He Was A Vietnam POW
James Lollar was guest speaker at the Blytheville Air Force Base Vets Group 7th annual reunion held in Blytheville
Most of those attending were United States Air Force veterans. They were welcomed by Master of Ceremonies Wally Thomas, also a veteran.
He commended the military veterans for their service to the country. Also attending were civil service retirees who had been employed at the former Blytheville /Eaker Air Force Base, and guests.
Sgt. Lollar was a Vietnam prisoner of war.
After capture, he was imprisoned in the infamous Hanoi Hilton for 98 days.
He spoke of that chapter in his life when he was taken captive after the B-52 aircraft in which he was flying was shot down by a ground missile over North Vietnam. The B-52 Stratofortress was one of two aircraft from Blytheville Air Force Base that was destroyed by missiles during an intense 11 day bombing mission in December 1972. They were part of Linebacker 11, a massive bombing mission sometimes known as the Christmas bombings.
At that time, Sgt. Lollar was a tail gunner and was the sole survivor among the crew members on his aircraft.
He told how the Stratofortress was hit by a ground missile and the pilot gave the order to "bail out."
Sgt. Lollar immediately ejected the aircraft and after exiting, he saw the plane disintegrate. After about 20 minutes of free fall and parachuting, he landed, and was taken prisoner by the North Vietnamese, while trying to escape.
Sgt. Lollar gave few details about his time of captivity but he said that "room service" was bad and he wouldn't recommend it.
One can only imagine how he felt not knowing the fate of his fellow co-crewmen.
I visited with one of the wives who lived on the Blytheville Air Force Base installation. Her husband had been a crewman on the B-52 destroyed by ground missiles.
Her husband was still listed as missing in action. On a counter in her living room was a small Christmas tree with several gift wrapped packages. She told me that the packages would remain wrapped until her husband came home.
The wife was holding their one year old baby as we talked.
Months later, the wife learned that her husband had been mortally wounded when a missile hit the aircraft he was on. His remains were returned six years later.
I talked with one of the other officer's wives whose husband was taken captive during the bombing mission. He died while in captivity. His remains were not returned to the United States until March 1974.
But there was better news for Sgt. Lollar.
He was released from captivity during Operation Homecoming on March 29, 1973.
At the time of Homecoming, I was living in Gosnell, Ark. located just outside the air base.
I was one of hundreds of wives, children, military servicemen, and civilians there to welcome home the returning warriors as they deplaned on the base runway.
Sadly, nine of the Blytheville AFB crewmen didn't return. They had been killed in action or were missing in action.
After returning from Vietnam, Sgt. Lollar completed his degree and was commissioned through Officer Training School in March 1977. He left the Air Force on Jan. 22, 1982, and started a carpentry business, building homes.
He was accompanied to the BAFB reunion by his wife, Debby, whose father was a World War II prisoner of war.
Capt. Lollar is presently National Commander of American EX-POWs.
On Veterans Day we will be honoring those men and women who serve or have served in our military.
It is also a day to remember those who paid the ultimate price for our freedom, in all wars.