The electronic warfare officer yells into the microphone, “SAM
uplink -- 5 o'clock, SAM 6 o'clock, SAM 7 o'clock.”
Soviet made SAM-2 surface-to-air missiles, each armed with a
288-pound fragmentation warhead, are racing up at more than 2,600
miles an hour toward the third group of B-52s that had just bombed a
railyard north of Hanoi.
A B-52G Stratofortress flying at
38,000 feet out of Anderson Air Force Base in Guam, code-named Quilt
3, is just beginning evasive maneuvers free of its deadly payload.
The huge bomber, piloted by Capt. Terry Geloneck and co-piloted by
Capt. William Youl Arcuri, along with the rest of the crew, can only
hold their breaths as the first SAM races up and misses. Within 30
seconds three more SAMs, or “flying telephone poles,” as the
aircrews call them, race toward the B-52 and begin exploding along
the bomber's airframe.
“It was like, ‘Boom!,' someone hits us
with a sledgehammer,” Arcuri said. As the plane rolls in its evasive
maneuver another SAM explodes ...
All the windows in the
cockpit shatter, and though the glass has not been dislodged you
can't see out of them because they are completely smashed, Arcuri
This collage of Vietnam War veteran and POW U.S. Air Force Captain
(Ret.) William Y. Arcuri, a Distinguished Flying Cross (top middle)
recipient includes ... left - Arcuri in 2016; middle - Arcuri inside
the Hoa Lo Prison (Hanoi Hilton) just prior to he and his prisoners
release on February 12, 1973; top right - part of a Vietnamese
propaganda / celebration poster of B-52 being shot down; and, bottom
right - Arcuri's bombing wing squadron patch. (Image created June
2016 by USA Patriotism! from photos provided by William Y. Arcuri
through the U.S. Air Force)
Additionally, Craig Paul, the electronics warfare officer
shouts, “Oh my god, I'm bleeding all over,” and gunner Roy
Madden Jr. has a shattered leg. Fuel is leaking, the cabin
is shredded from shrapnel and is quickly de-pressurizing,
Arcuri and the crew of Quilt 3 run out of time. They have to
It is Dec. 20, 1972, the third day of
Operation Linebacker II.
The Linebacker II missions are a final political and
military decision employing America's strategic airpower as
a key asset in a foreign policy solution to bring an end to
the Vietnam War. For Arcuri and the rest of the crew of
Quilt 3, Washington and North Vietnamese politics are far
away. They are bombing selected targets in and around Hanoi
and ducking SAM's over reputably the most heavily defended
city in the world.
Defending Hanoi/Haiphong is a
sophisticated and integrated air defense network consisting
of anti-aircraft and SAM missile batteries, backed up by
Soviet-made Mikoyan-I-Gurevich design bureau (MIG) fighters.
Some military planners and the general public are
skeptical that even the most heavily escorted waves of B-52s
will survive an attempt at penetrating the cities' air
President Richard Nixon and U.S.
national security adviser Henry Kissinger's make the
decision to launch Linebacker II. The campaign is aimed at
bringing North Vietnam back to the peace process. America
has been in a costly and unpopular war with Vietnam for more
than seven years, and time and patience is running out.
Nixon and Kissinger, frustrated by the North Vietnamese
walkout at the 1972 Paris peace talks and a virulent
anti-war Congress preparing to re-convene in January, who
will most likely end the war with the stroke of a budgetary
pen, know this is exactly what the North Vietnamese are
betting on. Both Nixon and Kissinger are determined not to
give the Vietnamese hierarchy a potential propaganda
Additionally, to avoid an embarrassing
withdrawal, Nixon and Kissinger ultimately determine extreme
measures are needed to bring the North Vietnamese back to
negotiate on U.S. terms.
Nixon has to prove the U.S.
has the willpower and brute force to either bring the war
immediately to an end or continue it indefinitely.
Nixon orders the Air Force to return to an extremely
aggressive bombing campaign, primarily focusing on the
Hanoi/Haiphong area. The Joint Chiefs of Staff send the
following message forward to operational commanders.
