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POWs reunited four decades later at Nixon Library

Nearly 200 former Prisoners of War were reunited at the Nixon Library where they were first honored four decades ago. NBC's Mike Taibbi reports.

By Aarne Heikkila, Producer, NBC News

YORBA LINDA, CALIF. -- It was 40 years ago that hundreds of Vietnam-era Prisoners of War were saluted at the biggest White House dinner ever following their release in a prisoner exchange. Richard Nixon was president then, and on Friday at the Nixon Library in Yorba Linda, Calif., nearly 200 of those P.O.W.'s came together once more.

Charles 'Chuck' Boyd was held for seven years as a prisoner of war in North Vietnam. After his release, Boyd went on to become a four-star general in the U.S. Air Force. He reflects on his time as a hostage, the bond he forged with his fellow prisoners, and the gathering this week at the Nixon Library in Yorba Linda, Calif.

Below, we've posted some of the archival photos from the original event, which took place on May 24, 1973. 

Here, President Nixon and his wife, Pat Nixon, sing "God Bless America" with Irving Berlin, the original composer of the song. 

There were about 600 Prisoners of War that night in the State Department Auditorium. At the time, it was the largest dinner ever held at the White House.

Nixon Library and Museum

One of the men being welcomed home was future Arizona Sen. John McCain, who had been a P.O.W. for six years. 

Oliver F. Atkins / Nixon Library and Museum

President Nixon shakes hands with Lieutenant John McCain in the receiving line at a welcome home ceremony for returned POW's in the State Department Auditorium.

The veterans were accompanied by wives, mothers and significant others. 

White House Photo Office Collect / Nixon Library and Museum

Also in attendance: Julie Nixon Eisenhower and her husband, David Eisenhower.

White House Photo Office Collect / Nixon Library and Museum

President Nixon and his wife Pat entertained the crowd by singing "God Bless America" alongside Irving Berlin, the original composer of the song. 

White House Photo Office Collect / Nixon Library and Museum

The next day, Col. John Dramesi gave President Nixon an American flag made from handkerchiefs and scraps of material that he created while in captivity. The Dramesi flag has since become a symbol of the POW ordeal, according to the Nixon Library. 

Nixon Library and Museum