WHITE, ROBERT THOMAS Name: Robert Thomas White Rank/Branch: O3/US Army Unit: Date of Birth: 17 August 1940 Home City of Record: St. Charles IL Date of Loss: 15 November 1969 Country of Loss: South Vietnam Loss Coordinates: 094036N 1063437E (XR730700) Status (in 1973): Released POW Category: Acft/Vehicle/Ground: OV1C Refno: 1523 Other Personnel in Incident: John G. Graf (captured) Source: Compiled by Homecoming II Project with the assistance of one or more of the following: raw data from U.S. Government agency sources, correspondence with POW/MIA families, published sources, interviews: 15 March 1990. Updated by the P.O.W. NETWORK 1998. REMARKS: 730401 RELEASED BY PRG SYNOPSIS: John G. Graf was a Tactical Observer attached to Chief of Naval AD Group, U.S. MACV, South Vietnam. On November 15, 1969, Graf was a crewmember aboard an OV1C aircraft flown by U.S. Army Capt. Robert T. White on a visual reconnaissance mission. The U.S. Army aircraft was hit by hostile ground fire and crashed some 20 miles southeast of Tra Vinh City, Vinh Binh Province, South Vietnam. Both the pilot and observer were observed by an American Coast Guard unit to eject safely. A local villager reported that National Liberation Front Forces captured both crewmen. On March 29, 1973, the Viet Cong announced that White was to be released on April 1. He was the last American in the repatriation program dubbed "Operation Homecoming". In his debrief, Capt. White reported that he was held with Graf in various prison camps until late January 1970, when Graf escaped with another POW. Before his release, the National Liberation Front area commander told White to inform the U.S. authorities that Graf had drowned during an escape attempt in February 1970. Former residents of this area also reported this story to officials and that his remains were buried in the Long Toan area. Viet Cong papers were found in a Viet Cong camp which contained the interrogation reports of both LCdr. Graf and Capt. White. Other captured documents stated that Graf had died in February 1970, and listed the location of his grave in Vinh Binh Province. Although information concerning LCdr. Graf is still classified, it was given to the Vietnamese in hopes that they would be forthcoming with further information about his fate. The Vietnamese continue to deny any knowledge of LCdr. Graf. Tom White was the "Last" POW on the list. His name was added after the list was released to the USG. Nearly 2500 Americans remain missing or otherwise unaccounted for in Vietnam. Since the war ended, nearly 10,000 reports concerning these missing Americans have been received by the U.S. Government. Many experts are completely convinced that hundreds of Americans are now held captive. One set of critics say that the U.S. has done little to address the issue of live POWs, preferring the politically safer issue of remains return. Others place the blame on the Vietnamese, for using the issue of POW/MIA to their political advantage. Regardless of blame, no living American has returned through the efforts of negotiations between the countries, and the reports continue to pour in. Are we doing enough to bring these men home?
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). ROBERT T. WHITE Captain - United States Army Shot Down: November 15, 1969 Released: April 1, 1973 I was born in Geneva, Illinois on the 17th of August 1940. In 1958 I graduated from high school in St. Charles, Illinois and then attended DePauw University, Greencastle, Indiana for 2 years. I volunteered for the draft in November 1960 and completed my basic training at Ft. Leonard Wood, Missouri in February 1961. I was then assigned to Fitzsimmons General Hospital, Denver, Colorado until my separation from the service in September 1962. In August 1965 I re-enlisted and completed basic training again at Ft. Leonard Wood in November 1965. I then attended Flight School at Ft. Wolters, Texas and Ft. Rucker, Alabama and graduated in August 1966 with the rank of Warrant Officer (WO1). Next I attended the Aircraft Maintenance Officer Course at Ft. Eustis, Virginia and upon graduation in December 1966, I was assigned to Vietnam in the 1st Cavalry Division from January 1967 to January 1968. I was commissioned December 1967. Back to the States and Ft. Eustis, Virginia from February 1968 to September 1968, I then attended the Fixed Wing Qualifications Course at Ft. Stewart, Georgia and Ft. Rucker, Alabama. I graduated in January 1969. From January 1969 to June of that year I was assigned to Ft. Eustis, Virginia and then to OV-1 Transition at Ft. Rucker, Alabama and Ft. Huachuca, Arizona which I completed in September 1969. I was then assigned to the 1st Aviation Brigade in Vietnam in October 1969 and was captured on 15 November 1969. I was flying a visual reconnaissance mission in an OV-1 Mohawk when I was hit by enemy ground fire. The aircraft caught fire and I ejected. At approximately 0800 on 15 November 1969, I was captured. After two nights of marching, I was interned in a permanent POW camp. At that time there was one other American with me. The last time I saw this man was January 1970. From then until my release on 1 April 1973, I saw no other Americans and spoke no English. Initially, I was fed three meals a day, which consisted of rice, fish, shrimp, and a green leafy vegetable. I was given tea and sugar. My diet was considerably better than one might expect. They wanted to use me for propaganda purposes. I was offered my freedom in exchange for a propaganda statement. In February 1970, they built a cage for me. This was approximately 4' x 6 1/2' and 4' high. I was to spend 19 months in this cage and one other like it. I was fed twice a day, usually nothing more than rice. I estimate that I spent 23 1/2 hours a day in those cages. 12 to 15 of those hours were spent in a leg iron. I urinated in a can under my bunk and emptied it once a day. In June 1970, I became extremely sick. I was given no medicine and the food was still inadequate. I was allowed no exercise. I lost about 35 pounds. I still bear the effects of that illness and may never fully recover from it. 1972 was a better year. We moved to a new camp, but this time there was no cage. I was given more freedom and the opportunity to work. I began working with my hands. I made 180 pairs of chopsticks some of which they sold for 10 cents a pair. Capitalism was taking roots. For my work I received a new toothbrush, toothpaste, and a pair of sandals. I was given tobacco. I made a pipe. I carved a ring and an elephant for my wife. The last year of my captivity, I cooked for my guard and myself. I set bird snares and went for firewood. 32 birds, 4 squirrels, 2 weasels (one weasel got away) and rats and crabs found their way into my snares. My guard built a rat trap (which I saw fit to improve) that yielded about 150 rats. I kept one of the squirrels as a pet and named him Charlie. Ironically, he escaped the day before I began my journey to the release point. The fact that I am alive and reasonably well today is no accident. It is something that I worked for and earned. Once I determined what needed to be done to survive, I set about accomplishing it. The initial ad adjustment was extremely hard. There was a point when I fully expected to lose my mind. I was physically sick and extremely weak. I felt that I couldn't cope with the reality of being a prisoner. This is the philosophy that I adopted. I decided to live one day at a time, one meal at a time. I occupied my mind by daydreaming and reliving the past. I tried to avoid thinking of the future, especially as it concerned my family. Al all times, I attempted to be as cheerful, friendly, and sincere as I could toward my captors. I placed a great deal of importance on being cheerful. This was the key to maintaining my mental balance. Not only would dejection have been unhealthy for me but it would have done serious damage to my relationship with my captors. I wanted to be accepted by them, and to earn their friendship and their respect. I tried to impress upon them that I was a human being and that I expected to be treated as a human being. I tried to convince them that I was neither superior to them nor inferior to them. What I sought was mutual respect. Their language became my language. There was an obvious need to resolve the question of my religion. Prior to my capture I had been, at best, a part-time Christian. I had a very difficult time at first finding an answer to this question. Eventually, I did find the answer and reaffirmed my faith. I prayed for strength, wisdom and for my family's well being. I prayed for peace. My prayers were answered. Robert White retired from the United States Army as a Major. He and his wife Doreen reside in Colorado.