Ex-POW recalls Hainan Island (Phillip Smith)

News of the emergency landing of a U.S. spy plane on China’s Hainan Island is giving flashbacks to a retired U.S. Air Force colonel who spent 7-1/2 years as a POW in China.

It was on that island that Philip Smith spent his first hours after he was shot down Sept. 20, 1965, over the Gulf of Tonkin. Smith said he was uncertain if he was going to be executed or released — and he presumes the 24 crew members of the U.S. Navy EP-3E are having their own trepidations.

“I wish I could talk to them,” said Smith, 66, now living in Gilbert, Ariz., about 20 miles east of Phoenix. “I would tell them to hang in there, stick together and don’t let the Chinese scare them.”Report ad

Smith was flying a combat mission over the Gulf of Tonkin when his jet’s controls malfunctioned, he ran off course and he was shot down. He ejected and parachuted into the gulf among several fishing vessels. The first person who approached him was an old man who paddled his boat over and smiled.

“He reached to help me,” Smith recalled, “but he was watching me very closely. In my uniform I probably looked like the devil.”

Other Books You Might Be Interested In

Contact Us