Feature Search

Operation HOMECOMING: Bringing our heroes home

Released American POWs cheer once the reach safe airspace. (Courtesy photo)

Released American POWs cheer once the reach safe airspace. (Courtesy photo)

A C-141 Starlifter from the 62 Military Airlift Wing lands at Hanoi to pick up American POWs.

A C-141 Starlifter from the 62 Military Airlift Wing lands at Hanoi to pick up American POWs.


As we pause this week to reflect on those who were held prisoners of war or remain missing in action, it is important to remember our resolve to bring home all our heroes. For decades, the 62nd and 446th Airlift Wings have fulfilled this solemn promise and conducted multiple airlifts to reunite POWs with their families and to return the remains of our heroes to their homes.

          In February 1973, a 60th Military Airlift Wing C-141 Starlifter touched down in Hanoi, North Vietnam, to transport American POWs from Hanoi back to the United States. A crew of both 60th MAW and 62nd AW Airmen welcomed the quiet men on board and helped them with their seats, while Air Force nurses did what they could to make the men comfortable. Oddly, the released prisoners did not say much. They did not shout for joy or otherwise express themselves in celebration; they remained stoic and tried to hide the fear they had lived with for years while in captivity. Were they really going home? After years of torture, starvation and nightmares, was the North Vietnamese simply going to let them go or was this yet another trick to break their resolve?

          The crew of the C-141, now known as the Hanoi Taxi, had the same thoughts. After years of fighting each other, was this a trick? Were the North Vietnamese going to let the C-141 fly off or were the Communist forces going to shoot them down?

          With abated breath, the C-141 taxied down the runway in Hanoi and climbed in altitude. When the aircraft reached what was thought to be a safe distance, a great roar thundered through the cabin as the American POWs erupted in cheers, dances, and tears of joy. Yes, they were going home. America had not forgotten.

          From February to April 1973, mobility forces including those from the 62nd AW repatriated 591 American POWs from Hanoi back to the United States, including then Army Maj. Floyd James Thompson and then U.S. Navy Lt. Cmdr. John McCain. America celebrated the return of their heroes and, for a moment, the pain and controversy of the Vietnam War was washed away and replaced by welcome home banners and balloons. This operation would become better known as Operation HOMECOMING.

          While some American families rejoiced in the homecoming of their beloved sons and husbands, many other families continued to wait and wonder if their heroes would ever come home from North Korea or Vietnam. Decades would go by as families struggled to find out what happened to their missing loved ones while the U.S. engaged in diplomatic talks with both North Korea and Vietnam to repatriate U.S. service members’ remains. Finally by the end of the 1990s, all three countries made headway and both North Korea and Vietnam agreed to hand over the remains of some of those killed during the Korean and Vietnam wars and, as was the case in 1973, Team McChord helped bring these heroes home.

          Late in November 1999, a McChord C-17 Globemaster III, crewed by members from the 446th AW, began its journey from Washington to the isolated and surreptitious North Korea. As their predecessors had before during the first Operation HOMECOMING, the 446th AW crew wondered what awaited them in Pyongyang, North Korea. After all, the C-17 crew would be the first group of uniformed U.S. military personnel in Pyongyang to claim the remains of Americans killed in the Korean War. Would the North Koreans welcome them or was there a more sinister motive behind North Korea’s invitation? Fortunately, the McChord C-17 landed in Pyongyang and the transfer of three set of remains occurred peacefully.

          The 446th AW crew took off from Pyongyang and landed in Thailand to claim the remains of two Americans killed during the Vietnam War in Laos and then recovered six sets of American remains in Hanoi, Vietnam. On November 20, 1999, the C-17 arrived at Andersen Air Force Base, Guam, and transferred the 11 sets of remains to mortuary services so they could be identified and returned to family.

Again the next year, Team McChord once again transported the remains of fallen heroes back home. From Nov. 14-21, 2000, 62nd AW personnel deployed to Hanoi, Vietnam; Yokota, Japan; and Hickam Air Base, Hawaii, in support of Operation HOMECOMING. This particular mission represented two historic firsts, with the repatriation of 21 human remains signifying the largest extraction to that date and the President of the United States presiding over the ceremony while visiting Vietnam. President Bill Clinton’s historic trip of healing to Vietnam, the first visit by a U.S. President since Richard Nixon, represented an opportunity to establish a friendly relationship between the two countries.

