“I was a fifty-two-year-old U.S. Army lieutenant colonel returning to Vietnam thirty-one years after I had been there as a kid in the U.S. Navy during the war.” Those are the opening words of Thomas T. Smith’s Until They Are Home: Bringing Back the MIAs from Vietnam: A Personal Memoir (Texas A&M University, 148 pp., $29.95), a concise, readable account of the author’s 2003-04 tour of duty as the head of the U.S. MIA Office (Detachment 2) in Hanoi.
Smith traveled widely during his duties, including to Cambodia and Laos. His book includes plenty of photos of the places he visited, including recovery sites. There are three pictures of the first repatriation ceremony Smith conducted. It took place on September 30, 2003, on the tarmac of Hanoi’s Noi Bai Airport in the shadow of a USAF C-17 jet transport plane.
On hand for the solemn, silent occasion were members of the Joint Task Force-Full Accounting staff from Hawaii, representatives of the Vietnamese government, and a group of VVA’s Veterans Initiative Task Force members, including then VVA National president Tom Corey–the event’s “special guest of honor, ” Smith says.