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Rescuing Lt. Col. Hambleton: A Win in a War of Losses

Evening Program with Book Signing

Evening Lecture/Seminar

Thursday, January 10, 2019 - 6:45 p.m. to 8:15 p.m. ET
Code: 1W0045
Catholic University of America
Hannan Hall, Auditorium 108
620 Michigan Ave NE, Washington, DC
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A Sikorsky helicopter was deployed early in the rescue mission (United States Air Force)

Please Note: Due to the government shutdown, this program has changed locations. See travel information at the end of the description.

At the height of the Vietnam War in 1972, the widespread feeling among Americans was that the conflict was a lost cause. At the same time, many of the troops fighting that war were questioning the meaning of their own service. The dramatic rescue of Lt. Colonel Gene Hambleton in April of that year, one of the greatest rescue missions in the history of the Special Forces, provided a galvanizing moment for both the public and the military.
The 53-year-old navigator was the only crewmember to safely eject after his aircraft was hit by a surface-to-air missile—landing in the middle of the spearhead of North Vietnam’s massive Easter Offensive. Airborne rescue attempts failed, killing 11 Americans. The urgency grew, since Hambleton carried highly classified information and knew secrets about cutting-edge missile technology. After nearly 12 days on the run, Hambleton was saved by Navy SEAL Thomas Norris and his Vietnamese guide, Nguyen Van Kiet, who managed to evade the hundreds of soldiers swarming the area.

Drawing on his new book, Saving Bravo, Stephan Talty describes the dangers and intricacies of the operation—which included guiding Hambleton, an avid golfer, to the rescue site using direction and distance codes drawn from the names of holes at several golf courses. He discusses how the against-the-odds operation, along with other military rescue missions, offered a renewed sense of purpose to troops dispirited by the ongoing war.

Talty also examines the rescuers’ motives for undertaking such a near-suicidal mission, as well as the heavy price each paid in the war: Norris in the terrible injuries he suffered, and Kiet in the loss of his homeland and his family.

Talty, an author of five nonfiction books and a novel, has written for the New York Times Magazine, Irish Times, Chicago Review, GQ, Playboy, and many other publications.

Copies of Saving Bravo (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Trade) is available for sale and signing.


  • CUA Campus Map (Hannan Hall is located at D11 on map)
  • Nearest Metro station: Brookland-CUA (Red Line)
  • If you plan to drive, parking will be available in the McMahon Lot which is right next to Hannan Hall.