In 1973, shortly after the United States and North Vietnam signed the Paris Peace Accords that ended U.S. participation in the Vietnam War, 591 U.S. prisoners of war began coming home. Some of them had endured more than seven years of imprisonment. Three decades later, writer Taylor Baldwin Kiland and photographer Jamie Howren Quinn wanted to explore what had happened to this group of extraordinary men. Over the course of 18 months, the two women traveled to 16 cities to interview and photograph 30 former POWs. From these efforts came the exhibit "Open Doors: Vietnam POWs Thirty Years Later," consisting of photographs and biographical profiles, three of which are sampled here.
The exhibit has begun an extensive road trip, and will be appearing at various sites around the country throughout 2003 and into 2004. It will appear at the Marines' Memorial Club in San Francisco from 24 February to 31 March; the Union League in Philadelphia from early April to mid-May; the Freedom Foundation in Valley Forge, Pennsylvania, from mid-May to mid-June; Nauticus in Norfolk, Virginia, from 1 August to 30 September; the U.S. Naval Academy in Annapolis, Maryland, in October; and the Stephen Decatur House Museum in Washington, D.C., in November.
For more information about the exhibit, locations, and dates, visit www.coronadohistory.org or call (619) 435-7242.
Rear Admiral Jeremiah A. Denton Jr., U.S. Navy (Retired)
He volunteered, even pleaded, to go back. Jerry Denton was distraught that the United States was pulling out of Vietnam and, in his opinion, breaking its promise to the South Vietnamese people—despite military victories on the battlefield. "It was a war situation, but, God, it was a betrayal. We have never done that in our history. Very few nations have copped out like that." The government wouldn't let him return to Vietnam, as all Americans were being evacuated from the country. Was it the fear of defeat? Was it the feeling of wasted effort after spending almost eight years as a POW? "It was a tough experience to see this country torn asunder."
Jerry has always had the fervor and the passion for the causes he believes in. You could call him a zealot. But that moniker would not do him justice. He lives by a simple rule, a golden one, and he wants to be good and do the right thing in the eyes of his Lord. He is admittedly far from a perfect man, and perhaps that makes him even more forgiving to others who fall short of the standard he strives to meet. But he never stops seeking it.
Jerry has many visions of the way the world should be. He takes a deep drag on his cigarette, closes his eyes, and wildly gesticulates as he pontificates. "It's very simple. You love God unreservedly. And you love your neighbors as you love yourself. Who's your neighbor? It's half the world that doesn't have a damn thing. . . . We have figured out a practical way to manifest love . . . that will lift the poor from where they are to self-sustenance. . . . The water lifts everybody."
Vice Admiral William P. Lawrence, U.S. Navy (Retired)
Bred as guard dogs, mastiffs are fiercely territorial. Vetter McCain, named after a notable Marine and a notable U.S. senator, is no exception. He rarely leaves his master's side—all 240 pounds of him. He is noble, proud, serious, thoughtful, and doggedly defensive of his home. Just like his master.
Bill Lawrence is one of those rare individuals who embodies legendary strength of mind and body. Throughout his life, he has relied on a combination of acute intellect and a fine-tuned ability to coach his body into action—as a National College Football Hall of Famer, drafter of the U.S. Naval Academy's honor code, renowned Navy test pilot, and survivor of the POW experience. To many colleagues, Bill is larger than life.
He still seeks out the mental—and physical—challenges. A stroke took away the use of one of his arms, so writing his memoirs and personal correspondence—thoughtful, practiced, and unembellished—is a way for him to maintain both mental and physical discipline. It seems to be a form of therapy. "I'm a big one for waking up and thinking in the middle of the night. I think about all the good ideas and what I want to do the next day." Vetter McCain, the gentle giant whose nighttime breathing is the source of his insomnia, lets out a protective snore.
Commander and Mrs. Paul E. Galanti, U.S. Navy (Retired)
At a White House state dinner for the POWs in 1973, then-Secretary of State Henry Kissinger looked at Paul Galanti, then looked at Phyllis Galanti, then looked at Paul again and said to him in his famous accent and with a chuckle, "Your vife: she caused me so much trouble."
The Bring Paul Home campaign, initiated by Phyllis after Paul's capture in 1966, and embraced by her adopted home of Richmond, Virginia, was long-suffering and not easily won. Phyllis, along with Sybil Stockdale and many of the other POW wives, worked tirelessly to get their husbands released, making appeals to Congress, the White House, the State Department—whomever would listen to their cause.
Six years later, when Virginia welcomed Paul home with an event at the Virginia State Capitol, Phyllis was arguably one of the most famous ladies in the state. Senator Ed Willey, president pro tempore of the State Senate, shared with Paul, "Your little lady was quite a little lady while you were overseas." He proceeded to tell Paul that only two nonlegislators had ever addressed the joint session of the Virginia General Assembly: Robert E. Lee and Phyllis.