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The War in Vietnam: Studies in Remembrance and Legacy, 2000–2014 (June 2016): POWs and MIAs: The “Left Behind” Narrative

By Jerry Lembcke

POWs and MIAs: The “Left Behind” Narrative

The narrative of soldiers and prisoners “left behind” as MIAs and POWs has the longest standing in the victim-veteran literature.  H. Bruce Franklin’s M.I.A., or Mythmaking in America: How and Why Belief in Live POWs Has Possessed a Nation and Craig Howes’s Voices of the Vietnam POWs: Witnesses to Their Fight still constitute the foundational scholarship in this area.  Carol McEldowny’s Hanoi Journal is unique as a reflective first-person account of a US civilian’s visit in 1967 to the so-called Hanoi Hilton, where US POWs were being held.  Michael J. Allen’s Until the Last Man Comes Home: POWs, MIAs, and the Unending Vietnam War and Jerry Lembcke’s CNN’s Tailwind Tale: Inside Vietnam’s Last Great Myth do double duty as contributions to policy studies (Allen) and studies of war myths and legends (Lembcke).  Natasha Zaretsky’s No Direction Home: The American Family and the Fear of National Decline, 1968-1980 is an invaluable addition to legacies studies (below), but her attention to the gendered dynamics generated by the home front movement to support POWs mounted by the POWs’ wives is also without peer.