When Richard Nixon took office on January 20, 1969, the American people were sharply divided over Vietnam. According to the Gallup Poll, 52 percent of the public believed it had been a mistake to send American troops to Vietnam. Nevertheless, no clear consensus existed about what the United States should do going forward. Although the public was split about the war, the American people were clearly united in support of the hundreds of American men who were being held as prisoners of war by North Vietnam or were missing in action. The plight of the Prisoners of War (POWs) was also never far from President Nixon’s mind. The return of the POWs was a critical element of the Paris Peace Accords. They were warmly and enthusiastically welcomed home, across the length and breadth of America, to their own homes…and to the White House. An All American Homecoming documents the White House salute to POWs, which remains the largest dinner ever hosted at the White House.
Former Vietnam prisoner of war Lt. Col. Robert L. Stirm is greeted at Travis Air Force Base in California by his family on March 17, 1973. Lt. Col. Stirm spent 5 ½ years in camp imprisonment. This Pulitzer Prize image was taken by Associated Press photographer Sal Veder. Courtesy of Associated Press/Wide World