REICH, WILLIAM John

Name: William John Reich
Rank/Branch: O2/United Staes Air Force
Unit: 555th TFS
Date of Birth:  February 10, 1947
Home City of Record: Clinton WI
Date of Loss: 11 May 1972
Country of Loss: North Vietnam
Loss Coordinates: 213000 North  105300 East
Status (in 1973): Returnee
Category:
Aircraft/Vehicle/Ground: F4D
Missions: 125
Other Personnel in Incident: Joseph Kittinger, returnee, pilot

Source: Compiled by P.O.W. NETWORK from one or more of the following: raw
data from U.S. Government agency sources, correspondence with POW/MIA
families, published sources, interviews.

REMARKS: 730328 RELEASED BY DRV

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).
UPDATE - 09/95 by the P.O.W. NETWORK, Skidmore, MO

WILLIAM J. REICH
Lieutenant - United States Air Force
Shot Down: May 11, 1972
Released: March 28, 1973

Many of the disadvantages of being a prisoner in North Vietnam are apparent,
but what could be gained? What have I gained? I grew up in Rock County in
southern Wisconsin, the oldest of five children. My father works for the
telephone company, my mother is a housewife. I graduated from a small high
school; good grades, band, choir, football, basketball. I attended the
United States Air Force Academy, graduating in 1970 with a BS in Electrical
Engineering. In December 1971, I left for Southeast Asia. I left behind a
wife, Ellen, and a daughter, Cynthia, whom I love dearly. Up to this point I
was no different than hundreds of other airmen in Southeast Asia. Then, on
May 11, 1972, I was  shot down in an F4 over North Vietnam. Gone was wife
and family. Gone was comfort and good food. Gone was the comfortable
ordinary life I enjoyed as an American. I began to realize by their absence,
the benefits of being an American.

I was  tired and injured. I was cut, burned, and my arm was broken. My
future was in doubt, yet the first night in solitary, my morale was raised
by the contact with other Americans. A togetherness, a unity of the American
prisoners was made apparent to me; one that the Vietnamese were never able
to break, even though that was their highest  goal.

So what was a POW? A man who was unsure of his future, but never lost faith
in his return to his family and friends. A man unsure if he could live with
37 other men in a room not big enough for 20, yet unable to live without
them. A man who alternately disliked every man in the room, but never
stopped loving any of them. A man who missed his family so badly he hurt,
yet was willing to stay away longer if his country required it. Food was
never good - soup and a side dish twice a day. Meat could be measured in an
ounce or two a week. Outside time was minimal; however, boredom was a most
persistent enemy. Companionship was most important and made solo confinement
most inhumane. Countless hours of bridge and games filled the time.
Discussions of family and food were most persistent. One marked time until
rebirth.

Then there were those moments when even another American was not enough,
those quiet moments when you received comfort that somehow you were being
watched over.

Then it happened, the day you knew would come. Even now, I feel almost as if
it's all unreal. Happiness greater than I'd ever known. I had returned to
family and country. The reaction of  the American people was both humbling
and most gratifying; beyond all expectations. It was wonderful to know that
Americans did care. I only did what I felt I had a responsibility to do in
service to my country. I hope that Americans will not forget the others who
also fulfilled their duty; all the Vietnam veterans and those MlA's who may
not have been so fortunate as I.

William Reich retired from the United States Navy as a Captain. He lives in
Missouri.


 
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