Lawrence Officials Honor Vietnam POW and Wife in Virginia

Lawrence Officials Honor Vietnam POW and Wife in Virginia

By Marc Laplante City Council President


Lawrence elected officials head to Virginia on Wednesday to honor native Lawrencians Captain James A. Mulligan and Louise M. Mulligan for their acts of service and heroism during the Vietnam War. Captain Mulligan, a naval aviator, was shot down in Vietnam on March 20, 1966, on a mission to attack enemy supply lines in his A-4C Skyhawk.  He was held captive for nearly 7 years – 2522 days – and was released on February 12, 1973.  While Captain Mulligan was a prisoner of war (POW), his wife Louse was instrumental in forming a national movement to gather more information on all the POWs and advocated for their safety and release.

The Lawrence City Council on Tuesday night will adopt resolutions to recognize Captain and Mrs. Mulligan, and a delegation made up of Mayor Brian A. De Peña, City Council President Marc Laplante and City Council Vice President Estela Reyes will travel the next morning to the Mulligan’s home in Virginian Beach, VA to present the resolutions and the keys to the city.

Captain Mulligan was held in several locations including the infamous “Hanoi Hilton,” and then was one of 11 POWs who were taken from that location and placed in worse conditions – he was a resistance leader. In this place that the POWs called “Alcatraz,” the 11 men were in solitary confinement in leg irons for 26 months, with little food, in a 3 by 9-foot windowless cell. Captain Mulligan is one of the three Alcatraz captives who are alive today.

Reminded of the Captain’s plight, Mayor De Peña said, “Patrick Henry once stated that the battle is not to the strong alone; it is to the vigilant, the active, the brave. This is a perfect example of that statement.”  The Mayor continued that “the vigilant, the active, the strong, and the brave both being Louise and Jim in their very own ways.  Lawrencians can only strive to be like Jim and Louise. We are very proud because, and for them.”

Council President Laplante commented on the connection between Captain Mulligan and Mrs. Mulligan during the 7-year ordeal.

“This trip is highly unusual,” said the City Council President.  “However, since Captain and Mrs. Mulligan are unable to travel, we wanted to visit them and personally thank them on behalf of their hometown. They have been married for 73 years with a beautiful love story that was tested during the Vietnam War. Their story is of love for each other, love for their country, and an intense spirituality that helped them through their darkest days. A new generation of Americans should know their story and be inspired by their sacrifice.”

Council Vice President Reyes noted that several decades have passed since the Mulligans last lived in Lawrence, but the city remains grateful. Jim is 96 years old and Louise is 92.

            “Our city has changed in the last 60 years. However, one thing has not changed – we still have a deep connection with the Mulligans and appreciate their service to our country,” said the Council Vice President. “I’m glad that we can remember them while they are still with us.”

Central Catholic High School President Christopher Sullivan commented on Captain Mulligan’s legacy at his school. Mulligan entered the Navy before graduating in 1944.

“Capt. Jim Mulligan is a true and proud son of Central Catholic High School, Class of 1944, and the City of Lawrence,” said the high school’s president, Christopher Sullivan. “His alma mater extends its deepest gratitude for his service and commitment to our country and our faith! Jim Mulligan is an example of courage, sacrifice, and enduring values rarely seen today, and which we hold up to our students and alumni worldwide of leading a truly meaningful life. Those of us in Raider-Nation are very proud of him.  As Jim has done so many times in the past, he once again brings honor to our alma mater and our hometown.”

Jim also served in World War 2 and the Korean War.  When he returned from World War 2, he began his college studies at Merrimack College, only to be interrupted by his service in the Korean War. Upon completing his time in that war, he returned home and graduated from Merrimack College as its 1955 valedictorian.

“Captain Mulligan embodies a dedication to service that Merrimack College has instilled in its students for the past 75 years,” said Merrimack College President Christopher E. Hopey, Ph.D. “We are truly honored to call him a distinguished alumnus and join the City of Lawrence in thanking Captain Mulligan and his wife Louise for their sacrifice to our country.”

While Jim was held captive, Mrs. Mulligan (Lawrence High School class of 1946) helped form a group of spouses who became increasingly dissatisfied with the government’s effort to release information on their husbands’ condition. Mrs. Mulligan’s, efforts led her to meet President Lyndon Johnson and President Richard Nixon, key Congressional leaders such as Senator Robert Dole, and wealthy businessmen such as Ross Perot.

“Louise Mulligan exemplifies the collective competencies of our portrait of a graduate,” said Victor Caraballo-Anderson, Lawrence High School’s Head of School. “Her advocacy created a movement that inspired a nation and brought consciousness to a world that desperately needed it. Her actions and her ability to communicate, innovate, collaborate, plan and persist and connect to the fabric of our democracy to create social consciousness transformed American society. Today she serves as an inspiration for all our Lawrence High School Scholars. What a great legacy to leave behind and a model to follow for ages to come.”

The Mulligans relied extensively on the Catholic faith while Jim was in captivity. Jim and Louise’s families attended Lawrence’s Patrick Church. Jim went to that parochial school and the couple met for the first time at a dance in the church’s parish center.

Fr. Paul O’Brien, Pastor of St. Patrick’s Church said: “Jim and Louise are people of profound faith. Their relationships with God and one another began in Lawrence and led them through sorrows and joys they might never have imagined. They are inspirations to me.”

He authored the autobiographical account of his Vietnam experience in “The Hanoi Commitment.”

Her experience is chronicled in “The League of Wives-The Untold Story of the Women Who Took on the US Government to Bring Their Husbands Home,” by Heath Hardage Lee.




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