Leo Twyman Profilet
Captain, United States Navy
Bracelets still express hope for war prisoners'
United States Navy Captain Leo T. Profilet was a stranger to Tonyia Lackey in 1970, when the 13-year-old Texas girl placed a band on her wrist bearing the name of the Vietnam prisoner of war. By then, the downed fighter pilot had already endured two years in solitary confinement at the notorious Hanoi Hilton.
"I thought if I wore the bracelet and prayed for him, Captain Leo would be safe," said Lackey, who was a parochial school student at the time.
By the time Profilet was reunited with his family in Palo Alto, California, three years later, Lackey's bracelet was tucked away in an apple box, affectionately stored with other special belongings. Two weeks ago, Lackey rediscovered the apple box, with the bracelet inside, in a far corner of her attic in Nederland, Texas.
"All the years since," Lackey said, "I have never stopped wondering about Captain Leo and his family."
She gave the bracelet to her cousin, whose husband searched for Profilet on the Internet. They discovered that the decorated Vietnam veteran and father of four children had been an electrical engineer for Westinghouse in Sunnyvale who enjoyed online chats with former POWs every morning and had died in January of a heart attack at age 75.
At a celebration of his life at Arlington National Cemetery in the spring, his family set out a basket to offer other keepsakes to remember him: Inside were about 75 POW bracelets sent over the years by strangers who wore Profilet's name on their wrists.
Lackey's bracelet was one of 5 million sold by a student group that launched the program on Veterans Day 34 years ago to remember the soldiers who were missing or held captive during a controversial war.
The nonprofit organization Voice in a Vital America raised more than $10 million with the bracelets to heighten consciousness about America's thousands of missing soldiers in Vietnam.
Liz Flick bought her first bracelet in 1972. When her missing soldier returned four years later, Flick replaced his band with bracelets for two other soldiers that she continues to wear.
"I guess I took my vows seriously," said Flick, a decadeslong volunteer for the National League of Families of American Prisoners and Missing in Southeast Asia. She resurrected the bracelet campaign in 1984 to help fill the many requests from people who still wanted bracelets.
A disabled Vietnam veteran in Arizona makes the stainless steel bracelets, which Flick sells for $8 apiece from her home in Ohio. Proceeds help keep pressure on the Vietnamese government to account as fully as possible for the 1,849 soldiers still missing, Flick said.
Several for-profit vendors also produce POW/MIA bracelets, Flick said. "But that seems totally wrong to me."
Over the years Flick has replaced bracelets that have broken or worn out and has filled orders from military personnel overseas, including soldiers in Iraq. "They know we'll be there for them until they come home," Flick said.
Even though the group's focus is on the Vietnam War, last year Flick filled bracelet requests for Iraq war POW Jessica Lynch and a few missing soldiers who didn't come back.
Lackey's nickel-plated band cost $2.50 in 1970 -- the price of student admission to a movie the year the seventh-grader asked her cash-strapped single mom to buy her one.
"We never went to the movies or out to eat," Lackey said. "So it was something special for my mom to buy it for me."
When a POW came home, it was customary for a person with his bracelet to return it to the soldier or his family. But the Texas teen didn't know that.
"I really thought I was the only one who had his bracelet back then," said Lackey, now a 47-year-old homemaker. "I would have loved talking to Captain Leo on the phone, telling him that although he had family and friends, there was a complete stranger, a 13-year-old, also thinking and praying for him."
Her discovery of the apple box in the attic came nine months too late for that conversation.
"Leo was always amazed by the love and remembrance for him and the other 'jailbirds,'" wife Sue Profilet said.
She is aware of at least 75 or so bracelets that were returned. "As far as I know," Sue Profilet said, "Leo may have another boxful." Bracelets continue to trickle in, she said, from well-wishers all over the country.
Sue Profilet said she will encourage Lackey
to hold on to her bracelet when they finally talk, adding: "Those people
are so special, aren't they?"
Other Personnel in Incident: William M. Hardman
(released POW); On other A6s:
Source: Compiled by Homecoming II Project with
the assistance of one or more
On August 21, 1967, four aircraft launched from the USS CONSTELLATION with the assignment to strike the Duc Noi rail yard four miles north of Hanoi. The aircraft flew from Attack Squadron 196, based on board the carrier.
The route from the coast-in point was uneventful
with the exception of some
Lieutenant Commander "J" Forrest G. Trembley,
bombardier/navigator of one
Two F105D aircraft, flown by Air Force Major
Merwin L. Morrill and 1Lt. Lynn
The division leader was hit while in the target
area and two good parachutes
The other three aircraft began their egress from the target. Surface-to-air missiles (SAMs) were in flight everywhere and the aircraft were maneuvering violently. A large weather cell separated them from the coast which precluded their egress further north than planned.
Another transmission was heard -- "Skipper get out" -- and the voice was recognized as that of Lieutenant Commander Trembley. A SAM detonated between two of the other aircraft, two parachutes and flying debris were observed.
Lieutenant Commander Trembley transmitted, "This is Milestone 2, Milestone 1 was hit, 2 good chutes, 2 good chutes." The multitude of SAMs along with deteriorating weather may be the reason for the flight to ultimately stray well north of their planned egress track. It was believed that Lieutenant Commander Trembley's aircraft was shot down in the vicinity of the Chinese boarder.
Trembley and his BN, Dain V. Scott, were placed in a Missing In Action casualty status. Their case was discussed with the Chinese government by then Congressmen Hale Boggs and Gerald Ford, with very little information being obtained.
