The Last POW

Blue Angels remember CDR Harley Hall — the last POW of the Vietnam War

The United States Navy Flight Demonstration Squadron Blue Angels remembered the loss of their former flight leader 50 years ago. CDR Harley Hall was shot down over South Vietnam on the last day of the war.

CDR Hall and his Radio Intercept Officer (RIO) LCDR Philip A. Kientzler catapulted off the deck of the U.S.S. Enterprise on 27 January, 1973. Flying over the Quang Tri Province, their F-4J Phantom took heavy anti-aircraft fire. Hall attempted to fly the damaged aircraft towards the sea but when the engine caught fire, the two men were forced to eject over territory controlled by the Viet Cong and North Vietnamese army.

Their wingman, Lt. Terry Heath, saw both men land safely and escape into the jungle. Emergency beepers were heard throughout the night but there was no radio contact and the search was called off.

Hall and Kientzler launch F-4J Phantom (Taproom 113) on fateful mission

North Vietnam notified U.S. officials that the RIO had been captured but Hall’s fate was unclear. Kientzler, told by his captors that Hall was killed and buried in a trench grave, was returned during Operation Homecoming (February-April 1973), but Hall’s name was missing from Hanoi’s official records.

Kientzler recalled that both men safely ejected and landed in a clearing about 100 yards apart. Kientzler, wounded by heavy ground fire, noted that Hall seemed uninjured as they ran towards the jungle for cover.

The Defense Intelligence Agency and National Security Agency had intercepted North Vietnamese radio transmissions that confirmed Hall’s capture.

He had been transferred to the custody of two different brigades while enroute to Hanoi where he may have been interrogated by the KGB, and paraded through the streets as “the famous Blue Angel”.

Hall was well-known as the Blue Angels had completed an Asian tour before he was deployed to Vietnam as the Executive Officer of fighter squadron VF-143 aboard the U.S.S. Enterprise.

Seen in this image (L), Hall poses with children while on tour of the Philippines.

Initially, Hall was listed by the Department of Defense as Missing in Action. However, due to the compiled intelligence, his status was changed to Prisoner of War, and he was retroactively promoted to the rank of Captain.

In 1980, Hall’s status was changed to “presumed” Killed in Action.

In 1993, Hanoi returned three teeth and bone fragments that were identified as the remains of CDR Hall.

Mary Lou Hall, Harley’s wife, insisted that the partial remains were not evidence that her husband was deceased. Examination by an independent forensics expert suggested that the last POW of the Vietnam War may have lived in captivity for years after his capture.

In honor of CDR Hall and his family, the Blue Angels invited Harley Hall II to fly along with Blue Angel #7 LCDR Thomas Zimmerman.

Harley Hall II receives pre-flight instructions
Harley Hall II with LCDR Zimmerman
Capt. Harley Hall stenciled on an F/A-18 Hornet
Harley H Hall memorial at the Harley H Hall Building in Vancouver, WA
CDR Harley Hall’s Blue Angels Phantom, 1970-71
Blue Angels Diamond formation, 1971 (F-4 Phantoms)
Blue Angels Delta formation, 1971 (F-4 Phantoms)
CDR Harley Hall greets public at air show
CDR Harley Hall MIA/POW bracelet
“Harley Hall” etched on Vietnam Veterans Memorial

Acknowledgements: Images courtesy of United States Navy Blue Angels and United States Department of Defense

Copyright © In Pics and Words


3 thoughts on “The Last POW

    1. CDR. Hall’s fate continues to be an open wound that has caused the family terrible grief.

      Mary Lou Hall was permitted to review all of the classified documents related to her husband which confirmed his capture and status as a POW.

      However, she was not permitted to take notes or photocopy the material; and the government refused to grant her petition to release the documents under the Freedom of Information Act. In any case, the DOD claimed that the files didn’t exist.

      Upon her request, the partial remains were examined by an independent forensics expert. The teeth, for example, showed years of decay as compared to Hall’s dental record in 1973. The bone fragments indicated malnutrition thus suggesting that CDR. Hall survived a number of years in captivity.

      Mrs. Hall said,

      “Yes, my children and I want to know what happened. I don’t believe he’s still alive today, and frankly, I hope he isn’t. The way things turned out, I’d prefer that he was killed on the spot. But what’s most important is to know that Harley is remembered and honored with the truth that he’s unaccounted for, rather than the unconscionable lies the government has told for so long.”

      Defense Department records show that 1,579 service personnel remain missing in Vietnam.

      Liked by 1 person


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