Vietnam War Prisoner’s Package Sent Home after 40 Years

The wife of a Vietnam War veteran and prisoner of war has received the letters and personal items that she sent to her husband during the war more than 40 years ago.

Dick Dutton was with the US Air Force and fought in the Vietnam War. He was captured by North Vietnamese troops and was held as a prisoner of war for six years. Jean kept in regular contact with her husband while he was in captivity, and often sent letters and personal items to ensure they maintained contact.

The Vietnamese government has recovered some of the items Jean had sent to Dick, including a letter and a photograph of Dick which they have now sent back to Jean in the US. Other items in the package include a handmade Valentine card made by Dick’s daughter, a family photo of a dog, and another letter from Dick’s son.

Jean, who lives in Fort Walton Beach, says the items come as a surprise and shock after so many years, but that the package is priceless. Jean’s son, Russell, was notified of the package after the US Air Force got in touch with him to tell him that the package had been passed on to them by the Vietnamese government.

To give the items back to Jean and her family a special ceremony was organized at the local school, where Lieutenant Colonel Daniel Roesch, from the 24th command of the US Air Force, handed over the package.

Dick was released from captivity as part of Operation Homecoming in 1973. He retired from the US Army in 1981 and died in 1999.

The ceremony recounted how Dick had had an amazing military career, during which he was honored with two Silver Stars. He flew with what was known as the Wild Weasels squadron who flew dangerous missions over enemy territory. It was during one of those missions that Dick was shot down by the enemy in 1967, the NWF Daily News reports.

Jean was notified by the US Air Force that Dick had been shot down, but officials could not confirm whether or not he had survived. It was later that year that Jean listened in to a servicemen’s special radio broadcast whereby some prisoners of war were able to send messages to their families. Dick’s was one of those messages and it was then that Jean knew he was still alive.

Ian Harvey

Ian Harvey is one of the authors writing for WAR HISTORY ONLINE