2 2 7 DAYS AS PRISONER WAR
Morning Pointe was privileged to know 76-year-old resident Bill Gauntt, a decorated U.S. Air Force pilot and former POW from Texas who successfully completed 129 missions during the Vietnam War and trained U.S. Air Force cadets how to survive the harshest conditions. In his later years, Bill was a resident at Morning Pointe of Chattanooga at Shallowford (TN) after relocating to the area to be closer to his family. Ever a humble man, many people may not know that Bill Gauntt played a big part in U.S. military history.
On Captain Gauntt’s 130th mission in 1968, his plane was hit by enemy fire as part of the Tet Offensive—a major escalation and one of the largest battles of the Vietnam War—causing him to have to eject from the aircraft. He was captured and taken prisoner.
Enduring over 200 days in captivity, Gauntt was well-prepared for survival by the U.S. Air Force, but he also relied on skills honed during his elementary school scouting days. “I knew that I could overcome anything that they could throw at me,” Gauntt said. “And I had faith that I would survive captivity.”
Spending days in captivity only strengthened Mr. Gauntt’s resolve to continue to fight for Americans’ freedoms, and after 27 years in the U.S. military, he says he learned how to deal with difficult situations in civilian life. “The first thing we always taught in survival training was that you have to have the will to survive. The will to get back home.” He later would receive the military’s highest award for heroism in the sky three times—The Distinguished Flying Cross.
In 2018, Morning Pointe co-founder and president Greg Vital along with a group from the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga accompanied Mr. Gauntt for a special overseas trip to Vietnam, visiting the site where Bill’s plane was shot down. “It was a true honor to accompany my friend and American hero, Bill Gauntt, to Vietnam in 2018 and experience such a hallowed and historic site,” said Vital. “I’ll never forget holding the pieces of wreckage in my hand, staring out at the site of the crash, knowing what Bill went through becoming a prisoner of war and surviving what no human should ever have to go through. Morning Pointe has the utmost respect for veterans like Bill Gauntt, standing up for American freedoms and liberty. May he rest in peace.”
Many heroes like Mr. Gauntt call Morning Pointe communities across the Southeast home, where they are honored not just on Veterans Day, but every day. Events throughout the year celebrate and recognize their achievements. We are so grateful to have these veterans and will continue to honor their sacrificial service to our country for generations to come.