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Free Vietnam POW Symposium, feat. 2 of the Alacatraz Eleven and Best-Selling Author

Alaina Cordes Apr 10, 2014

Patriots Point will welcome two renowned Vietnam Prisoners of War, George Coker and George McKnight, and best-selling author Alvin Townley for a free symposium aboard the USS YORKTOWN . Townley’s book Defiant shares the stories of the Alcatraz Eleven, Prisoners of War who were placed in solitary confinement for their leadership in resisting imprisonment. Retired Navy Commander George Coker and retired Air Force Lieutenant Colonel George McKnight will join him in sharing their own tales of their years of defiance toward their captors.

Ordinary People Doing Extraordinary Things series presents…

Defiant: Stories of an Eight-Year Ordeal

April 17th at 6:30 PM aboard the USS YORKTOWN

FREE Admission

As moderated by Patriot’s Point Education Director Keith Grybowski and Alvin Townley, author of Defiant: The POWs Who Endured Vietnam’s Most Infamous Prison, The Women Who Fought for Them, and the One Who Never Returned, the program will feature former prisoners of war and members of the Alcatraz Eleven, Coker and McKnight.

About our guests:

George Coker entered service in 1963 and on August 27, 1966. He and his pilot, John H. “Jack” Fellowes, were shot down over North Vietnam. Coker was captured and during his captivity, Coker was notable for the ferocity with which he resisted his incarceration.  George McKnight went on active duty beginning in 1956. He was forced to bail out over North Vietnam as an A-1 pilot and was taken as a Prisoner of War in 1965.

In 1967, Coker and McKnight became cell mates at “Dirty Bird” prison in Hanoi. After a daring prison escape attempt, the two POWs were designated by their Vietnam captors to be “the most effective resisters” and were placed with nine other POWs in a special prison nicknamed “Alcatraz.” These men became known as the Alcatraz Eleven.

Townley’s Defiant reveals the astonishing story of the Alactraz Eleven, men singled out as the strongest ringleaders and resisters to captivity. Since then, the story of these men has become legend and one of the most captivating stories of the Vietnam War. This best-selling account also highlights the remarkable wives left at home not knowing where their loved ones where, or what they were enduring in foreign lands.  These women led a struggle with the U.S. and North Vietnamese governments to secure the safe return of their loved ones.


Patriots Point welcomes these three men for this unique opportunity to talk to the public and ensure their history lives on for future generations. The event coincides with the announcement that Patriots Point Naval & Maritime Museum being named a Commemorative Partner of the Department of Defense for the 50th Anniversary of the Vietnam War. As an official partner, Patriots Point will host numerous educational and commemorative events and programs that will thank and honor Vietnam veterans, highlight the service of the all of the Armed Forces, and recognize the sacrifices made at home and with U.S. allies throughout the lengthy war.

The symposium will be held on board the USS YORKTOWN in the Smokey Stover Theater. Northside Christian School’s award-winning Hand Bell Choir will also perform in Hangar Bay at the beginning and conclusion of the program. Admission to the symposium is free to the public; parking is $5 per car


This is just the first of many events as a Commemorative Partner. Mark your calendars for the American Veterans Traveling Tribute Vietnam Wall coming to Patriots Point from October 9-12th. Keep an eye out in the upcoming months for details regarding the upcoming Vietnam Anniversary programs and events. 






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  • Active Duty Military (ID required)
  • $17
  • In Person
  • Active Duty Military In Uniform
  • Free
  • In Person