Missing in action
Overview
 
Missing in action (MIA) is a casualty Category assigned under the Status of Missing to armed services personnel who are reported missing during active service. They may have been killed
Killed in action
Killed in action is a casualty classification generally used by militaries to describe the deaths of their own forces at the hands of hostile forces. The United States Department of Defense, for example, says that those declared KIA need not have fired their weapons but have been killed due to...

, wounded
Wounded in action
Wounded in action describes soldiers who have been wounded while fighting in a combat zone during war time, but have not been killed. Typically it implies that they are temporarily or permanently incapable of bearing arms or continuing to fight....

, become a prisoner of war
Prisoner of war
A prisoner of war or enemy prisoner of war is a person, whether civilian or combatant, who is held in custody by an enemy power during or immediately after an armed conflict...

, or deserted
Desertion
In military terminology, desertion is the abandonment of a "duty" or post without permission and is done with the intention of not returning...

. If deceased, neither their remains nor grave can be positively identified. Becoming MIA has been an occupational risk for service personnel for as long as there has been warfare.
Until around 1912, service personnel in most countries were not routinely issued with ID tags
Dog tag (identifier)
A dog tag is the informal name for the identification tags worn by military personnel, named such as it bears resemblance to actual dog tags. The tag is primarily used for the identification of dead and wounded and essential basic medical information for the treatment of the latter, such as blood...

.
Encyclopedia
Missing in action (MIA) is a casualty Category assigned under the Status of Missing to armed services personnel who are reported missing during active service. They may have been killed
Killed in action
Killed in action is a casualty classification generally used by militaries to describe the deaths of their own forces at the hands of hostile forces. The United States Department of Defense, for example, says that those declared KIA need not have fired their weapons but have been killed due to...

, wounded
Wounded in action
Wounded in action describes soldiers who have been wounded while fighting in a combat zone during war time, but have not been killed. Typically it implies that they are temporarily or permanently incapable of bearing arms or continuing to fight....

, become a prisoner of war
Prisoner of war
A prisoner of war or enemy prisoner of war is a person, whether civilian or combatant, who is held in custody by an enemy power during or immediately after an armed conflict...

, or deserted
Desertion
In military terminology, desertion is the abandonment of a "duty" or post without permission and is done with the intention of not returning...

. If deceased, neither their remains nor grave can be positively identified. Becoming MIA has been an occupational risk for service personnel for as long as there has been warfare.

Problems and solutions

Until around 1912, service personnel in most countries were not routinely issued with ID tags
Dog tag (identifier)
A dog tag is the informal name for the identification tags worn by military personnel, named such as it bears resemblance to actual dog tags. The tag is primarily used for the identification of dead and wounded and essential basic medical information for the treatment of the latter, such as blood...

. As a result, if someone was killed in action
Killed in action
Killed in action is a casualty classification generally used by militaries to describe the deaths of their own forces at the hands of hostile forces. The United States Department of Defense, for example, says that those declared KIA need not have fired their weapons but have been killed due to...

 and his body was not recovered until much later, there was little or no chance of identifying the remains. Starting around the time of the First World War, nations began to issue their service personnel with purpose-made ID tags. Usually, these were made of some form of lightweight metal such as aluminum. However, in the case of the British Army
British Army
The British Army is the land warfare branch of Her Majesty's Armed Forces in the United Kingdom. It came into being with the unification of the Kingdom of England and Scotland into the Kingdom of Great Britain in 1707. The new British Army incorporated Regiments that had already existed in England...