“You are directed to commence at approximately 1200Z, 18
December 1972, three-day maximum effort, repeat maximum
effort, of B52/TACAIR strikes in the Hanoi/Haiphong areas
against the targets... (list)... “Object is maximum destruction
of selected targets in the vicinity of Hanoi/Haiphong. Be
prepared to extend operations past three days if directed,”
Joint Chiefs of Staff message.
days unfold to become a powerful multi-day bombing campaign
consisting of waves of B-52 bombers dropping tons of high
explosives on carefully selected targets. The missions begin
Dec. 18 and run through Dec. 29, with a one-day Christmas
lull. The operation is eventually earns the nickname the
“the 11-Day War, or, the Christmas Bombing.”
11-Day War focuses primarily on military targets in and
around Hanoi, though the intent is not to inflict massive
civilian casualties as the World War air bombings on
European cities did, but to destroy the enemy's capability
to wage war. Specific strategic military targets are chosen
such as railyards, storage areas, power plants and more.
Additionally, the aim of the bombing is to force Hanoi
city residents to endure the psychological effect of bomb
runs, quickly realizing there is no place safe to hide. In
essence, Linebacker II's goal is to inflict as much material
and psychological damage and discomfort as possible. The
goal was to sap the will of the North Vietnamese people to
To achieve this goal a massive demonstration
of force, waves of up to or more than 100 B-52s bombers will
simultaneously bomb military and industrial targets.
The B-52 becomes the cornerstone of U.S. foreign
The B-52 intercontinental strategic
jet bomber, nicknamed the BUFF “Big Ugly Fat Fella (or other
derogatory name, depending on who you talk too),” is
designed in the early 1950s to act as a deterrent,
countering Soviet nuclear expansion.
The BUFF is an
all-weather strategic bomber that can deliver nuclear or
conventional high explosives. It has the range and capacity
to operate over long range without being dependent on
forward airbases or foreign host-nation support.
Vietnam, the B-52 operates in its conventional role, and
early on it is identified to be an ideal weapons platform
for counterinsurgency support.
capabilities allow it loiter in inclement weather high above
terrain thick with jungle growth laced with tunnels and
bunkers, or to orbit over and zero in on targets in dense
urban or city terrain. Ideal in supporting troops in enemy
contact, the B-52 can deliver precision-guided smart
munitions or lay a carpet of 30 tons of high explosives,
obliterating enemy movements and clearing large swaths of
enemy-held territory with a cacophonic and murderous
People who have witnessed or survived a B-52
strike describe it as akin to being in the throes of a
terrible storm, assailed by deafening noise and the feeling
of sheer terror.
That storm is described by a former
POW whom witnessed a guard "trembling like a leaf, drop his
rifle and wet his pants." Colonel John E. Flynn, a senior
ranking POW, also has described his experiences: “When I
heard the B-52 bombs go off, I sent a message to our people.
I said, 'Pack: your bags - I don't know when we're going
home -- but we're going home,” says Flynn.
POW's and survivors conclude there is no sound more
frightening than the deafening roar of a B-52 dropping a
steady stream of high explosives that roll toward the
listener shaking the ground and nearby buildings as if in an
Intelligence reports emanating
out of North Vietnam provide guidance to troops in the
field, encouraging them to evacuate positions as soon as
they hear the roar of the bombers. Throughout the duration
of the war, U.S. field commanders, soldiers and civilian
observers alike note the physical and moral effects the B-52
bombing runs have on North Vietnamese logistic capabilities,
facilities and enemy morale. (Notes)
national security adviser Henry Kissinger, it is the B-52's
ability to “shake the mind and undermine the spirit” that
eventually brings the North Vietnamese back to the peace
negotiations... although that peace process is far
from North Vietnamese minds on the night of Dec. 20.
The B-52s under Strategic Air Command guidance already have
two days of successful bomb runs on targets in and around
Flying in three-plane protective wedge
formations, called cells, for electronic countermeasure
protection, casualties in the first two days are minimal,
but this is where things begin to go wrong.
of tactical blunders are made that embolden North Vietnamese
gunners and forever change Arcuri's flying career.
