MIA. This is an abbreviation for “Missing In Action”; the casualty status assigned to any member of the armed services who can’t be accounted for after combat. The individual so designated may have actually been killed, wounded, or captured, but unless the individual could be positively accounted for, and in the case of KIA be positively identified, the individual would be designated MIA.
Essentially, the Army doesn’t want to tell someone’s wife, children or mom they’ve been killed, then have to go back and say “Oops! We’re sorry. We made a mistake.” So positive identification is required for reporting a KIA, and until it’s accomplished the individual remains MIA.
At the Repl Depl, soldiers coming in-country were asked at what degree of injury did they want their families notified. Most declared nothing short of being killed or severely injured. Spare the home front! For example, I was believed to be KIA after a firefight—luckily for me only my helmet was killed. But, there was no notification until my status could be confirmed. They finally found me at the medevac unit frolicking with the nurses and since my injuries were hardly “life threatening” no one at home was told.
Following the Paris Peace Accords of 1973, the US listed about 1,350 Americans as prisoners of war or missing in action and roughly 1,200 Americans reported killed in action and body not recovered, most of whom remain unaccounted for to this day.
War’s a messy business, especially with the nasty weapons used in Nam and the terrain over which the war was fought. The US is still bringing home soldiers from the Pacific jungles where WWII was fought. Accounting for guys who were lost in tens of thousands of square miles of jungle and mountains is not an easy or an exact science. The chances of large numbers of US soldiers being found alive in secret camps is unlikely. Nor is it likely that the government is keeping the whereabouts of MIA’s secret to cover up some nefarious agreement made with the North Vietnamese or the Russians in 1973. Those, who claim such things without compelling evidence in order to sensationalize some tired and tragic story, should become MIA themselves. Par example:
It is not conspiracy theory, not paranoid myth, not Rambo fantasy. It is only hard evidence of a national disgrace: American prisoners were left behind at the end of the Vietnam War. They were abandoned because six presidents and official Washington could not admit their guilty secret. They were forgotten because the press and most Americans turned away from all things that reminded them of Vietnam.” (Penthouse. September 1994).
Basta! Let our dead comrades rest and their families find some peace! We will never forget them! The rest of you just shut up!
© Ray Gleason 2009 – All Rights Reserved
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