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Smithsonian Associates - Entertaining, Informative, Eclectic, Insightful

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Wives, Mothers, and Rescuers: How Unlikely Activists Brought Their POW Husbands Home

Evening Program with Book Signing

Monday, July 15, 2019 - 6:45 p.m.
Code: 1L0259

On February 12, 1973, 116 men who just six years earlier had been high-flying Navy and Air Force pilots shuffled, limped, or were carried off a military transport plane at Clark Air Base in the Philippines. They had endured years of brutal torture in solitary confinement in rat-infested, mosquito-laden prisons, the worst of which was nicknamed the Hanoi Hilton. These first Vietnam POWs to return home would later learn that their rescuers were their own wives: a group of women who helped form the National League of Families of American Prisoners and Missing in Southeast Asia.

Drawing from archival sources, personal letters, diaries, and oral histories in her new book, The League of Wives: The Untold Story of the Women Who Took on the U.S. Government to Bring Their Husbands Home, Heath Hardage Lee reveals how these unlikely activists went to extraordinary lengths to facilitate their husbands’ freedom and to account for missing military men.

She examines how these women achieved their success by relentlessly lobbying government leaders, conducting a series of savvy media campaigns and covert meetings with antiwar activists, attempting to negotiate on their own with the North Vietnamese, and most astonishingly, helping to code secret letters to their imprisoned husbands. 

Copies of The League of Wives (St. Martin's Press) are available for purchase and signing.

American Women's History Initiative

S. Dillon Ripley Center
1100 Jefferson Dr SW
Metro: Smithsonian (Mall exit)