June 22, 2015 12:00 PM EDT It was early 1973, many years into the War in Vietnam but two more before the conflict fully ended, that President Richard Nixon announced that ‘peace with honor’ had been achieved. Soon after, the prisoners of war began to come home.
As seen in this exclusive clip from the upcoming episode of
CNN’s , airing Thursday at 9:00 p.m., it was an emotional homecoming. As TIME reported that February in an issue focused on the return, rather than subject the former prisoners to immediate grilling by officers, doctors and journalists, they were given escorts to guide them through the process of evaluation and acclimation. The men would be slowly reintroduced to a variety of food and brought up to speed on the cultural and social changes they had missed. (They were also issued back pay, which for some long-held prisoners came out to over $100,000.) The Seventies
But that doesn’t mean the return was easy. As Stefan Kanfer put it in an essay in that issue of TIME, the prisoners were like modern Rip Wan Vinkles: the world to which they returned was the same one they had left, but so much had changed in their absence. Here’s how Kanfer summed-up the new landscape:
Jesus freaks are gathered at the corner, mixing freely with other louder groups. They carry the perennial banners of militancy, each inscribed with the device, Liberation. Over it are the words Gay, Black, Women’s, Chicano and People’s. These are the remnants of a great tidal wave of protest that broke in Rip’s absence, still sporadically coursing through the streets and campuses. The year 1968 was at once its crest and ebb. Rip was gone when Martin Luther King was assassinated in Memphis and when 172 cities went up in smoke, when 3,500 were injured and 27,000 arrested. He was gone when Bobby Kennedy was murdered two months later, and when two months afterward, the city of Chicago seemed to become the epicenter for every disaffected demonstrator in America.
Perhaps there was something in the global ionosphere that year, something that still clings like smoke in an empty room. Without benefit of an unpopular war to trigger protest, Paris also was torn by civil disturbances; so were Mexico City and Tokyo. Even in Prague, the people rose up —only to be pushed into submission by armored tanks. Today all protest seems, somehow, to be an echo of that hopeful, dreadful time; but to the new listener there is no resonance, only the flat remnants of unassimilated rage.
Read the full essay, here in the TIME Vault: The Returned: A New Rip Van Winkle See the Most Iconic Photos of the Vietnam War An American 1st Air Cavalry helicopter airlifts supplies into a Marine outpost during Operation Pegasus in Vietnam in 1968. Larry Burrows—The LIFE Picture Collection/Getty Images The Reverend Thich Quang Duc, a 73-year-old Buddhist monk, soaked himself in petrol before setting himself on fire to himself and burning in front of thousands of onlookers at a main highway intersection in Saigon on June 11, 1963. Malcolm Brown—AP American jets drop napalm on Viet Cong positions early in the Vietnam conflict in 1963. Larry Burrows—The LIFE Picture Collection/Getty Images Hovering U.S. Army helicopters pour machine gun fire into the tree line to cover the advance of South Vietnamese ground troops in an attack on a Viet Cong camp 18 miles north of Tay Ninh, northwest of Saigon near the Cambodian border, in March 1965. Horst Faas—AP Newly-landed U.S. Marines make their way through the sands of Red Beach at Da Nang, on their way to reinforce the air base as South Vietnamese Rangers battled guerrillas about three miles south, on April 10, 1965. Peter Arnett—AP A Vietnamese mother and her children wade across a river, fleeing a bombing raid on Qui Nhon by United States aircraft on Sept. 7, 1965. Kyoichi Sawada—Bettmann/Corbis A mortally wounded comrade at his feet, Lance Cpl. James C. Farley, helicopter crew chief, yells to his pilot after a firefight in Vietnam, 1965. Larry Burrows—The LIFE Picture Collection/Getty Images A Viet Cong prisoner captured during Cape Batangan battle awaits transfer to a US POW compound in 1965. Paul Schutzer—The LIFE Picture Colleciton/Getty Images The body of an American paratrooper killed in action in the jungle near the Cambodian border is raised up to an evacuation helicopter in War Zone C in Vietnam on May 14, 1966. Henri Huet—AP American Marines during Operation Prairie near the DMZ in Vietnam in Oct. 1966. Larry Burrows—The LIFE Picture Collection/Getty Images Wounded Marine Gunnery Sgt. Jeremiah Purdie (center, with bandaged head) reaches toward a stricken comrade after a fierce firefight south of the DMZ in Vietnam in Oct. 1966. Larry Burrows—The LIFE Picture Collection/Getty Images Jan Rose Kasmir confronts the American National Guard outside the Pentagon during the 1967 anti-Vietnam march in Washington on Oct. 21, 1967. Marc Riboud—Magnum Photos South Vietnamese General Nguyen Ngoc Loan, chief of the National Police, fires his pistol into the head of suspected Viet Cong officer Nguyen Van Lem (also known as Bay Lop) on a Saigon street on Feb. 1, 1968. Eddie Adams—AP A grieving widow cries over a plastic bag containing remains of her husband which were found in mass grave. He was killed during the Tet offensive in 1968. Larry Burrows—The LIFE Picture Collection/Getty Images The battle for Saigon in 1968. Philip Jones Griffith—Magnum Photos As fellow troopers aid wounded comrades, the first sergeant of A Company, 101st Airborne Division, guides a medevac helicopter through the jungle foliage to pick up casualties suffered during a five-day patrol near Hue in Vietnam in April 1968. Art Greenspon—AP A wounded U.S. paratrooper grimaces in pain as he awaits medical evacuation at base camp in the A Shau Valley near the Laos border in South Vietnam on May 19, 1969. Hugh Van Es—AP South Vietnamese forces follow after terrified children, including 9-year-old Kim Phuc (center) as they run down Route 1 near Trang Bang after an aerial napalm attack on suspected Viet Cong hiding places on June 8, 1972. Nick Ut—AP Released prisoner of war Lt. Col. Robert L. Stirm is greeted by his family at Travis Air Force Base in Fairfield, Calif., as he returns home from the Vietnam War on March 17, 1973. Sal Veder—AP A North Vietnamese tank rolls through the gates of the Presidential Palace in Saigon, signifying the fall of South Vietnam, on April 30, 1975. AP A CIA employee (probably O.B. Harnage) helps Vietnamese evacuees onto an Air America helicopter from the top of 22 Gia Long Street, a half mile from the U.S. Embassy on Apr. 25, 1975. Corbis
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