TOKYO (UPI) -- North Vietnam released three American prisoners of war to a U.S. peace group in downtown Hanoi Sunday, the Vietnam News Agency (VNA) reported.
The North Vietnamese news agency, in a broadcast monitored here, said the three were handed over after a brief ceremony.
"All the three American fliers, dressed in civilian suits complete with neckties, took turns in voicing their deep gratitude to the people and government of the DRVN (Democratic Republic of Vietnam) for their humane policy and good treatment during their detention," the agency said.
VNA said that after the ceremony, the three released pilots, their families and the members of the peace group drove to the hotel reserved for them.
VNA quoted one of the pilots, Navy Lt. (J.G.) Markham L. Gartley, as saying during the ceremony that "the news of my release came as a complete surprise to me. As long as this conflict continues, the sufferings of the Vietnamese people will continue, and dissensions and unrest in the U.S. will continue, and more American pilots will be killed and captured."
VNA said the young American pilot "promised that back home he will make every effort to end this war and to get his fellow pilots repatriated."
The three released were Garley, of Dunedin, Fla., captured Aug. 17, 1969; Navy Lt. Norris Alphonzo Charles, of San Diego, Calif., captured Dec. 30, 1971; and Air Force Maj. Edward Knight Elias, of Valdosta, Ga., captured April 20.
Charles' wife and Gartley's mother accompanied the peace group to Hanoi to meet the prisoners.
VNA said Mrs. Bui Thi Cam, secretary of the Vietnam Committee for Solidarity with the American People, spoke for the North Vietnamese during the ceremony.
"We welcome the representatives of the American social organizations."