Looking Back on a Triumphant Return Home

42 years ago,  Rep. Sam Johnson returned to the arms of his high school sweetheart after nearly seven years of captivity and torture in North Vietnam.

Congressman Johnson served 29 years in the United States Air Force, in both the Korean and Vietnam Wars. But in April 1966 during a night combat mission with the 433rd Fighter Squadron “Satan’s Angels,” he was shot down over North Vietnam and captured. He spent the next seven years of his life as a POW in the infamous “Hanoi Hilton” Hao Lo Prison.

After being labeled a “diehard” along with 10 other prisoners of war, Congressman Johnson was placed in solitary confinement for 42 months. Communicating through “tap code,” the American POWs continued to frustrate and thwart their North Vietnamese captives.

Looking back, Rep. Johnson praises the grace and mercy of God for giving him the strength he needed — and the support of 10 other American POWs:

George “Cagney” Coker
Jeremiah Denton
Harry “Ichabod” Jenkins
George McKnight
Jim Mulligan
Nels Tanner
Howie Rutledge
Bob Shumaker
Jim Stockdale
Ronald Storz

Yet despite after what Rep. Johnson calls seven years of “hell on earth,” he still calls his wife Shirley the “real hero.” She never once gave up — and was waiting for him at Sheppard Air Force base, in Wichita Falls, Texas on February 17, 1973.

Rep. Johnson was awarded two Silver Stars, two Legions of Merit, the Distinguished Flying Cross, on Bronze Star with Valor, two Purple Hearts, four Air Medals, and three Outstanding unit Awards.

We are honored to have Congressman Johnson  serving now in the House — and thank him for his service on this anniversary of his return. His sacrifice reminds us of the POWs and MIAs who are aren’t with us — today we honor them and their memory.