Mac’s Facts no. 39 (NAM-POWs of Distinction)

July 2, 2012


Vietnam POWs have distinguished themselves very well over the years.  No one is homeless, sitting on a street corner asking for handouts, withering away unforgotten or cast aside by society.   This list is not the final count as to the honors attained by former Vietnam POWs.  It is a start.  If you know of accomplish-ments attained by particular POWs, please send me an input.  Keep in mind that, besides my list of NAM-POWs of Distinction, there are scores (if not hundreds) of us who have gone on to other areas of  distinction....medical doctors, surgeons, veterinarians, academic doctorates, masters degrees, lawyers, admirals, generals, CEOs, COOs, CFOs, Presidents of universities, Presidents of companies and corporations, professors, directors, research, airline pilots, test pilots, writers, Senators, Congressmen, local politicians and leaders, family men, etc.   Over 80% of the returned Vietnam era POWs stayed in the military upon our return and retired from the military with a permanent military rank.  Ranks range from four star general to Sergeant.  We served our country with pride as POWs and we continued to serve with pride upon our return.  We are normal Americans who are proud to have had the opportunity to serve our country.  Many of us have had the good fortune to be listed as NAM-POWs of distinction, while many more of our countrymen paid the supreme sacrifice and will never have that opportunity.  We salute those men who have fought their last battle and are now on their great journey West.  (See also: Mac’s Facts no. 85).


Mike McGrath, Past President of NAM-POWs

(POW 30 June 1967 to 4 March 1973.  Retired Navy Captain, Retired United Airlines pilot).


List of NAM-POWs who have held, or currently hold offices of distinction.  I'll run through some of the NAM-POWs of Distinction (public office) that I can name off the top of my head.   Please get back to me with the names of anyone I missed.  Thanks.  <>    (names are not in any particular order)


Senator Jeremiah Denton, Alabama  (former); Commissioner—US Maritime Commission (former).

Congressman Samuel Johnson, Texas (currently in office)( ?? terms).

Senator John McCain, Arizona  (currently in office);  Also, Congressman, Arizona (former)(??terms).

            Presidential candidate, 2008.

Honorable Thomas Collins, Asst. Secretary of Labor for VETs (Veteran Employment and Training),

     Bush Administration under Secretary Elizabeth Dole.  (former).

Honorable Everett Alvarez, Deputy Director of the Peace Corps (former);  Also, Deputy Administrator of  

      the Veterans Administration (former).  Reagan administration.

 Honorable James Warner, Senior White House Domestic Policy Advisor (former).

 Ambassador Douglas Peterson, Vietnam ;  Also, former three term Congressman,


Ambassador Phillip Manhard.  Ambassador to Mauritius.  Held at end of WWII.  Held by Mao of

      China.  Captured in Pusan, South Korea while he was the acting Ambassaror.

Honorable John Downey, Superior Court Judge (curently in office, CT).  POW in China, 11-29-52

     3-12-73.  Longest held POW to be released in Operation Homecoming.

Lt. Govenor Joseph Kernan, Indiana (currently in office).

Senator Leo Thorsness, Washington (former).

Honorable Orson Swindle, Federal Trade Commissioner (current member, Clinton era); Also, former

      Assistant  Secretary, US Dept. of Commerce (Reagan era and 1st year of Bush administration).  

Senator Larry Chesley, Arizona State Senator 1993-1997.

Mayor John Pitchford, Natchez, Mississippi (former Mayor).

Honorable Ben Purcell, State Representative, Georgia (former).

Honorable Ronald Webb, Federal Aviation Administration (title?) (former).

“Honorable” Mark Gartley, Secretary of State, Maine (Not a NAM-POW member.  Early release).

Dale Doss, Executive Director, Florida Office of Veterans' Services.

Ray Alcorn, Executive Director, Nevada Office of Veterans' Services.

Steve Long,  Executive Director, Nevada Office of Veterans' Services.

Paul Galanti, Commissioner of the Virginia Department of Veterans Services

Don Heiliger, Director, Wisconsin Office of Veterans’ Affairs.

Harry Monlux, State Representative, Oklahoma.

