Vietnam War veteran from Marietta returns to the place he was held as prisoner (Dewey Waddell)

A retired Air Force pilot from Marietta, who was a prisoner of war in north Vietnam for six years, was back in Hanoi this week, so he could be there on the same day, 50 years ago—March 4, 1973—when he was freed and when his second chance at life began, and so he could salute those who did not return home.

Retired USAF Colonel Wayne Waddell, speaking from his home in Marietta just before he left, said he is at peace now, always “remembering what happened 50 years ago.”

He said he is at peace even with memories of war and memories of the nearly six years he was a prisoner of war in north Vietnam, along with hundreds of other Americans.

Waddell was shot down on July 5, 1967, while bombing a military railroad target in north Vietnam. 

He ejected, only to be captured. He and his fellow prisoners, tortured, refused to capitulate. And in 1973, when the U.S. and North Vietnam agreed to end the war, nearly 600 U.S. prisoners walked free, heads held high.

Waddell, lining up at the airport in Hanoi with his group, heard his name called. It was March 4, 1973—his first moments of freedom.

“I looked out, and there’s this big shiny C-141 over there to the right, (displaying the words) United States of America, and the flag,” Waddell said.

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