 the material chosen was compressed fibre, which was not very durable. Although wearing ID tags proved to be highly beneficial, the problem remained that soldiers' bodies could be completely destroyed (or buried) by the type of high explosive munitions routinely used in modern warfare. Additionally, the combat environment itself could increase the likelihood of missing personnel e.g. jungle or submarine warfare, and air-crashes in mountainous terrain or at sea. Finally, since soldiers had no strong incentive to keep detailed records of enemy dead, bodies were frequently buried (sometimes with their ID tags) in temporary graves, the locations of which were often lost or obliterated e.g. the forgotten mass grave at Fromelles. As a result the remains of service personnel might not be found for many years, if ever. When missing service personnel are recovered and cannot be identified after a thorough forensic examination (including such methods as DNA
DNA
Deoxyribonucleic acid is a nucleic acid that contains the genetic instructions used in the development and functioning of all known living organisms . The DNA segments that carry this genetic information are called genes, but other DNA sequences have structural purposes, or are involved in...

 testing and comparison of dental records
Dental Records
Dental Records is a small, independent record label, based in Ipswich, UK.-Releases:*DRCD0501 The Ballistics - Allow Me To Demonstrate*DRCD0601 Singled Out - Hardcore Seanography*DRCD0602 The Ballistics - The Spirit Of Kelso Cochrane...

) the remains are interred with a tombstone which indicates their unknown status.

The development of genetic fingerprinting
Genetic fingerprinting
DNA profiling is a technique employed by forensic scientists to assist in the identification of individuals by their respective DNA profiles. DNA profiles are encrypted sets of numbers that reflect a person's DNA makeup, which can also be used as the person's identifier...

 in the late 20th century means that if cell samples from a cheek swab are collected from service personnel prior to deployment to a combat zone, identity can be established using even a small fragment of human remains. Although it is possible to take genetic samples from a close relative of the missing person, it is preferable to collect such samples directly from the subjects themselves. It is a fact of warfare that some service personnel are likely to go missing in action and never be found. However, by wearing ID tags and using modern technology the numbers involved can be considerably reduced. In addition to the obvious military advantages, conclusively identifying the remains of missing service personnel is highly beneficial to the surviving relatives. Having positive identification makes it somewhat easier to come to terms with their loss and move on with their lives. Otherwise some relatives may suspect that the missing person is still alive somewhere and may return someday.

Before the 20th century

It is possible that some of the soldiers who fought at the Battle of Thermopylae
Battle of Thermopylae
The Battle of Thermopylae was fought between an alliance of Greek city-states, led by King Leonidas of Sparta, and the Persian Empire of Xerxes I over the course of three days, during the second Persian invasion of Greece. It took place simultaneously with the naval battle at Artemisium, in August...

 in 480 BC went missing in action. Certainly, the numerous wars which followed over successive centuries created many MIAs. The list is long and includes most battles which have ever been fought by any nation. The usual problems of identification caused by rapid decomposition were exacerbated by the fact that it was common practice to loot the remains of the dead for any valuables e.g. personal items and clothing. This made the already difficult task of identification even harder. Thereafter the dead were routinely buried in mass grave
Mass grave
A mass grave is a grave containing multiple number of human corpses, which may or may not be identified prior to burial. There is no strict definition of the minimum number of bodies required to constitute a mass grave, although the United Nations defines a mass grave as a burial site which...

s and scant official records were retained. Notable examples include such medieval battles as Towton
Battle of Towton
In 1461, England was in the sixth year of the Wars of the Roses, a series of civil wars between the Houses of York and Lancaster over the English throne. The Lancastrians backed the reigning King of England, Henry VI, an indecisive man who suffered bouts of madness...

, the Hundred Years' War
Hundred Years' War
The Hundred Years' War was a series of separate wars waged from 1337 to 1453 by the House of Valois and the House of Plantagenet, also known as the House of Anjou, for the French throne, which had become vacant upon the extinction of the senior Capetian line of French kings...

