PLUMB, JOSEPH CHARLES
|Name: Joseph Charles Plumb
Rank/Branch: United States Navy, pilot
Unit: VF 114
Date of Birth:
Home City of Record: Mission KS
Date of Loss: 19 May 1967
Country of Loss: North Vietnam
Loss Coordinates: 204800 North 1054400 East
Status (in 1973): Returnee
Other Personnel in Incident: Gareth Anderson, returnee
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. 2020
REMARKS: 730218 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
UPDATE - 09/95 by the P.O.W. NETWORK, Skidmore, MO
JOSEPH CHARLES PLUMB
Lieutenant Commander - United States Navy
Shot Down: May 19, 1967
Released: February 18, 1973
I grew up in Kansas and attended the Naval Academy at Annapolis, graduating
in 1964. I won my Navy wings of gold in 1965 and launched on the aircraft
carrier, Kitty Hawk, in November of 1966. I was shot down the following
spring, on the birthday of Ho Chi Minh, May 19, 1967, just south of Hanoi. I
was captured immediately as was my radar intercept officer, Gary Anderson.
Our F4B Phatom lay crumpled in a smoldering wreckage near the small
village. The peasants stripped me of all my flight gear, blindfolded me,
and put me into a pen with a buffalo bull where I got the opportunity for
the first, and hopefully the last time in my life, to play matador. But
having no red cape, I was unable to attract a great deal of attention from
the fairly docile bull. So it was necessary for the Vietnamese to run around
to the aft side of this animal and harass him into making sweeps upon my
innocent body with his horns. I received no permanent injury. And I look
back upon it with more humor than terror.
I was held prisoner for five years and nine months. During that time I had
the pleasure and honor of serving with some great, great men in the United
States Military. I feel that I made some friendships there which will be
very strong for the fest of my life.
I was honored to serve as Chaplain for nearly two years and found that our
unity through our faith in God and in our love for Country were the great
strengths which kept us going through some very difficult times.
I returned to this country after being released on the eighteenth of
February 1973 and found a very warm, wonderful America. The face of this
country had changed, but the heart, I believe, has not; and I've been
greeted by people from all ages and all walks of life with a very wonderful
"Welcome home, Charlie." "
Possibly a bit of humor here, if I may call it that. I received over 400
bracelets bearing my name from people all over the world, and everywhere I
stop, I find friends-wonderful, close friends-people who consider me as a
brother because they've been wearing for so long a bracelet with my name on
it. And several fairly humorous anecdotes have come from this:
In a mixed crowd of 15 or 20 people, a young lady ran up to me and from
several feet away, she exclaimed: "Charlie Plumb! I've been sleeping with
you for the last two years!" Well, this got my attention and before I could
hush her up or look her over, she said, "and I've taken well over 500 baths
with you!" By this time, she was right up next to me, holding up her arm,
and the final blow, the coup de grace-was her words, "and you've been right
here with me all the time on my wrist."
Joseph Plumb retired from the United States Naval Reserve as a Captain. He
and his wife Cathy reside in California.
The Qualities of Survival
Several years ago I found myself a long way from home in a
small prison cell. As a prisoner of war, I was tortured,
humiliated, starved and left to languish in squalor for six
It's important that you get a vivid mental picture of this
scene. Try your best to smell the stench in the bucket I called
my toilet and taste the salt in the corners of my mouth from my
sweat, my tears and my blood. Feel the baking tropical heat in a
tin-roofed prison cell - not that you'll ever be a P.O.W. If I am
effective in these few moments we spend together, you'll see that
the same kind of challenges you face as a teenager, a student, a
leader, or a parent, are the same basic challenges I faced in a
prison cell: feelings of fear, loneliness, failure and a
breakdown of communication. More importantly, your response to
those challenges will be the same response I had to have in the
prison camp just to survive.
What qualities do you have within you that would allow you
to survive in a prison camp? Please pause here, think about this
question, and write in the margin of this page at least five
different qualities necessary for survival. (If you've written
faith, commitment or dedication, you've already broken the code.)
As I worked my way through the first several months and then
years of imprisonment, I found I already had a foundation of
survival tools learned in life from my parents, preachers, youth
leaders, and teachers. And the life-saving techniques I used in
that prison camp had more to do with my value system, integrity
and religious faith than anything I had learned from a textbook.
