GUTTERSEN, LAIRD RIP - Deceased 06/13/2006
Name: Laird Guttersen Rank/Branch: O4/US Air Force Unit: 497th TFS Date of Birth: 04 July 1925 Home City of Record: Culver City CA Date of Loss: 23 February 1968 Country of Loss: North Vietnam Loss Coordinates: 212400N 1071500E (XJ848654) Status (in 1973): Released POW Category: Aircraft/Vehicle/Ground: F4D Missions: Vietnam - 35 in C-130 prior to F-4D WWII - Flight Officer B-25 qualified Korea - 60 missions F-51, F-86 qualified Other Personnel in Incident: Myron L. Donald (released POW)
Source: Compiled by Homecoming II Project from one or more of the following: raw data from U.S. Government agency sources, correspondence with POW/MIA families, published sources, interviews. Updated by the P.O.W. NETWORK, with information and corrections from Col. Guttersen.
REMARKS: 730314 RELSD BY DRV
SYNOPSIS: Laird Guttersen was born at White Bear Lake, Minnesota, on July 4, 1925. He entered the Army Air Corps in August, 1943 to pursue a dream - flying. During World War II he flew B-25s and in Korea flew F-51s and F-86s.
Following the Korean War, Guttersen was an Air University lecturer at Maxwell Air Force Base where his specialty was POW Affairs and, in addition, he helped develop the manual on teaching the Code of Conduct. He served on all levels of command from Squadron and the Air Staff at the Pentagon.
On Guttersen's first tour of Vietnam (1965-1966), he flew C130s. While flying F-4D's during his second tour, he was shot down twice, the first a night mission on December 15, 1967, when he and his "guy in back" were rescued from the Gulf of Tonkin by the combined efforts of the Air Force, Army, and Navy. On February 23, 1968, during a mission close to Hanoi, Guttersen's aircraft was hit by a missile from a MiG 21. ejected near Haiphong and evaded the enemy for 10 hours. His backseater, Myron L. Donald was also captured. While imprisoned, he was held in solitary confinement for 27 months and he and Donald were released in March 1973 with other American POWs.
Guttersen's research at the Air University into the treatment of war prisoners, and the psychological torture and manipulaton they must face, served him well after he was shot down in February 1968. Although he understood what was being done to him through torture and deprivation, Guttersen frankly states, "It's not a matter of IF you can be broken...it's only a matter of how long it takes."
But his understanding of the tactics used by the Vietnamese helped him to survive and maintain a positive attitude - that and a message he saw scratched on the wall while lying on the prison floor in agony with a broken back. The message said, "Keep the faith, baby." Guttersen says that message helped him get through "that minute, that hour, that day" and days following. When pilots began arriving later in the war speaking of POW bracelets and U.S. public support, Guttersen knew America would do everything it could to free him. He remembers that support and tries to promote it today.
Upon his return to the U.S., Guttersen was directed not to become involved with POW/MIA organizations. Guttersen, however, believed Americans were still being held, and persisted in speaking out on their behalf. He voluntarily retired from the Air Force as a Colonel in 1974 and has been an outspoken advocate for Americans he believes are still held captive in Southeast Asia since that time.
Among other awards and medals, Guttersen received four Purple Hearts.
SOURCE: WE CAME HOME copyright 1977 Captain and Mrs. Frederic A Wyatt (USNR Ret), Barbara Powers Wyatt, Editor P.O.W. Publications, 10250 Moorpark St., Toluca Lake, CA 91602 Text is reproduced as found in the original publication (including date and spelling errors).
LAIRD GUTTERSEN Colonel - United States Air Force Shot Down: February 23, 1968 Released: March 14, 1973
I was born at White Bear Lake, Minnesota on 4 July, 1925 and although I left school before graduating, I have 168 college credits from several schools including Syracuse University, Arizona State, University of Maryland and University of Arizona. In 1943, I enlisted as a Private in the Army of the U.S. and went on to become an enlisted pilot in bombers. The lovely Virginia M. Drohan of Worcester, Massachusetts became my wife in 1945, and our first son, Alan, was born after I returned to civilian life in 1946. For the next five years I pursued a civilian career in sales work in Worcester, Massachusetts and in the Los Angeles, California area.
The Korean War broke out and, in 1951 I returned to the U.S. Air Force as a fighter-bomber pilot. My career as a Regular Air Force officer has led me to move my wife and family 37 times in 21 years, but we found time to have 2 more children, a daughter, Karen (Kayci), in 1960 and another son, Gavin, in 1964. I left the family in Tucson, Arizona while I went to the Vietnam War.
With the advent of the Vietnam war, I returned to the cockpit again, first as a transport pilot and then into fighter aircraft again. On 17 December, 1967, I found myself in the water of Tonkin Bay as the result of ground fire from a communist AAA battery, but the combined efforts of the Air Force, Army, and Navy saved my Gib and me from further harm.
On 23 February, 1968 a missile from a MiG 21 changed my status from combatant to POW. For my family it meant five years of doubt and loneliness. For me it became a testing period.
I am a proud man who has sought to serve his country to the best of his ability through three wars. Could I return with pride? I have tried to be an honorable man, giving full measure of my devotion to my fellow man in all things. Would I fall short? I pray my actions through 27 months of solitary confinement, allowed to spend only a few moments with just two letters from my wife, have not found me wanting in these areas.
But I am a grateful man, for my faith in my fellow Americans has been overwhelmingly answered by the generous, unselfish, and effective actions by the millions who gave of time and thought to ease my burdens during those agonizing months and to help speed my final return. In all this I have been a humble man, knowing the heartbreak of not knowing, the hope of seeming hopelessness, and at last, the rebirth of life with my loved ones.
I am a saddened man, amidst the wonderment and joy of homecoming, for so many of my comrades-in-arms cannot share in this joy. For them I am a determined man. I shall never turn my back on the true heroes of this war-those who have died and those, if any, still MIA. To the staunch group of waiting families and friends who seek to learn their fate, may God bless your efforts and your faith. Remember, all men live on in the hearts and minds of those who love them, no matter what the outcome of your search.
---------------------- Laird Guttersen retired from the United States Air Force as a Colonel. Having lost his wife of 31 years to cancer in 1978, he married a young widow with three children. He and his wife Ruth resided in Arizona until her death in July of 2002. Laird was an accomplished public speaker, actively working on the live P.O.W. issue, and was self-employed in marketing until complications from health problems. Laird has remarried, and even after complications from health issues, he spoke at NAMJAM in Tuscon. They ran him down in an ambulance and wheeled him up onstage. He continues his recovery in 2006 and the NETWORK wishes him a speedy return to health.
From: "L. Gavin Guttersen" To: <email@example.com> Subject: Laird Guttersen Date: Wed, 14 Jun 2006 00:34:23 -0400
Col Laird Guttersen died this afternoon. His body has been giving out since his stroke last year. He gained his freedom from the prison his body had become. We lost a true American Hero and I lost my personal hero today.
Tucson Region Col. Laird Guttersen dies at 80; advocate for Viet POW-MIAs By Carol Ann Alaimo Arizona Daily Star Tucson, Arizona | Published: 06.22.2006 Retired Air Force Col. Laird Guttersen, a former prisoner of war who later became an outspoken advocate for military families with missing loved ones, has died at 80....
Contact reporter Carol Ann Alaimo at 573-4138 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.