A Tennessee State University alum who was a prisoner of war in Vietnam recently traveled to Southeast Asia and met the widow of the pilot who shot down his fighter jet nearly 50 years ago.
Lt. Col. James W. Williams, 75, said the highlight of his trip back to Hanoi, Vietnam was meeting Nguyen Thi Lam, the widow of Do Van Lanh, the North Vietnamese pilot who shot him down, according to a TSU press release.
Williams was flying his 228th combat mission when his F-4D Phantom was hit over North Vietnam on May 20, 1972. He was then take to the Hoa Lo Prison (aka Hanoi Hilton) and held captive for 313 days, before being released with other American POWs on March 28, 1973, two months after the completion of the Vietnam War.
Last month, Williams, along with several other Vietnam veterans, returned to Hanoi, Vietnam as part of a trip organized by the Dallas, Texas-based group Valor Administration, members of the Vietnam-USA Friendship and North Vietnamese combat veterans. He said he did not know he was going to meet Lam until he got to Vietnam and that the meeting was awkward at first, but changed the more their conversation continued.
“I found out her husband died in 1980,” Williams said. “She showed me pictures of him. I expressed my condolences for his passing. The trip definitely helped me. It gave me some closure.”