Operation Homecoming: The Story of LTC (Ret.) Raymond Schrump
During the Vietnam War, there were 725 U.S. Prisoners of War (POWs). Operation Homecoming was a series of diplomatic negotiations that made the return of 591 American prisoners of war held by North Vietnam possible in 1973. The operation was divided into three phases; the first phase required the initial reception of prisoners at three release sites. POWs held by the Viet Cong (VC) were to be flown by helicopter to Saigon, POWs held by the People’s Army of Vietnam (PAVN) were released in Hanoi and the three POWs held in China were to be freed in Hong Kong.
The former prisoners were to then be flown to Clark Air Base in the Philippines where they were to be processed at a reception center, debriefed, and receive a physical examination. The final phase was the relocation of the POWs to military hospitals.
The first release occurred on February 12, 1973, 48 years ago today at the time of publication.
One of the prisoners released on this day was LTC (Ret.) Raymond Schrump. Continue reading below to learn about his prison experience.
About LTC (Ret.) Raymond Schrump
LTC (Ret.) Raymond Schrump enlisted in the U.S. Army in May of 1949 at the age of 17. He served in combat during the Korean War where he was severely wounded and spent almost a year hospitalized in Japan. In 1958 he received a commission to 2nd Lieutenant of Infantry after attending Officers Candidate School (OCS) at Fort Benning, GA. He also attended Ranger and Airborne courses. During the next five years, Schrump commanded training, rifle and school support companies in the U.S. and overseas before becoming Senior Instructor of ground week of the Airborne School. In 1962, he was promoted to Captain and assigned to the US Special Forces, Fort Bragg, NC where he commanded both “A” and “B” Special Forces Detachments with the 1st, 3rd, 5th ,6th and 7th Special Forces Groups.
In 1967, after attending Officers Advanced Course and Cambodian Language Course, LTC (Ret.) Schrump was promoted to Major and was subsequently assigned to the Military Assistance Command Vietnam (MACV) as a Senior District Advisor assigned to Tay Ninh Province, Southern Vietnam. He arrived in Vietnam in January 1968 and on May 23, 1968 was taken prisoner by the Viet Cong.
Regarding being captured, Schrump said this:
“They [the Vietcong] came out of the tree line where they were hiding in spider holes. I knew it was over with then. As they put a pistol to my head, I thought of my wife and said, ‘Oh my God honey, I’m sorry.’ Then a flash bulb went off [from a propaganda photographer] and he put the pistol back in his holster.”
– LTC (Ret.) Raymond Schrump
After being held in approximately 11 different POW camps and spending 1,727 days in captivity, Schrump was finally released on February 12, 1973. He was hospitalized for five months to recover from the injuries suffered while he was a prisoner.
When asked about his imprisonment, Schrump stated:
“I spent just short of five years as a POW in Vietnam, two and a half years of which I was in total isolation, chained like an animal, starved, beaten, and tortured, tried as a war criminal and sentenced to death.”LTC (Ret.) Raymond Schrump
Shortly after being released from the hospital, he was promoted to Lieutenant Colonel, and retired from the Army on December 31, 1973. LTC (Ret.) Schrump passed away on Sunday, October 27, 2019 in Pinehurst, North Carolina at the age of 87.
LTC (Ret.) Schrump’s awards and decorations include: second award of the Silver Star, second award of the Legion of Merit, third award of the Purple Heart, Prisoner of War Medal and second award of the Combat Infantry Badge.
After retirement, LTC (Ret.) Schrump’s owned and operated a small service business in Fayetteville, NC. During the 1970’s he became very involved in getting an accounting of military personnel still listed as Missing in Action (MIA) from all wars and spoke at the National Republican Convention on behalf of POW/MIAs in 1976. Shrump, along with other former POWs in the area, regularly spoke to Soldiers attending the U.S. Army’s survival training course at the U.S. Army John F. Kennedy Special Warfare Center and School’s Survival, Evasion, Resistance and Escape (SERE) training at Camp Mackall, N.C., about his POW experience.
To learn more about what the experience was like as a Vietnam POW, we suggest reading the book, “Five Years to Freedom“, written by Nick Rowe, a Green Beret Lieutenant who was captured in 1963 in Vietnam and endured years of imprisonment.
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