Sat. Feb 16th, 2019

Major Norm Altenhof Chris Nelson feature on Calgary links to Vietnam Royal Canadian Air Force International Commission of Control and Supervision (ICCS), 1973 Norm Altenhof was born in Calgary in 1942. He enlisted in the Reserves in 1960, and by 1967 he was a commissioned officer. While stationed in Moose Jaw in 1973 with the Royal Canadian Air Force, he and three other Captains were told they were going to Vietnam with the ICCS. Normís role with the ICCS was as a member of one of the seven Prisoner of War exchange teams. He started his work on Feb 15, 1973, only a few days after flying into Vietnam ñ after a bomb threat before he left. Because his team was composed of Captains, they called themselves ìCaptains Canadaî. Although he was a peacekeeper, he was still operating in a war zone ñ in one incident he narrowly missed being in a boat that blew up after hitting a mine while crossing a river. He helped free Viet Cong, North Vietnamese and American prisoners ñ including one group of 907 women. The highlight of his time in Vietnam was freeing American pilots being held in Hanoi at a camp called ìthe Plantationî. Among them was the future senator, John McCain. Most members of the ICCS agree that the prisoner exchange was the most successful aspect of the mission ñ over 32,000 from both sides were freed. Altenhof was promoted to Major when he returned to Canada, and eventually retired in 1986 in Calgary. He passed away January 8, 2018. His story can be heard on the touch screen.

Calgarian helped free McCain from Hanoi hellhole

The prisoner of war camp in North Vietnam was actually nicknamed The Plantation, though Hollywood and the media would eventually change the name to the Hanoi Hilton.

As decades passed, its infamy grew, partly because one of the American pilots freed after five years of imprisonment and torture would go on to become a leader in his country.

But John McCain, the navy pilot who would become a respected senator and presidential candidate, may never have left that hellhole were it not for the actions of a Calgary soldier.

Complete Calgary Sun story

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