4,500 Lawrence County Residents Served • 36 did not return

Lt. Cmdr. Robert H. Shumaker

Lt. Cmdr. Robert H. Shumaker, a Wilmington Area High School and U.S. Naval Academy graduate, trained as a Navy pilot. On February 11, 1965, his F-8 fighter plane was downed shortly after takeoff from the carrier USS Coral Sea. His back injured in his parachute landing, he was captured in a field by enemy soldiers. Loaded on an open truck, he was driven 300 miles to Hanoi. At stops in tiny villages along the way, he was paraded, stoned and abused. In a propaganda attempt, his guards brought him to a news conference with fixed bayonets, but he exhibited only defiance, and as the Tass News Agency from Dong Hoi said, “He showed no signs of remorse.”

Lt. Cmdr. Robert H. Shumaker, POW Vietnam
Lt. Cmdr. Robert H. Shumaker, POW Vietnam

The San Diego Evening Tribune commented February 15, 1965, that the correctness and courage with which the captured U.S. Navy pilot conducted himself during a press conference in North Vietnam should be a source of pride and inspiration to all Americans. The paper went on to say it is one thing to stand firm for the principles of truth and honor when one is in the company of upright and honorable men, but it is quite another thing – more demanding of character and fortitude – to stand by what is honest and true in the midst of one’s bayonet-armed enemies.

Admirals James Eckelberger and Robert Shumaker
Photo courtesy of Don Bodnar

Photo: Admirals James Eckelberger and Robert Shumaker, two New Castle natives and distinguished Vietnam veterans, pose in front of the Lawrence County Government Center. Memorial Day 1998.

Kept in leg irons in a tiny cell, he was frequently tortured. He and 10 other POWS considered resistance leaders referred to themselves as the “Alcatraz 11.” They spent nearly three years in solitary confinement. After eight years, he and 142 other Americans were released February 11, 1973. He was reunited in San Diego with his wife Lorraine and his son Grant, just six weeks old when his father was shot down. Shumaker was promoted to rear admiral in 1985 and is now retired. He holds the following decorations: Distinguished Service Medal, Silver Star (2), Legion of Merit (4), Distinguished Flying Cross, Bronze Star, Purple Heart and a number of others.


Bob Shumaker, a Vietnam veteran and former POW, shares his remarkable story of resilience in THIS EMOTIONAL LIFE (PBS air date Jan. 4-6, 2010). “Shumaker, a former POW in Vietnam, describes how he and his fellow prisoners developed a social network that was crucial to their surviving three years in solitary confinement. They succeeded by creating a tap code that allowed them to communicate through their cell walls. [This Emotional Life]”

To read more about Shumaker, visit these links:

  • Vietnam, Iraq Vets Recall War Experiences (US Department of Defense) [the DOD website is under revision. The link we were provided is no longer working: http://archive.defense.gov/news/newsarticle.aspx?id=56670]
  • Valor Awards (Military Times Hall of Valor)
  • Wikipedia listing
  • The Tap Code (PBS)
  • Podcast (Dec 11, 2019). Runtime 42 minutes. RFT 350.1 Remix Admiral Robert Shumaker

Specialist 4 Leslie H. Sabo Jr.

On May 10, 1970, Sgt. Leslie Halasz Sabo Jr. of Ellwood City was killed in Cambodia during the Vietnam War. He was awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor, the U.S. military’s highest decoration for combat valor, 42 years after his death.

photo of Specialist Four Leslie H Sabo Jr, United States Army
Photo courtesy of Rose Mary Sabo-Brown

Spc. 4 Leslie H. Sabo Jr. is shown during his tour with Company B, 3rd Battalion, 506th Infantry, 101st Airborne Division (1969).

To read more about this remarkable soldier, visit our blog post

Vietnam War’s first Lawrence County draftees called up 50 years ago

“And 1965 was the year the Vietnam War started for many Lawrence County residents and their families. On Oct. 22, the first group of Lawrence County draftees were inducted into the military through the Selective Service draft process.” [Elwood City Ledger: Nov 9, 2015]. Click here to read the complete article.

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