Longest-held enlisted POW in U.S. history shares story
JOHNSON CITY, Tenn. - The longest-held enlisted prisoner of war in American history, told his story today in Johnson City. News 5 WCYB was at the opening of a traveling museum exhibit on ETSU's campus called "The Victory Within: The American Prisoner of War Experience." William Robinson told us about his seven and a half years as a prisoner of war in North Vietnam. Robinson enlisted in the Air Force after his high school graduation in 1961. Four years later, he was assigned to an air rescue and recovery unit in Thailand. "No one will ever know why some survived and some didn't," Robinson said. He and his crew were on a rescue mission to save a downed pilot in North Vietnam when their helicopter was shot down by enemy fire. The crew members survived, but were soon captured by enemy forces on the ground. Robinson spent the next seven and a half years as a prisoner of war in North Vietnam. This makes him the longest-held enlisted prisoner of war in American history, according to the Office of the Secretary of Defense.
He was released in 1973. "The victory within stands as a reminder that freedom is not free," said Robinson.
Robinson quoted the official poem of Tennessee, which was written by a Vice Admiral and prisoner of war, "And oh the world that I have roamed, no place exceeds my boyhood home, oh how much I long to see my native land, my Tennessee." The Reece Museum was packed to hear Robinson's story and to see the new exhibit on Thursday. The interactive exhibition is in four main sections: Capture, Prison Life, Those Who Wait, and Freedom. You can visit the "Victory from Within" exhibit until September 18th, National Prisoner of War and Missing in Action Recognition Day.