Using the C-17, nine aircrew personnel from the 7th Airlift Squadron and two members of the 62nd Security Forces Squadron helped President Clinton maintain his promise to bring home America’s fallen heroes. The McChord C-17 carried equipment, vehicles and other cargo needed on the presidential visit, but its use had a more significant purpose—to bring home fallen soldiers.

To this day, more than 5,300 American military personnel remain missing in North Korea and over 1,600 remain missing in Vietnam while their families still await their return. In 2005, North Korea ceased the repatriating process due to a breakdown in diplomatic talks, but in July 2018 released 55 American remains in a good faith gesture. Once again the Air Force carried these fallen soldiers home on a C-17 Globemaster III.

As units of Air Mobility Command, the 62nd and 446th AWs are tasked with transporting essential cargo and personnel in contingency operations, airdropping troops into hostile areas, and providing humanitarian airlift, but also fulfill one of the most important missions—maintain the solemn promise of bringing our heroes home.

Social Media

Facebook Twitter
Not just a right - It's your responsibility. #Vote
Tomorrow (Jan 31st) CE Customer Service and both Andersen Family and Unaccompanied Housing Offices will be closed from 11 A.M.–4 P.M. For emergencies, please see additional information below: CE Customer Service: For any emergency issues, please call 366-2916/2917/2918. All other non-emergency issues can be sent to the CE Customer Service email org box at 36ces.service@us.af.mil. Housing Office: For any urgent Housing matters, please call 366-6240 or 653-4731. Normal operating hours will resume Monday, 3 February. Thank you, 36th Civil Engineer Squadron
The Readiness & Emergency Management Flight will be conducting training today (Jan 30) from 7 A.M. to 4:30 P.M.. It will involve personnel driving around base in MOPP 4 and setting out detectors on main base. It is all for training purpose only.
Congratulations to our 4th Quarterly Award winners! Airman of the Quarter: SrA Tiffany Arquette- 36th Mission Support Group Non-commissioned Officer of the Quarter: SSgt Bryan Koch- 36th Mission Support Group Senior Non-commissioned Officer of the Quarter: MSgt Coreena Dejesus-36th Wing Staff Agency Company Grade Officer of the Quarter: 2Lt Megan Barrick- 36th Maintenance Group Civilian Category I of the Quarter: Mr. Nathan Atalig- 36th Mission Support Group Civilian Category II of the Quarter: Mr. Shawn McMahon – 36th Mission Support Group Civilian Category III of the Quarter: Ms. Lucy Benavente - 36th Wing Staff Agency Honor Guard of the Quarter: SrA Brandi Dennis – 36th Communications Squadron Volunteer of the Quarter: SSgt Duawana Robinson – 36th Maintenance Group Team of the Quarter: Family Health- 36th Medical Group
Don't miss this great training opportunity on Sexual Assault Awareness, Prevention, and Bystander Intervention, 31st Jan, 11 A.M. at the Meehan Theater. This event is FREE and open to all! Joint Region Marianas
Andersen is proud to host the U.S. Navy's Tritons!
Congratulations to Staff Sgt. Jolesa Scott from the 36th Force Support Squadron team for being recognized as one of Team Andersen's Best! Great job!
#TeamAndersenDYK the fire prevention experts recommend to never leave open flames or cooking unattended, to check lint traps regularly as well as checking electrical outlets to make sure they are being used properly. In addition, family members of all ages should know and follow a shared emergency escape plan. Andersen firefighters recommend that, in case of fire, residents use their established escape plan and proceed to a designated rally point, a safe distance away from the flames and smoke. Once outside, immediately call 911 and describe the situation to dispatchers as calmly as possible. Fires happen sporadically, so please pay attention to your housekeeping, your surroundings and when you’re cooking or even just near a flame. #safety
Calling all football fans and history buffs!!! Immediately after World War II, the American military stationed in the South Pacific began playing full-contact football - pads and all. Andersen Air Force Base's Gilkeson Field, named after Brig. Gen. Adlai H. Gilkeson, commanding general of the 19th Bombardment Wing from 1949 to 1951, served as home of the North Field Bombers, the base football team! Teams in Japan, the Philippines, and Guam played in local military leagues, occasionally flying long distances to compete. A league champ on Guam wasn't determined until 1947, when the 1st Marine Brigade and the 501st Port Battalion tied for the island championship. The North Field (later Andersen) Bombers went undefeated in the 1948 season to capture the island title, which began a long legacy of the most successful football team on Guam for the next 34 years. The Bombers won at least 17 league/island championships - including 11 titles in a row from 1955 to 1966. The last Bomber championship was in 1974. Other teams on the island were also rich in tradition and history. In short, while the Navy dominated the league with their number of teams in action, it was the Andersen Bombers that dominated on the scoreboard and in the standings. The Bombers lasted until the leagues' end after the 1981 season. #TeamAndersen #TBT #NorthFieldBombers Joint Region Marianas US Naval Base Guam U.S. Pacific Air Forces 1st Marine Brigade
