Jim Shively

Jim Shively

Wednesday, March 8, 2017

Six Years in the Hanoi Hilton: An Extraordinary Story of Courage and Survival in Vietnam (with a foreword by Senator John McCain) is now available to order online and will be in bookstores March 13th, 2017. I can’t wait to share Dad’s incredible story with you!

Excited is an understatement!  Grab some tissues, but also, don’t be afraid that it will be too difficult to read.  You will definitely laugh a little, probably cry a little, and hopefully come away with a new perspective on freedom. After you read it, PLEASE, leave a comment here, and a review on the retailer website. I can’t wait to see what you think – tell me the good, the bad and the ugly. Don’t hold back! 

Click to buy:

“Six Years in the Hanoi Hilton is not merely a story of war, captivity, and torture. It is the story of a special man, one of the best and brightest of his generation. Jim Shively’s faith, inner strength, patriotism, and humility were the hallmarks of a truly great American. He was a man of character and dedication to service. It was my distinct privilege to know Jim Shively. We became friends relatively late in his life. He shared many memories, some about his captivity in Vietnam. But mostly Jim offered a perspective on life filled with a rare honesty and sincerity that made every hour with him an honor. Through the pages of this book, that honor is now yours."
Mike Fitzsimmons, radio and television journalist, news director, and talk radio host, KXLY Newsradio 920, Spokane

"As a classmate of Jim Shively at the Air Force Academy and a lifelong friend, I am truly ecstatic that Jim’s daughter, Amy, has written this book. My wife, Sandy, and I have spent many, many hours not just reading the book, but discussing it in considerable detail. I have not read any other book on the POW experience that impressed me to the same extent. I believe the reader will be greatly pleased and blessed by the absolutely wonderful rendition and research by Amy. Jim Shively was truly a gentleman and man among men, and I will never forget his terrible wounds staring us in the face each day from his heroic resistance. Obviously, by this outstanding book, it is clear his spirit, courage, and excellence remain with us on earth in his daughter, Amy, as well as with him where he is now. Thank you, Amy, this book has been a spectacular confirmation of my very highest opinion of your dear father and my dear friend. All the best to you for its wonderful success, which I believe will greatly bless our country in many, many ways."
Captain Guy Gruters, motivational POW speaker and author of Locked Up With God 

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Welcome to the Hanoi Hilton

Hi All!  Just popping on to say I have not disappeared off the face of the planet... I am busy writing, writing, writing and very much looking forward to the completion of Captain James R. Shively, an Exceptional Man, an Extraordinary Life.

I am listening to the tapes my Dad made with a reporter before he died and I am shocked - there is so much that he never shared with us.  His story of survival is fascinating.  It is an incredible tale of courage, strength, hope, and eventually, freedom.  He was twenty-five years old when he was captured.  Here is an excerpt:

Welcome to the Hanoi Hilton
He saw it from quite a distance as they were driving up.  It was an imposing, scary-looking  compound with  rows and rows of razor wire on top, and broken glass everywhere. They went through a big iron-gated door, which they unlocked for the truck. The truck drove in, and then there was another gate into a courtyard.  It was right out of a movie.  It was a huge, whitewashed  French Colonial building with green shutters and louvered doors. Jim half expected to see some French foreign legion guy walk out.  He knew exactly where he was:  Hỏa Lò Prison, loosely translated, "Hell Hole," also referred to sarcastically by American military as the Hanoi Hilton. No one knew for sure who had started the nickname,  but the first soldier to write it down had carved "Welcome to the Hanoi Hilton" on the handle of a pail by way of greeting the next visitor.  Now it was Jim's turn to be ushered in to the infamous, and by all accounts nefarious, living quarters.

           They had arrived at their destination, and the guards hoisted him off the truck and put the blindfold back on.  His hands were still tightly cuffed behind his back.  The guards did an excellent job of setting the scene for him, even though he was blindfolded.   They wanted him scared. At every door, they made a big show of locking it behind them with heavy metal keys.  Jim had the impression that they were taking him down to some basement, but he didn't know for sure.  He just knew it was dark and dreary.  They eventually entered a room.  They set him down on a wooden stool and took the blindfold off, and then left him alone.  He took a look around.  The room was intimidating.  It was all concrete - concrete floors, concrete walls, with just one bulb hanging down from the ceiling, providing scarcely enough light that he could see the iron bars and u-bolts against the wall.  A wave of fear went through him but he pushed it aside.  Surely they didn't plan to restrain him in those? 

            Always interested in architecture, he decided to study the walls instead.   Instead of smooth concrete, it looked like someone had taken plaster and just spread it out in handfuls, giving the walls a rough, egg-carton like appearance.  He found out later it was to deaden the sound.

Don't worry, it's not all doom and gloom.  Much of the book is infused with humor, because that's just the type of guy he was.  He was able to amuse himself in the dreariest of circumstances. I will keep you posted on the release date.  I was shooting for this Christmas, but the more I dive into this epic adventure, the more I want to tell.

Bless you!

