Colonel Bernard L. Talley, Jr.
Former Mount Graduate and POW
Bernard L. Talley Jr. was born on February 23, 1939, in Baltimore to parents Emma Louise Sheely and Bernard Leo Talley, Sr., and was the youngest of his parents’ three children.
Talley was a graduate of Loyola High School, Towson, and was graduated in the Mount Saint Mary’s University Class of 1962 with a bachelor’s degree in economics before entering U.S. Air Force Officer Training School on June 27, 1962.
Talley was commissioned as a 2nd Lieutenant in the U.S. Air Force at Lackland Air Force Base in Texas, according to Veterantributes.org, on September 25, 1962, and served as a supply officer at McCoy Air Force Base, Florida, until entering Undergraduate Pilot Training in April 1964.
Veterantributes.org also reported that he was awarded his pilot wings at Laredo Air Force Base, Texas, in May 1965, and then flew F-4 Phantom II fighters with the 25th Tactical Fighter Squadron (TFS) at Eglin Air Force Base, Florida. In April 1966, at the age of 26, Talley volunteered to serve in Vietnam as an F-4C Phantom II pilot.
Talley flew 76 combat missions with the 433rd Tactical Fighter Squadron out of the Ubon Royal Thai Air Force Base in Thailand, before being forced to eject over North Vietnam on September 10, 1966, according to Veterantributes.org. The Dallas Morning News reported, in his 2022 obituary, that his plane was struck by a missile, and further noted that Talley’s Flight Commander, Douglas “Pete” Peterson, who was also in the plane, was also forced to eject.
Pownetwork.org reported that Tally’s target for the mission in which his plane was shot down was a bridge and ferry complex near Hanoi, and, as they were departing the strike zone, the Phantom was hit by a surface-to-air missile (SAM). “Fortunately,” according to Pownetwork.org, “It was not a direct hit, thus neither the pilot nor Talley were injured by the missile’s blast. The aircraft, however, was severely damaged. Both engines were rendered inoperative, and the entire aft portion of the aircraft was on fire.”
Apparently, Talley and Peterson knew they could not make it to a safe area where they stood a chance of being rescued and decided to eject.
The Dallas Morning News reported that Talley had managed to evade capture for one day before being taken prisoner on September 11, further noting that he was the 125th American airman captured.
Talley subsequently spent the next six-and-a-half years in captivity. The Dallas Morning News stated, “Talley’s parents would not know he was KIA (Killed Action)/MIA (Missing in Action) or a Prisoner of War for three years and one day.” He was released along with Douglas “Pete” Peterson during Operation Homecoming on March 4, 1973. Talley subsequently retired from the Air Force as a Colonel.
For bravery demonstrated in Vietnam during a bombing raid in Vietnam on September 3, 1966, seven days before his plane was shot down, Talley was awarded the Silver Star. The citation is quoted here in full (militarytimes.com):
The President of the United States of America… takes pleasure in presenting the Silver Star to First Lieutenant Bernard Leo Talley, Jr., United States Air Force, for gallantry in connection with military operations against an opposing armed force while serving as a Pilot of the 433d Tactical Fighter Squadron, Ubon Royal Thai Air Base, Thailand, in action over North Vietnam on 3 September 1966. On that date, Lieutenant Talley conducted a night strike on a vital supply and storage area of the hostile force in a highly defended area. With complete disregard for his own safety, Lieutenant Talley continued the attack in the face of intense defenses to deliver ordnance on the target, completely destroying it. By his gallantry and devotion to duty, Lieutenant Talley has reflected great credit upon himself and the United States Air Force.