Every flight starts with planning! And a trip to Aircrew Flight Equipment. AFE Airmen maintain equipment used by pilots, which are essential for survival capabilities. AFE Airmen provide direct support to the Continuous Bomber Presence. Thanks, AFE!
The United States, along with Mexico and the Philippines, were ranked one of the world's worst places for human trafficking in 2018. In the U.S., there is no official number of human trafficking victims, but estimates place it in the hundreds of thousands. Look for these indicators to help combat human trafficking.
WARNING: Security Forces will deny access to the base and/or issue fines for not updating your vehicle registration or not having insurance.
Exercise the very right you protect - your right to vote! We can help with registering to vote, requesting an absentee ballot and notifying your local election officials back home of a change of address. Below is Voter Registration application, Absentee Ballot Request form (SF-76), and mailing address. This form is for Uniformed Service members, family members of voting age, DoD civilians, and citizens residing outside the United States. You may access many voting related questions and answers on the FVAP website at http://www.fvap.gov. Please click the link below to access the direct-to-voter training video which goes through the process step by step. https://www.fvap.gov/militaryhowto If you have any questions please contact your designated squadron UVAO or IVAO at DSN: 366-8137 or email: Andersen.vote@us.af.mil
Congratulations to Staff Sgt. Shannen Lisbourne from the 36th WG/JA team for being recognized as one of Team Andersen's Best! Great job!
#TeamAndersenDYK every day in the United States, about 10 people die from unintentional drowning, according to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention. Drowning ranks fifth among the leading causes of unintentional injury death in the U.S. Many Airmen and families enjoy swimming within the shallow water, but some choose to swim beyond the reef into deeper depths. Since there is no continental shelf around Guam, the landmass underwater does not have a gradual slope; therefore, the water depth drops suddenly. Swimmers are advised not to swim beyond the reef and into the deep open water to avoid hazardous waves and currents or other harmful conditions. Alcohol is also a major cause of water-related incidents. Among adolescents and adults, alcohol use is involved in up to 70 percent of deaths associated with water recreation, according to the CDC. Drinking alcohol causes a lack of coordination, disturbance of the inner ear, impaired reaction time and impaired judgment, which can cause someone to become injured or drown while swimming. Please be safe when out swimming. Never swim alone, drink while swimming, and pay attention to the flag conditions. #safety
Way to go, Security Forces! Sen. Joe San Augustin from the 35th Guam Legislature presented Airmen from the 36th Security Forces Squadron with a legislative resolution and certificates of appreciation, recognizing their volunteer efforts throughout the island community, Jan.16 at Tarague Beach. #TeamAndersen #OneGuam #Community #GoodNeighbors The Office of Senator Joe S. San Agustin Joint Region Marianas U.S. Pacific Air Forces The Guam Legislature
Showing love to Guam and promoting #environmental stewardship with #partners! Airmen from the 506th Expeditionary Air Refueling Squadron and 190th Air Refueling Wing - Kansas Air National Guard partnered with Sailors from Commander, Submarine Squadron Fifteen and members of Love Guam for a roadside cleanup Jan. 11 in Yigo. #OneGuam #GreenGuam #GoodNeighbors #Community #TeamAndersen #TeamAndersenTBT Joint Region Marianas U.S. Pacific Air Forces Yigo Mayor's Office
The "First Lady" of Andersen Air Force Base has retired. Please join Team Andersen in giving our thanks and well wishes to Mrs. Joyce Martratt after her more than 54 years of service to the U.S. Air Force. Mrs. Joyce has been guiding and assisting the leadership of AAFB as an invaluable secretary since the height of the Vietnam war. Serving with 27 general officers during her tenure, she has been essential in the continued success of Andersen, and by extension the security and safety of the indo-pacific region. Thank you for all that you have done for all of us in Team Andersen and may you have a blessed retirement. Si Yu'us ma'åse' Mrs. Joyce U.S. Pacific Air Forces U.S. Indo-Pacific Command #retirement