Downed Marine aviator recalls POW ordeal 50 years later: ‘We don’t give up’ (James Walsh)

Fifty years ago, in early March 1973, Capt. James Patrick Walsh Jr. received a hero’s welcome here.

Walsh, an aviator with Attack Squadron 211, Marine Air Group 12, logged an entry on Sept. 26, 1972, that stated it was his 100th takeoff for a bombing run over North Vietnam.

There was no entry for the landing.

“We were bombing some bad guys that were up on an airfield fairly close to the Cambodian border,” Walsh, a native of Winsted now living in Farmington, said more than 50 years after his A-4 Skyhawk was shot out of the sky.

“I was pulling off target, and all of a sudden, bam!” he said. “Kaboom! Big shudder, flames come out of the front of the airplane, plane started to pitch over. I started to pull it up.”

He tried to radio his wingman in the plane behind him. “Everything was knocked out, dead as a doornail,” he said. He got the nose up and tried to get to where the “friendlies” were and away from enemy fire.

“I got it going a little bit and then the thing just pitched straight down,” he said. “So I looked out, trees were getting bigger. I was going almost 500 miles an hour. And so, like about 3,000 feet I pulled the ejection curtain and out I went.”

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