Sound like your life? The adversities you face in your life
can be just as debilitating to you as six years in a Communist
prison camp could have been to me. Now here's the test: The next
time you have a huge problem facing you, turn back to this page
and read not my writing but your writing in the margin. You'll
find that the same factors you've written here, which would serve
you well in a prison camp, will serve you even better in the
challenge of everyday life.
By Charlie Plumb
from A Cup of Chicken Soup for the Soul
Copyright 1996 by Jack Canfield, Mark Victor
Hansen & Barry Spilchuk
Decorated Navy F-4 pilot to speak Saturday at Santa Ynez Valley Airport
During his long Navy service, he received a Silver Star, a Bronze Star, the Legion of Merit, two Purple Hearts, the Combat Action Medal and the P.O.W. Medal, among other awards. Following his flight training, Plumb was assigned to fighter squadron VF-114 aboard the aircraft carrier USS Kittyhawk, then ...
I regularly listen to an Aviation podcast by George Nolly, USAFA 1967, two
tours in Vietnam (0-2) and 100 missions in the F-4. Also George is a retired
777 captain and also 747 and several other big birds.
It's called Ready for Takeoff Podcast. http://readyfortakeoffpodcast.com/
you can listen to it on your phone, or tablet, or just go to the website,
click on the person you want to listen to and then, click on the link and
hear it on your computer.
In the last few months, George has featured Smitty Harris and Bob Shoemaker
who had great stories. This past week he featured Charley Plumb and his also
was a fantastic story-highly entertaining and very inspiring. As you may
know Charlie has been inspiring audiences across the nation and around the
world for many years. He has served us so well by sharing with others the
message of how suffering and sacrifice make us better prepared for life and
better human beings. It's a message all generations need to hear and
especially the younger ones now.
I encourage you to check these podcast out and share them with your family
and friends and others over whom you have influence. Charlie made us proud,
but more important his message is our message and is one that needs wide
George has hosted over 200 interviews with aviators from crop dusters to
Thunderbirds and Blue Angels to WWII pilots and gunners. I've heard most of
them and keep coming back. They are great stories for travelling and
especially for driving in rush-hour traffic.
Charles Plumb was a US Navy jet pilot in Vietnam. After 75 combat missions, his plane was destroyed by a surface-to-air missile. Plumb ejected and parachuted into enemy hands. He was captured and spent 6 years in a communist Vietnamese prison. He survived the ordeal and now lectures on lessons learned from that experience!
One day, when Plumb and his wife were sitting in a restaurant, a man at another table came up and said, ' You're Plumb! You flew jet fighters in Vietnam from the aircraft carrier Kitty Hawk. You were shot down!
'How in the world did you know that?' asked Plumb.
'I packed your parachute,' the man replied.
Plumb gasped in surprise and gratitude.
The man pumped his hand and said, 'I guess it worked!’
Plumb assured him, 'It sure did. If your chute hadn't worked, I wouldn't be here today.' Plumb couldn't sleep that night, thinking about that man. Plumb says, 'I kept wondering what he had looked like in a Navy uniform: a white hat; a bib in the back; and bell-bottom trousers. I wonder how many times I might have seen him and not even said 'Good morning, how are you?' or anything because, you see, I was a fighter pilot and he was just a sailor.' Plumb thought of the many hours the sailor had spent at a long wooden table in the bowels of the ship, carefully weaving the shrouds and folding the silks of each chute, holding in his hands each time the fate of someone he didn't know.
Now, Plumb asks his audience, 'Who's packing your parachute?' Everyone has someone who provides what they need to make it through the day. He also points out that he needed many kinds of parachutes when his plane was shot down over enemy territory - he needed his physical parachute, his mental parachute, his emotional parachute, and his spiritual parachute. He called on all these supports before reaching safety.
Sometimes in the daily challenges that life gives us, we miss what is really important. We may fail to say hello, please, or thank you, congratulate someone on something wonderful that has happened to them, give a compliment, or just do something nice for no reason. As you go through this week, this month, this year, recognize people who pack your parachutes.
I am sending you this as my way of thanking you for your part in packing my parachute. And I hope you will send it on to those who have helped pack yours! Sometimes, we wonder why friends keep forwarding jokes to us without writing a word. Maybe this could explain it! When you are very busy, but still want to keep in touch, guess what you do - you forward jokes. And to let you know that you are still remembered, you are still important, you are still loved, you are still cared for, guess what you get? A forwarded joke. So, my friend, next time when you get a joke, don't think that you've been sent just another forwarded joke, but that you've been thought of today and your friend on the other end of your computer wanted to send you a smile, just helping you pack your parachute.