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Philip E Smith

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Name  Philip Smith

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Philip Eldon Smith (born October 15, 1934) is a former United States Air Force fighter pilot who was held captive in China for seven and a half years.


Early life

Smith was born in Roodhouse, Illinois. After attending high school he completed a special two year curriculum at the Institute of Aviation, University of Illinois.

USAF career

He joined the United States Air Force and in June 1957, graduated from Air Force Pilot Training. He later flew the F-86F, the F-100 and then the F-104. He volunteered for combat duty and in September 1965 was flying the F-104C with the 436th Tactical Fighter Squadron based at Da Nang Air Base, South Vietnam.


On 20 September 1965 Captain Smith was flying his F-104C #56-883 on a mission to escort an EC-121 over the Gulf of Tonkin when due to equipment failure and incorrect navigational commands he strayed into Chinese airspace over Hainan. His aircraft was intercepted and shot down by two Shenyang J-6 fighters of the People's Liberation Army Naval Air Force. Captain Smith ejected successfully and was captured by PLA forces.

He was first taken to Canton for interrogation and then later transferred to Peking. Most of his captivity was spent in solitary confinement; however, he did meet John T. Downey and Richard Fecteau both of whom were CIA agents captured in 1952.


Due to improving US-China relations following President Richard Nixon's historic 1972 visit to China, Captain Smith was released on 15 March 1973, crossing the land border into the British Crown Colony of Hong Kong.


Smith returned to USAF duty and retired with the rank of Colonel in December 1996.


Philip E. Smith Wikipedia