Page 120 - Cityview Magazine - July/August 2017
P. 120

Coming Home
The war progressed.
On Sept. 2, 1969, North
Vietnamese President and
communistic revolution-
ary Ho Chi Minh died.
In general, conditions
improved in the prison
camps. The Paris Peace
Accords, signed on Jan.
27, 1973, led to the release
of Vietnamese POWs.
On Feb. 12, Robinson
was released and quickly
arrived at Clark Air Base in the Philip- pines. Two days later he was at Travis Air Force Base, just outside of San Fran- cisco. From there, the POWs were sent to bases closest to their hometowns;
Medals received by Bill Robinson, including the Air Force Cross, the Silver Star, and the Legion of Merit.
Photography by Trent Eades
Tennessee, for a number of years. About ten years ago, he took on a new mission: to keep the memory of the Vietnam
War alive. To that end, he constantly speaks at military bases, community organizations, and schools; Robinson estimates that he has about 100 speaking engagements a year. “We should not forget the sacrifices of others: 58,00 dead; over 300,00 permanently injured; 20,000 kids grew up without a father. Untold sacrifices.” Robinson fears that Vietnam is becoming a “lost war,” in much the same way as the Korean War is sometimes considered. With his resolve and the deep resources of his character, Robinson works to make sure that never happens.
Writer’s Note: For more information on William Robinson’s experiences, check out military historian Glenn Robins’ The Longest Rescue: The Life and Legacy of Vietnam POW William A. Robinson. For Captain Curtis’s story, check out Carole Engle Avriett’s Under the Cover of Light. Both books were consulted in the writing of this article.
Trent Eades is a teacher and photographer living in Knoxville.
Bill Robinson at home.
on the way home, Robinson’s group stopped at Scott Air Force Base near Belleville, Ill.; there was a large group of supporters outside the plane, and Rob- inson, though he knew none of them, quickly joined them, enthusiastically embracing everyone. The famed news- caster Walter Cronkite, upon learning that Robinson didn’t actually have any family or friends at Scott Air Force Base, dubbed him the “Kissing Carolinian.” The outpouring of support across the nation was immense; celebrations were held all across the nation, and Robinson participated in quite a few. In Roanoke Rapids, he was cheered by crowds on the steps of City Hall and was given the key to the city by the mayor. When President Richard Nixon was briefed on the battle- field commissions, he reportedly said, “Hell yeah!”
Robinson retired from the Air Force in 1984 at the rank of Captain. In addition to receiving the Silver Star and the Air Force Cross for heroism during his second and third rescue missions, he has received many other medals,
but he is characteristically modest about them (I only learned about them through research). He and his wife Ora Mae have lived in Madisonville,

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