, 2012 1:00:00 PM  
Blogger justcant said...

Dear Lt. Col Ligon, my mother wore your POW bracelet and I found it in her jewelry box after she passed away in Oct.2012.
I would love to send it to you and/or your family. My name is Tim Faucheux, and I can be reached at:
justcant@att.net
This will be second time I have returned one to the POW if I can get it to you.

Saturday, January 26, 2013 3:32:00 PM  
Blogger Di Lewis said...

Dear Lt. Col. Vernon Ligon , I too, wore your name on a bracelet. I prayed for you every night until, I read of your release. For so e time longer i continued to wear it in honor pf those who did not return. Finally I buried it in the ground ,as a symbol that you came home and the bracelet no longer held a truth. Thank you for your service to this great country! You are a true Hero. Respectfully, D. Lewis

Saturday, July 27, 2013 9:03:00 PM  

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