Arcuri doing the Elephant Walk and going solo in a B-52
Arcuri was born into the Air Force, his father was a
veteran of World War II and a career Army Air Force Officer,
retiring as a lieutenant colonel. He commanded an all-Black
Transportation Company for the 8th Air Force in England
delivering bombs to all the airfields.
As a young
man growing up in Satellite Beach, Florida, Arcuri dreams of
flying. He volunteers for the Air Force prep school and
receives an appointment to West Point in July 1966. While in
the academy Arcuri meets his wife, Andrea, and they marry in
1970. After tying the knot, Arcuri heads to flight school,
and he boards his first B-52 for training in 1971.
In 1972, the conflict in Southeast Asia is in decline, there
is little popular support for the war and the Paris peace
agreement is being negotiated. The needs of the Air Force
propel Arcuri to Anderson Air Force Base in Guam, where he
flies missions in South Vietnam. Arcuri takes 28 days of
leave and heads home, and his return becomes a life-altering
After completing more than 44 missions safely,
Arcuri discovers his one-time “Elephant Walk” into Hanoi an
altogether different experience.
B-52s en route to
bomb Hanoi depart each night from Guam or Thailand and fly
the “Elephant Walk.” It's a 70-mile arduous and predictable
corridor that allows Vietnamese SAM radar operators easy
tracking of the lumbering bombers. Additionally, if cells
break integrity in any way, safety and bombing accuracy can
become compromised and can lead to potential civilian
casualties. Aircrews are even threatened with court-martial
if they knowingly compromise their cells. This human
complacency and error in tactical judgment makes the waves
of BUFFs big, fat and predictable targets.
first two days of Linebacker Vietnamese gunners have mixed
success but they have a morale booster because they manage
to shoot down two B-52s and capture alive seven aircrew.
On Dec. 20, co-pilot William Arcuri and the crew of
Quilt 3 get to experience the wrath of the frustrated North
Vietnamese gunners of the 93d Battalion.
falls under the responsibility of the 361st Air Defense
Division, which is tasked with defending the city. They have
been harshly rebuked for failing in downing any enemy
aircraft the previous two nights. Though exhausted, on Dec.
20 they have the trainer cadre spend the day and rehearse
gunnery tactics and procedures, and their efforts would soon
Mistakes begin at the briefing room. Arcuri
recalls his lead pilot exiting the room saying, “flying same
route, same altitude, time-on-target, etc.” The group has
foreboding feelings of their upcoming mission.
“Coming in we are the first wave, first cell, and number
three in the cell... The worst place to be in a three cell,”
Quilt 3's cell placement makes them the
last of three planes to expend their munitions. They have
just finished dropping more than twenty-seven M117 750-pound
bombs on the railroad marshalling yard just north of Hanoi
and are banking in a directed post-target turn when the lead
B-52 sounds the alarm, “SAM sight 6 o'clock!”
can see them launch, it is night, you can see the burst,”
says Arcuri as he describes the SAMs heading toward them.
Two SAM missiles explode, shredding Quilt 3's frame with
shrapnel. For a brief moment Quilt 3 maintains a
straight-and-level flight speed with eight good engines, but
Arcuri realizes they are leaking fuel fast and he attempts
to move the fuel to the undamaged tanks.
“All of a
sudden, all of the red lights come on,” Arcuri says. Quilt 3
has lost all hydraulics and there is no more human control
of the massive B-52.
“We were in a 3,000
feet-per-minute decent,” Arcuri says. Fortunately for him
and the crew, the aircraft's elevators freeze in a position
that allow the B-52 to briefly glide.
remembers his pilot Geloneck looking at him and saying,
“This is it!”
Together they agree to order the crew
to bail out; in trained order they initiate the sequences.
“I remember turning my head as his (Geloneck's) hatch
blew. One minute he's sitting there (Arcuri snaps his
fingers), then he's gone... like David Copperfield,” Arcuri
chuckles. He describes the ejection process as being
equivalent to sitting in a ballistic seat on a case of
dynamite as it detonates.
“It's all in slow motion,
it's true, and it seemed like this was forever,” Arcuri
says. He describes his last few moments alone in the plane.
As far as he knew, everyone has bailed out.
back the throttles.