Saturday, January 25, 2014

Misadventures in Combat Crew Training

       I am having a fun time writing Captain James R. Shively, and I'm learning a lot about my dad as I write!   I'm very intrigued by his early stories of pilot training.  Here are a couple of misadventures from his early days in combat crew training at Nellis AFB in Nevada:

       After graduating from pilot training in 1965, Jim entered combat crew training. Laughing, he tells the embarrassing story of one of his most memorable experiences there. On one of his early solo flights in the F-105, he landed long and hot (way too far down the runway, way too fast.) He couldn't get stopped in time, and  took out the barrier at the end of the runway, causing damage to the plane. As if that wasn't bad enough, who showed up to escort him off the runway?  None other than General Everest, a.k.a. "Speedy Pete."  General Everest was the wing commander at the 105 combat crew training, a well-known test pilot, and famous for being one of the first people to break the sound barrier.  Jim chuckles at the humiliation of having Speedy Pete show up in his little staff car to drive him in after his collision with the barrier.

   Diagram courtesy of Answers.com

      Another time, Jim was forced to choose life or death in an instant.  He was flying a single seat F-105 in a fingertip formation, following a well-respected Air Force captain. The captain, flying in the first position, led them through  Death Valley flying extremely low.  Jim says they were low enough (about 20-30 feet off the ground) to make rooster tails in the sand.  Suddenly, the lead turned sharply, and because they were so low, they were forced to break formation or crash into each other. They broke formation. Technically, because it was drilled into them during training never to break formation, they should have crashed. Back at the base, the pilots were upset and asked the captain why in the world he had done that.   The captain replied, "I just wanted to see what you would do."  Jim chuckles at the memory, saying, "I guess we did the right thing!"

    I am looking forward to learning more as I continue listening to his recorded memories.  If you would like to receive updates from this blog as they are posted, just enter your e-mail address in the "follow by email" box on the right.



Thursday, January 16, 2014

Captain James R Shively Biography Announcement

 I'm penning a biography about my step-dad, Capt. James R. Shively.

He was a  POW in Vietnam for almost 6 years, a highly decorated war hero, and an all-around exceptional man. Here's an excerpt from an article I wrote about him last year:

"There, he courageously endured the unspeakable.  His cell consisted of a tiny, hot, rat-infested room, with only a rusty metal bucket for disposal of bodily waste. For the length of time he was there, his diet was unchanging.  Water, diluted pumpkin soup, sometimes rice, and the occasional piece of moldy bread.  He never discussed with his daughters the brutal beatings and torture he endured, but over time, as we got older, we gleaned that those experiences were commonplace.  We discovered through our own research  that severe torture methods were employed, such as rope bindings, irons, beatings, and prolonged solitary confinement.  We also saw the evidence of the brutality on his body;  pit marks on his ankles from the stocks, numerous scars, the result of many beatings, and the infectious boils that sometimes appeared on his back, from living so long in unsanitary conditions."

It is interesting the way God works.  About a year ago my husband started telling me that I needed to listen to the audio recordings my dad had made with a reporter before he died... recordings of his personal history.  When I finally listened, I thought, "Wow!  There is so much about him that I didn't know.  Someone should write a book."  For a while I couldn't stop thinking about his life story being made into a biography, but then I forgot about it.

Early last fall, the Lord told me to quit my part-time job.   Once I did, things cleared up right away as to what to do with my time.  I was cleaning the dust bunnies from under our bedroom furniture -  and voilà! there were the CD's beckoning to be made into a book.

Most of the time, my dad was an incredibly dignified attorney and stoic war hero.  Which makes stories like these all the more hilarious:

 "I was in the fourth grade and Dad took me,
 Laura, Nikki, and some friends to The Bangles concert. 
 I can remember looking over and watching 
Dad sing along to Walk Like An Egyptian."  - Jane

I feel really special that God chose me to write this book, and I don't mind asking for your prayers. Jim Shively was a true hero who lived a life worth remembering, worth celebrating, and worth honoring.  I want to do a good job in the re-telling. Besides the taped recordings, I am compiling stories about him from family and friends. If you have a story about him you would like to share, please leave a comment below. 

Many blessings and thanks!


Remembering Papa Jim

(originally published on February 18, 2013 on truthisaperson.com)

Today I am remembering an exceptional man and highly decorated war hero, my step-dad, Capt. James R. Shively.

He was a 1964 graduate of the U.S. Air Force Academy, becoming a fighter pilot in 1966.  Due to his superior skill, focus, and character, the Air Force selected him for advanced pilot training for its elite fighter -- the F-105. On his 69th mission over North Vietnam,  his F-105D was shot down, and he had to parachute out.  He landed in a rice paddy and was quickly captured.  He was stripped, paraded through the streets, tortured and interrogated, and held in the infamous "Hanoi Hilton" for almost 6 years. 