, the later English Civil War
English Civil War
The English Civil War was a series of armed conflicts and political machinations between Parliamentarians and Royalists...

s and Napoleonic Wars
Napoleonic Wars
The Napoleonic Wars were a series of wars declared against Napoleon's French Empire by opposing coalitions that ran from 1803 to 1815. As a continuation of the wars sparked by the French Revolution of 1789, they revolutionised European armies and played out on an unprecedented scale, mainly due to...

 together with any battle taking place until around the middle of the 19th century. Starting around the time of the Crimean War
Crimean War
The Crimean War was a conflict fought between the Russian Empire and an alliance of the French Empire, the British Empire, the Ottoman Empire, and the Kingdom of Sardinia. The war was part of a long-running contest between the major European powers for influence over territories of the declining...

, American Civil War
American Civil War
The American Civil War was a civil war fought in the United States of America. In response to the election of Abraham Lincoln as President of the United States, 11 southern slave states declared their secession from the United States and formed the Confederate States of America ; the other 25...

 and Franco-Prussian War
Franco-Prussian War
The Franco-Prussian War or Franco-German War, often referred to in France as the 1870 War was a conflict between the Second French Empire and the Kingdom of Prussia. Prussia was aided by the North German Confederation, of which it was a member, and the South German states of Baden, Württemberg and...

, it became more common to make formal efforts to identify individual soldiers. However, since there was no formal system of ID tags
Dog tag (identifier)
A dog tag is the informal name for the identification tags worn by military personnel, named such as it bears resemblance to actual dog tags. The tag is primarily used for the identification of dead and wounded and essential basic medical information for the treatment of the latter, such as blood...

 at the time, this could be difficult during the process of battlefield clearance. Even so, there had been a notable shift in perceptions e.g. where the remains of a soldier in Confederate uniform were recovered from, say, the Gettysburg battlefield
Battle of Gettysburg
The Battle of Gettysburg , was fought July 1–3, 1863, in and around the town of Gettysburg, Pennsylvania. The battle with the largest number of casualties in the American Civil War, it is often described as the war's turning point. Union Maj. Gen. George Gordon Meade's Army of the Potomac...

, he would be interred in a single grave with a headstone which stated that he was an unknown Confederate soldier. This change in attitudes coincided with the Geneva Conventions
Geneva Conventions
The Geneva Conventions comprise four treaties, and three additional protocols, that establish the standards of international law for the humanitarian treatment of the victims of war...

, the first of which was signed in 1864. Although the first Geneva Convention did not specifically address the issue of MIAs, the reasoning behind it (which specified the humane treatment of enemy wounded soldiers) was influential.

World War I

The phenomenon of MIAs became particularly notable during World War I, where the mechanized nature of modern warfare meant that a single battle could cause astounding numbers of casualties. For example, in 1916 over 300,000 Allied and German service personnel were killed in the Battle of the Somme. A total of 19,240 British and Commonwealth troops were killed in action
Killed in action
Killed in action is a casualty classification generally used by militaries to describe the deaths of their own forces at the hands of hostile forces. The United States Department of Defense, for example, says that those declared KIA need not have fired their weapons but have been killed due to...

 or died of wounds on the first day of that battle
First day on the Somme
The first day on the Somme, 1 July 1916, was the opening day of the Battle of Albert, which was the first phase of the British and French offensive that became known as the Battle of the Somme...

 alone. It is therefore not surprising that the Thiepval Memorial to the Missing of the Somme in France bears the names of 72,090 British and Commonwealth
Commonwealth of Nations
The Commonwealth of Nations, normally referred to as the Commonwealth and formerly known as the British Commonwealth, is an intergovernmental organisation of fifty-four independent member states...

 soldiers, all of whom went missing in action during the Battle of the Somme, were never found and who have no known grave. Similarly, the Menin Gate
Menin Gate
The Menin Gate Memorial to the Missing is a war memorial in Ypres, Belgium dedicated to the commemoration of British and Commonwealth soldiers who were killed in the Ypres Salient of the First World War and whose graves are unknown...

 memorial in Belgium
Belgium
Belgium , officially the Kingdom of Belgium, is a federal state in Western Europe. It is a founding member of the European Union and hosts the EU's headquarters, and those of several other major international organisations such as NATO.Belgium is also a member of, or affiliated to, many...

 commemorates 54,896 missing Allied soldiers who are known to have been killed during one of the three Battles of Ypres. The Douaumont ossuary
Douaumont ossuary
The Douaumont ossuary is a memorial containing the remains of soldiers who died on the battlefield during the Battle of Verdun in World War I. It is located in Douaumont, France, within the Verdun battlefield.-History:...