“I was the last person on her, I
had about 20-30 seconds of flying the B-52 before I bailed,”
Arcuri says with a laugh. In essence, he believes he is one
of the few if not only person who can claim to have flown a
B-52 solo, even if it's just for a couple of seconds.
“At that moment there is a big explosion on the right
wing,” Arcuri says. A missile or anti-aircraft round jolts
the aircraft. “I look up to make sure the hatch has popped,”
He believes his altitude is around
28,000 feet and estimates the bomber must be moving about
500 miles an hour, not a safe bailout speed. Arcuri realizes
he has to get out. He reaches up, squeezes the trigger and
with a loud brief explosion he is out of the plane and
tumbling toward earth.
Arcuri is safely strapped in
the ejection seat but his arms and legs are not. His back
arches and his extremities are flailing in the wind, causing
his arms and legs to painfully hyper-extend.
does not remember how far or fast he fell. He also knows he
doesn't want to get wrapped up in the parachute. He grabs
the rip cord and pulls.
The chute snaps opens at
around 20,000 feet with such force it tears his glove off.
Some of Arcuri's parachute panels are ripped and he is
descending faster than expected.
Even with a couple
of torn panels he describes his descent as a nice long ride
At his side he also has an emergency bottle of
oxygen with three minutes of oxygen. Jokingly, Arcuri says
that when he lands he still has the three minutes of oxygen
in his bottle.
“Its cold up there,” Arcuri quips.
Curiously, Arcuri finds himself looking around in
amazement. “I could see the triple-A anti-aircraft fire and
missiles coming up; it was kind of pretty,” he says.
Arcuri gets captured
experience is about to begin.
“I can hear chatter on
the ground, yelling and talking,” he says. The North
Vietnamese knew they scored a hit.
Arcuri knows they
are looking for him and his crew. He recalls his training at
West Point, where they make the cadet trainees get in
foxholes and hunker down as regular soldier instructors
shoot live rounds over their heads. The intent is for the
trainee to focus on the thud of the round impacting in the
dirt berm above them, allowing them to pinpoint which
direction the enemy may be approaching from.
knew they were getting close, and he can hear the zip of
bullets passing by.
As if to add insult to injury,
Arcuri describes his newly issued bright orange and white
Air Force survival suit and parachute as not being the most
ideal equipment for evasion and escape.
On the way
down, pain starts to set in, and his legs ache from the
hyperextension as he pulls them together to prepare for
landing. He thinks to himself, this is going to be a rough.
“And nothing, so I relax for a second,” Arcuri says.
“Where's the ground? Then smack!!!”
“I hit the top of
a bamboo strand,” he says. He slides down the needle-like
bamboo shoots, with some slivers shredding and impaling into
his head and arms. Slamming into the ground, he dislocates
his right knee and hyper-extends his left knee.
Lying on the ground, Arcuri knows he is hurt, yet he finds
he isn't in much pain. The adrenaline must be blocking it.
He glances up and guesses that about 18 to 20 feet in
the air and dangling in the trees is his bright orange and
“I remember very calmly laying
there,” Arcuri says.
Born and raised a Catholic, he
says his act of contrition.
Arcuri's calm demeanor
ends quickly as he hears the North Vietnamese closing in on
him, bushes rustling and weapons firing into the ground as
the searchers get closer.
“Then I got scared,” he
Trying to make himself more comfortable, he
removes his helmet. A piece of bamboo has gone up through
He grabs his radio and makes his last call.
Arcuri then un-holsters his .38 revolver, looks at it,
and sees he has five rounds. He always has the hammer on the
empty cylinder. Feeling it isn't going to offer much help,
he dumps the bullets.
After removing the battery
from his radio he uses the pistol to destroy it. Arcuri
tosses the radio's remains and bullets into the brush.
That decision most likely saves his life.
finished disposing of the radio, Arcuri notices movement out
of the peripheral vision of his right eye.
comes this little lady, she's coming and swinging this hoe
and wham, catching me right across the side of my head, I
drop my gun,” Arcuri says.
At the same time, a
Vietnamese man runs up and grabs his .38 revolver. Pointing
it right at Arcuri he pulls the trigger again and again
until he realizes the cylinder is empty.
