MEMORIES OF VIETNAM (Giles Norrington)

Navy Lt. Giles Norrington was making his 22nd reconnaissance flight into North Vietnamese territory when communist rebels shot off the right wing of his RA-5C Vigilante. The plane erupted into a fireball. As Norrington and his navigator, Richard Tangeman, tried to escape, Norrington thought, “It’s taking a long time to die.”

Forty-five minutes later, after dodging bullets on the parachute down, nursing two severely burned hands and — under the cover of a bushy gully — communicating with U.S. pilots in a desperate bid to arrange his rescue, Norrington was captured by armed communist peasants. The 33-year-old pilot from Ohio would spend the next four years, 10 months and nine days in barren, dank cells with little more than two blankets and a tin cup to hold water.

Norrington, now 61 and living in Arlandria, was one of more than 500 American prisoners of the Vietnam War. Last week, the Baileys Crossroads Rotary Club honored him with a surprise “welcome home” party to mark the 24th anniversary of his March 14, 1973, release. Norrington has been a member of the nonprofit service group for more than seven years.

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