Today’s #VeteranOfTheDay is Navy Veteran Joseph Charles Plumb Jr., who served as a pilot during Vietnam and was captured as a POW.
Joseph Charles Plumb Jr. was born in November 1942 in Gary, Indiana, and raised in Kansas. Upon graduation from high school, Plumb entered the U.S. Naval Academy in Annapolis, Maryland. In 1964, he graduated and began flight training, earning his Navy Wings of Gold in 1966. From there, Plumb went to Miramar Naval Air Station, now known as the Marine Corps Air Station Miramar, to conduct the first adversarial flights at the Navy school. These adversarial flights were the precursor to a new Navy flight program now known as “TOPGUN”.
In January 1967, Plumb and Fighter Squadron 114, also known as the Aardvarks, began combat missions in Southeast Asia on the aircraft carrier USS Kitty Hawk in the Vietnam War. Plumb conducted 74 successful missions over Vietnam.
On his 75th mission, five days before returning home, the enemy shot down Plumb’s F-4 Phantom jet, forcing him to eject over Hanoi, Vietnam. Once on the ground, Plumb became a prisoner of war. He spent 2,103 days eating two small rice meals a day and many days in an eight-by-eight-foot prison cell. During his nearly six years in captivity, Plumb was in six different camps and known for his underground communication. Additionally, he inspired fellow prisoners of war by being the camp chaplain for two years.
On Feb. 18, 1973, Plumb came home with 590 other Americans as part of Operation Homecoming. After a short hospitalization, Plumb left active duty and joined the Navy Reserve on Jan. 10, 1974. During his time in the Reserve, he flew A-4 Skyhawks, A-7 Corsairs and FA-18 Hornets.
Plumb retired as a captain on Oct. 1, 1991, after 31 years of service.
During his service, Plumb received a Silver Star, a Legion of Merit, a Bronze Star, two Purple Hearts, a Prisoner of War Medal, a Presidential Unit Citation, several Air Medals, a Vietnam Service Medal, a Combat Action Ribbon and a Republic of Vietnam Campaign Medal.
After retirement, Plumb wrote a book called “I’m No Hero” and became a professional motivational speaker.
Thank you for your service!
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Writer: Alexis Gillie
Editors: Nolan Lounsbery and Annabelle Colton
Fact checker: Jake Halderson
Graphic artist: Brittany Gorski