SCOUTING YESTERDAY: South Dakota war hero released from Vietnamese prison camp
This week in South Dakota history: March 30-April 4
Col. Leo K. Thorsness arrived in Sioux Falls March 30, 1973, following six years as a prisoner of war in North Vietnam. As part of Operation Homecoming, he was among the last soldiers released by the North Vietnamese on March 4.
Upon returning home, according to the The Daily Plainsman, Thorsness was surrounded by around 1,000 people as he landed at the Sioux Falls Airport. After thanking the crowd for such a wonderful response, Thorsness went on to tell them of his intentions to run for U.S. Senate.
“My ideas are very much different than Senator McGovern’s, although I respect his right to say what he believes.”
Air & Space Force Magazine reported that during an April 19, 1967, mission, Thorsness destroyed two surface-to-air missile sites before his wingman was struck by enemy fire and both airmen aboard ejected. Thorsness circled the parachutes, destroying one enemy MiG plane and sending another away awaiting a rescue mission.
Thorsness refueled and returned to the mission with only 500 rounds left. He destroyed another MiG and then outran four more drawing them away at supersonic speeds flying at 50 feet.
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