Courageous POW Spouse/Leader, Phyllis Galanti, Passes Away – Read How She Led with Honor

Phyllis Galanti Leadership

Pictured: Paul and Phyllis Galanti

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)

Paul Galanti Clean Meat

“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.


In this picture, President Nixon meets with the newly formed National League of POW/MIA Families at the White House. Phyllis is pictured in this meeting on the right side of the room.

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.

Phyllis Galanti Ross Perot

Phyllis Galanti, wife of Vietnam POW Paul Galanti, is reunited years later with Ross Perot Sr. to be honored for her sacrificial service to her husband and country.

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)


An archive photo of Phyllis Galanti with her husband and former Vietnam POW, Paul Galanti, after his return home.

Galantis Newsweek

An archive photo of Phyllis Galanti with her husband and former Vietnam POW, Paul Galanti, after his return home on the cover of Newsweek.

Related Links:

Phyllis E. Galanti, Crusader for POWs Release, Passes Away (Times Dispatch)

A POW/MIA Crusader, Phyllis Galanti, Passes Away (WTVR TV)

4 Comments on “Courageous POW Spouse/Leader, Phyllis Galanti, Passes Away – Read How She Led with Honor

April 30, 2014 at 10:42 am

It is important to note that while we all mourn the passing of Mrs. Galanti and her role in organizing the families back in the late 60’s and early 70’s, as soon as their loved ones were home they left the rest of the families to fend for themselves. Both the wives AND the former POWs have remained distant and ever-so silent over the past almost 40 years. Why? Because, as Frank Anton told in his book, “Why didn’t you get me out?” they were all told to keep their mouths shut or lose their pensions, military benefits, etc. As each of these former POWs dies, the truth dies with them. Mrs. Galant was an advocate, but once her husband was home, her advocacy ended.

Lee Ellis
May 5, 2014 at 1:31 pm

Based on the multiple online articles and posts regarding the contributions of Paul and Phyllis Galanti after the Vietnam War, their documented track record says otherwise. Here’s an example – (WP Admin)

Darlene Ramsey
February 20, 2018 at 4:59 pm

I have a bracelet of his original sealed in package

Kevin Light
February 22, 2018 at 12:15 pm

Darlene – we’re so grateful for people like you that remembered and prayed for the POWs during those years. Thanks for your comments.


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