DALLAS -- Ken Cordier was a U.S. Air Force pilot during the Vietnam War. In 1966 during his second tour, his plane was shot down.
“Next thing I knew, I felt this thump and the airplane kind of lurched and immediately the fire lights were flashing; all the warning lights. The airplane went out of control and into a fishtail,” Cordier recalled.
He ejected at 24,000 feet, while the North Vietnamese were still firing from the ground.
"I looked down below me, and here’s another S.A.M.! They fired two at me and the second one blew up right below me, and here's this big red and orange fire ball growing; I couldn’t believe I was headed right for it. I just had time to close my eyes and hold my breath and I was through the fire ball just like that," he said.
Cordier was captured and sent to a POW camp.
“They stripped us to our jockey shorts, they blindfolded us, tied our hands behind us, and put us in the back of a truck,” Cordier said. “Finally, they took off my blindfold and here’s three little Vietnamese guys with beanies and the red star looking very serious; and here’s my tribunal, and they said if I refuse to cooperate I will be severely punished,” he said.
After almost six years of interrogations and sub-standard living conditions, Cordier was released in March of 1973.
“Interesting thing about that, if you ever look at newsreel film about the release at the airport, nobody smiled. We got on the airplane, sat down, they raised the gate, taxi out, and we could hear the gear coming up. When the gear came up, pandemonium! Boy, we were cheering and hugging each other. It was really something,” Cordier said. “Looking back on it, I look at that experience as a speed bump in life that I had to get over -- to enjoy the blessed life I’ve had ever since. And I’ve had a wonderful life," he said.