Below are three stories about former POW, Edward J. Mechenbier, an Air Force Reserve Major General who recently had the opportunity to pilot the historic Air Force plane, a gray and white C-141 Starlifter known as the “Hanoi Taxi”. The journey was to carry remains of fallen comrades back to the United States.ror
POW To Carry Remains Of Fallen Comrades©
DAYTON, Ohio - The last Vietnam prisoner of war still flying in the Air Force will mark his final military flight by traveling to Hanoi to retrieve the remains of fallen comrades.
Edward J. Mechenbier, an Air Force Reserve major general, will fly a C-141 transport plane, known as the “Hanoi taxi”, the same model that carried him from North Vietnam in 1973. The flight is scheduled to land in Hanoi on Thursday.
Mechenbier, who flies with the 445th Airlift Wing based at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base near Dayton, called the mission “a chance for the 445th to prove once again how valuable it is.”
The wing’s two squadrons support missions ranging from Antarctic supply flights to evacuations of sick or wounded personnel from Iraq.
Mechenbier was a major flying an F-4C Phantom fighter jet when he was shot down over North Vietnam on his 80th mission in June 1967. He was captured and held prisoner in Hanoi for nearly six years.
Mechenbier, 61, of Beavercreek, said he felt no special desire to revisit Hanoi. Instead, two other pilots came up with the idea to make this his final mission.
“They got the brilliant idea that it sure would be nice if they could fly a repatriation mission in the Hanoi Taxi with me at the controls,” Mechenbier said.
It was not clear whether the remains Mechenbier is retrieving have been identified. The 445th referred a call to the Joint POW/MIA Accounting Command, which oversees the repatriation of Vietnam war dead. The command did not immediately return a message left Saturday.
**REMEMBER OUR POW/MIAs**
Pilot’s Final Flight Repatriates
Fallen Vietnam Comrades©
The bodies of two former American servicemen will be brought home from Vietnam this week by a top United States Air Force pilot who is making his final military flight.
Edward J. Mechenbier will fly the two sets of remains to Hawaii for identification before they are returned to their families.
The flight marks the return to Vietnam of the retiring US Air Force reserve major-general who was imprisoned for nearly six years during the Vietnam War.
During the Vietnam War, General Mechenbier, 61, was assigned to Danang Air Base in South Vietnam where his fighter jet was shot down on his 80th mission over the North. He will make his last air force flight on Thursday at the controls of the plane that brought him home to the United States in February, 1973.
Former Vietnam War POW Delivers Soldiers’
Ghosts of two past wars were present with their living legacies as remains of American service members from Vietnam and North Korea were returned today to Hickam Air Force Base for possible identification. They arrived aboard a historic Air Force plane, a gray and white C-141 Starlifter known as the “Hanoi Taxi” - the first aircraft to transport POW’s to freedom in 1973, a trip that passed through Hawai’i. The plane was piloted by Air Force Reserve Maj. Gen. Edward J. Mechenbier, himself a POW. Mechenbier, 61, was shot down in an F-4C fighter over North Vietnam in June 1967 and spent nearly six years as a POW before taking his first ride in the Hanoi Taxi.
Today, 21 metal caskets draped with U.S. flags were offloaded two by two and marched past by joint color and honor guards and loaded onto twin blue buses for the short trip to the Joint POW/MIA Accounting Command Facility at Hickam.
“I'm very honored to be part of this great ceremony today where we recognize that Americans missing in action during the Korean and Vietnam wars have finally arrived back on American soil,” said Mechenbier, who is from Ohio. “The focus of today’s ceremony is really about the brave Americans we honor.
We should be proud of our great nation to make these efforts to bring home our fallen heroes 30 years after the Vietnam experience and 50 years after the Korean experience.” Mechenbier, who is retiring, recognized O'ahu resident Nick Nishimoto, a Korean War veteran, and Jim Hickerson, a pilot who was shot down off Haiphong Harbor in 1967, was held as a POW, and was released in 1973.
“I'm so lucky I came back in great shape, said Hickerson, who flew throug Hawai’i in 1973 in a plane similar to the Hanoi Taxi. Teams from POW/MIA accounting command recovered the remains during the 77th joint field activity in Vietnam and the 32nd joint recovery operation in North Korea.
From Vietnam, remains were recovered from sites believed to include the 1968 losses of an Army UH 1D Huey helicopter in Quang Tri Province and an Air Force O-2A Skymaster in Quang Binh Province.
From North Korea, remains were recovered from the east side of the Chosin Reservoir that were lost during bitter fighting by the U.S. Army’s 7th Infantry Division during November and December 1950. An additional seven sets of remains were recovered from Unsan where the 8th Cavalry Regiment fought in November 1950.
On Feb. 12, 1973, the first American POWs left Vietnam as part of “Operation Homecoming.” Over six weeks, more than 600 POW’s were flown to Hickam on their journey home.
The Hanoi Taxi, which was used to transport troops to Kuwait last year, is scheduled for retirement sometime this year.