Vietnam War (detail from a photograph of U.S. troops)

POWs in the Public Eye

Over 4,000 Americans were captured during World War I; more than 130,000 were taken prisoner during World War II; 7,000-plus were held in Korea. The American public knew little of their plight. But Americans were painfully aware of the nearly 800 who were prisoners of war in Vietnam. The North Vietnamese paraded them in a sophisticated propaganda campaign to erode public support for the war. POW families launched awareness campaigns, and the media gave the POW situation extensive coverage. At war’s end, about 600 returned home. Some Americans believe that thousands more “missing in action” were left behind.

North Vietnamese displaying American POWs to the press
Released POW arriving at Travis Air Force Base in California, 1973

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