WHITE, ROBERT THOMAS
Name: Robert Thomas White
Rank/Branch: O3/US Army
Date of Birth: 17 August 1940
Home City of Record: St. Charles IL
Date of Loss: 15 November 1969
Country of Loss: South Vietnam
Loss Coordinates: 094036N 1063437E (XR730700)
Status (in 1973): Released POW
Other Personnel in Incident: John G. Graf (captured)
Source: Compiled by Homecoming II Project with the assistance of one or more
of the following: raw data from U.S. Government agency sources, correspondence
with POW/MIA families, published sources, interviews: 15 March 1990. Updated
by the P.O.W. NETWORK 1998.
REMARKS: 730401 RELEASED BY PRG
SYNOPSIS: John G. Graf was a Tactical Observer attached to Chief of Naval AD
Group, U.S. MACV, South Vietnam. On November 15, 1969, Graf was a crewmember
aboard an OV1C aircraft flown by U.S. Army Capt. Robert T. White on a visual
reconnaissance mission. The U.S. Army aircraft was hit by hostile ground fire
and crashed some 20 miles southeast of Tra Vinh City, Vinh Binh Province,
South Vietnam. Both the pilot and observer were observed by an American Coast
Guard unit to eject safely. A local villager reported that National Liberation
Front Forces captured both crewmen.
On March 29, 1973, the Viet Cong announced that White was to be released on
April 1. He was the last American in the repatriation program dubbed
"Operation Homecoming". In his debrief, Capt. White reported that he was held
with Graf in various prison camps until late January 1970, when Graf escaped
with another POW. Before his release, the National Liberation Front area
commander told White to inform the U.S. authorities that Graf had drowned
during an escape attempt in February 1970. Former residents of this area also
reported this story to officials and that his remains were buried in the Long
Viet Cong papers were found in a Viet Cong camp which contained the
interrogation reports of both LCdr. Graf and Capt. White. Other captured
documents stated that Graf had died in February 1970, and listed the location
of his grave in Vinh Binh Province.
Although information concerning LCdr. Graf is still classified, it was given
to the Vietnamese in hopes that they would be forthcoming with further
information about his fate. The Vietnamese continue to deny any knowledge of
Tom White was the "Last" POW on the list. His name was added after the list
was released to the USG.
Nearly 2500 Americans remain missing or otherwise unaccounted for in Vietnam.
Since the war ended, nearly 10,000 reports concerning these missing Americans
have been received by the U.S. Government. Many experts are completely
convinced that hundreds of Americans are now held captive.
One set of critics say that the U.S. has done little to address the issue of
live POWs, preferring the politically safer issue of remains return. Others
place the blame on the Vietnamese, for using the issue of POW/MIA to their
political advantage. Regardless of blame, no living American has returned
through the efforts of negotiations between the countries, and the reports
continue to pour in. Are we doing enough to bring these men home?
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
ROBERT T. WHITE
Captain - United States Army
Shot Down: November 15, 1969
Released: April 1, 1973
I was born in Geneva, Illinois on the 17th of August 1940. In 1958 I graduated
from high school in St. Charles, Illinois and then attended DePauw University,
Greencastle, Indiana for 2 years.
I volunteered for the draft in November 1960 and completed my basic training
at Ft. Leonard Wood, Missouri in February 1961. I was then assigned to
Fitzsimmons General Hospital, Denver, Colorado until my separation from the
service in September 1962.
In August 1965 I re-enlisted and completed basic training again at Ft. Leonard
Wood in November 1965. I then attended Flight School at Ft. Wolters, Texas and
Ft. Rucker, Alabama and graduated in August 1966 with the rank of Warrant
Officer (WO1). Next I attended the Aircraft Maintenance Officer Course at Ft.
