Longest-held enlisted POW of Vietnam War speaks in Knoxville

(WBIR-Knoxville) The longest-held enlisted Prisoner of War (POW) lives in East Tennessee. On Sunday afternoon Captain William Robinson of Madisonville shared his story in Knoxville, recalling his 7.5 years in captivity during the Vietnam War.

Before Capt. Robinson spoke, Rolling Thunder Tennessee Chapter 3 held the ceremonial raising of the POW/MIA flags outside of the East Tennessee History Center.

"Our mission is to urge the government to do more to locate and find out what happened to these men and women who have been unaccounted for and lost," said Jack Alman, vice president of Rolling Thunder Tennessee Chapter 3.

Another Rolling Thunder member, Rob Owensby said, "First thing I was told when I went into service was that we leave no one behind."

After the ceremony, Capt. Robinson recalled his experience as a POW.

While serving as a crew chief aboard a U.S. Air Force Rescue helicopter, they were shot down and captured in the Tinh Province, North Vietnam, September 20, 1965.

Robinson was taken to the infamous "Hanoi Hilton."

"As I stood there wondering about my next move, where I was going to go from here, a voice rang out... Colonel Robbie Risner, the senior ranking POW at that time. And his voice... said, 'Be prepared to die for your country.' That set the tone for the next 7-plus years," Capt. Robinson said.

Captured at 22-years-old, Robinson spent most of his twenties enduring physical and mental torture.

Now in Madisonville, he shares his story out loud and on paper through his book, "The Longest Rescue: The Life and Legacy of P-O-W William A. Robinson" by Glenn Robins.

"So we never forget the sacrifices of our men and women, past, present and future," Capt. Robinson said.

Robinson is one of only 23 enlisted men ever to earn the Air Cross, the Air Force's highest military honor.


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