TALLEY, WILLIAM HANSEN
Name: William Hansen Talley
Rank/Branch: O4/US Air Force
Unit: 561st TFS
Date of Birth: 26 November 1932 Sayre OK
Home City of Record: Sayre OK
Date of Loss: 11 May 1972
Country of Loss: North Vietnam
Loss Coordinates: 204800N 1052900E
Status (in 1973): Released POW
Note: Third Tour
Other Personnel in Incident: James P. Padgett (released POW)
Source: Compiled by Homecoming II Project 15 October 1990 from one or more of
the following: raw data from U.S. Government agency sources, correspondence
with POW/MIA families, published sources including "Linebacker" by Karl J.
Eschmann. Updated by the P.O.W. NETWORK in 2017.
REMARKS: 730328 RELSD BY DRV
SYNOPSIS: In the spring of 1972, the U.S. formulated the LINEBACKER
offensive. Its objective was to keep the weapons of war out of North
Vietnam. At this time, the North Vietnamese had one of the best air defense
systems in the world, with excellent radar integration of SA-2 SAMs, MiGs,
and antiaircraft artillery. The NVN defense system could counter our forces
from ground level up to nineteen miles in the air. MiG fighters were on
ready alert, and after takeoff, were vectored by ground-control radar.
Soviet advisors devised attack strategies, manned a number of the SAM sites,
and also trained North Vietnamese crews.
The strongest SAM reactions were reserved for defense of the most vital
targets. During LINEBACKER strikes into the Hanoi/Haiphong area, it was not
unusual for a U.S. force to be met by barrages of over 100 missiles. (The
SA-2 SAM missile was 21 feet long.) Pilots also had to cope with the enemy's
creative launch tactics.
One tactic used by the North Vietnamese was the employment of barrage
firings of unguided SAMs, which distracted and harassed aircrews both over
the target and while MiGs positioned themselves for rear attacks.
The success of this tactic was demonstrated on May 11, 1972, when an F105G
was shot down. A barrage of six SAMs diverted the attention of the Iron Hand
flight while MiGs attacked from the rear. Maj. James P. Padgett, EWO of
the aircraft, and Maj. William H. Talley, pilot, successfully ejected
from the aircraft about 25 miles southwest of Hanoi and were captured by the
LINEBACKER and LINEBACKER II offensives were the most effective strikes
against enemy defenses in the war. By the end of these surgical strikes,
according to pilots who flew the missions, the North Vietnamese had "nothing
left to shoot at us as we flew over. It was like flying over New York City."
In late March, both Padgett and Talley were released in Operation Homecoming
along with 589 other Americans. Military officials were dismayed at the time
that hundreds known or suspected to be prisoners were not released.
Since the war ended, over 10,000 reports relating to Americans missing,
prisoner or unaccounted for in Southeast Asia have been received by the U.S.
Government. Many authorities who have examined this largely classified
information are convinced that hundreds of Americans are still held captive
today. These reports are the source of serious distress to many returned
American prisoners. They had a code that no one could honorably return
unless all of the prisoners returned. Not only that code of honor, but the
honor of our country is at stake as long as even one man remains unjustly
held. It's time we brought our men home.
William H. Talley was promoted to the rank of Lieutenant Colonel, December of
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
WILLIAM H. TALLEY
Lieutenant Colonel - United States Air Force
Shot Down: May 11, 1972
Released: March 28, 1973
Major Jim Padgett and I were flying a SAM suppression mission in an F-105
when we were shot down by a MIG near Hanoi. I evaded search parties about
eighteen hours by hiding under a rock, then was captured and taken to the
"Hanoi Hilton" prison.
My most difficult time in prison was the first few months after capture. The
fear of the unknown was nearly overwhelming. Not knowing what would happen
next, and considering how long I might be in prison were very depressing
thoughts. My faith in God and prayer gave me strength to adjust to the
After five months in the "Hilton" I was able to meet some of the prisoners
who had been captured four to six years before me. These men were like "Big
Brothers" to me and gave me advice, encouragement and the additional help I
needed to sustain me until release.
Although my life as a prisoner was miserable, I can't say that the time was
entirely wasted. A person develops a new perspective towards life and his
fellow man when he can personally witness people caring for and
administering to sick or wounded under the most severe conditions. I have
seen hungry men give up what little food they had to help a companion, and I
have seen cold men share the few clothes they had with sick or injured
Perhaps the most impressive sight was to see men fashion a simple cross from
two sticks and in their own way offer God thanks for the blessings they had.
The lesson that I learned in prison was that I can be happy and comfortable
in life with less than I previously thought necessary. CDR Eugene "Red"
McDaniel told me one day while we were still in prison that he didn't
consider this six years in prison wasted. He believed when we were released
he would be able to live and enjoy the remainder of his life more than
people who had not shared our experiences. He could enjoy simple acts that
most people take for granted, like getting a drink of cold water from the
refrigerator. Maybe we all can!
William Talley retired from the United States Air Force as a Colonel in Dec
1981. He and his wife Louan reside in Oklahoma.
On June 11, 2009 they celebrated 54 years of marriage.