The search for Canasta 404

Tags: HeroStories

A while back, we were contacted by a writer by the name of Melissa Robinson who was working on a book about Maureen Dunn. Maureen's husband, Joe, was shot down by China on Valentines Day in 1968. The book tells the true story of Maureen's struggle to find her missing husband, and the many years of work she did for the POW/MIA issue. I was fortunate to meet Melissa recently at a book signing here in Austin and to get a copy of her book. I've asked her to send me something I could post about this wonderful book....

The Search for Canasta 404: Love, Loss, and the POW/MIA Movement

Melissa RobinsonJoe and Maureen Dunn, the products of tight-knit Boston Irish families, fell in love and were married in the mid-60s. Joe enlisted in the Navy, attended flight school, and was sent to Vietnam; eleven days after his first tour of duty was extended, Joe drifted into Chinese airspace during an escort mission and was shot down.

Devastated, Maureen nevertheless was convinced that her husband was still alive, but her attempts to wring more information out of the government were met with resistance and stonewalling. Dunn learned of one misstep in the case after another, including how the Navy -- having received the wrong coordinates for Joe's position -- wasted hours looking for him in the wrong place and then failed to inform the International Red Cross that he could be a war prisoner in China. Dunn launched a crusade to learn more about her husband's fate, forming the "Where is Joe Dunn?" committee, the first publicly active POW/MIA lobbying and activist organization in the country.

Dunn's efforts attracted the attention of others and Maureen became a co-founder of the National League of Families of American Prisoners and Missing in Southeast Asia. Today, she remains the northeast coordinator of what is now the National League of POW/MIA Families, and continues to organize events and call attention to their concerns. Maureen never sought a

public life; she wanted to marry Joe and have lots of kids. After Joe was lost, however, she channeled her grief into the cause of ensuring an accounting of every man and woman missing in Southeast Asia and became a brave, independent woman who spoke to President Richard M. Nixon, Secretary of State Henry Kissinger, House Speaker John McCormack and South Vietnam's President Nguyen Van Thieu.

Part love story, part inside account of the growth of the movement, The Search for Canasta 404 is a deeply personal narrative of private tragedy and public activism.

MELISSA B. ROBINSON is a reporter for The Associated Press in Washington, D.C., where she covers New England issues. After meeting Maureen in the spring of 2002, Melissa spent countless hours interviewing her, conducting research and other interviews, and combing through files, military records, newspaper clippings and other documents to produce this true, narrative account of Maureen and Joe's story.

Among her many other activities, MAUREEN DUNN is leading an effort to build a national POW/MIA memorial in Boston.

The Search for Canasta 404: Love, Loss, and the POW/MIA Movement

"I have known Maureen Dunn and her life's work for more than thirty years. The Search for Canasta 404 is a memoir of lasting love and dignified dedication. The book captures the emotional roller coaster that Maureen Dunn rode without ever losing her "True North": her love for her husband and her love of her nation's ideals. Joe and Maureen Dunn are true American heroes. Commander Dunn gave his life for freedom and Maureen dedicated her life to

ensure that the sacrifice of her husband and thousands of other will never be forgotten.

This book should be read by any American, who aspires to lead men and women into war. Maureen Dunn fought her own war with politicians, bureaucrats and diplomats on behalf of every American Warrior, past, present and future. In the end, Maureen found her husband's spirit and set an example for generations to come. We should never forget her incredible struggle. "

--Dan Rea, CBS4, Boston

"Maureen Dunn's personal loss motivated her to start a movement that changed the face of our nation, a movement that defines patriotism. Maureen's work put the POW/MIA movement in the spotlight and demanded Washington find the truth about American soldiers missing in Vietnam. Melissa Robinson and Maureen Dunn share a important and inspiring story about one woman's

courage, activism and commitment that touched the lives of countless Americans."

--John Kerry

"Maureen Dunn is an inspiration and her story is a compelling example of the power that one person has to make a difference. Her tireless advocacy helped create and sustain the POW/MIA movement, ensuring that we never forget those who sacrificed so much for our country."

--Congressman Mike Capuano

"A powerful and moving account of Maureen Dunn's courageous actions to mobilize support for our missing in action -- beginning with the search for her husband, Lt. Joe Dunn, in 1968 -- and our prisoners of war during Vietnam. Mrs. Dunn's activism was inspirational and selfless in the founding of the National League of Families of American Prisoners and Missing in Southeast Asia, which was a landmark initiative in bringing the search for our POW/MIAs to center stage."

--Dr. Henry Kissinger


I often wondered about Lt. Joseph P. Dunn and am thrilled to

find The Search for Canasta 404.  The reason for my interest is that I

have worn his silver POW/MIA bracelet since they came out in the early

70s!  Is it allowed for you to give me Maureen Dunn's email, so I

could write her?  It would be such a connection to my bracelet, so I

hope you can.  Thank you!  Marcia Lark