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Defiant: The POWs Who Endured Vietnam's Most Infamous Prison, the Women Who Fought for Them, and the One Who Never Returned
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Defiant: The POWs Who Endured Vietnam's Most Infamous Prison, the Women Who Fought for Them, and the One Who Never Returned

4.46  ·  Rating Details ·  286 Ratings  ·  57 Reviews
Winner of the Georgia Author of the Year Award in History

During the Vietnam War, hundreds of American prisoners-of-war faced years of brutal conditions and horrific torture at the hands of North Vietnamese guards and interrogators who ruthlessly plied them for military intelligence and propaganda. Determined to maintain their Code of Conduct, the POWs developed a powerful
Hardcover, 432 pages
Published February 4th 2014 by Thomas Dunne Books
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Mar 15, 2014 Sharon rated it it was amazing
I just finished this book this morning, and even as I sit to write a review I am at a loss for words. I did not grow up knowing details of, or understanding much of the Vietnam War. I was not yet alive when this all took place. I know it was a painful time in our country's history that so many have extremely passionate opinions about, and to that I do not assume to hold such an opinion. I always wanted to understand more.

Alvin Townley's "Defiant" allowed me to see through a peephole into the hum
Van Reese
Nov 20, 2015 Van Reese rated it it was amazing
This was one of the most difficult and inspiring books I have read in a long time. Difficult due to the extreme torture these men went through. Inspiring because of their extreme courage, their devotion to their country, their devotion to God, their families, and to each other.
There were hundreds of POWs by the end of the war in Vietnam. The large majority were heroes by any measure. This book focuses on 11 men who were singled out for their leadership in resisting the Camp Authority. These men
May 03, 2015 Elmwoodblues rated it liked it
At the USAF Museum in Dayton, Ohio, there is a reproduction of the 'cells' from the 'Hanoi Hilton'. They are inhumane on many levels, but the sounds of the crowd and all the static displays soon draw you back to the exhibits, and your life. Townley does a good job of relating how the discomfort of such a small cell was possibly one of the least-inhumane aspects of what the Vietnam-era POW's had to endure.
Solitary confinement, torture, subsistence-level nutrition: the list of cruelty goes on ad
Sep 26, 2015 Steven rated it it was amazing
By April 1, 1974, 456 American servicemen held as POW's in North Vietnam would pass through Clark Air Base; 27 died in captivity. Of those in the Hanoi Hilton, 11 leaders were banished to a separate facility they called "Alcatraz" The first member of the Alcatraz 11, Bob Shumaker, spent 8 years and 1 day in captivity. George Coker, one of the 11, spent his worst days reciting the Scout Oath and Law after everything else faded, including scripture. He said he could only remember the Oath and Law ...more
Mar 29, 2014 J rated it it was amazing
When I first started reading this book, it was overwhelming.

My initial feeling was that it was too mauldin, but there really is no way to describe the POW experience in Vietnam. Alvin Townley holds nothing back, and there are some incredibly painful parts to get through. The upshot is that many POW'S survived despite the harsh, inhumane treatment suffered at the hands of their North Vietnamese captors. However of the Alcatraz Eleven, one did not make it out alive - they truly gave their all for
Apr 06, 2014 Rick rated it it was amazing
Alvin Townley has done a great service to Vietnam Veterans by showing the true nature of who the enemy was. At times I find it difficult to read because it was so sad but I had to because Townley wrote such a compelling story. The amount of torture faced by American servicemen in Hanoi is disgraceful and the story is encouraging about how they generally worked together to support one another. One thing I found very disgraceful was the Johnson administration's head in the sand approach towards th ...more
Jul 15, 2015 Jeri rated it it was amazing
Shelves: nf, asia, vietnam
Very well written. The book brought it all back for me. I wish everyone would read it.
Steven Z.
Feb 26, 2014 Steven Z. rated it it was amazing
For those individuals who were in awe of Laura Hillenbrand’s description of the imprisonment of Louis Zamperini in her book UNBROKEN, the emotions that you experienced will be repeated many times over should you choose to read Alvin Townley’s new book DEFIANT: THE POWS WHO ENDURED VIETNAM’S MOST INFAMOUS PRISON, THE WOMEN WHO FOUGHT FOR THEM AND THE ONE WHO NEVER RETURNED. Townley recreates the experiences of America’s POWs from the Vietnam War. Instead of presenting a general account that encom ...more
Mar 28, 2014 Jaci rated it it was amazing
It’s not often that as you are reading book, you realize this is a story and characters who will stay with you the rest of your life. It’s even better when the story is true, and the characters are actual people, many of whom are alive today.

This was my experience reading “Defiant,” by Alvin Townley.

