Community Honors Vietnam Veterans
On National Vietnam War Veterans Day, which is observed in 2021 on Monday, March 29, we’re reminded of many great men and women who have served our nation. In the case of Paradise Valley Estates’ resident and retired Commander Bill Tschudy, however, calling his 20 years “service” seems a bit of an understatement.
A native of rural Southern Illinois, just outside of St. Louis, Bill graduated from Southern Methodist in Dallas. He went to work for Texas Instruments and was notified his number was coming up for the draft. “I was in the Marine Corps Reserves for three years, and then I had a chance to transfer to the Navy, and so I did,” he says. “As a kid, I liked ships and airplanes, and I could get on both if I was in the Navy.”
Once commissioned, he was designated a navigator and did his training in Corpus Christi before heading to a squadron in Virginia Beach. “The training squadron was for a brand-new airplane, the A6-A,” ha says. “It was going to be very important to the Navy and the Marine Corps.”
The A6-A squadron — the nation’s first — was deployed to Southeast Asia to the front line of the Vietnam War. “I went out on 13 missions and only came back from 12,” he says. “I was shot down over North Vietnam and taken prisoner for seven and a half years. Two thousand, seven hundred and sixty-seven days.”
For seven years, Tschudy was confined to a cell 24 hours a day. No exercise, no books, no papers to write on. To combat their isolation, he and fellow prisoners focused on maintaining their mental acuity. “We communicated by tapping a code or flashing a code, hoping that the enemy was not listening and couldn’t understand it anyway if they did,” he says.
Finally, in 1973, peace was negotiated. The prisoners left Vietnam for Clark Air Force Base and re-entered public life. Tschudy later served as a liaison officer for the Department of the Navy with the House and Senate Defense Appropriation Subcommittees, and on the faculty and staff of the Naval War College in Newport, Rhode Island. After retiring from the Navy in 1981, he enjoyed a successful business brokerage career before he and his wife Janie made the move to Northern California’s Paradise Valley Estates in 2017.
When he looks back at the complexity of his service experience, he sums it up clearly. “I enjoyed being in the military. Some people wanted to be doctors and some people wanted to be dentists,” he says. “I wanted to be in the Navy.”