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March 17, 1973: Heidi Hess, 9, runs to greet her father, Air Force Maj. Jay C. Hess, at March Air Force Base following his release by the North Vietnamese. Hess was a prisoner of war  for more than five years after enemy fire downed his F-105 bomber.

After the Paris peace accords were signed in January 1973, about 600 American POWs were released by North Vietnam. The former POWs were returned home during Operation Homecoming from February through April 1973.

On the weekend of March 17-18, 60 former POWs were flown from the Philippines to three bases around the United States. Maj. Hess was one of 20 former POWs flown to March AFB.

On March 25, the following letter to the editor was run in the Los Angeles Times:

Welcome Home Picture.

The front-page picture (March 18) by Times photographer Ben Olender of Heidi Hess, 9, running into the arms of her father, returning war prisoner Maj. J. C. Hess, has truly got to be one of the greatest, most emotionally packed, spectacular scenes of what it’s all about ever published anywhere. There is no director or actor who could possibly duplicate a picture with such impact, truth, inspiration and so overflowing with love.

I do feel I am able to write with some authority, having been one of the more fortunate wives of World War II, whose MIA husband came home.

–Janet Blanchard of Newport Beach

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  1. November 11, 2010, 12:47 pm

    […] Los Angeles Times has posted a 1973 letter from a Newport Beach resident in response to this […]

  2. April 26, 2015, 9:04 am

    Great picture. It shows so much in one scene.

    By: fifi

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