Display will be named in pilot's honor
By Kenneth Fine
Published in News on February 12, 2009 1:46 PM
Col. Jim Hiteshew poses in front of his F-105 Thunderchief fighter jet during the Vietnam War. Hiteshew was shot down during a mission in 1967 and held as a prisoner of war by the North Vietnamese for six years.
A ceremony will be held on Seymour Johnson Air Force Base Friday afternoon to honor one of the 4th Fighter Wing's most storied war heroes.
And once it is over, the F-105 aircraft static display recently erected in the base's Heritage Park will forever stand in his memory.
Retired Air Force Col. James Hiteshew, a former member of the 335th Fighter Squadron who spent six years in a North Vietnamese prison after being shot down on a combat mission, died in February 2006 at age 75.
But friends and family members won't ever forget the sacrifices he made during a career in the service.
Hiteshew was quickly captured after his fighter jet was shot down over Vinh Phu Province in March 1967.
He spent months in a body cast after suffering two broken legs and a broken arm and was subjected to torture and intense interrogation for months.
A Pikeville resident, he stayed in the Air Force until 1979 and remained an avid flyer until his death.
Hiteshew flew 74 combat missions in the F-105 Thunderchief during the Vietnam War and was awarded the Silver Star, the Distinguished Flying Cross, the Bronze Star of Valor, the Legion of Merit, the Purple Heart and more than seven Air Medals for his work.
He was on his 75th on March 11, 1967, when his jet was shot down.
Hiteshew once described being captured as a "surreal experience," almost as if he were watching someone else going through the ordeal. He said he was beaten repeatedly and tied to a pole where Vietnamese villagers pelted him with rocks for hours -- and was kept in a 12-foot-square cell, where he learned to stay in touch with other prisoners through a system of codes tapped on cell walls.
And after Friday's ceremony, officials hope no 4th airman will ever forget his saga.
-- Managing Editor Dennis Hill contributed to this report.
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