These are 3 different articles about Captain Lawrence, thought you might all enjoy. Be sure to read through to the very end:
Navy Capt. Wendy Lawrence says she and her family understand the risks of spaceflight, perhaps more than most.
Her naval aviator father was shot down over Vietnam and did not return home for six years. Her grandfather, a World War II naval aviator, was shot down over the Philippines but was rescued.
Still, the 46-year-old helicopter pilot said she never fully appreciated the dangers of a space shuttle's re-entry until Columbia crashed.
This is Lawrence's fourth space flight. She flew twice to Russia's Mir station in the late 1990s and was even supposed to move in. But she was yanked from the lineup because at 5-foot-3 she was too short to fit in a Russian spacewalker's suit.
Since then, she's been nicknamed "Too Short."
Discovery Crewmember Daughter of Ex-POW
14 July, 2005
Shuttle crew member has ties to Nashville
by Amber North, The Tennessean
Naval Capt. Wendy Lawrence, one of seven crew members scheduled to ride in this week's planned flight of NASA's space shuttle Discovery, has Nashville ties.
Her father, Admiral William Lawrence, and his family lived in Music City during his younger years and was a baseball, football and basketball standout at West End High in the 1940s.
William Lawrence was shot down over Vietnam and became a prisoner of war for six years.
Before the war, he had high hopes of becoming an astronaut like his friends John Glenn and Alan Shepard. He tried out to become one of the first Americans in orbit but was disqualified when doctors discovered he had a heart murmur.
Wendy Lawrence followed in her father's footsteps and has been a naval aviator since 1982. She has made more than 800 shipboard landings.
Now 45, she has been selected to the crew of the space shuttle Discovery, the first shuttle to be launched since the Columbia disintegrated while re-entering the earth's atmosphere in February 2003. The Discovery, which was rescheduled for Saturday at the earliest, would be the fourth space flight for Lawrence.
LAWRENCE, WILLIAM PORTER
Name: William Porter Lawrence
Rank/Branch: O5/US Navy
Unit: Attack Squadron 143, USS CONSTELLATION
Date of Birth:
Home City of Record: Nashville TN
Date of Loss: 28 June 1967
Country of Loss: North Vietnam
Status (in 1973): Released POW
Other Personnel in Incident: James W. Bailey (released POW)
CDR William P. "Bill" Lawrence was the commanding officer of Attack Squadron
143 onboard the USS CONSTELLATION. On 28 June 1967, Lawrence and his
backseater, LTJG James W. Bailey, flew a mission over Nam Dinh, North
Vietnam in their F4B Phantom. The aircraft was hit by enemy fire and the
crew was forced to eject. Both Lawrence and Bailey were captured by the
It was not yet known that POWs were being tortured in captivity in Vietnam,
but Lawrence was to endure five consecutive days of misery in the hands of
his captors. By the time Lawrence and Bailey reached Hanoi, other POW
officers were devising their own code of conduct that specifically applied
to the problems they encountered as prisoners of war.
For the next six years, Lawrence and Bailey were held prisoner in the Hanoi
prison system. Finally, on February 18, 1973, Bailey was released, and on
March 4 Lawrence was released. The two were among 591 Americans that were
released in Operation Homecoming in the spring of 1973.
Since the war ended, nearly 10,000 reports relating to Americans missing,
prisoner or unaccounted for in Southeast Asia have been received by the U.S.
Government. Many authorities who have examined this largely classified
information are convinced that hundreds of Americans are still held captive
today. These reports are the source of serious distress to many returned
American prisoners. They had a code that no one could honorably return
unless all of the prisoners returned. Not only that code of honor, but the
honor of our country is at stake as long as even one man remains unjustly
held. It's time we brought our men home.
James W. Bailey was promoted to the rank of Lieutenant during his captivity.
