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McPhersonSentinel - McPherson, KS
  • Former Vietnam POW shares struggles

  • Retired U.S. Air Force Colonel Bill Talley knows more than most what price service men and women can pay for freedom.
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  • Retired U.S. Air Force Colonel Bill Talley knows more than most what price service men and women can pay for freedom.
    During the Vietnam War, Talley served three tours of duty, flying in 151 successful combat missions during his first 10 months alone.
    In 1972, while on his third tour of duty, Talley was shot down and captured by the North Vietnamese, after which he was held as a prisoner of war in the notorious “Hanoi Hilton.”
    Talley said the prisoners were forced to walk to the camp and were made to stop at villages along the way.
    “We were a prize of victory to be shown off,” Tally said, “and the people would come out and hit us with sticks, throw stones at us and spit in our faces.”
    During his time there, he and his fellow soldiers were constantly interrogated and tortured in ongoing attempts to coerce them to aid in creating pro-North Vietnamese propaganda.
    Talley said all they had for a latrine was a bucket, and that they were sent to dump the contents in a pile in one section of the camp.
    “They’d have us plant seeds in the pile,” Tally said, “and after it’d grown they’d pick off the leaves and have us eat them.”
    For a time, United States Senator and former Presidential candidate John McCain also was a prisoner at the same facility.
    Currently arrangements are being made for Talley to return sometime in the spring for a fuller account of the trials he and his fellow prisoners of war faced. Talley normally gives a longer presentation, but, due to time limitations and the decision not to go into more disturbing and explicit details with elementary students present, Talley’s presentation was shorter than typical.
    “When we came home,” Talley said, “we were all asked to write a narrative on our experiences. Ninety percent of the POWs gave credit to God, to country and to their other POWs.”
    In a desire to tell the stories of other prisoners of war, Talley gives a photo and CD presentation of the thoughts and experiences of three fellow prisoners of war during the Vietnam War.
    After relating some of his experiences at Monday’s Veterans Day commencement in the McPherson Park Department building, Talley said it was wonderful to see so many students from McPherson’s elementary schools present.
    “I think it’s wonderful to start teaching people at a young age to appreciate what we have in the United States,” Talley said. “When I was young growing up, World War II was blazing in the news. It was a patriotic time.”
    Page 2 of 2 - Talley said that, since the end of World War II, the nation’s sense of patriotism has been in decline.
    “It hasn’t been as patriotic since,” Talley said. “That’s why we need to teach young people who are willing to learn about the sacrifices service men and women make for our freedoms.”

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