, meanwhile, contains 130,000 unidentifiable sets of French and German remains from the Battle of Verdun
Battle of Verdun
The Battle of Verdun was one of the major battles during the First World War on the Western Front. It was fought between the German and French armies, from 21 February – 18 December 1916, on hilly terrain north of the city of Verdun-sur-Meuse in north-eastern France...

.

Even in the 21st century, the remains of missing service personnel are recovered from the former battlefields of the Western Front
Western Front (World War I)
Following the outbreak of World War I in 1914, the German Army opened the Western Front by first invading Luxembourg and Belgium, then gaining military control of important industrial regions in France. The tide of the advance was dramatically turned with the Battle of the Marne...

 every year. These discoveries happen regularly, often during the course of agricultural work or construction projects. Typically, the remains of one or several men are found at a time. However, occasionally the numbers recovered are much larger e.g. the mass grave at Fromelles
Battle of Fromelles
The Battle of Fromelles, sometimes known as the Action at Fromelles or the Battle of Fleurbaix , occurred in France between 19 July and 20 July 1916, during World War I...

 (excavated in 2009) which contained the skeletal remains of no less than 250 allied soldiers. Regardless, efforts are made to identify any remains found via a thorough forensic examination. If this is achieved, attempts are made to trace any living relatives. However, it is frequently impossible to identify the remains, other than to establish some basic details of the unit they served with. In the case of British and Commonwealth MIAs, the headstone is inscribed with the maximum amount of information that is known about the person. Typically, such information is deduced from metallic objects such as brass buttons and shoulder flashes bearing regimental/unit insignia found on the body. As a result, headstones are inscribed with such information as "A Soldier of The Cameronians" or "An Australian Corporal" etc. Where nothing is known other than that the person fought on the allied side, the headstone is inscribed "A Soldier of The Great War". The term "Sailor" or "Airman" can be substituted, as appropriate.

World War II

There are many missing service personnel from World War II.
In the United States armed forces, 78,750 missing in action were reported by the conclusion of the war, representing over 19 percent of the total 405,399 killed in the conflict.

The 1991–1993 United States Senate Select Committee on POW/MIA Affairs
United States Senate Select Committee on POW/MIA Affairs
The Senate Select Committee on POW/MIA Affairs was a special committee convened by the United States Senate during the George H. W. Bush administration to investigate the Vietnam War POW/MIA issue, that is, the fate of United States service personnel listed as missing in action during the Vietnam...

 investigated a few outstanding issues and reports related to the fate of U.S. service personnel still missing from World War II.

As with MIAs from the First World War, it is a routine occurrence for the remains of missing service personnel killed during the Second World War to be periodically discovered. As with the First World War, in western Europe MIAs are generally found as individuals, or in twos or threes. However, sometimes the numbers in a group are considerably larger e.g. the mass grave at Villeneuve-Loubet
Villeneuve-Loubet mass grave
Villeneuve-Loubet mass grave is a grave site near the village of Villeneuve-Loubet, near Nice, in southern France. On October 18, 2006 the bodies of 14 German soldiers killed during World War II were exhumed at the site...

