About the National Archives

Welcome Remarks for "Six Years in the Hanoi Hilton"

Good afternoon. I’m David Ferriero, Archivist of the United States. I’m glad you could be with us today, whether you are sitting here in the William G. McGowan Theater or joining us through YouTube or C-SPAN.

Before we hear from Amy Hawk about her stepfather’s time as a prisoner of war in North Vietnam, I’d like to tell you about a few programs going on today and tomorrow.

Today we opened our new exhibit, “Remembering Vietnam,” and we’re celebrating that opening with a full slate of public events. At two o’clock today, Vietnam veteran Donna Lowery will discuss the participation of American military women during the Vietnam War, which she recounts in her book Women Vietnam Veterans: Our Untold Story.

And at 4:30, members of the North Carolina Vietnam Helicopter Pilots Association will share their memories of their Vietnam experiences and tell us about the three Bell helicopters that are parked outside our building.

Tomorrow, November 11, we will present three more programs related to the exhibit. At 11 a.m., Frances O’Roark Dowell will help us see Vietnam through the eyes of a child as she discusses her book, Shooting the Moon. At two o’clock, we’ll show the film We Were Soldiers. And at 7 p.m., we will celebrate the 35th anniversary of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial with a panel discussion that will include the founder of Vietnam Veterans Memorial Fund, Jan Scruggs.

To learn more about these and all of our public programs and exhibits, consult our monthly Calendar of Events online at Archives.gov. Check our website or sign up to get email updates. You’ll also find information about other National Archives programs and activities.

Another way to get more involved with the National Archives is to become a member of the National Archives Foundation. The Foundation supports the work of the agency, especially its education and outreach programs. Pick up your application for membership in the lobby or become a member online at archivesfoundation.org.

As I mentioned earlier, today’s program is one in a series of events we are presenting in conjunction with our new exhibit, “Remembering Vietnam,” which just opened in the Lawrence F. O’Brien Gallery upstairs.

The exhibit is a media-rich exploration of the Vietnam War, featuring interviews with American and Vietnamese veterans and civilians with first-hand experience of the war’s events as well as historic analysis. It is a fascinating collection of newly discovered and iconic original documents, images, film footage, and artifacts that illuminate 12 critical episodes in the war that divided the peoples of both the United States and Vietnam.

The 12 episodes trace the policies and decisions made by the architects of the conflict and help untangle why the United States became involved in Vietnam, why it went on so long, and why it was so divisive for American society.

“Remembering Vietnam” draws on National Archives records from all parts of our agency—federal civilian and military records, Presidential libraries, still photography and motion pictures, sound recordings, and electronic records.

I encourage you all to walk through the exhibit—if not today, then another time in the coming year.

I ask all Vietnam veterans or any United States veterans who served on active duty in the U.S. Armed Forces at any time during the period of November 1, 1955, to May 15, 1975, to stand and be recognized.


Veterans, as you exit the McGowan Theater after today’s program, National Archives staff and volunteers will present each of you with the Vietnam Veteran Lapel Pin. On the back of the pin is embossed:

“A Grateful Nation Thanks and Honors You.”

The United States of America Vietnam War Commemoration is a national initiative, and the lapel pin is the nation’s lasting memento of thanks.


In February 1973, U.S. military transport planes carried the first groups of released American prisoners of war from Vietnam to American bases. After several weeks of ferrying servicemen to freedom, Operation Homecoming returned 591 POWs home. One of the early flights carried Air Force Captain James Shively, whose six-year imprisonment was at last at an end.

After his return, he married his high school sweetheart, and raised her two young daughters as his own. One of those girls, five-year-old Amy, grew up to tell his story.

After her stepfather passed away in 2006, Amy became aware of some audio recordings that he had made with a reporter, sharing his experiences in the prison camp in detail. From the tapes, Amy wrote Six Years in the Hanoi Hilton: An Extraordinary Story of Courage and Survival in Vietnam, with a foreword by Jim Shively’s prison-mate, John McCain. It is a re-telling of his day-to-day life in captivity in Vietnam. Amy wrote the book not only to honor her dad, but as a tribute to every Vietnam veteran. She is an author with a degree in broadcast journalism, and she is here today to share her dad's remarkable story.

Ladies and gentlemen, please welcome Amy Shively Hawk.