“Defiant” focuses on 11 Americans interned at the Hanoi Hilton, out of the hundreds of Americans being held and mistreated by the North Vietnamese. These 11 men were pegged by their captors as being
Dec 29, 2013 Dachokie rated it it was amazing
Sobering and Though-provoking …

This book was reviewed as part of Amazon's Vine program which included a free advance copy of the book.

Growing up in Va. Beach during the 70s, I distinctly remember wearing my mother’s POW bracelet to school in 1st grade, even though I had no clue what it really meant. I also vaguely remember Jeremiah Denton’s celebrated return (he was stationed in Va. Beach) in 1973. But, aside from reading Denton’s “When Hell Was in Session” ions ago and the occasional media quip
Chris Zannetti
Mar 16, 2014 Chris Zannetti rated it really liked it
Defiant: The POWs Who Endured Vietnam's Most Infamous Prison, the Women Who Fought for Them, and the One Who Never Returned, was a very compelling book that had me hooked from the start. Written by Alvin Townly, this book tells the story of the "Alcatrz Eleven". The Eleven were a group of POWs that endured torture in one of the worst prisions in North Vietnam during the Vietnam War. All but one of the men were released from prision after the signing of the Paris Peace Acords in 1973. Ronald E. S ...more
Jun 04, 2014 Allison rated it it was amazing
This is the most heroic and moving book I've read. These men were our neighbors, friends, parishioners. It is humbling to think that they sacrificed so much for freedom. Jeremiah Denton passed away while I was starting this book. March, 2014. He lived only 30 miles away from our home in Virginia. Do we know our neighbors? In an area where so many military have lived and served, do we realize the heroes we see every day? Getting the paper, mail, walking the dog. I believe with all my heart we nee ...more
Mar 15, 2015 goddess rated it really liked it
Shelves: history
Oh man. Powerful stuff. Reminded me a bit of "Unbroken". These guys' story is quite incredible, and the author does a marvelous job telling it. Eight years as POWs, under extreme conditions and brutal torture. Yet their spirits kept them strong. And alive. I was in awe at how these guys banded together, even creating their own way of communicating and risking it all just to be able to talk to each other. I appreciated that the author infused their faith in God and how it kept them going; most wr ...more
Feb 03, 2015 Beth rated it it was amazing
Shelves: nonfiction
During the Vietnam war, hundreds of American prisoners-of-war lived for years in brutal conditions and experienced horrific torture in the "Hanoi Hilton." Determined, they found ways to communicate - even while in solitary confinement - and to live according to a Code of Conduct so that they would return with honor.

Eleven of them, who were perceived to be leaders of this resistance, were sent someplace worse, known as Alcatraz. (Full disclosure: I'm related to one of them. First cousin, once re
Steve Wilson
Apr 06, 2014 Steve Wilson rated it it was amazing
A book received through Goodreads First Reads.

Overall a powerful and thoroughly engaging book focusing on the ordeals and imprisonment of a group of American aviators in North Vietnam over a period of several years in North Vietnam during the war.

The specific group of aviators that the book focuses on were viewed by their captors as instigators of resistance to the Camps authority and as a result endured regular periods of torture and horrific living conditions. Both of these described in graph
Feb 15, 2014 Cheryl rated it it was amazing
Defiant is a not to be missed book! If you really want to know what it is like to be a prisoner of war (POW) in another country then you should read this book. While I am not very versed in what the United States does in regards to the POWS that we have in regarding to the different torture techniques as this would be top secret, I can just assume that we treat the POWS here in the United Statesway better then the men featured in this book endured in North Vietnam.

In fact, this book is so inten
Shinji Sean
Jul 21, 2015 Shinji Sean rated it it was amazing
When I first started reading this book, it was overwhelming.

My initial feeling was that it was too mauldin, but there really is no way to describe the POW experience in Vietnam. Alvin Townley holds nothing back, and there are some incredibly painful parts to get through. The upshot is that many POW'S survived despite the harsh, inhumane treatment suffered at the hands of their North Vietnamese captors. However of the Alcatraz Eleven, one did not make it out alive - they truly gave their all for
Nov 30, 2016 Maria rated it really liked it
Naval and Air Force pilots that were shot down over North Vietnam where were tortured and held for years. Their families and government had little knowledge of what they were going through. The POW strength and endurance, combined with their families PR campaign eventually resulted in their being returned to the US.

Why I started this book: I knew that this was an important part of our military history that I knew very little about, and I started this audio several times. Each time, the grim acco
Andrea Ward
Mar 04, 2014 Andrea Ward rated it it was amazing
Let me preface this review by saying that I never read war histories. In fact, Defiant is my first ever. And I'm so glad I read it. I had very little knowledge of the Vietnam War, and the stories of these incredibly brave POWs and their families were heart wrenching.
I had to take a couple of weeks to read it, as I found it wasn't something I could quickly devour like I normally do with a good book. I actually found that the further along I got in the book, the more I wanted to savor these men's
Tom Ethridge
May 09, 2014 Tom Ethridge rated it it was amazing
This is a book that will fill you with compassion and wonder. This story is one that needs to be read by every American so each can see just to what lengths people will go to honor their country.

