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The League of Wives

The Untold Story of the Women Who Took on the U.S. Government to Bring Their Husbands Home
Narrated by: Heath Hardage Lee
Length: 10 hrs and 18 mins
Categories: History, 20th Century
4 out of 5 stars (30 ratings)

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Publisher's Summary

"Listeners are transported back to the 1960s by Heath Hardage Lee and her painstaking research... Her fascination with her subjects is infectious. Listeners who are fans of history will find much to admire in this little-known story." — AudioFile Magazine

“A remarkable true story of love, war, courage, constancy and change - as a group of naval housewives transformed themselves into powerful advocates for their missing husbands." (Liza Mundy, author of the NY Times best seller Code Girls: The Untold Story of the American Women Code Breakers of World War II)  

This program is read by the author. 

The true story of the fierce band of women who battled Washington - and Hanoi - to bring their husbands home from the jungles of Vietnam.    

On February 12, 1973, 115 men who just six years earlier had been high-flying Navy and Air Force pilots shuffled, limped, or were carried off a huge military transport plane at Clark Air Base in the Philippines. These American servicemen had endured years of brutal torture, kept shackled and starving in solitary confinement, in rat-infested, mosquito-laden prisons, the worst of which was the Hanoi Hilton.   

Months later, the first Vietnam POWs to return home would learn that their rescuers were their wives, a group of women that included Jane Denton, Sybil Stockdale, Louise Mulligan, Andrea Rander, Phyllis Galanti, and Helene Knapp. These women, who formed the National League of Families, would never have called themselves “feminists”, but they had become the POW and MIAs' most fervent advocates, going to extraordinary lengths to facilitate their husbands’ freedom - and to account for missing military men - by relentlessly lobbying government leaders, conducting a savvy media campaign, conducting covert meetings with antiwar activists, and most astonishingly, helping to code secret letters to their imprisoned husbands.   

In an unpausable work of narrative nonfiction, Heath Hardage Lee tells the story of these remarkable women for the first time. The League of Wives is certain to be on everyone’s must-listen list.

©2019 Heath Hardage Lee (P)2019 Macmillan Audio

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  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars

amazing book

my brother in law was in Hanoi Hilton and one of the Alcatraz eleven. i remember these times but this book is a more truthful political history. i stand in awe of these women.

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What You Didn't Know About the Vietnam War!

I discovered this book on Twitter and ordered it immediately from Amazon, along with the audiobook, which is read by the author. This book tells the 'rest of the story' about the Vietnam War precisely, what these proper POW/MIA military wives did (don’t do anything to jeopardize your husband’s careers) by defying the U.S. government.

I joined the U.S. Marine Corps at the end of the Vietnam War in 1973, which made "The League of Wives" particularly interesting. Although I never participated, I was a college student during the days of the war protests and wore a POW/MIA bracelet for years to support our troops. (Captain Perry Jefferson was declared an MIA. I still have the bracelet and etching from the wall.) I had male friends who were drafted and sent to the war zone. Later, many of my Marine friends told me stories about the war. Retired Sgt.Maj. Terry Bennington was one of the last Marines to be airlifted off the roof of the embassy building in April 1975.

Ms. Lee did a beautiful detailed job with her research and attention to detail. She makes you feel like you know these women personally and what they were going through. I had a hard time putting it down. Each chapter takes you through the years; from the time the first plane was shot down to how the women organized to solve a problem, the government wanted to brush under the rug.

She includes the history of the POW/MIA flag and the bracelets, so many of us wore. You learn about the secret code the women used to write to their husbands, always fearing their husbands could be killed if the NVM found out. Our government didn't think the wives left behind, should receive their husband's paychecks while they were gone!

These women found each other and came together to form The League of Wives. You learn about Ross Perot’s assistance and the involvement of the peace activists like Cora Weiss and Jane Fonda. I felt the wives’ frustration and was appalled when I read that Senator Bob Dole was the first to bring their plight before Congress in 1970 only to find that many members of Congress didn't even know what POWs and MIAs were! (Congress was just as clueless then as it is today!

Recently, I was thrilled to learn Reese Witherspoon bought the movie rights. I can't wait to see this true story played out on the big screen!

Congratulations and Much Success, Ms. Lee!

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Biased and lacking perspective

I think the author did a great disservice to the League of Wives with her right wing biases and total lack of reflections on the horrors of the Vietnam War. At times, the book was so plastic I wanted to scream. I was especially troubled by her false assertion about the low rate of PTSD of the downed pilots which she attributed to their higher level of education.

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A good story poorly narrated

This is the story of the Viet Nam POWs and their ultimate return after the war as told through the eyes of wives who were left to cope and pick up the pieces when not many people cared. Told strictly from the wives at home point of view, you can feel their frustration at a poorly executed and ill-conceived war and especially at the failure to look with any interest at the POWs who were being tortured and killed at the hands of the Vietnamese. It's a story that needed telling but It strayed perilously close to the 'All men are stupid' theme that so many women writers inflict upon their audiences.

Unfortunately the narrator - also the author - was hard to listen to. Turns out she is a much better writer than reader. The text was full of mispronunciations and words that even the casual students of history would know how to pronounce. That, and the annoying Maryland/Virginia accent with the Baltimore twang. Oh well. We can't all be perfect.

Nevertheless, as a veteran of 400+ Autible/Books on Tape, I'd recommend it.

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Good Story

I probably would’ve enjoyed reading this book more than listening to it. The narrator was really hard for me to listen to.

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  • karen
  • SAN DIEGO, CA, United States
  • 04-29-19

Valuable history.

I enjoyed learning about the plight of family members awaiting the return of their loved ones. Did not care for the narrator.