Major Stanley Horne

Provided/Horne Family

Bracelets Of Grace: The Vietnam War Story Of Stanley Horne

November 11, 2018 - 9:00 am

By Dave Berner

CHICAGO (WBBM NEWSRADIO) -- In January of 1968, U.S. Air Force Major Stanley Horne was listed as missing-in-action (MIA) after his fighter-bomber was shot down over North Vietnam.

Soon afterward, his name was one of the many engraved on a POW-MIA bracelet. Horne's story shows not only the impact the bracelets have on the families of the missing, but also how Americans struggled with the war and tried to heal the scars it left behind.

It has been nearly 50 years since the very first POW-MIA bracelet was made and distributed. The iconic bracelets had a humble beginning at the height of the Vietnam War. This documentary focuses on the lasting impact of those bracelets told through the story of one U.S. Air Force pilot, Major Stanley Horne. The bracelets were first released in November 1970.

Horne volunteered with the U.S. Air Force for the Vietnam War and became a veteran pilot. His experience in Vietnam was captured in reel-to-reel audio tapes sent between him and his family in Madison. 

As his time in Vietnam continued, the tapes showed how the horrors of war began to effect him.

"I regret the friends that I lose," he said on the tapes, shared with WBBM by the Horne family. "It's making an entirely different man out of me."

Horne was racking up missions in Vietnam, flying from a base in Thailand. As he saw his fellow pilots being shot down, he told his wife that he considered himself one of the lucky ones. 

"What we are doing right now is almost impossible to believe," he told to his wife. "We've lost 20 air crews in less than six weeks. We, of course, can't keep this up."

In January of 1968, however, Horne's plane was hit by a missile. He ejected from the plane immediately. At age 41, Horne was listed as missing in action. 

Like so many others classified as POW or MIA, Horne's name was emblazoned on metal bracelets distributed to millions. 

The POW-MIA bracelets of the Vietnam War era made a lasting impression on all those who wore them. Millions of bracelets with the name of a missing or imprisoned soldier were worn on the wrists of family, friends, supporters and critics of the war. It may have been the only item -- the only common bond -- that crossed the tumultuous political divide. 

BRACELETS OF GRACE: The Vietnam War Story of Major Stanley Horne includes audio from the personal tapes sent back and forth between Southeast Asia and Major Horne’s family in Madison, Wis. It also includes recollections from the young California college students who originated the bracelets, those who wore Major Horne’s bracelet, and those who wrote hundred of letters to the Horne family until the major’s remains were finally recovered in April, 1990, 22 years after his plane was shot down.