CHESLEY, LARRY JAMES
Name: Larry James Chesley
Rank/Branch: O2/United States Air Force
Unit: 433rd TFS
Date of Birth: 27 September 1938
Home City of Record: Burleu ID
Date of Loss: 16 APRIL 1966
Country of Loss: North Vietnam
Loss Coordinates: 173500N 1061700E
Status (in 1973): Returnee
Other Personnel in Incident: Samuel Johnson, returnee, pilot
Source: Compiled by P.O.W. NETWORK 06 September 1996 from one or more of the
following: raw data from U.S. Government agency sources, correspondence with
POW/MIA families, published sources, interviews. Updated 2000.
REMARKS: 021273 RELEASED BY DRV
SOURCE: WE CAME HOME copyright 1977
Captain and Mrs. Frederic A Wyatt (USNR Ret), Barbara Powers Wyatt, Editor
P.O.W. Publications, 10250 Moorpark St., Toluca Lake, CA 91602
Text is reproduced as found in the original publication (including date and
LARRY J. CHESLEY
Captain- United States Air Force
Shot Down: April 16, 1966
Released: February 12, 1973
Others in Incident: Samuel Johnson, Returnee
I was born on September 27, 1938 to Verl R. Chesley and Susie Baugh Chesley.
I was the first of three sons and was born and raised in Burley, Idaho. I
graduated from Burley High School in May 1956. My early days (summers) were
spent on a farm with my grandparents in Arco, Idaho where I rode race
horses. I worked while I attended Junior high and high school. Upon
graduating I joined the Air Force.
I first went to Parks AFB California, F. E. Warren AFB, Wyoming, Scott
Field, Illinois. Then in March 1957 I went to Shiroi AFB, Japan for two
years. From Shiroi I went to Frankfort, Germany where I stayed until 1960.
Though I was an enlisted man I saw most of Europe while I was stationed in
Germany. In June 1960 I was discharged and enrolled at Weber State College
in Ogden, Utah in September.
October 1960 I married JoDene Neilson and we had a daughter Debbie, born
August 1961. I finished college with a BS in History and Political Science
in less than three years. I worked full time for Boling (Minute Man Missile)
at Hill AFB in Ogden. I graduated from college with honors. After graduation
I decided to go back into the Air Force so I went to OTS and graduated as a
Distinguished Military Graduate (DMG).
My son, Don, was born in December 1963 while I was at OTS. I went to Webb
AFB, Texas for UPT and from there to Davis Monthan AFB, Arizona for combat
crew training. I graduated as the outstanding pilot of our class. I met Jim
Elliot there; he became my AC. We went to Eglin AFB, Florida for two months.
Jim was drafted to go to Southeast Asia, so I volunteered to go also - with
my wife's blessing. Jim and I went to Ubon, Thailand with a squadron from
George AFB, California. We arrived 16 December 1966. Four months and 76
missions later on 16 April 1966 I was shot down.
Major Sam Johnson and I were on a "milk run" mission about 30 miles north of
the DMZ. This started my long stay in North Vietnam-almost seven years. I
was sick much of the time during those seven years. My illness was caused by
my bout with beri beri from December 1966 to April 1967 which left me in
such a weakened condition that I caught everything that came along. I lost
approximately 60 pounds, leaving me weighing only 100 pounds. While in
prison, I received news that my wife had remarried. Because I had not been
allowed to write for four years, neither my wife nor my family knew I was
alive. I received my first letter four and a half years after my shoot down.
Though I was tortured, beaten, and generally mistreated, I was not treated
as harshly as some of the others.
I am a Mormon and I believe deeply in my religion. It was one of the
strengths I clung to during those dark days. I believe in a God who is like
a Father, One who cares about His children. I had a patriarchal blessing
when I was young (about 14) and it said that if I were ever called into war
that no matter what would come or what would go, I would be returned to my
loved ones. So I never doubted for a moment. I knew that I would come home
My homecoming was wonderful. My little city really treated me great. Though
Burley has only a population of 8000, over 30,000 from throughout the valley
came to say "Welcome home Captain Chesley." One newsman from Salt Lake City
said on television that, in his eighteen years of news coverage, he had
never seen such a moving expression of love as the love my city had shown to
me. The General from Boise also said that in his 26 years of military
service he had never seen such honor bestowed upon a service man.
I am attending college at Arizona State University to get a master's degree
in Business Administration. Then I will teach AFROTC there while I work for
a law degree or Ph.D.
EDITOR'S NOTE: Captain Chesley has written a book which tells of his
experiences in more detail. It is titled: SEVEN YEARS IN HANOI.
Senator Larry Chesley retired from the United States Air Force as a Lt.
Colonel. He and his wife Judy reside in Arizona. Both he and Sam Johnson
have continued to serve their nation - Johnson as a (current) U.S.
Congressman from Texas, and Chesley as a former Arizona Senator.
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