In a fit of
angry frustration he throws the gun at him and begins
ripping Arcuri's equipment off.
“That was the most
terrified I have ever been,” Arcuri says.
North Vietnamese villagers rip at Arcuri's equipment and
clothes, he has a fleeting moment of humor.
fit of frustration and rage they are focusing on removing
anything of danger and value. They struggle with removing
his flight suit, but they can't locate the zipper.
Arcuri has one of the newest flight suits, fresh off the
line, and it's made of Nomex and has no zipper. The suit is
affixed with Velcro fasteners. They can't rip it off so
another man walks up and pulls out a machete. He's getting
ready to cut it off, Arcuri decides its time to help them
“I reach up, grab, and pull it apart,” he says.
“They are stunned, their eyes were wide,” Arcuri
said with a laugh. The villagers have never seen such
The humor ends and the villagers begin
beating Arcuri again with sticks as he lay helpless on the
ground, stripped-down to bare skin and to underclothes.
Four militiamen come running. Yelling and shouting with
AK-47 assault rifles un-slung, the militiamen clear the
villagers away from Arcuri. Two of the militiamen take
positions at Arcuri's head, and two at his feet. One of the
men in front turns and motions for him to get up and follow.
Arcuri shakes his head and points at his injured
The front militiaman shoulders his
weapon and grabs Arcuri's ankle, puts his foot in his crotch
and pulls, and the knee pops back into place.
in pain, Arcuri is amazed, “I don't know how he knew to do
that, but it worked,” Arcuri says. “But it hurt, it hurt
like a son-of-a-bitch.”
The militiamen grab Arcuri
under the armpits and drag him down into the village,
sitting him down. Arcuri recalls the last bomber passing.
“It's inadvisable to bail out over the area you just
bombed. It violates old Air Force wisdom,” Arcuri says.
Local villagers start filtering out to see their war trophy,
and they begin to get pretty rowdy, he recalls.
Interestingly, Arcuri is asked a couple times if he is
Russian, because apparently they have mistakenly shot down a
couple of Russian advisers or aircrew by mistake.
After they realize Arcuri is not Russian, the villagers
start getting a little too excited, The guards escort him
safely into a little hut. Arcuri gets a brief respite,
allowing him the opportunity to experience his captors as
Arcuri is shocked when a little old
lady flits in and washes his wounds. After she finishes, an
older man comes in with a little boy, and they bring Arcuri
some food and soup.
The old man offers Arcuri a
cigarette, but he declines. The man looks surprised, Arcuri
recalls. Feeling a little guilty and thinking he has hurt
the old man's feelings, Arcuri points to his mouth and
motions that he doesn't smoke. The old man lights up and
He could have been 80 or 90 years old, but
probably no more than 60 Arcuri recalls as he notices how
weathered and aged the man appeared.
night, a couple of villagers take Arcuri out of the hut and
splint his damaged leg with bamboo. They blindfold him and
cart him in a wheelbarrow to another part of the village,
then to a waiting bus. When Arcuri boards the bus he is
shocked, because there sits his fellow pilot and friend
Guarding them is man dressed pristine, all
in white. “Spotless,” Arcuri recalls. Here he was, Arcuri in
the war zone all muddy and beat and here is this guy dressed
immaculately in white linen and holding a machete. Arcuri
surmises he must be a village official.
“I grew up
watching Charlie Chan detective movies,” he says. The
Charlie Chan imposter has stepped right out of one of his
The well-heeled guard strides up
and down the bus aisle, machete in hand.
thing I think of is Charlie Chan is going to kill me with a
machete. I started to laugh but bit my lip,” Arcuri says. He
doesn't want to provoke the guard.
is allowed to talk to Geloneck, discovering that other than
a dislocated shoulder his friend is OK. The bus travels a
little further, then they stop and rest for the night.
The next morning the two aviators are awakened and given
a shot of medicine.
“They used a Bunsen burner and
heat whatever was in the needle. Luckily, I was not allergic
to whatever it was, penicillin?” Arcuri says.
placed in a stretcher, then they blindfold and raise him up,
dumping him unceremoniously into the back of a truck. He
lands on something soft that lets out a soft “umph!” Arcuri
knows it's another airman.
