The Longest Rescue by Glenn Robins

The Longest Rescue: The Life and Legacy of Vietnam POW William A. Robinson, which came out in 2013, is now available in paperback (University Press of Kentucky, 296 pp., $19.95). In it, the historian Glenn Robins tells the story of Bill Robinson, the former crew chief on a USAF Vietnam War rescue helicopter, who wound up being the longest-held enlisted POW in U.S. military history.

Robins “brings a scholarly treatment to his subject’s time as a Vietnam War POW, as well as the rest of his life,” our reviewer John Mort wrote on these pages.

Robinson’s capture resulted in the iconic photo of him (on the cover). The photo of Robinson—who gave the Keynote Speech at Vietnam Veterans of America’s 2015 National Convention in July—and “the guerrilla girl” had great propaganda value for the North Vietnamese. The photo, however, was entirely staged and the girl knew no more about what was going on than Robinson did.

Robins, as Mort wrote, is “a thorough writer,” who tells “how Robinson and the young woman, Kim Lai, met again in 1995 when a Japanese documentary crew brought them together. They had a peaceful, cordial meeting, and it might even be said that they struck up a friendship.”

Glenn Robins, who is a history professor at Georgia Southwestern State University, also weaves in the stories of other Vietnam War POWs. He notes that Bill Robinson was well liked by the other prisoners. As Mort put it, Robinson “was cheerful, practical, and had a good sense of humor. A gifted mechanic, he kept things running. These characteristics would describe him in civilian life, too.”

—Marc Leepson

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