National POW Museum

Department of the Interior (D.O.I.)
National Park Service



February 24, 1998

(ANDERSONVILLE, GA.)--Arizona Senator John McCain, a prisoner of war in Vietnam for more than five years, will head a list of dignitaries scheduled to gather here April 9 to dedicate the National Prisoner of War Museum at Andersonville National Historic Site.

Sen. McCain will be the featured speaker at the 10:30 a.m. dedication program that also will include Georgia Governor Zell Miller, 2nd district Congressman Sanford Bishop, former U.S. Attorney General Griffin Bell, National Park Service Director Robert Stanton, and Wayne Hitchcock, National Commander of the American Ex-Prisoners of War.

Following the program, a ribbon-cutting ceremony will officially open the new museum built as a memorial to all American prisoners of war throughout the nation's history. The $5.8 million complex is located adjacent to the 26-acre Civil War prison preserved as part of the national historic site.

"We're expecting more than 4,000 people to attend the grand opening event, including a large number of former POWs from all over the country," said Fred Boyles, historic site superintendent. "This memorial is a dream finally come true for these forgotten heroes of American history."

The 10,000-square-foot museum includes exhibit rooms depicting what soldiers and civilians experienced in enemy captivity from the American Revolutionary War to the Persian Gulf War. A 27-minute documentary film, "Echoes of Captivity," features personal recollections of several ex-POWs, among them Sen. McCain, former U.S. vice presidential candidate James Stockdale, U.S. Ambassador to Vietnam Pete Peterson, and Texas Congressman Sam Johnson.

Sen. McCain, a 23-year Navy pilot and the son and grandson of Navy admirals, was shot down over Hanoi in 1967 while flying an A-4 Skyhawk. He was captured by the North Vietnamese and spent five-and-a-half years in the infamous POW camp known as the Hanoi Hilton.

"This ceremony and this museum will be an emotional experience for Senator McCain and all former POWs," Boyles said. "We're extremely pleased that he has agreed to be our speaker."

Boyles said the POW museum, combined with the Jimmy Carter Museum, which opened last year at the Jimmy Carter National Historic Site in nearby Plains, makes this area of southwest Georgia "a must stop for history buffs and national park visitors."

Unsung Heroes At Last Honored at New Prisoner of War Museum

The following is a press release from the National Parks Service regarding the dedication of the National Prisoner of War Museum at Andersonville National Historic Site. The dedication of the museum is on April 9.

(ANDERSONVILLE, GA.)--Of the estimated 800,000 American men and women who have been held as prisoners of war throughout the nation's history, about 56,000 are alive today; and many of those former POWs are expected here April 9 for the dedication of the National Prisoner of War Museum at Andersonville National Historic Site.

For people like William Bearisto, of Waltham, Massachusetts, a prisoner of the Germans in World War II, it will be a particularly poignant moment. "You do not appreciate your freedom until it is taken away," said Bearisto. "This museum will help people begin to understand the sacrifices made by our veterans and the value of freedom in our country."

His sentiments are echoed by William L. Fornes, a Korean War POW, now a resident of Valdosta, Georgia, who played a key role in establishing the new museum. "To be born free is an accident," said Fornes. "To live free is a privilege, and to die free is a responsibility. Andersonville is a fitting memorial to the spirit as well as the experiences of all POWs."

The museum is located adjacent to an infamous Civil War prison on the grounds of a national park site authorized by Congress as a nation's grateful tribute to all U.S. men and women, civilian and military, who have been POWs--from the American Revolution to Desert Storm.

Many of the former POWs contributed or helped raise money to finance the $5.8 million memorial. And one of their own--Arizona Senator and former Vietnam POW, John McCain--will be the featured speaker at the dedication ceremony.

Fred Boyles, superintendent of Andersonville National Historic Site, said the museum dedication may be one of the last gatherings for some POWs from World War II and Korea.

"In 1982, more than 93,000 former POWs were still alive," said Boyles. "Now that number is down to about 56,000. So this national memorial takes on added significance to those veterans who are nearing the end of their lives."

Sally Bateman Morgan, who was a child when she was captured with missionaries by Japanese troops in the Philippines during the Second World War, said, "Andersonville will tell our story to a world who needs to know what supposedly civilized people can do to their fellow men, women, and children."

Morgan, who now lives in Grand Prairie, Texas, added, "We are the survivors, and this museum is a testament to our survival."

Another German POW, Louis D. Guillory, of Bay St. Louis, Mississippi, noted that the museum "leaves a legacy to our children and grandchildren that the price of freedom is not free.

"I would not hesitate to do it all over again in order to preserve what we have and to leave freedom to our families," Guillory said.


Fred Boyles @ 912-924-0343
Paul Winegar @ 404-562-3182
John Edwards @ 518-393-3907

For many former POWs, the museum has been a dream for 28 years. In 1970, Congress designated Andersonville National Historic Site as a memorial to all American POWs. The National Park Service operates the site.

Money for the museum, which is on the grounds of the Andersonville National Historic Site, was raised by the National Park Service, a park support group, the Friends of Andersonville, and the American Ex-Prisoners of War.

There is no admission fee to get into the 10,000 square-foot museum. The price has been paid.

04-03-98 by DGS