“I whisper, ‘Who's
Arcuri is delighted because he has landed
right on top of his gunner, Roy Madden. Brief joy turns to
sadness when he learns of the possible death of his
electronics warfare officer, Craig Paul. Madden sat next to
Craig but did not see him eject.
Arcuri and Madden
lie blindfolded and guarded in the back of the truck,
pondering their fate.
In village after village they
stop, and their guards make them sit up and stand or parade
alongside the trucks so the villagers can see the odd war
trophies. When the villagers get a little too excited, they
move on to the next village.
Arcuri grew up on the
water and realizes they have crossed by ferry or raft over a
body of water. Most likely he believes it's the Red River.
“The whole time I'm thinking, hoping there is not a
hotshot pilot up there looking down on a barge with a
truck,” Arcuri says.
Checking into the Hilton
The truck rumbles up the road, then passes through a
gate with big iron doors.
“I knew the best thing that
could happen was to get into a prison,” Arcuri says.
He is separated from his crewmates and dumped onto the floor
of a pitch-black room. Arcuri sits for a moment in the dark,
then removes his blindfold to find it's still pitch dark.
He's in a cell.
In a moment he hears the sounds of an
approaching person, keys rattle and his door opens. A
blanket and mosquito net are thrown at him. Arcuri is
grateful. Though it's December in North Vietnam, he is in
his underwear, broken and bruised, and the blanket will help
keep him alive.
For the next three days they
interrogate him. Before he began his mission pilots and crew
are always briefed, but he never saw the battle order. The
North Vietnamese never get much from him.
changes. The bomb runs begin again but this time they keep
coming. For more than 11 days B-52s drop tons of lethal high
explosives, blasting targets in and around Hanoi. Arcuri
knows they have changed tactics.
Vietnamese keep interrogating him.
“I was beaten
physically and deprived of sleep, but I never really felt
they tortured me,” Arcuri says. “If sleep deprivation is
considered torture, then my whole Plebe Year at West Point
Placed in a cell with several other
wounded airmen, Arcuri enjoys the company of his fellow
prisoners, and they are even allowed to communicate without
being punished. Being the newest POW in the group, the North
Vietnamese do not allow Arcuri to leave his cell for 35
They receive no more medical treatment and
their food changes. Every morning they receive black tea and
bread for breakfast; at noon they are given soup; dinner is
“I lost 55 pounds in 55 days,” Arcuri says.
Racked with dysentery, he attributes his physical
deterioration to his living conditions and diet.
Discussions are plentiful and they all come to the
conclusion that the war is over. It's just a matter of when.
Arcuri and his fellow prisoners establish a daily
routine. After breakfast, the North Vietnamese usually allow
him and his fellow POWs out of their cells. A horse trough
sits in the center of the compound filled with dingy water,
and they wash their clothes in the fetid water.
of the POWs' routine is resistance. “They (fellow POWs) gave
me the names of 250 guys, some up on the border of China,”
Arcuri says. “I memorized every one of the names.”
They have pens and cigarettes, and use cigarette paper to
write notes and communicate with each other.
good friends with me in there. Three of us had gone to Air
Force prep school together. Some of them had been there for
eight years,” Arcuri says. Because he is the newest POW he
knew a number of the men in the Hilton and they look to him
for information about the war, home and their families.
Back home, Arcuri's wife Andrea has a hunch he has been
shot down from the news. She knew he is flying the missions.
On Dec. 20, his wing takes the most losses. The next day a
car pulls up, and the base commander and squadron commander
hand her the telegram.
Andrea and Arcuri had been
married two years when he was shot down. Though the
Vietnamese begin releasing POWs, she assumes he would be one
of the last out, being one of the last in.
North Vietnam, the POWs In the Hilton receive hopeful words
that they may be going home. The most severely injured and
ill would leave first.
Arcuri is lucky in that
regard, because he is to be in one of the first groups to
On Jan. 27, 1973, the U.S. and North Vietnam
sign a peace accord. Arcuri recalls that the next day the
camp commander rounded up him and his fellow POWs into
formation, and announced that they may all go home if the
U.S. lives up to the agreement.
