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

4.51 of 5 stars 4.51  ·  rating details  ·  108 ratings  ·  27 reviews
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 underground resistance. To quash it, their captors single...more
ebook, 432 pages
Published February 4th 2014 by Thomas Dunne Books
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Steve Wilson
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...more
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...more
Chris Zannetti
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
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...more
Steven Z.
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
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...more
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...more
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
Nancy Suelflow
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
Andrea Ward
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...more
Gary Rosenthal


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...more
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
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...more
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.
Tom Ethridge
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...more
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.
Denise Nutt-Beers
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
sad, scary, alarming, inspiring ... a simply amazing story of what human endurance and commitment is possible when men are driven by faith, country and family ... these American defined what it means to be principled and they remind us that the concept of honor is acting according to the "code" even when know one can see you and despite the level of personal sacrifice it takes
Ct Banjo
This work compiles the stories of the better known POW's of the Vietnam War - a must read. What James Stockdale did for the US and his fellow prisoners is difficult to grasp until you read this account. Once read, I would also recommend his story, written along with his wife Sybil, In Love and War, 1984.
Must read for those people who think they have difficulties in their lives. What these men endured for YEARS...not days or more than most can even imagine. This book tells not only their stories in captivity but those of the families they left at home. Worth the read.
Charles Osuagwu
Sep 14, 2014 Charles Osuagwu is currently reading it  ·  review of another edition
The gross nature of the treatment meted out to the American Soldiers kept me crying whenever I try to listen to this book . Soldiers sacrifice everything for us in their line of duty. Whenever I can I would tank any soldier I meet.
Doug Hauser
If you liked "Unbroken" then you will love this book. Especially relevant right now because of the 5 for 1 prisoner trade going on right now.
Incredible story of American POW's, many were American fighter pilots who were shot down over North Vietnam. Who endured months and many times years of brutal captivity in the infamous prison the Hanoi Hilton.
Bruce Keezer
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
A must read. Extremely well written with no sugar coating.
Jenny Nix
Painful to read....but if you want an insight to the POW's pain this is THE BOOK!
Kate marked it as to-read
Sep 10, 2014
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