Three American pilots who were released twelve days ago by North Vietnam arrived in the United States on Thursday (Sept. 28).
Three American pilots who were released twelve days ago by North Vietnam arrived in the United States on Thursday (Sept. 28). They made the journey in a commercial airliner, having travelled form Hanoi via Peking, Moscow and Copenhagen.
The three pilots were Air Force Major Edward Elias (34), who was captured last April; and Navy Lieutenants Norris Charles (27) -- captured December 1971; and Markham Gartley (28) -- captured August 1968. They had caused controversy on the return home by refusing to travel by American military aircraft, and by staying in a Moscow hotel although they were offered accommodation in the U.S. Embassy there.
When they stepped onto American soil, the three ex-prisoners were wearing uniform. The Reverend William Sloane Coffin, who is chaplain to Yale University and a member of the Committee of Liaison with Families of Servicemen Detained in North Vietnam, claimed they had been forced to change from civilian clothes. Mr. Coffin, who accompanied the pilots from Hanoi, said that an American officer suddenly ordered the men into the first-class lounge on the aircraft and ordered them to change into uniform. Ms. Cora Weiss, an Anti-Vietnam war campaigner who also accompanied the party, said the men had been "recaptured" on their homeward journey. There was more controversy later, when the peace workers claimed the men had been coerced into going into hospital although the American authorities had promised they could spend several days with their families.
In a brief arrival ceremony Major Elias said:
SYNOPSIS: In New York relative and newsmen waited to greet the three American pilots released by North Vietnam. They had ravelled from Hanoi via Peking, Moscow and Copenhagen.
Major Edward Elias was the first down the stops where his wife waited. Major Elias, who's 34, was captured last April.
Then Lieutenant Norris Charles came out with his wife, who'd joined him earlier in the journey. he's 27 and was taken prisoner in December
Last out was Lieutenant Markham Gertley, Who's now 28 and had been a prisoner since 1968. The three men were in uniform, and some anti-war campaigners who accompanied them home said that an officer had ordered them to change on the last leg of the flight. But Major Elias summed up their feelings.
Later there was more controversy when the peace campaigners claimed the men had been made to go into hospital although the government had promised them a few days with their families.