Townley’s ‘Defiant’ Uncovers History of POW/MIA Movement

Apr 24, 2014

WUTC’s Michael Edward Miller speaks with Atlanta author Alvin Townley.  His latest book is Defiant: The POWs Who Endured Vietnam's Most Infamous Prison, the Women Who Fought for Them, and the One Who Never Returned.  It recounts the true story of 11 American soldiers who were imprisoned under especially harsh conditions, and it explains how their wives founded the POW/MIA movement to help free them.

From the publisher:

Prisoners of war have endured torture as grave as the horrors of war itself.  Perhaps no other war emphasized this as much in human history as the Vietnam War.  More than any other in history, this war brought home to the American people just how inhumane the torture of U.S. servicemen was at the hands of their communist interrogators.

Hundreds of U.S. POWs endured desperate conditions at the hands of the North Vietnamese and Viet Cong.  Their captors subjected them to some of the worst physical and psychological brutality known in wartime.  The NVA and VC ruthlessly tried to get military intelligence and propaganda out of each U.S. soldier, but many servicemen held firm.

Determined to maintain their “Code of Conduct” as prisoners, U.S. servicemen showed a powerful resistance to the worst torture dealt out to them at the now infamous “Hanoi Hilton.”  The enemy, though, felt the only way to break them would be to single out about 11 of the strongest, most defiant prisoners.  They were sent to the prison dubbed by the Americans as “Alcatraz.”  Their days and nights amidst brutal disregard were spent in solitary and their conditions were sub-human at best.

Back home in the U.S. their families, unaware of the daily horrors that befell their loved ones, launched an extraordinary campaign on their behalf.  It would lay the ground work for the famous POW/MIA movement.  And when they were all finally released and returned home safe – all but one, that is – their tales of what they endured horrified the nation and the world.

One of them would receive The Medal Of Honor, one would serve in the United State Senate, and one would – and still does – serve in the Congress of the United States.  Equally heroic were the women and family members who stayed by them, even in absentia, never wavering in their belief that their loved ones would someday come home to them.  The women are in so many ways the real heroes of this story.  Their efforts didn’t stop just when their husbands came home.  They passionately continued to pursue their mission even when their own personal pain ended.

“DEFIANT is a riveting tribute to the unyielding men who endured years of brutal captivity as POWs in Vietnam and the families they left behind.  The men of the “Alcatraz Eleven” are true American heroes and their extraordinary stories will serve as an inspiration for generations to come.”         -Sen. John McCain

“These heroic men and women remind us how courage, devotion, and faith can triumph even in the darkest of times.  In DEFIANT, Alvin Townley masterfully tells the inspirational and unforgettable story of our Vietnam POWs and the Alcatraz eleven.”                  -President Jimmy Carter