Vietnam War Prisoners
2,079 Americans are still missing and unaccounted for from the Vietnam War, though 468 were at sea/over
water losses: Vietnam - 1,552 (North, 564; South, 986); Laos - 446 Cambodia - 75; Peoples Republic of China territorial waters
- 8. The United States seeks the return of all US prisoners, the fullest possible accounting for those still missing and repatriation
of all recoverable remains.
The United States's highest priority is resolving the live prisoner question. fficial intelligence indicates
that Americans known to have been alive 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 matter of policy,
the US Government does not rule out the possibility that American POWs could still be held.
Unilateral return of remains by the government of the Socialist Republic of Vietnam (SRV) has been proven
the most effective means of obtaining accountability. Extensive field activities have brought some progress through joint
recovery or turnover in the field of remains fragments. From that process, 138 Americans have thus far accounted for by the
Clinton Administration, all as a result of joint field operations..
Archival research in Vietnam has produced thousands of items, documents and photos, but the vast majority
pertain to accounted-for Americans. A comprehensive wartime and postwar process existed in Vietnam to collect and retain information
and remains. For this reason, unilateral SRV efforts to locate and return remains and provide records offer the most productive
short term potential. The Defense Department's case-by-case review and other evidence reveal that unilateral SRV efforts could
bring many answers.
Joint field activities in Laos are productive and, increasingly, the Lao Government has permitted greater
flexibility while US teams are in-country. Agreements between the US and the Indochina governments now permit Vietnamese witnesses
to participate in joint operations in Laos and Cambodia when necessary. POW/MIA research and field activities in Cambodia
have received excellent support.
Over 80% of US losses in Laos and 90% of those in Cambodia occurred in areas where Vietnamese forces
operated during the war; however, Vietnam has not yet responded to numerous US requests for case-specific records on US loss
incidents in these countries. Records research and field operations are the most likely means of increasing the accounting
for Americans missing in Laos and Cambodia.
Despite US intelligence assessments and other evidence that hundreds of Americans can best be accounted
for by unilateral Vietnamese efforts to locate and return remains and provide relevant documents and records, President Clinton
lifted the trade embargo, established a US Embassy in Hanoi, normalized relations, posted a US Ambassador to Vietnam and,
recently, determined, without supporting evidence, that Vietnam is "fully cooperating in good faith" to resolve this issue.
The burden is squarely on the current administration to obtain increased accountability. The United States
supports steps by the US to respond to concrete results, not advancing political and economic concessions in the hope that
Hanoi will respond.
At the end of the Vietnam War, there were 2,583 unaccounted for American prisoners, missing in action
or killed in action/body not recovered. As of October 1, 1998, 2,079 Americans are still missing and unaccounted for, over
90% of whom were lost in Vietnam or in areas of Laos and Cambodia where Vietnamese forces operated during the war.