, which contained the remains of 14 German
Wehrmacht
The Wehrmacht – from , to defend and , the might/power) were the unified armed forces of Nazi Germany from 1935 to 1945. It consisted of the Heer , the Kriegsmarine and the Luftwaffe .-Origin and use of the term:...

 soldiers killed in August 1944. Others are located at remote aircraft crash sites in various countries.
But in eastern Europe and Russia, World War II casualties
World War II casualties
World War II was the deadliest military conflict in history. Over 60 million people were killed, which was over 2.5% of the world population. The tables below give a detailed country-by-country count of human losses.-Total dead:...

 include approximately two million missing Germans, and many mass graves remain to be found. Almost a half million German MIAs have been buried in new graves since the end of the Cold War. Most of them will stay unknown. The German War Graves Commission
German War Graves Commission
The German War Graves Commission is responsible for the maintenance and upkeep of German war graves in Europe and North Africa...

 is spearheading the effort.

During the 2000s, there was renewed attention within and without the U.S. military to finding remains of the missing, especially in the European Theatre and especially since aging witnesses and local historians were dying off. The group World War II Families for the Return of the Missing was founded in 2005 to work with the Joint POW/MIA Accounting Command
Joint POW/MIA Accounting Command
The Joint POW/MIA Accounting Command is a joint task force within the United States Department of Defense whose mission is to account for Americans who are listed as Prisoners Of War , or Missing In Action , from all past wars and conflicts. It has been especially visible in conjunction with the...

 and other governmental entities towards locating and repatriating the remains of Americans lost in the conflict. The president of the group said in reference to the far more publicised efforts to find remains of U.S. dead from the Vietnam War
Vietnam War
The Vietnam War was a Cold War-era military conflict that occurred in Vietnam, Laos, and Cambodia from 1 November 1955 to the fall of Saigon on 30 April 1975. This war followed the First Indochina War and was fought between North Vietnam, supported by its communist allies, and the government of...

, “Vietnam had advocates. This was an older generation, and they didn’t know who to turn to.”

In 2008, investigators began to conduct searches on Tarawa atoll in the Pacific Ocean, trying to locate the remains of 139 American Marines, missing since the Battle of Tarawa
Battle of Tarawa
The Battle of Tarawa, code named Operation Galvanic, was a battle in the Pacific Theater of World War II, largely fought from November 20 to November 23, 1943. It was the first American offensive in the critical central Pacific region....

 in 1943.

According to the Defense Prisoner of War/Missing Personnel Office, there were still 73,692 U.S. servicemen still unaccounted for from World War II.

Korean War

There are many missing service personnel from the Korean War
Korean War
The Korean War was a conventional war between South Korea, supported by the United Nations, and North Korea, supported by the People's Republic of China , with military material aid from the Soviet Union...

. It is thought that 13,000 South Korean soldiers and 2,000 U.S. soldiers are buried in the Korean Demilitarized Zone
Korean Demilitarized Zone
The Korean Demilitarized Zone is a strip of land running across the Korean Peninsula that serves as a buffer zone between North and South Korea. The DMZ cuts the Korean Peninsula roughly in half, crossing the 38th parallel on an angle, with the west end of the DMZ lying south of the parallel and...

 alone. The U.S. Joint POW/MIA Accounting Command
Joint POW/MIA Accounting Command
The Joint POW/MIA Accounting Command is a joint task force within the United States Department of Defense whose mission is to account for Americans who are listed as Prisoners Of War , or Missing In Action , from all past wars and conflicts. It has been especially visible in conjunction with the...

 and the equivalent South Korean command are actively involved in trying to locate and identify remains of both countries' personnel.

In the United States armed forces, the 8,177 service members listed as missing in action constituted over 15 percent of the total killed in the conflict. In August 1953, General James Van Fleet
James Van Fleet
James Alward Van Fleet was a U.S. Army officer during World War I, World War II and the Korean War. Van Fleet was a native of New Jersey, who was raised in Florida and graduated from the U.S. Military Academy. He served as a regimental, divisional and corps commander during World War II and as...

, who had led US and UN forces in Korea, estimated that "a large percentage" of those soldiers listed missing in action were alive.