I have been privileged to become a friend with Carlisle "Smitty" Harris the pilot that brought the tap code to the POW camps in Vietnam Nam. I chose to read this book after seeing the author on a CSpan book review program and knowing that it was my chance to get closer to Smitty. I was able to read this
Nancy Suelflow
Jul 12, 2014 Nancy Suelflow rated it it was amazing
All Americans should read this book. Not typically my genre, but found the completely worth my time and attention. Several different perspectives can be seen through this book if read with an open heart. But mostly, you will finish it with a new understanding of true sacrifice , and what pride, duty, and honor mean to those who serve in the armed forces. What horrific realities the POWs of Vietnam endured Is truly appalling, but their ongoing strength, loyalty to each other and country, and inge ...more
Denise Nutt-Beers
Jun 06, 2014 Denise Nutt-Beers rated it it was amazing
Simply outstanding. If it is your first foray into books about the Vietnam Prisoners of War, it is an excellent starting point as an overview of some of the many accounts written by the men held there. If you, like me, have read extensively about the POWs, it is a magnificent summation of all many stories in one work. The family stories add the perfect touch to the narrative, letting the reader share both sides of the heart-wrenching years. I highly recommend, even if you are not drawn to this g ...more
Absolutely remarkable book. These men nearly gave their lives so that the rest of us could live in peace. Their wives also did remarkable things to ensure that almost every one of these captured men came home alive. It's especially wonderful because these women stood up when they were not encouraged too. They let nothing get them down. Everyone must read this book. Those of us who are not fighting for America should be grateful that we have people that are. The price they pay is often unspeakabl ...more
Bruce Keezer
Jun 12, 2014 Bruce Keezer rated it really liked it
Shelves: first-reads
This book looks back at the shockingly cruel and brutal treatment of US POWs during the Vietnam War. It's a long look at the facts of a situation that is merely a footnote in today's culture. It also chronicles the struggles of the wives and families of these prisoners advocating for them back home. I found it well-written and informative. The POWs stories were detailed, moving and tragic. The stories of their families were somewhat less compelling and I found that they lacked detail in comparis ...more
Nov 24, 2014 Phyllis rated it it was amazing
Would never have picked up this if it had not been book club selection, but today as I finished it, tears streaming down my cheeks,I was so very thankful...for men then and now who willingly put themselves in harms' way to protect our country and all it represents and for their families who sacrifice in thousands of ways in order for their spouses, children and parents to protect us. Brutal to read at times. Leaves one wondering if you could have survived such horrors with the same degree of hon ...more
Gary Rosenthal
Feb 13, 2014 Gary Rosenthal rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition


A great and extremely well written story. I found myself growing angry at the tactics of the enemy but cheered the strong willed, solid responses of the POWs. I cried at their suffering and grew angry at the neglect our government showed them when they were prisoners. I highly recommend this book to anyone who is interested in this time period or anyone who is interested in the ability of humans to revert to animal behavior or other humans strive to surviv
Apr 20, 2014 Ross rated it it was amazing
One remarkable group of men who will forever have my deepest gratitude for the way they served this nation. Sam Johnson recalled the words an American airman had scratched in the walls of Hoa Lo Pirson " Freedom has a taste to those who fight and almost die that the protected will never know" ( Page 334 )

Many of us will never “know” that “taste” but we should know of these great men and their incredible story of service and sacrifice.
Mar 26, 2014 Judi rated it really liked it
Shelves: historical
I was only vaguely interested in a non-fiction book about a memorable and difficult subject, but I was drawn to it more than once, and I finally checked it out.
This is an excellent read, and a seemingly accurate accounting of a terrible time. I didn't sense any bias or political bend in the telling, which kept me reading to the end.
These were incredibly brave men, enduring a nightmare that might never end, because of their training and the oaths they took as officers in the U.S. Military.
Jim Tracy
Sep 08, 2016 Jim Tracy rated it it was amazing
A must read not only for those interested in the Vietnam War genre, but for any human being. You will be hard pressed to feel sorry for yourself ever again after reading what these brave U.S. servicemen endured over years of imprisonment by North Vietnam.
Aug 23, 2015 J rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This easily found its way to one of the top books I've ever read. At no point does this book slow down, but rather keeps the reader yearning for time to read just a bit more. This is a great look into one of the darkest parts of military history - prisoners of war - and it highlights some of the strongest men of the Vietnam War period. I would highly recommend this book to anyone, but be prepared for an emotional ride.
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