The Communists Kept American POWs After the War
Alex Wong/Getty Images News/Getty Images
If Rambo is to be believed (and many of us were raised in his ways), hundreds of American POWs remained captives of the commies after the end of the war. And this story definitely wasn't invented by the movies -- in the 1980s, President Reagan said that recovering the POWs was "the highest national priority." Hell, Ross Perot gained 19 percent of the popular vote in the 1992 presidential election thanks in part to his support of the MIA/POW issue, and it was used as a stick to bash efforts to normalize relations with Vietnam decades after the fall of Saigon. As a matter of fact, the black POW/MIA flag still flies atop federal buildings to this day.
Gregory Shamus/Getty Images Sport/Getty Images
Not to be confused with the KMA MIA flags that fly atop Cleveland buildings in remembrance of LeBron James.
It's true that after the war ended and all POWs had been accounted for, there were still 2,646 Americans listed as missing in action. But -- and this is not to minimize the profound effect this must have had on the families involved -- you have to understand that there's a long list of MIAs after every war. For instance, there were more than 20 times as many (70,000 plus) after World War II, but nobody assumed the Germans or Japanese had them stashed away somewhere. They're just presumed dead, and their families do their best to move on.
George Marks/Retrofile/Getty Images
"We've mourned enough, now let's boom a baby into you."
So why did it become an issue after Vietnam? Well, first off, the Nixon administration. Nixon elevated the issue for two reasons: so that getting them back could serve as a substitute for victory in Vietnam, and -- unlike the returning soldiers who criticized the war -- the POWs and their families still supported the war effort by default, thereby serving as heroic endorsers of Nixon's policies.
Subsequent investigations have been successful in discovering the remains of 998 of those 2,646 MIAs -- they've even managed to identify the soldier previously buried in the Tomb of the Unknown. For their part, Vietnamese officials have offered assistance in putting the remaining soldiers to rest as they also search for their own MIAs ... all 300,000 of them.
Linda D. Kozaryn/American Forces Press Service
"This would go a lot faster without all this rain, RAIDEN."