POW gets wedding ring, dog tags back 44 years later
08:35 PM CST on Wednesday, November 11, 2009
By SHELLY SLATER / WFAA-TV
44 YEARS LATER
November 11th, 2009
Shelly Slater reports
A long retired Air Force colonel who spent 2,687 days in captivity in Vietnam recently was given back items he lost as a prisoner of war 44 years ago.
Hivner was captured when his plane, an F-4C Phantom aircraft, was shot down during the Vietnam War.
"My goal was to be a professional pilot, but I turned out to be a professional POW," he said.
By the time James Hivner was released after more than seven years in a North Vietnam camp, he had lost his wedding ring and dog tags, which were taken away from him. But, at a recent ceremony in North Texas, retired Navy Cmdr. Richard Tolley, once a total stranger to Hivner, returned those items.
Tolley's former son-in-law works in Hanoi, which was where a Vietnamese man asked for his help to return the items to their rightful owner in the United States.
When Tolley heard the news, he worked the phone to find Hivner.
"That's the way it worked out," he said. "It's an interesting, mysterious story isn't it? His reaction was surprise, maybe astonishment, skepticism."
To have his ring and dog tags back brought back another happy memory for Hivner.
"All the screaming and yelling and cheering, you can't imagine the exhilaration when you know you're going home," he said of his return home from Vietnam.
There was just one last thing to do once Hivner got his long-lost items back.
"It fits, ta-dah," he said slipping his wedding ring back onto his finger.