2021 Grand Marshals will be all of our Servicemen and women of Cowan and Franklin County, and a Special Honorary Grand Marshal, Mr. William A. Robinson USAF (Retired), a former prisoner of War.
William A. Robinson was born in Roanoke Rapids, North Carolina. He enlisted into the United States Air Force after graduating high school in 1961. After several assignments within the United States and a year tour in Korea, Airman First Class William Robinson was transferred to Thailand to serve with an Air Rescue and Recovery unit in the spring of 1965.
In North Vietnam on September 20, 1965, flying aboard an HH43B helicopter during a rescue mission to save a downed F-105 pilot, AX Robinson and his crew were shot down by enemy fire. He and his crew survived the crash but were soon captured by enemy forces on the ground. He spent the next seven and half years as a Prisoner of War in North Vietnam. After his release and return to the United States in 1973, he was one of three enlisted men to receive a direct commission to Lieutenant in the United States Air Force by the President of the United States, in recognition of his conduct while being held as a Prisoner of War. In addition, he was the first enlisted man to receive the Air Force Cross, a medal for valor, second only to the Medal of Honor, our nation’s highest military award. His Air Force Cross is currently on display at the Air Force Enlisted Heritage Hall, a museum located on Maxwell-Gunter Air Force Base in Montgomery, Alabama.
He earned a Silver Star, Legion of Merit, Bronze Star, POW Medal, two Purple Hearts along with seventeen other awards and decorations. He is also honored at the Eglin Air Force Base Museum in the Vietnam Prisoner of War Display. He along with Neal Black is listed in a book titled “Honor Bound, American Prisoners of War in Southeast Asia,” as the longest-held enlisted POWs in American History. A biography of his life has been released, “The Longest Rescue,” written by Dr. Glenn Robins and is available on Amazon.com.
After serving in Vietnam, Captain Robinson completed Aircraft Maintenance Training and was assigned to the 33rd Fighter Wing Eglin Air Force Base as an Aircraft Maintenance Officer. He retired from the Air Force in 1984 after serving his country honorably for 23 years. His service includes 12 years enlisted service and 11 years as a commissioned officer. Captain William Robinson now resides in Lenoir City, Tennessee, with his wife Ora Mae.