The League of Wives: Vietnam's POW/MIA Advocates & Allies

From
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Time Period
1925 to Today
Topics
Domestic Life
Military History
Politics & Government
Women's History

About the image: President Nixon meets with POW wives Carole Hansen, Louise Mulligan, Sybil Stockdale, Andrea Rander, and Mary Mearns in December 1969. Richard Nixon Presidential Library & Museum.

As early as March 1964, even before active combat units were deployed to Vietnam, American servicemen were taken prisoner by the North Vietnamese. For years, with little or no information about their husband’s status, wives waited at home in silence, following the United States’ government’s orders to “Keep Quiet.” They decided to take matters into their own hands, organizing privately, until challenging the Johnson administration’s stance—and finding allies in President Richard M. Nixon, Congress, and others. These courageous women, led by Sybil Stockdale on the West Coast, Jane Denton, Louise Mulligan, and Phyllis Galanti on the East Coast, and later Helene Knapp in the Interior West, organized to form the National League of Families of American Prisoners and Missing in Southeast Asia on May 28, 1970. They would go to extraordinary lengths to facilitate their husbands’ freedom.

This special exhibition, created by The Dole Institute of Politics about these leaders, tells the story of the military wives who founded the organization that would later become the National League of POW/MIA Families and features documents, artifacts, oral histories, multimedia, and regionally-specific components. The exhibition was curated by Dole Archives Curatorial Fellow Heath Hardage Lee and based on her book, The League of Wives: The Untold Story of the Women Who Took on the U.S. Government to Bring Their Husbands Home. Thanks to partnerships with the Colorado Springs Pioneers Museum and the Virginia Museum of History & Culture, the exhibit traveled to institutions nationwide after its initial run at the Dole Institute, with each institution customizing the exhibit with materials from their own collections.The League of Wives was organized by the Dole Institute of Politics and made possible by Harlan and Alice Ann Ochs in honor of Larry Ochs.

Read Senator Robert J. Dole's remarks regarding The League of Wives exhibition opening.

ASSOCIATED PROGRAMMING:

  • Breaking the Silence: League of Wives Panel Discussion - Friday, March 1, 2019.
    Watch or listen to the panel discussion and view event photos.

  • Banner Lecture: The League of Wives: The Untold Story of the Women Who Took on the U.S. Government to Bring Their Husbands Home from Vietnam by Heath Hardage Lee - Friday, April 5, 2019. Watch the video.

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United States National Security Advisor Henry Kissinger meets with Helene Knapp (right), Darlene Sadler (center), and Phyllis Galanti (left) on January 26, 1973. Image courtesy of the Richard Nixon Presidential Library and Museum.
U.S. National Security Advisor Meets with POW Wives
U.S. National Security Advisor Henry Kissinger meets with Helene Knapp (right), Darlene Sadler (center), and Phyllis Galanti (left) on January 26, 1973. Photo courtesy of the Richard Nixon Presidential Library and Museum.
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Air Force POW wife and National League member Evelyn Fowler Grubb (right) presents the flag of the National League of Family Members of Prisoners of War and Missing in Action in Southeast Asia to Secretary of Defense Melvin Laird in 1972. POW mother Jean Ray looks on. Image courtesy of the Associated Press.
Presentation of the POW/MIA Flag
Air Force POW wife & National League member Evelyn Fowler Grubb (right) presents the flag of the National League of Family Members of Prisoners of War & Missing in Action in Southeast Asia to Secretary of Defense Melvin Laird, 1972. Photo courtesy of the Associated Press.
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Naval commander’s cap belonging to Naval intelligence officer Cdr. Robert S. Boroughs. Photo courtesy of Lynn Amwake.
Naval commander’s cap belonging to Cdr. Robert S. Boroughs.
Naval commander’s cap belonging to Naval intelligence officer Commander Robert S. Boroughs. Photo courtesy of Lynn Amwake.
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Newsweek issue from February 26, 1973, featuring Phyllis and Cmdr. Paul Galanti. Courtesy of the Galanti Family.
Newsweek issue from February 26, 1973.
Newsweek issue from February 26, 1973, featuring Phyllis and Cmdr. Paul Galanti. Courtesy of the Galanti Family.
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Invitation and program for the White House Dinner in Honor of Returning Vietnam POWs in 1973. Photo courtesy of Ted Sienicki.
Invitation and program for White House Dinner.
Invitation and program for the White House Dinner in Honor of Returning Vietnam POWs in 1973. Photo courtesy of Ted Sienicki.
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Remarks by Kansas Senator Robert Dole.
Page 1 of remarks by Kansas Senator Robert Dole given during the “Appeal for International Justice” held at Constitution Hall, Washington, D.C., May 1, 1970. Image courtesy of the Dole Archives.
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Page 2 of remarks by Kansas Senator Robert Dole given during the “Appeal for International Justice” held at Constitution Hall, Washington, D.C., May 1, 1970. Image courtesy of the Dole Archives.
Remarks by Kansas Senator Robert Dole.
Page 2 of remarks by Kansas Senator Robert Dole given during the “Appeal for International Justice” held at Constitution Hall, Washington, D.C., May 1, 1970. Image courtesy of the Dole Archives.
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Remarks by Kansas Senator Robert Dole.
Page 4 of remarks by Kansas Senator Robert Dole given during the “Appeal for International Justice” held at Constitution Hall, Washington, D.C., May 1, 1970. Image courtesy of the Dole Archives.