Charles G. Boyd is the only prisoner of war from the Vietnam conflict to attain the rank of General. Born in Rockwell City, Iowa in 1938, Boyd entered the U. S. Air Force in April 1959 through the Aviation Cadet Program, which allowed him to complete flight and officer training simultaneously prior to completing an undergraduate degree. Upon graduation from pilot training at Greenville Air Force Base, Mississippi in July 1960, Boyd was assigned to fly the F-100 Super Sabre. Over the next five years, he completed assignments in Arizona, Nevada, the Philippines, California, Kansas, Turkey, and Okinawa and transitioned to the F-105D Thunderchief all-weather fighter-bomber. In November 1965 he was reassigned to the 421st Tactical Fighter Squadron at Korat Air Base, Thailand. On 22 April 1966, during his 105th combat mission, Boyd piloted his F-105 through a dangerous second run on a surface-to-air missile site near Hanoi. After evading several missiles, his aircraft received a direct hit from anti-aircraft fire, forcing him to eject over North Vietnam. He was captured and taken to the notorious Hanoi Hilton. Over the next 2,488 days he would be subjected to isolation, indoctrination, interrogation, and torture, as well as the infamous Hanoi march, during which he and dozens of his fellow prisoners were paraded through a throng of tens of thousands of angry North Vietnamese civilians. He was released on 12 February 1973 to a different world. During his nearly seven years in captivity, Neil Armstrong walked on the moon, Robert F. Kennedy and Martin Luther King Jr. were assassinated, the first seven Super Bowls were played, and the Beatles broke up. Boyd – nearly 35 years old when released – missed it all. Upon returning to the U. S., Boyd was offered three years to complete his degree at the university of his choice. Having learned to speak Spanish via the tap code, he embarked on a path leading to bachelor and master degrees in Latin American Studies at the University of Kansas. After completing his degrees at Kansas and a subsequent student assignment at Air War College, Boyd excelled in numerous staff assignments in Italy, Washington D. C. and West Germany. In 1984, he was promoted to Brigadier General and in 1986 was named Vice Commander of 8th Air Force. After another tour at Headquarters Air Force, Boyd took command of Air University, where he oversaw Air War College, the School of Advanced Airpower Studies, Squadron Officer School, Air Command and Staff College, and consequently the Gathering of Eagles program. In 1992, he was promoted to a fourth star as the Deputy Commander-in-Chief of U. S. European Command. General Boyd’s career came to a close in 1995 after 36 years of military service. He was awarded the Air Force Cross, Distinguished Service Medal, Silver Star with oak leaf cluster, Legion of Merit with two oak leaf clusters, Distinguished Flying Cross, Bronze Star Medal with V device and two oak leaf clusters, and Purple Heart with two oak leaf clusters during his long and distinguished career. A command pilot with more than 4,000 hours in numerous military and civilian aircraft, Boyd continues to fly his beautifully restored T-34 to this day. The General lives in Virginia with his wife Jessica Matthews and serves as the Chairman of the Center for the National Interest, a public policy think tank in Washington, D.C.
Years Honored: 2016
Aircraft/Specialty: Republic F-105 Thunderchief
General Charles G. Boyd is the only Prisoner of War from the Vietnam conflict to achieve the rank of General. On 22 April 1966, during his 105th combat mission, Boyd piloted his F-105D Thunderchief through a dangerous second run on a surface-to-air missile (SAM) site near Hanoi. After evading multiple SAMs, his aircraft received a direct hit from anti-aircraft fire, forcing him to eject over North Vietnam. He was captured and held prisoner at the notorious Hanoi Hilton for 2,488 days before his release on 12 February 1973.