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GOOD READS Honor Above All


They aren’t as well-known as the prisoners of war who survived Vietnam’s notorious Hanoi Hilton, but the “Alcatraz Eleven” are equally deserving of respect and gratitude for the horrors they suf- fered as POWs, says author Alvin Townley. That’s why Townley wrote Defiant: The


POWs Who Endured Vietnam’s Most Infamous Prison, the Women Who Fought for Them, and the One Who Never Returned (St. Martin’s Press, $25.99). Townley, an Eagle Scout who wrote Legacy of Honor and Fly Navy, makes a strong case that their values and faith helped these men endure years of psychological intimidation and physical torture. “They were our leading POWs, the most


rebellious ones who led the opposition,” Townley says. As a result, they were exiled to a Vietnamese prison where they were kept in win- dowless 3-by-9-foot concrete boxes for all but a few minutes each day. Among the men chronicled in Defiant are


James Mulligan and George Coker, both Eagle Scouts. Townley writes that Coker, after months of torture, held on to his sanity by repeating the first line of the Scout Oath: “On my honor, I will do my best … ” Several of the other POWs also had Boy Scout experience. A number of them went


on to distinguished public careers, among them Admiral James Stockdale, Ross Perot’s running mate in 1992; Sen. Jeremiah Denton of Alabama; and U.S. Rep. Sam Johnson of Texas. The author stresses the strong support the


captives received from their wives and families. Believing that the government was not acting aggressively enough to win their husbands’ freedom, three of the women founded the National League of POW/MIA Families to speak out against the cruel treatment of POWs. Townley believes all Americans, military or


not, can learn from the Alcatraz Eleven. “Being tortured and beaten actually strengthened their faith and their devotion to each other,” he says. “Their driving ideal was to return with honor. They wanted to be able to hold their heads high when they walked off the plane.”


These Magic Moments


The Scouting family will love From the Centennial to the Summit, which highlights milestones such as the BSA’s 100th anniversary, its prize-winning float in the Rose Bowl Parade and the opening of the Summit Bechtel Family National Scout Reserve. Order your copy for $18.98, including tax and shipping, by calling 1-800-303-3047 or send an email to nsmuseum@scouting.org.


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