The day before they
depart for home, Arcuri and his cellmates each receive a
little bag with a change of clothes.
standing on the runway, a C-141 lands.
sick guy, I was released,” Arcuri says. He can stand and
limp, with no crutches needed. Aircrew run-up and escort him
to the waiting plane, assisting him up the ramp. Two female
nurses run down to him.
“I want to sit right here,
last row, right by the ramp,” Arcuri says. The nurses look
at him incredulously. Why would he want to sit by the ramp?
“I want to see the faces of the older guys,” Arcuri
He is keen to see the faces of freedom. Some
of his buddies have spent more than eight years in those
very conditions where he spent a couple of months, and their
faces say it all.
The ramp closes and the C-141 takes
off. It is Arcuri's last mission. The pilot calls over the
intercom that they are feet wet, meaning out of Vietnam.
On Valentine's Day 1973, Arcuri, Geloneck and Al
Brunstrom -- “an eight year” guest of the Hanoi Hilton are
the first to get off the plane in the U.S.
does not regret his experiences. He has been asked many
times why he did it, and why did he go.
“It was my
job.” (Back then) “I felt we needed to get out of Vietnam
but my feelings were if there were Americans on the ground,
and if what I did saved one soldier, then I did my job,”
Arcuri's Southeast Asia and Linebacker
II experiences are with him even today. He is a member of
Rolling Thunder, Chapter 6, and within their presence he
celebrates the camaraderie of fellow POWs, armed forces
veterans and the company of citizens whose focus is to hold
the government accountable and bring home all living
survivors and the deceased of wars both present and past.
The past never leaves Arcuri. He and his pilot and
friend Geloneck, along with two other crewmates, are lucky
they came home alive. Two others made the ultimate sacrifice
and their remains were returned from Vietnam in 1977.
Linebacker II, Arcuri's final mission, was born of
tactical and political necessity, The concept is to restart
a failed peace process and bring an end to an unpopular war.
Arcuri and his fellow airmen and crewmates are just small
pieces caught up in a bigger puzzle, and managed to survive
a harrowing ordeal.
In survival they learned some
valuable lessons. Keep faith in family, friends, the mission
and the reasons one carries out a mission and, finally,
never give up.
AWARDS AND CITATIONS,
Youl Arcuri, Status: POW - William Arcuri graduated from the
U.S. Military Academy at West Point, Class of 1970. He was
interned as a Prisoner of War in North Vietnam after he was
shot down on December 20, 1972 and was held until his
release on February 12, 1973.
Distinguished Flying Cross, Awarded for
actions during the Vietnam War
The President of the United
States of America takes pleasure in presenting the Distinguished
Flying Cross to First Lieutenant William Youl Arcuri (AFSN:
0-1764469), United States Air Force, for heroism while
participating in aerial flight as a B-52 Co-pilot near Hanoi,
North Vietnam, on 20 December 1972. On that date, while engaged
in one of the largest conventional bombing raids ever amassed in
the recent history of aerial warfare, Lieutenant Arcuri was
forced to bail out over hostile territory due to significant
battle damage to his aircraft as the result of extremely heavy
hostile fire. Lieutenant Arcuri and his crew were in quest of
massed supplies, communications equipment, and transportation
lines in order to eliminate the aggressor's capacity to initiate
an offensive, and, despite receiving heavy battle damage and
incurring grave personal danger, Lieutenant Arcuri and his crew
were able to destroy the target before being forced to abandon
their aircraft. The outstanding heroism and selfless devotion to
duty displayed by Lieutenant Arcuri reflect great credit upon
himself and the United States Air Force. Action Date: December
20, 1972, Service: Air Force, Rank: First Lieutenant
Prisoner of War Medal, Awarded for
actions during the Vietnam War
First Lieutenant William Youl
Arcuri (AFSN: 0-1764469), United States Air Force, was held as a
Prisoner of War in North Vietnam from December 20, 1972 until
his release on February 12, 1973. Action Date: December 20, 1972
- February 12, 1973, Service: Air Force, Rank: First Lieutenant,
Division: Prisoner of War (North Vietnam)
By U.S. Air Force Master Sgt. Timothy Lawn
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