Golden Honor

The second-longest held American prisoner of war, Everett Alvarez Jr. ’60, is nominated for a Congressional Gold Medal by fellow Bronco, Jimmy Panetta J.D. ’96.

Golden Honor
After Commander Everett Alvarez Jr. ’60 returned to the United States from captivity in Vietnam, he managed the Peace Corps and later founded a tech firm that contracted with the federal government. Photo courtesy Getty Images.

When Everett Alvarez Jr. ’60 finally returned from war, it was a parade-worthy event.

Alvarez was the first American aviator captured during the Vietnam War. On Aug. 5, 1964, Commander Alvarez flew a single-seat attack airplane over the north coast Vietnamese province of Quang Ninh. It was very early days in the American war effort in the country. And it would be over eight years and six months before he came back home.

His mission was part of an effort to bomb torpedo boat bases and an oil storage depot—a response to an attack on American destroyers in the Gulf of Tonkin. It cost the U.S. two planes. The pilot of the first was killed. The other was Alvarez.

Captured, he stayed in the hands of the North Vietnamese for over eight years. He became the second-longest held U.S. prisoner of war in any conflict. (Col. Floyd Thompson was the longest-serving POW, with nearly nine years in Vietnam.)

During his time as a prisoner of war, Alvarez was detained with other Americans, including late U.S. Sen. John McCain, at Hoa Lò Prison. There the men faced isolation, torture, and starvation.

Alverez became known for his efforts to keep up the resolve of fellow prisoners, determined to return with honor by remaining loyal to the U.S.

“In the face of severe mistreatment during his captivity in the Vietnam
War, including torture and starvation, Commander Everett Alvarez Jr. not only served and sacrificed, but he also set an example for fellow POWs and inspired them to return home with honor,” says Rep. Jimmy Panetta J.D. ’96 in a 2022 press release announcing he nominated Alvarez for the Congressional Gold Medal.

The award is one of many Alvarez has collected since his 1973 release. They include two Purple Hearts, a Silver Star, and Legion of Merit medals. A high school, city park, base housing, post office, and an aircraft hangar are named for him.

It’s a humbling honor, Alvarez says in the release, but one he accepts, in part, on behalf of his fellow POWs.

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