REICH, WILLIAM J. Name: William J. Reich Rank/Branch: O2/United Staes Air Force Unit: 555th TFS Date of Birth: 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.