POW MIA Awareness Organization of Utah
(a non-profit organization)

Utah's Own POW & MIA

World War I

World War II



Present Day (Gulf, Iraq, Afghanistan)

   Status of the POW MIA Issue (Vietnam)

1,708 Americans are still listed by DoD as missing and unaccounted for from the Vietnam War: Vietnam - 1,307 (VN-478 VS-829); Laos – 335; Cambodia - 59; Peoples Republic of China territorial waters – 7. (These numbers occasionally fluctuate due to investigations resulting in changed locations of loss.) The League seeks the return of all US prisoners, the fullest possible accounting for those still missing and repatriation of all recoverable remains. The League’s highest priority is accounting for Americans last known alive. Official intelligence indicates that Americans known to be in captivity in Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia were not returned at the end of the war. In the absence of evidence to the contrary, it must be assumed that these Americans may still be alive. As a policy, the U.S. Government does not rule out the possibility that Americans could still be held.

Unilateral return of remains by the government of the Socialist Republic of Vietnam (SRV) has been proven an effective means of obtaining accountability, as have joint field operations in recent years, though the first joint excavation in northern Vietnam occurred in 1985. A comprehensive wartime and post-war process was established by Vietnam to collect and retain information and remains; thus, unilateral efforts by Vietnam to locate and return remains and provide records continue to offer significant potential. Hanoi’s earlier commitments to expedite interviews to obtain intelligence information and move forward on coastline cases, including working out a bilateral agreement for use of a US recovery ship, are welcome and appreciated. These topics have repeatedly been raised during League Delegations, most recently in September 2006, and have now been raised regularly by US officials at the highest levels. Archival research, also a high priority with Vietnam, has produced thousands of documents and photos, but to date the vast majority pertain to returned POWs and Americans previously accounted-for, though recent commitments offer promise, if implemented.

Joint field operations in Laos are very productive. Over the years, the Lao regularly increased flexibility and the number of US personnel permitted in-country in an effort to improve field operations. The Lao approved an archival research program, but results thus far have been disappointing. Agreements between the U.S. and the Indochina governments now permit Vietnamese witnesses to participate in joint operations in Laos and Cambodia when necessary, but it is a time-consuming, expensive process that could be at least partially alleviated with a decision in Hanoi to unilaterally provide relevant documents, as President Bush requested during his November 2006 visit to Hanoi and Vietnamese PM Dung’s visit to Washington in June, 2008. He also certified such to Congress on March 20, 2002, as did the Department of State September 7, 2004, July 15, 2005, August 8, 2006 and March 7, 2008. Research and field activities in Cambodia have received excellent support with a full-time DIA Stony Beach specialist working in the US Embassy in Phnom Penh. Over 80% of US losses in Laos and 90% in Cambodia occurred in areas where Vietnam's forces operated during the war, but Hanoi has not responded to countless US requests for case-specific records on our losses in these countries. Records research and field operations are the most likely means of increased accounting for Americans missing in Laos and Cambodia.

U.S. intelligence and other evidence indicate that many Americans can be accounted for by unilateral Vietnamese efforts to locate and return remains and provide relevant documents and records. Despite this reality, President Clinton regularly certified to Congress that Vietnam was “fully cooperating in good faith” to resolve this issue. The League recognizes that legislation requiring certification includes punitive measures that would reverse political and economic relations to the level in place in 1994. The League supported steps by the US to respond to concrete results, not advancing political and economic concessions in the hope that Hanoi would respond. The Clinton administration lifted the trade embargo, established the US Embassy in Hanoi, normalized diplomatic relations, posted a US Ambassador to Vietnam, signed a bilateral trade agreement and established normal trade relations. The Bush Administration also issued the required certification that Vietnam is “fully cooperating in good faith,” but added criteria Vietnam should meet in March 2008, a step the League welcomed. These included the need to increase unilateral provision of POW/MIA-related documents and records on Americans missing in areas of Laos and Cambodia under wartime Vietnamese control, greater attention to locating and providing information on discrepancy cases, with priority on those last known alive in captivity or in immediate proximity to capture, and the need to locate and repatriate the remains of those who died while in Vietnamese control that can’t be recovered jointly and have not yet been returned. Senior officials from the Departments of State and Defense regularly press Hanoi for increased cooperation.



Live Sighting statistics are provided by the Defense POW/MIA Office (DPMO)

Live Sightings: As of August 5, 2010, 1,997 first-hand live sighting reports in Indochina have been received since 1975; 1,942 (97.25%) have been resolved. 1,341 (67.15%) were equated to Americans now accounted for (i.e. returned POWs, missionaries or civilians detained for violating Vietnamese codes); 45 (2.25%) correlated to wartime sightings of military personnel or pre-1975 sightings of civilians still unaccounted for; 556 (27.84%) were determined to be fabrications. The remaining 55 (2.75%) unresolved first-hand reports are the focus of current analytical and collection efforts: 49 (2.45%) concern Americans reported in a captive environment; 6 (0.30%) are non-captive sightings. The years in which these 50 first hand sightings occurred is listed below:

Pre-1976 36

1976-1980 3

1981-1985 0

1986-1990 1

1991-1995 0

2996-2000 5

2001-2005 5

2006-2010 5

Total 55

Accountability: At the end of the Vietnam War, there reportedly were 2,583 unaccounted for American prisoners, missing or killed in action/body not recovered. As of September 21, 2010 the Defense POW/MIA Office lists 1,708 Americans as still missing and unaccounted for, 90+% of them in Vietnam or areas of Cambodia and Laos where Vietnamese forces operated during the war. A breakdown by year of recovery for the *875 Americans accounted for from Vietnam, Laos, Cambodia and China since the end of the war in 1975 follows:

1965-1974 War years: (recently identified) 2

1974-1975 Post war years: 28

1976-1978 US/SRV normalized negotiations: 47

1979-1980 US/SRV talks break down: 1

1981-1984 1st Reagan Administration: 23

1985-1988 2nd Reagan Administration: 166

1989-1992 George H.W. Bush Administration: 124

1993-2001 Clinton Administrations: 362

2001-2008 George W. Bush Administrations: 115

2009- Barack Obama Administration: 7

According to JPAC, unilateral SRV repatriations of remains with scientific evidence of storage have accounted for only 181 of the 606 from Vietnam; two were mistakenly listed as KIA/BNR in Vietnam in 1968, but remains were actually recovered at that time. All but 6 of the 233 Americans accounted for in Laos since the end of the war have been the result of joint excavations. Four remains were recovered and turned over by indigenous personnel, one from Vietnam and five from Laos. In addition, three persons identified were recovered in Vietnam before the end of the war. The breakdown by country of the 875* Americans accounted for since the end of the Vietnam War in 1975:

Vietnam 608 (664) Laos 233 (240) Cambodia 31 China 3

*An additional 63 US personnel were accounted between 1973 and 1975, for a grand total of 938. These Americans were accounted for by unilateral US effort in areas where the US could gain access at that time, not due to government-to-government cooperation with the post-war governments of Vietnam, Laos or Cambodia.

For the latest information, call the League’s Office (703) 465-7432 or visit our website: www.pow-miafamilies.org


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