William P. Lawrence remained in the Navy and attained the rank of Vice
SOURCE: WE CAME HOME copyright 1977
Captain and Mrs. Frederic A Wyatt (USNR Ret), Barbara Powers Wyatt, Editor
P.O.W. Publications, 10250 Moorpark St., Toluca Lake, CA 91602
Text is reproduced as found in the original publication (including date and
UPDATE - 09/95 by the P.O.W. NETWORK, Skidmore, MO
WILLIAM P. LAWRENCE
Captain - United States Navy
Shot Down: June 28, 1967
Released: March 4, 1973
I was shot down during an early morning bombing mission. Hours thereafter I
had my first interrogation session. I had been captured by a band of stick
swinging peasants who turned me over to the armed citizenry. The militia
decided that we would run the entire distance to the outpost where I would
be transported to Hanoi. we ran two abreast with the peasants and tattered
clothed children running along poking and prodding me with their sticks. I
had always kept myself in good physical condition, but my guard was in his
twenties and I was in my late thirties and did not have the endurance of a
younger man. It's hard for a person to believe, but I was literally running
for my life. We ran for an hour or two, we finally reached the outpost, I
was blindfolded and handcuffed, placed in a truck for an unbelievably
uncomfortable trip to Hanoi. Upon my arrival I was put on the floor in a
room, tied and blindfolded. I was left for about an hour. Then in came the
famous Bug who was in charge of my interrogation. He had probably the worst
personality I had ever encountered in my life and had a great deal of hatred
for Americans and delighted in his role of being in charge of the camp's
torture program. When I refused to answer their questions I was given to
understand that I was a criminal and would be treated as such. It wasn't
long before the torture session started. A professional jailer before the
war, old Strap and Bar, also known as Pig Eye, soon went to work on me. The
flesh was literally stripped from my ankles from writhing in the irons. I
still carry the cigarette burns on my arms which are the result of a torture
session. We were not only tortured for information, but also to visit with
peace delegations. If we refused, we were tortured and if one finally
consented to do so, he would be tortured before hand to be certain he said
the right things. You could never trust a Communist. I've never met one who
would tell you the truth.
Time passed slowly. We learned to plan our day around thinking. I went
through my complete life detail by detail three times. However, when we were
allowed to have roommates we would find out what each man knew and then
exchange information. We were only allowed to speak in a whisper. One of my
specialty areas is the Civil War I shared this information. One roommate
knew a lot about the repair of automobiles he taught us auto maintenance;
another was proficient in Spanish and another in French. The North
Vietnamese would not give us any writing materials but it wasn't long before
we had our own supply. Pencils were made out of toothpaste tubes. We learned
to sharpen the points of bamboo sticks and use stolen Vietnamese medicine or
ink. Ink can be made by mixing charcoal with soap.
The days were easy to determine because we were not permitted to wash on
Sunday. Our "baths" were taken from something like an old horse trough and a
can was given to you to pour cold water over you. This outdoor facility was
the one used in winter and summer.
Now that I am home I wish I could bring Bug back to the United States and
show him how distorted his views of our country really are. I would like
to give him a grand tour of the United States and show him that America is
humane and tries to do what is right.
My main message that I wish to convey is my deep feeling of gratitude to the
American people for their many kindnesses to the returned POWs for their
constant concern and prayers during our captivity and for their magnificent
efforts to bring us home. We shall be eternally indebted to the people of
this wonderful country.
William Lawrence retired from the United States Navy as a Vice Admiral. He
and his wife Diane reside in Maryland.
The Dad: Bill Lawrence, fighter pilot, Vietnam POW
The Daughter: Laurie Lawrence, assistant professor of emergency medicine,
Vanderbilt University Medical Center
One day in 1972, during her junior year in high school in Encinitas, Calif.,
Laurie Lawrence realized her father was never coming home again. Five years
earlier, Navy Capt. Bill Lawrence had been shot down over North Vietnam, a
fighter pilot whose luck had run out on his 76th mission.
"They had a father-daughter event at school," she says, "and I remember it
just hitting me like a ton of bricks that I didn't have a dad and wasn't
ever going to have a dad. In my mind, he was dead. It was the first time it
ever really seemed permanent."
On a June afternoon in 1967, Laurie had learned he'd been shot down when a
friend's mother, rather than her own, picked her and some friends up after
an afternoon sporting event. "Where's my mom?" she asked the friend's
mother, who remained strangely silent.
"I knew what it meant when the official car was at our house," says Laurie,
who had grown up with an older brother and younger sister on and around
military bases. Her mother knew the life as well--her own father had been
shot down in the Philippines during World War II. "It was so typical of my
mother--she was real matter-of-fact. She told us, 'Your father's been shot
down and they don't know if he's alive.' We weren't allowed to cry. It was
just, 'That's how it is. There's nothing to cry about, so we're just going
to carry on.' She was just like the mother in Pat Conroy's The Great
For months there were mixed signals. The family received a stilted letter,
ostensibly from her father. Laurie's mother declared it a fake and said he
probably wasn't coming home. She eventually began dating someone else and
finally remarried. Laurie let herself hope for a time that her dad was
returning, but as the war in Vietnam dragged on, that hope faded and finally
died for good by the time she turned 16.
