Submitted by Brad Willis
It was pre-pandemic, back in the fall of 2019, that I went to the Coronado Historical Association Museum to do a video report on the League of Wives exhibit, which was on national tour. I was immediately reminded of the time in the early 1990s when, as a foreign correspondent, I travelled to Hanoi to cover Senator John McCain as he returned to Vietnam for the first time since the war. The Senator, a former Navy pilot, had spent 5 1/2 years imprisoned, beaten and tortured in the infamous Hanoi Hilton prison after being shot down and captured during the war. He was returning to begin the process of resolving the POW/MIA issue.
The League of Wives exhibit was at our local museum because Coronado is the birthplace of this historic movement. It was founded and led by Coronado resident Sybil Stockdale, whose husband, Vice-Admiral James Bond Stockdale, spent seven years imprisoned in Vietnam. Coronado residents Jenny Connell Robertson, Shirley Stark, Sherry Martin, Pat Mearns, and Chloe Moore were also members of the league and had husbands who were imprisoned as well.
The League of Wives was launched to demand better treatment for their POW husbands, fight for their release, and account for so many missing servicemen. Its members were strong, heroic and dedicated as they also established the national POW/MIA organization and the National League of Families for American Prisoners and Missing in Southeast Asia. They made history in the process, and their movement is an essential part of the spirit of Women’s History Month that America observes each March, commemorating and encouraging the study, observance and celebration of the vital role of women in our history.
I personally support establishing a League of Wives Memorial in Coronado honoring the brave women who stood together against great odds in the name of their incarcerated loved ones. While it would likely take a few years to bring such a project to fruition, and much would need to be determined (including design and location), such a memorial would also help future generations remember the accomplishments of these remarkable women and be inspired by a powerful movement that began right here in Coronado and is an essential part of the history of our community.
If you would like to view my video story on the League of Wives it’s on YouTube at https://youtu.be/BiN2lYWIqPk.