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Fred Vann Cherry

Discussion in 'Roll of Honor & Memories - All Other Conflicts' started by GRW, Mar 3, 2016.

  1. GRW

    GRW Pillboxologist WW2|ORG Editor

    Oct 26, 2003
    Likes Received:
    Stirling, Scotland
    "Fred Vann Cherry was born on the 24th March 1928 in Suffolk. At this time the Jim Crow laws were in effect and racial segregation was strictly enforced. Cherry attended racially segregated schools and he graduated from Virginia Union University, a segregated college, in 1951. All his life he had been subjected to blatant racial profiling under the Jim Crow laws but, in spite of this, he felt the need to support his country and he joined the US Air Force.

    He had been posted to Korea, promoted to the rank of major, and with over 100 combat missions over North Korea under his belt. Later he served in Vietnam, where he was downed by enemy fire over Vietnam 22nd October 1965 whilst flying a F-105 Thunderbird. He recalls the incident in a story that he wrote, for a collection of war stories told by POW’s and Medal of Honor recipients, “In the process of ejection, I broke my left ankle, my left wrist, and crushed my left shoulder. I was captured immediately upon landing by Vietnamese militia and civilians.”

    His captors, recognizing that he was an African-American and, believing that he would be offended by being incarcerated with a Southern-born white man, they placed him in a cell with Porter Halyburton, a South Carolina native who had been captured five days before Cherry. These two men lived together for eight months and both claimed that the other had saved his life. Halyburton, cared for Cherry in the best possible manner, according to the circumstances in which they that they found themselves.

    They lived in revolting 10ft by 10ft cells with nothing more than a bench, the floor or a straw mat to sleep on, but Halyburton meticulously cared for Cherry’s infected wounds, cleaning them and changing the dressings. The responsibility for caring for a fellow American and a fellow airman gave Halyburton a purpose for living and the care he gave Cherry uplifted his morale and gave him the will to live.

    Halyburton, found friendship as well as inspiration from Cherry as they shared this enforced incarceration together. Cherry was an inspiration to many POW’s with his patriotism, his love for his country and his outlook on life, in spite of the racist environment in which he was raised. In the summer of 1966 the two were separated, much to the dismay of both men. They had forged an unbreakable friendship which lasted to the end of their lives.

    Col. Cheery spent 2,671 days in captivity, with a great deal of it being in solitary confinement. He wrote, “I spent 702 days in solitary confinement, with the longest period lasting 53 weeks. At one time I was either tortured or in punishment for 93 straight days.” He was released, with the first group of American POW’s to be sent home on the 12th February 1973 and was very pleased to meet up with his old friend and cell mate, Porter Halyburton, at a military hospital in the Philippines, at Clark Air Base."

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