When Laurie was a small child, Bill Lawrence was a test pilot at the
Patuxent River Naval Air Station in Maryland--"perhaps the ablest...Pax
River was to produce," according to James A. Michener in his book Space. It
was high praise, since Lawrence's colleagues included the core of the future
astronaut crew--Alan Shepard, Wally Schirra, Pete Conrad, Jim Lovell. In
fact, it was only a minor congenital heart valve problem that kept Bill
Lawrence, a star scholar/athlete at Nashville's West High, from an almost
certain future as one of the first astronauts.
He rose through the ranks, alternating long periods at sea with work at
bases in Florida. He flew in the missing man formation at the funeral of
President John F. Kennedy. Laurie saw him as a strict but fair
disciplinarian who wanted to pass on life's lessons as he saw them. "We were
expected to do our best, to give something back to society," she says. "We
weren't here just to take a free ride."
By the mid-'60s, Vietnam was heating up and Capt. Lawrence, prompted by his
own sense of duty, wanted to go. He got his wish, becoming a squadron leader
in the Pukin' Dogs, a legendary group of fighter pilots. Then, on June 28,
1967, after four hours' sleep aboard the carrier Constellation, he led a
35-jet bombing raid on Haiphong. When his F-4 Phantom was hit, he could have
turned and reached the safety of the Gulf of Tonkin, but he decided to take
the hard-to-control plane through the rest of his mission and try to knock
out North Vietnamese who might otherwise shoot down more American jets.
In late 1972, Laurie lived with her mother, stepfather, sister and two
stepbrothers near San Diego. She had gone through a period of depression and
fought with her stepfather, chafing at his attempts to discipline her. No
one talked about her father. Then one day in 1973, the world turned upside
down. "It was one of those really beautiful days in January," she says. "I
was out riding my bike with some friends when my stepdad came down the road
in his car and said, 'They just announced that your father's going to come
home. You need to go home right now.' He looked like someone had hit him
with a wet fish."
Laurie was just as shocked. "You know how you pinch yourself to see that
you're not dreaming? That's how I felt. I knew there was going to be both
happiness and sadness. I thought for a while that my mother would go back to
Her father returned in March with the scores of other prisoners who had been
held in the infamous Hoa Lo prison--the Hanoi Hilton. Capt. Lawrence had
been there nearly six years, enduring seemingly endless torture and solitary
confinement. Laurie and her siblings met him in Memphis. "I remember hugging
him and he was real, real thin, but it was weird that there was really
somebody there," she says. "To me, he'd come back from the dead."
She would get to know him again during the ensuing months and years,
changing her college plans from UCLA to Vanderbilt to be nearer to him. But
no matter how closely they drew together, there was one part of his life he
wouldn't share with her. "He'll tell me blow by blow about the operations
he's had since he's been back," she says, "but he doesn't tell me anything
about Vietnam, about being tortured, unless it's really light--maybe talking
about the nicknames they'd given the guards and how they teased them."
He and Laurie's mother talked once after his return, but there would be no
reconciliation. The family returned to the business of living out his creed
of giving back. Laurie became a physician, and she currently oversees the
night shift in Vanderbilt Medical Center's ER. Her sister Wendy became an
astronaut, her brother Bill Jr. an information technology manager of the
Americas Region with Edison Mission Energy.
Capt. Lawrence remarried and got on a career fast track, becoming a rear
admiral and deputy chief of naval operations. Laurie has since made peace
with her stepdad, "apologizing for some of the less than lovely things I
said when I was 14."
In recent years, Bill Lawrence has faced another battle, working through the
effects of a stroke. "He wasn't supposed to survive, and then he did," says
Laurie. "I think he came out of it saying, 'I'm going to beat this.' We
thought he might get back to normal, but it was a devastating stroke and
it's a miracle he's gotten as far as he has."
His attitude in the face of this latest adversity continues to teach
lessons. "I think he's always been a guidepost to us," Laurie says. "I think
of him as an overcomer. One thing I've learned from my dad is that we can go
a lot farther than we think we can. I learned just to persevere and hold to
love and duty. I've always been so thankful I can be proud of who my dad is.
That's such a gift." [1 edits; Last edit by CC1 at 13:39:39 Thu Aug 4 2005]