The Longest Rescue: The Life and Legacy of Vietnam POW William A. Robinson


The Longest Rescue: The Life and Legacy of Vietnam POW William A. Robinson


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On 20 September 1965 Airman First Class Bill Robinson, a helicopter mechanic, was shot down in North Vietnam while serving as a crew chief aboard a U.S. Air Force rescue helicopter. He spent more than seven and a half years in multiple North Vietnamese prison camps, including the Briarpatch and the various compounds at Cu Loc, known by the prisoners as the Zoo. For his actions in Vietnam Robinson received the Air Cross, one of only twenty-three enlisted men ever to earn that honor, and no enlisted man in American military history has been held longer as a prisoner of war than Bill Robinson. The book presents a detailed account of Robinson's early years and devotes substantial coverage to his postrelease life. In this examination a clearer picture emerges of the place of Vietnam POWs in history and memory; the personal angle better explains the difficult adjustment many POWs faced upon their return home. The book also uses the enlisted man's perspective of the Vietnam POW story and looks beyond the clichéd Hanoi Hilton narrative of captivity by focusing on the equally important but less well-known prison camps of the North.

Publication Date



The University Press of Kentucky

Place of Publication

Lexington, KY




978-0-8131-4324-8 (pdf version)


978-0-8131-4325-5 (epub version)



Bill Robinson, Vietnam POWs, Duane Martin, Briarpatch, Nguyen Kim Lai, propaganda, torture


History | Military History


Foreword by Colonel Bud Day.