Ed Leonard, elected Mayor of Ilwaco, Washington  in 1998.

Gene Smith, National President and Chairman of the Board of the Air Force Association.

Roger Lerseth, President of the Red River Valley Fighter Pilots' Association in 2002.

Bernard Talley, Chairman of the Election Board of Baltimore Maryland in 1975.   Marvin Mandel was Governor.

Ken Hughey, LA County Prosecutor.

Golden Eagles,, invitation only for 200 members:

            James Stockdale

            Jeremiah Denton

            Robert Shumaker

            Eugene McDaniels

            By Fuller

            William Lawrence

            Ned Shuman



Here are the retired ranks I was able to count by running through the database.  If they have a “retired rank,  they stayed in the military after release.  There are 661 military POWs.  So, divide the total with retired ranks (494) by 661 and you have an approximation of the number who stayed in the military: 74%. This is a rough count.  It doesn’t accurately take into account the 100 missing lost sheep.  If we estimate lost sheep who stayed in the military, the total % will rise to approximately 80%.  I'll refine it later. 


Note:  Several services have the rank of “Captain” (Navy, Army, Marines, Air Force all have the rank of Captain).  Most of this particular group of 84 are retired Navy Captains.  “Captain  84 , Brig. General 13,  Commander 42, CMSgt 1, Colonel 178, CSM 4, CW4   7, CW3  1, E-5  1,    General  1, Gy/Sgt  1, Lt. Commander  7, Lieutenant  2, Lt. Colonel 98, Lt. General  1, Major General 2, Major  25, MSG 1, MSgt  8, Rear Admiral  3, S/Sgt  1, SGM 2, Sgt  2, SSgt  5, Vice Admiral 4.     Total:  494


Following is a list of 24 Vietnam era POWs who have been promoted to flag rank.

Names within the ranks  are not listed in any particular order of seniority:


4-Star (O-10):

Gen. Charles G. Boyd, USAF (Ret)


3-Star (O-9):

LtGen. John P. Flynn, USAF (Ret) (deceased)

VADM James B. Stockdale, USN (deceased)

VADM William P. Lawrence, USN (deceased)

VADM Edward H. Martin, USN (Ret)

VADM Joseph S. Mobley, USN


2-Star (O-8):

RADM Jeremiah E. Denton, USN (Ret)

RADM Robert Byron Fuller, USN (Ret)

RADM Robert H. Shumaker, USN (Ret)

M/Gen William J. Breckner, USAF (Ret)

M/Gen John L. Borling, USAF (Ret)

M/Gen. Edward J. Mechenbier, USAF-R


1-Star (O-7):

BGen. Norman C. Gaddis, USAF (Ret)

BGen. David W. Winn, USAF (Ret)

BGen. Robinson Risner, USAF (Ret)

BGen. James D. Latham, USAF (Ret)

BGen. Kenneth W. North, USAF (Ret)

BGen. Jon A. Reynolds, USAF (Ret)

BGen. Ralph T. Browning, USAF (Ret)

BGen. Jeffrey T. Ellis, USAF (Ret)

BGen. Alan P. Lurie, USAF (Ret)

BGen. David E. Baker, USAF (Ret)

BGen. James E. Sehorn, USAF (Ret)

BGen. Kenneth R. Fleenor, USAF (Ret)


Only VADM Joe Mobley and MGen Ed Mechenbier were on active duty as of March 12, 2000.

Joe wasCommander Naval Air Forces Atlantic, Ed was Commander of all reserves in the Air Force

Material Command.  Joe retired first.  Ed was the last NAM-POW in uniform.  He is now retired. 



Congressional Medal of Honor Recipients:  Vice Admiral James B. Stockdale, USN (Ret), Vice Presidential Candidate; Col. George “Bud” Day, USAF (Ret); Col. Leo Thorsness, USAF (Ret), Candidate for governor who almost defeated George McGovern;  MSgt. Jon Cavaiani, USA (Ret).  Three NAM-POWs received the MOH posthumously:  Army E3 William D. Port, Marine Colonel Donald G. Cook, and Air Force Captain Lance Sijan.