She said in a Richmond News Leader interview in 1971 that while Galanti was a POW, she just “wanted to be a housewife.” She wanted to “sink into oblivion” when he returned.We should all be so lucky.
By 1969, she had become active with other POW wives. In 1970, the wives group became the National League of Families and Friends of POWS and MIAs in Southeastern Asia. It evolved into a tour de force in crusading for the North Vietnamese to adhere to Geneva Convention protocols in treatment of prisoners and eventually for the release of POWs and the accounting for those missing in action.
Mrs. Galanti served as chairwoman of the league.
In a televised speech before the Virginia Senate on Feb. 12, 1971, she kicked off an areawide campaign, “Write Hanoi: Let’s Bring Paul Galanti Home,” part of a nationwide project.
Her efforts generated more than 450,000 letters from the Richmond area, around 300,000 letters from Northern Virginia and 378,000 from Gastonia, N.C., where Paul’s parents had moved in 1964.
More than 80 percent of people living in the Richmond area contributed a letter, which was thought to have been the greatest response to the Write Hanoi campaign anywhere in the United States.
In March 1971, Mrs. Galanti was among a delegation of 10 Write Hanoi campaigners who went to Stockholm, Sweden, to try to obtain
information on the POWs from the chargé d’affaires in the North Vietnamese embassy there.
They also wanted to send the letters asking for freedom for American servicemen being held in Southeast Asia to the North Vietnamese and Viet Cong delegations attending the World Assembly of Paris for Peace and Independence of Indochinese Peoples.
Because “they knew we had” the letters, Mrs. Galanti said they were able to talk with officials. The letters were flown to Paris to be given to the North Vietnamese delegation at the peace talks.
By Christmas Eve 1971, she received two letters and two postcards from her husband. “Those four little pieces of mail were the most elaborate Christmas gift,” she said.
She reported in March 1971 that she was using the services of a peace group to correspond with her husband.
Mrs. Galanti called for a shift in strategy in July 1971. Instead of writing Hanoi, she asked Americans to write to President Richard Nixon and Congress. “The issue has become a political matter,” she said. “Their release can come from one place — Washington.”
In an op/ed piece in The News Leader in 1971, she wrote, “I can honestly say that I have never done anything so rewarding and worthwhile in my life. Knowing that so many people were genuinely concerned gave me a much-needed boost.”
When she and other POW wives went to Versailles, near Paris, in February 1972 to talk about release of POWs with 800 communist delegates from 75 countries at the World Assembly of Paris for Peace, they failed to get an audience. However, Mrs. Galanti said she felt a softening on the part of communist officials to Nixon’s plan to end the war.
Mrs. Galanti and two other POW wives talked about prisoner issues with Nixon and Henry Kissinger, then national security adviser, on May 15, 1972.
In October 1972, she was elected chairwoman of the league and early the next year learned that her husband’s name was on a list of living POWs.
Galanti was released on Feb. 12, 1973, among the first group of POWs freed by the North Vietnamese. Their plane landed at Clark Air Base, Philippines. He arrived in Virginia from Travis Air Force Base, Calif., on Feb. 15. He was reunited with his wife at the Norfolk Naval Station.
At the time, he told reporters, “Phyllis was pretty shy when I left, and I came back to a real tiger.”
Ms. Galanti passed this week after 51 years of marriage.