In their navigation around the weather, one of the remaining two A-6 aircraft observed MIGS in a run out of the overcast above Lieutenant Commander Flynn's aircraft. Requests for assistance were radioed but went unanswered. The tracking of the aircraft by airborne early warning aircraft showed them crossing the Chinese border. The maximum penetration was about eleven miles. A visual search could not be conducted due to poor weather in the vicinity of the last known position.
Later that day Peking Radio reported "two U.S. A-6 aircraft were shot down when they flagrantly intruded into China airspace and one crewman was captured". Lieutenant Commander Flynn was held prisoner in China, his pilot, Commander Jimmy L. Buckley, was reportedly killed in the shoot down.
On March 15, 1973 Lieutenant Commander Flynn was repatriated to U.S. jurisdiction in Hong Kong and returned to the United States. The ashes of Commander Jimmy L. Buckley were returned by the Chinese in December 1975.
Two Air Force bombers and three of the four Navy aircraft on the strike mission on August 21, 1967 were shot down. Trembley and Scott, of the eight Americans shot down on August 21, 1967, are the only two who remain Missing in Action.
When American involvement in the Vietnam war
ended by means of peace accords
Since the war ended, nearly 10,000 reports have been received relating to Americans missing in Southeast Asia. Many authorities believe there are hundreds who are still alive, held captive. Whether Trembley and Scott could be among them is not known. What seems certain, however, is that they have been abandoned for political expediency.
SOURCE: WE CAME HOME copyright 1977
Captain and Mrs. Frederic A Wyatt (USNR Ret),
Barbara Powers Wyatt, Editor
UPDATE - 09/95 by the P.O.W. NETWORK, Skidmore,
I am 46 years old now, a career Naval Officer with 26 years of continuous active service; a Naval Aviator since 1949. In 1950-51 I flew 98 missions in Korea in the venerable A-1 "Spad", a propeller driven attack aircraft. I have a BS in Aeronautical Engineering and am a graduate of the Naval War College. Cairo, Illinois is my birthplace, where I grew up to the age of 18. Then I attended Loyola University in New Orleans before starting flight training at Pensacola, Florida. I have four children, ages 16 to 23. My oldest, a daughter, is married. My family moved from Whidby Island, Washington in 1969 (two years after I was shot down) to Palo Alto, California. So they have been there four years now, which is by far a record for us.
In 1966 I took command of Attack Squadron 196,
an A-6 Intruder squadron flying
I thank all of America for getting us home with honor. Let us not forget that the real heroes are our families who went through years of torment and anguish. And remember that the families of the men MIA are still undergoing that torment and anguish. Also, let us not forget the thousands who did not survive, nor the men who came home wounded, some crippled for life. Theirs was a far greater sacrifice than mine.
Leo Profilet retired from the United States
Navy as a Captain. He and his wife Sue resided in California until his
death January 30, 2004. He is survived his wife, two sons, and two daughters.
Burial Arlington National Cemetery, on 21 April 2004.
Leo T. Profilet, Navy veteran had endured `Hanoi
For 5 1/2 years, Capt. Leo T. Profilet was locked up in the notorious "Hanoi Hilton'' after the Navy fighter pilot's A-6 Intruder was shot down Aug. 21, 1967.
Not once did he see another American soldier during his first three years of captivity. Confined to a 7-by-7-foot cell in the North Vietnamese prison, he slept on a concrete slab next to a "honey pot,'' a crude excuse for a toilet that got emptied once a day.
Still, after three years of solitary confinement, Mr. Profilet was less than pleased to hear he was getting a roommate.
"All he could think was: 'Ohmigod, two honey pots!' '' said his wife, Sue.
The next 2 1/2 years until their release in March 1973, Leo Profilet and Jim Mehl maintained their sanity by sharing family stories and telling jokes.
"Fortunately, Leo remembered more jokes than I did,'' Mehl said. Friends and relatives are remembering that enduring sense of humor after retired Navy Capt. Leo T. Profilet, who survived the Korean War and torturous years in Vietnam, had a heart attack Jan. 30 and died at home in Los Altos. He was 75.
Leo Twyman Profilet was born July 29, 1928, in Cairo, Ill.
"Next to family,'' Sue Profilet said, "the love of Leo's life was the Navy.''
Mr. Profilet attended Loyola University in Chicago on the GI Bill. He studied at the Naval War College in Rhode Island and Naval Postgraduate School in Monterey, and he earned a master's degree in public administration from San Jose State University after he returned from Vietnam. Leo and Sue Profilet met in 1973 on a United Airlines flight from Honolulu. She was an in-flight supervisor and he was on his way home from a vacation with his kids.
The Navy captain called her two weeks later, after a stint as grand marshal in a hometown parade and a party for POWs that Ross Perot hosted in Dallas. The couple married a year later.
Mr. Profilet retired from the Navy in 1980, then worked for Westinghouse in Sunnyvale. In 1993, he retired to his home office, where he enjoyed online chats with former POWs every morning.
He was awarded a Silver Star Medal and the
Legion of Merit. He received the
But none was more important than "The Great
Dad Medal of Honor,'' which Mr.
"Dad's faith in us was solid,'' Shibayama said. ``Whenever we doubted ourselves, he always encouraged us to keep going forward.''
Leo Twyman Profilet
Survived by: His wife, Sue Profilet of Los Altos; daughters Cathy Shibayama of Seattle and Jana Scott of Apple Valley; sons Peter Profilet of Dallas and Leo Profilet Jr. of Denver; brothers Louis Profilet of New Bern, N.C., Steve Profilet of Winona, Minn., and Joe Profilet of Bloomington, Ill.; and three grandchildren.
Services: Private services, locally and at
Arlington National Cemetery, will
He's Going Away
By Jana (Peach) Profilet, Age 13, For Dad -
Photo By M. R. Patterson, 2 December 2004