“One dedicated woman and a handful of others had more influence on the communist world than legions of armies and diplomats.”
Virginia Gov. Mills E. Godwin Jr., in 1975, speaking of Phyllis Galanti, known as ‘Fearless Phyllis’ for her efforts to get her husband home after his plane was shot down over North Vietnam and he was captured in June 1966.
She spent years leading letter writing campaigns and traveling around the world to get her husband and other POW’s released and returned to their families.
Phyllis got her wish in February 1973 when Paul was released and came home. During the 2,432 days her husband Navy Lieutenant Commander Paul Galanti was a prisoner of war in Vietnam, she became the chairwoman of the National League of Families of American Prisoners and Missing in Southeast Asia.
When Paul was shot down over Communist North Vietnam in June, 1966, Phyllis stayed with her parents and began working at Reynolds Metals in Richmond, Virginia.
By nature, Phyllis was shy and introverted. When frustrated by the lack of information about her husband, Phyllis became bold.
She and several friends grew active in the National League of Families of Prisoners and Missing in Southeast Asia (NLF).
In Richmond, Phyllis was part of a campaign to raise awareness of the plight of the Vietnam prisoners of war. Their efforts, the most successful of many such campaigns, netted 450,000 letters from the Richmond area and 300,000 from Northern Virginia, along with many letters from the Charlotte/Gastonia area of North Carolina where Paul Galanti’s parents resided.
Phyllis gave hundreds of presentations supporting the POWs and MIAs. She met with President Nixon and Secretary of State Henry Kissinger (who later told Paul Galanti, “Your ‘vife’ – she gave me so much trouble!”).
She appeared on national television (“60 Minutes” and the “Today Show”) and met with the Joint Chiefs of Staff. She and Paul were reunited on a freezing morning at Norfolk NAS on February 15, 1973, after more than seven years of separation. Their reunion was featured in Newsweek February 26, 1973.
Their sons, James and Jeffrey, were born in 1975 and 1978.
Phyllis Galanti died on April 23, 2014. She was 73.