There, he courageously endured the unspeakable.  His cell consisted of a tiny, hot, rat-infested room, with only a rusty metal bucket for disposal of bodily waste. For the length of time he was there, his diet was unchanging.  Water, diluted pumpkin soup, sometimes rice, and the occasional piece of moldy bread.  He never discussed with his daughters the brutal beatings and torture he endured, but over time, as we got older, we gleaned that those experiences were commonplace.  We discovered through our own research  that severe torture methods were employed, such as rope bindings, irons, beatings, and prolonged solitary confinement.  We also saw the evidence of the brutality on his body;  pit marks on his ankles from the stocks, numerous scars, the result of many beatings, and the infectious boils that sometimes appeared on his back, from living so long in unsanitary conditions.

He was released from captivity on February 18, 1973, emaciated and struck down, but not destroyed.  The war did not break this courageous and honorable man, it only strengthened him.  When he died of cancer in 2006, our family received a revealing letter from one of his cellmates:

"When we were cell mates you showed the rest of us how to live. You never said an angry word to any of us no matter how much we deserved it. And no angry words were ever spoken to you, either. When you suffered endless pain and discomfort, you never complained. In fact, you smiled. You showed us what real courage was. Jim, these last few years you demonstrated your immense strength of character and your unbelievable courage in the face of overwhelming odds. We are all humbled by this and doubt that we could ever be your equal under similar circumstances."

Upon his release, he and the other returning POW's were honored at a White House reception.  Jim was awarded a Silver Star, and received a hero's welcome in his hometown of Spokane, WA.  He married my mom, his high school sweetheart, and took in her two little daughters, ages 5 and 1, as his own.  They went on to have two more daughters, thus fulfilling a dream he had expressed while in prison, that he would never again have to look at men every day, but would live the rest of his life surrounded by females. He went on to earn his law degree at Gonzaga Law School and became Spokane's top U.S. prosecutor.   He taught his four daughters to take care of people, to laugh at problems, and to keep appropriate perspective.

When we were teens, we spent a lot of time arguing about who stole whose make-up, who was wearing someone else's shirt, and who spent the most time on the phone and wouldn't get off.  My dad, the war hero, never got mad, though.  He never even raised his voice.  He'd just lower his newspaper and look at us over the top of it. Somehow he had a way of making us see how ridiculous we were being, without actually saying anything. 

It was difficult to get him riled up, because he had already lived through so much.  He didn't get mad when my sister let the car roll down our steep driveway and it crashed into a tree.  He didn't seem too distressed when my other sister went through her "goth" phase, when I brought home a D during my first semester of college, or even when one of us (I won't say which one) snuck out of the house one night, went to a party and came home drunk.  He had already lived through hell, and survived.  He could survive raising four lively daughters. 

In 1991, our home burned to the ground when a firestorm swept through portions of the Spokane Valley.  We had to evacuate the neighborhood.  We were at my Grandma's when a neighbor called and told us that our house was gone.  As he hung up the phone, I saw a tear in his eye.  It was the only time I ever saw my dad cry.  A reporter interviewed him later about the tragedy of losing his home, and with it, his war medals.  He was philosophical about the loss, saying, "I could have died that day over North Vietnam, but for some reason I didn't.  Any day after that is a good day." 

As a U.S. Attorney for the Dept. of Justice for over twenty years, he was a man of considerable clout.  He was pursued by the Democratic party to run for office, but he always turned them down. He was a rare combination of authoritative yet modest, influential, but never self-important. He was incredibly humble, and always a gentleman.  

Upon my dad's passing, Jerry Hughes,  a co-worker and friend, wrote the following in a tribute published in the Pacific Northwest Inlander: 

              "Shively was vigorously recruited by Democratic leaders to run for office. This was to be a      first step in a plan to elect him to the U.S. Senate. Jim respectfully declined; Nancy and his girls would remain his focus. Sen. John McCain, a fellow POW, has established an impressive senatorial record; Shively's might have equaled or surpassed those elevated benchmarks. 

           In private practice, his reputation was sterling, and soon Jim was asked to join the Eastern Washington U.S. Attorney's office. He accepted, and in an exemplary 20-year career there, he would rise to become the supervisor of both the criminal and civilian divisions. It would be a Herculean task to identify a more respected public official. His admirers are legion.

         He was a selfless volunteer mentor to high school and Gonzaga college students, and a regular guest speaker at Gonzaga University political science classes. He created a profound impact on his appreciative audiences. He literally and figuratively personified the noble code of "Duty... Honor... Country."

Dad now has six beautiful Grandchildren, and one more on the way.   He only got to meet Savanna and Cruise, though.  They were 6 and 3 when he died, and they remember him fondly.  This is my dad holding his new granddaughter for the first time:

Savanna called him, "Papa Jim", and it stuck.  Here is Papa giving Cruise a lollipop that he "grew" in his garden.  He used to bury them for the kids, and then let them dig for the surprise.

The other grand kids know Papa Jim by pictures and stories.  They know he was a hero. 

He died on February 18, 2006,  with his wife and four daughters present.  Exactly 33 years from the day of his release from the Vietnamese prison, he was released from earth and into heaven... the ultimate freedom.

See you up there, Dad.