In today’s post, we remember and pay tribute to a critical leader in the release of Lee Ellis and his fellow Vietnam POWs. Phyllis Galanti, wife of fellow Vietnam POW, Paul Galanti USN (Ret), passed away on April 23, 2014 following a complications related to her battle with leukemia.
This is a life worthy of review and attention, and we are honored to share her story with you. Below are a couple of excerpts from Lee’s latest book, Leading with Honor: Leadership Lessons from the Hanoi Hilton, describing one courageous experience of her husband and Vietnam POW, Lt Paul Galanti, and Phyllis’ response here at home in the U.S. –
“When the V tried to exploit Navy LT Paul Galanti by photographing him in a spacious, airy room specially prepared for propaganda purposes, he “flipped them the finger”—literally. As the photo was taken, Paul subtly rested both hands on the end of the bed with his middle fingers pointing down. At the time, the V did not realize that Paul had outwitted them, and some socialist country journalists unknowingly used the photo as it was. Others caught it and completely airbrushed out his fingers. Fortunately, an original copy made it back to the U.S., where Paul’s intended message came through loud and clear: ‘This is a big propaganda lie.’” (Leading with Honor – Pages 37-38)
“Sybil Stockdale (wife of CDR Stockdale), Ann Purcell (wife of Lt Col Ben Purcell), Doris Day (wife of Maj Bud Day), and Elaine Grubb (wife of MIA Capt Wilmer Grubb) banded together with other family members to launch the National League of POW/MIA Families. They lobbied hard in meetings with the brass, including Secretary of State Kissinger and President Nixon. They made their points, and aided by MIA wife Carol Hanson Hickerson’s boldness in speaking about our plight, brought a change to Department of Defense’s “keep quiet” policy on POW/MIA issues.
The League quickly mobilized public opinion across the United States by organizing local chapters to engage POW/MIA families and their friends within their communities. Special programs were held at churches, schools, and college and professional sporting events to remember and support the POW/MIA cause. Patriots across the nation began wearing POW/MIA name bracelets, which linked each wearer in a tangible and emotional way with a specific serviceman who was captured or missing. The League used this momentum to launch a letter-writing campaign aimed at communist diplomats at the stalled Paris peace talks. [Phyllis Galanti, wife of LCDR Paul Galanti and later Chairwoman of the National League of POW/MIA families, spurred more than a million letters from the state of VA as part of the effort.] The total public relations effort had the important effect of slamming the communists for our treatment.
The dedicated support of business icon and national patriot H. Ross Perot helped their cause, and in doing so helped ours. Perot used his influence and wealth to support the League’s PR campaign, and he provided air transportation and traveling expenses for its leaders. As part of a strategy put together by Dallas TV personality Murphy Martin, Perot sponsored trips by delegations of wives and family members to the Paris peace talks, where POW wife Phyllis Galanti and others confronted the communist delegation about the treatment of POWs. Perot also chartered airplanes to fly Christmas presents to POWs in Hanoi, but when they got to Thailand, the communists denied them entry. This made the V look bad and raised the plight of the POWs in the eyes of world citizens. It was vital support we needed.” (Leading with Honor – Pages 79-80)
– Phyllis E. Galanti, Crusader for POWs Release, Passes Away (Times Dispatch)
– A POW/MIA Crusader, Phyllis Galanti, Passes Away (WTVR TV)