Home In-Depth Feature Behind the Vietnam War Story of ‘P.O.W. Wife’ Valerie Kushner

Behind the Vietnam War Story of ‘P.O.W. Wife’ Valerie Kushner


By Lily Rothman, Liz Ronk | September 28th, 2017

When Valerie Kushner was on the cover of LIFE Magazine in 1972, there were 537 known prisoners of war in Vietnam and more than 1,000 men missing in action.

As those men became something of a political football, LIFE noted in that Sept. 29, 1972, cover story that their families were caught in the middle. Initially, they had been told to keep quiet lest news about the POWs provoke their captors—a calculation still in play for some Americans dealing with analogous situations today. But President Nixon had decided that, after years of stalemate, it couldn’t hurt to have them come out of the shadows.

Kushner was one of the people who did so with particular force. She was the wife of POW Harold Kushner, whose story is featured in the Ken Burns and Lynn Novick docu-series The Vietnam War. She was a founder of POW/MIA Families for Immediate Release, and the LIFE photograph that’s fourth in the gallery above appears in the documentary.

Her husband, a flight surgeon, was captured five years ago,” the magazine explained. “Reluctant to play the role of docile service wife, she seconded McGovern’s nomination at the Democratic convention and is now an active worker in his campaign. He is the last hope, she now believes, for her husband’s safe return.”

In all the time he had been gone, Kushner had received only two letters from her husband. She wrote back despite knowing he did not receive the replies, although announcements he was forced to record by his captors were aired on Radio Hanoi. She believed that electing George McGovern, a Democratic Senator from South Dakota and a former pilot who championed withdrawing from Vietnam, was the only way to bring her husband home.

Continue Reading (Article from TIME – time.com)

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