DEFIANT: The American POWs Who Endured Hanoi's Most Infamous Prison, the Women Who Fought for Them, and the One Who Never Returned.

By Alvin Townley (Thomas Dunne Books & St. Martin's Press, 2014)


Hundreds of brave Americans were held captive during the Vietnam War. From those, the North Vietnamese singled out eleven of the worst - the ringleaders, diehard resistors, and escape artists. They exiled them to an isolated prison the POWs named Alcatraz for the loneliness, suffering, and torture they endured there. As these POWs valiantly waged war from their tomb-like cells, the defiance, resilience, and unity of the "Alcatraz Eleven"became legend.

While North Vietnam imprisoned these men for more than seven years, their remarkable wives soldiered on at home; some didn't learn their husbands' fate for more than four years. These women also led a struggle with the U.S. and North Vietnamese governments alike to secure the safe return of their loved ones. Their legacy lives on in the National League of POW/MIA Families, which they founded.

DEFIANT reveals an astonishing story of hope, survival, and honor in America and in the prisons of North Vietnam, and will inspire everyone with its story of triumph in the darkest of circumstances.


"Gripping" -- The New York Times

"Inspirational" -- Kirkus Reviews

"These heroic men and women remind us how courage, devotion, and faith can triumph even in the darkest of times. In DEFIANT, Alvin Townley masterfully tells the inspirational and unforgettable story of our Vietnam POWs and the Alcatraz Eleven." -- President Jimmy Carter

"DEFIANT is a riveting tribute to the unyielding men who endured years of brutal captivity as POWs in Vietnam and the families they left behind. The men of the "Alcatraz Eleven" are true American heroes and their extraordinary stories will serve as an inspiration for generations to come. -- Senator John McCain

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A downloadable PDF overview is available here.

The heroes of Defiant during Vietnam

Bob Shumaker becomes the second POW in North Vietnam (1965).

American POWs endure a public march through violent mobs in Hanoi.

Jerry Denton blinks "Torture" in Morse Code in a TV broadcast.

Medal of Honor recipient Jim Stockdale, an Alcatraz leader.

Sybil Stockdale, POW activist and a founder of the National League.

The National League of POW/MIA Families, led by Alcatraz Eleven wives.

Operation Homecoming (1973): POWs return home after up to eight years as prisoners in North Vietnam.

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© 2020 Alvin Townley