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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
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.
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'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: <>
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