The connections made possible via Internet-based publishing and communication can be both enlightening and challenging.

'POW-MIA flag' photo (c) 2010, mbtrama - license: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/

When I was a cadet at the US Air Force Academy in the late 1980s / early 1990s, I wrote a paper about U.S. Prisoners of War (POWs) who were left behind in Southeast Asia following the formal end of hostilities between North Vietnam and the United States in 1973. These were men who were not included in the only formal return of U.S. POWs in February 1973. I was fortunate to be able to take a class at USAFA from Dr. Timothy Castle, who later authored “One Day Too Long” about Lima Site 85 and the capture of “sheep dipped” U.S. servicemen in Laos who never returned to the USA. The POW/MIA issue in Southeast Asia was an issue that troubled me greatly when I served in the Air Force and has continued to be on my heart in the years since I wrote that paper in 1991. When I started developing a web presence in the late 1990s, that paper along with four papers I wrote in Mexico City in 1992-93 when I studied security issues on a Fulbright scholarship were some of the first documents I put online. I had an opportunity in November of 1991 to meet Mike McDaniel and attend one of the hearings of the United States Senate Select Committee on POW/MIA Affairs. There is a great deal more I could and perhaps someday will write about this very contentious issue. I hope at some point, in the next few years, to be able to travel to Vietnam as an educator and academic professional. These are issues which are not over, and I still hope to further explore and understand them. As a veteran and the son of an Air Force Vietnam veteran, I have always felt a close connection to not only these “issues” but to the people who lived, endured, survived, and died during these tumultuous chapters of history. Lots of U.S. government documents remain classified from this and previous eras. Some day, perhaps more of “the truth” will be revealed about what happened to our men left behind in Southeast Asia by United States government officials.

U.S. POW_MIAs in Southeast Asia: In Search of the Truth

Over the past few months, I’ve received a series of emails from an elderly woman in California who has been doing research on the POW/MIA issue. She has alerted me to several books I have not read on the issue, and tonight as I found them online I faced the question: What should I do with this information? I decided to share that list here, on my blog. While I generally write about educational issues and educational technology, I certainly do address other issues from time-to-time and this is a case in point. Here are some books about the POW/MIA issue which I haven’t read, but may read in the future. Research and reading on this issue can be challenging on multiple levels, but it is certainly one which deserves continued attention and diligence. The last chapter has not been written on this era of human history. If you have found this blog post as a result of your own research on the POW/MIA issue, I encourage you to keep searching for answers. As the fictional character Fox Mulder might say, “The truth is out there.”

  1. “Betrayed” by Joseph D. Douglass
  2. “Inside Hanoi’s secret archives: solving the MIA mystery” by Malcolm McConnell (appears to be out of print, unfortunately)
  3. “Honor Bound: American Prisoners of War in Southeast Asia, 1961 – 1973,” by Stuart I. Rochester and Frederick Kiley
  4. “An Enormous Crime: The Definitive Account of American POWs Abandoned in Southeast Asia” by Bill Hendon and Elizabeth A. Stewart
  5. “Why Didn’t You Get Me Out?: A POW’s Nightmare in Vietnam” by Frank Anton and Tommy Denton
  6. “Hero Found: The Greatest Pow Escape of the Vietnam War” by Bruce Henderson
  7. “Code-Name Bright Light: The Untold Story of U.S. POW Rescue Efforts During the Vietnam War” by George J. Veith
  8. “Black April: The Fall of South Vietnam, 1973-75″ by George J. Veith (coming May 2012)
  9. “First Heroes: The Pows Left Behind in Vietnam” by Rod Colvin
  10. “Leave No Man Behind: Bill Bell and the Search for American POW/MIAs from the Vietnam War” by Garnett “Bill” Bell w/ Goerge J. Veith
  11. “Is Anybody Listening?: A True Story About POW/MIAs In The Vietnam War” by Barbara Birchim w/ Sue Clark
  12. “Perfidy: The Government Cabal That Knowingly Abandoned Our POWs and Left Them To Die” by John Holland & Rev. Patrick Bascio

There certainly are many other books worth reading on this subject, my works cited page from my 1991 paper lists several.