Eustis, Virginia and upon graduation in December 1966, I was assigned to
Vietnam in the 1st Cavalry Division from January 1967 to January 1968. I was
commissioned December 1967. Back to the States and Ft. Eustis, Virginia from
February 1968 to September 1968, I then attended the Fixed Wing Qualifications
Course at Ft. Stewart, Georgia and Ft. Rucker, Alabama. I graduated in January
From January 1969 to June of that year I was assigned to Ft. Eustis, Virginia
and then to OV-1 Transition at Ft. Rucker, Alabama and Ft. Huachuca, Arizona
which I completed in September 1969. I was then assigned to the 1st Aviation
Brigade in Vietnam in October 1969 and was captured on 15 November 1969.
I was flying a visual reconnaissance mission in an OV-1 Mohawk when I was hit
by enemy ground fire. The aircraft caught fire and I ejected. At
approximately 0800 on 15 November 1969, I was captured. After two nights of
marching, I was interned in a permanent POW camp. At that time there was one
other American with me. The last time I saw this man was January 1970. From
then until my release on 1 April 1973, I saw no other Americans and spoke no
Initially, I was fed three meals a day, which consisted of rice, fish, shrimp,
and a green leafy vegetable. I was given tea and sugar. My diet was
considerably better than one might expect. They wanted to use me for
propaganda purposes. I was offered my freedom in exchange for a propaganda
In February 1970, they built a cage for me. This was approximately 4' x 6 1/2'
and 4' high. I was to spend 19 months in this cage and one other like it. I
was fed twice a day, usually nothing more than rice. I estimate that I spent
23 1/2 hours a day in those cages. 12 to 15 of those hours were spent in a
leg iron. I urinated in a can under my bunk and emptied it once a day. In June
1970, I became extremely sick. I was given no medicine and the food was still
inadequate. I was allowed no exercise. I lost about 35 pounds. I still bear
the effects of that illness and may never fully recover from it.
1972 was a better year. We moved to a new camp, but this time there was no
cage. I was given more freedom and the opportunity to work. I began working
with my hands. I made 180 pairs of chopsticks some of which they sold for 10
cents a pair. Capitalism was taking roots. For my work I received a new
toothbrush, toothpaste, and a pair of sandals. I was given tobacco. I made a
pipe. I carved a ring and an elephant for my wife. The last year of my
captivity, I cooked for my guard and myself. I set bird snares and went for
firewood. 32 birds, 4 squirrels, 2 weasels (one weasel got away) and rats and
crabs found their way into my snares. My guard built a rat trap (which I saw
fit to improve) that yielded about 150 rats. I kept one of the squirrels as a
pet and named him Charlie. Ironically, he escaped the day before I began my
journey to the release point.
The fact that I am alive and reasonably well today is no accident. It is
something that I worked for and earned. Once I determined what needed to be
done to survive, I set about accomplishing it. The initial ad adjustment was
extremely hard. There was a point when I fully expected to lose my mind. I was
physically sick and extremely weak. I felt that I couldn't cope with the
reality of being a prisoner.
This is the philosophy that I adopted. I decided to live one day at a time,
one meal at a time. I occupied my mind by daydreaming and reliving the past. I
tried to avoid thinking of the future, especially as it concerned my family.
Al all times, I attempted to be as cheerful, friendly, and sincere as I could
toward my captors. I placed a great deal of importance on being cheerful. This
was the key to maintaining my mental balance. Not only would dejection have
been unhealthy for me but it would have done serious damage to my relationship
with my captors. I wanted to be accepted by them, and to earn their friendship
and their respect. I tried to impress upon them that I was a human being and
that I expected to be treated as a human being. I tried to convince them that
I was neither superior to them nor inferior to them. What I sought was mutual
respect. Their language became my language.
There was an obvious need to resolve the question of my religion. Prior to my
capture I had been, at best, a part-time Christian. I had a very difficult
time at first finding an answer to this question. Eventually, I did find the
answer and reaffirmed my faith. I prayed for strength, wisdom and for my
family's well being. I prayed for peace. My prayers were answered.
Robert White retired from the United States Army as a Major. He and his wife
Doreen reside in Colorado.
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