In the course of my recent web searches for books and materials on the POW/MIA issue, I also learned about the documentary film, “Missing, Presumed Dead: The Search For America’s POWs” by Bill Dumas. I found this on the July 2011 post, “Symposium: Why We Left Our POWs Behind.”

From an educational / critical thinking standpoint, the POW/MIA issue is a great example of a “real world” topic about which consensus is very challenging to identify. Joe Schlatter’s “MIA Facts Site” is one example of an extensive website on the issue which draws very different conclusions than my own.

As students of history, we would be wise to learn lessons from this era of conflict whose shadows still fall upon many lives today.


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  • http://profiles.google.com/daveandcori David Andrade

    Wes,

    This is some great information. I went to Worcester Polytechnic Institute in Worcester MA from 1988-1992 and was in Air Force ROTC and Pershing Rifles. We did a lot of public information and awareness campaigns on the POW/MIA situation including selling POW/MIA bracelets, holding vigils and more. 

    One of the projects that students have to complete at WPI is a Humanities Sufficiency – a project in the humanities worth 3 credits. I did the Role of Airpower in Vietnam. As part of my research, I read a great deal about lost and missing pilots and aircrews, who make up a large percentage of our POW/MIA numbers. It was very hard to find and rescue many of these pilots when shot down, but the Air Rescue service did save many of them. 

    In high school, I was  member of the Key Club service group and we worked with our town and veterans and POW/MIA group to help get a Korea/Vietnam war memorial on the town green to help remember the lost and missing. 

    Thanks for sharing all of this information. 

    Dave

  • http://www.speedofcreativity.org Wesley Fryer

    Thanks for the feedback, Dave. I wore a POW/MIA bracelet for David Hrdlicka (a confirmed POW in Laos who our government never officially negotiated to ‘get back’) from 1989 till 2005 or 2006 when I lost it sharing a workshop for teachers in College Station, Texas.

    My dad was the PAS for AFROTC at Kansas State in the early 1980s. One of my elementary school travel memories is going with our family to the National ROTC convention in Memphis one year and staying at the Peabody Hotel with the ducks on the red carpet. :-)

    One of the tangible ways I try to promote greater awareness of veteran sacrifices and military family sacrifices is through oral history projects with students and veterans. We have a number of these on both the Celebrate Oklahoma Voices and Celebrate Kansas Voices learning communities. I’m hoping we can have a veteran-focused Storychasers workshop this summer in Oklahoma. I have been visiting with a retired Army pilot and Vietnam Vet in my Friday morning men’s group who is connected to several former AF POWs both here in Oklahoma and in Kansas.

    It’s easy for people not directly connected to a military servicemember today to forget or remain oblivious of the continuing sacrifices of our military members and families. It’s so important on so many levels that we recognize and support our military families, as well as those who have served in the past. There are many stories and many different chapters to those stories, but the sacrifices of so many people remain a common thread.

    Thanks very much for your feedback on this. I hope this info is helpful to others as well.

    http://lc.celebrateoklahoma.us/video/video/search?q=veteran

    http://celebratekansas.ning.com/video/video/search?q=veteran

  • http://www.widediary.com/ Alan230

    This is an issue I don’t know much about. I was in elementary school during most of Vietnam. I did wear a POW bracelet for years, in high school and after. I’m going to look up some of the books you cite, as I would like to be better informed. 

  • http://www.widediary.com/ Alan230

    This is an issue I don’t know much about. I was in elementary school during most of Vietnam. I did wear a POW bracelet for years, in high school and after. I’m going to look up some of the books you cite, as I would like to be better informed. 

  • http://profiles.google.com/daveandcori David Andrade

    I agree that it’s easy for some to forget about past and present sacrifices by our military. I have college friends who have served in Iraq and Afghanistan and we lost one of our Pershing Rifles brothers a few years back in Iraq. Another friend spent multiple tours and my wife and I chatted with him on Facebook almost daily and sent care packages. 

    I try to bring things like this up to my students and others when ever I can.  

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