The 1991–1993 United States Senate Select Committee on POW/MIA Affairs
United States Senate Select Committee on POW/MIA Affairs
The Senate Select Committee on POW/MIA Affairs was a special committee convened by the United States Senate during the George H. W. Bush administration to investigate the Vietnam War POW/MIA issue, that is, the fate of United States service personnel listed as missing in action during the Vietnam...

 investigated some outstanding issues and reports related to the fate of U.S. service personnel still missing from the Korean War.

Remains of missing service personnel from the Korean War are periodically recovered and identified.

According to the Defense Prisoner of War/Missing Personnel Office there are still 7,989 U.S. servicemen still unaccounted for from the Korean War.

While the United States knew in 1953 that at least 900 troops were held captive by North Korea and never released, this information was never released. Historians suggest this was because Americans would have demanded their soldiers be returned home. In 1996, the Defense Department stated that there was no clear evidence any of the prisoners were still alive. As of 2005, at least 500 South Korean prisoners of war were believed to be still detained by the North Korean regime.

A number of Australian military personnel have also never been recovered from Korea.

Vietnam War

Following the Paris Peace Accords
Paris Peace Accords
The Paris Peace Accords of 1973 intended to establish peace in Vietnam and an end to the Vietnam War, ended direct U.S. military involvement, and temporarily stopped the fighting between North and South Vietnam...

 of 1973, 591 U.S. prisoners of war were returned during Operation Homecoming
Operation Homecoming
Operation Homecoming was a series of diplomatic negotiations that in January 1973 made possible the return of 591 American prisoners of war held by North Vietnam. On Feb. 12, 1973, three C-141 transports flew to Hanoi, North Vietnam, and one C-9A aircraft was sent to Saigon, South Vietnam to pick...

. The U.S. 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. By the early 1990s, this had been reduced to a total of 2,255 unaccounted for from the war, which constituted less than 4 percent of the total 58,152 U.S. service members killed. This was by far the smallest proportion in the nation's history to that point.

About 80 percent of those missing were airmen who were shot down over North Vietnam
North Vietnam
The Democratic Republic of Vietnam , was a communist state that ruled the northern half of Vietnam from 1954 until 1976 following the Geneva Conference and laid claim to all of Vietnam from 1945 to 1954 during the First Indochina War, during which they controlled pockets of territory throughout...

 or Laos
Laos
Laos Lao: ສາທາລະນະລັດ ປະຊາທິປະໄຕ ປະຊາຊົນລາວ Sathalanalat Paxathipatai Paxaxon Lao, officially the Lao People's Democratic Republic, is a landlocked country in Southeast Asia, bordered by Burma and China to the northwest, Vietnam to the east, Cambodia to the south and Thailand to the west...

, usually over remote mountains, tropical rain forest, or water; the rest typically disappeared in dense, confused fighting in jungles. Investigations of these incidents have involved determining whether the men involved survived their shootdown, and if not efforts to recover their remains. POW/MIA activists played a role in pushing the U.S. government to improve its efforts in resolving the fates of the missing. Progress in doing so was slow until the mid-1980s, when relations between the U.S. and Vietnam began to improve and more cooperative efforts were undertaken. Normalization of U.S. relations with Vietnam in the mid-1990s was a culmination of this process.

Considerable speculation and investigation has gone to a theory that a significant number of these men were captured as prisoners of war by Communist forces in the two countries and kept as live prisoners after the war's conclusion for the United States in 1973. A vocal group of POW/MIA activists maintains that there has been a concerted conspiracy by the Vietnamese government and every American government since then to hide the existence of these prisoners. The U.S. government has steadfastly denied that prisoners were left behind or that any effort has been made to cover up their existence. Popular culture has reflected the "live prisoners" theory, most notably in the 1985 film Rambo: First Blood Part II
Rambo: First Blood Part II
Rambo: First Blood Part II is a 1985 action film. A sequel to 1982's First Blood, it is the second installment in the Rambo series starring Sylvester Stallone, who reprises his role as Vietnam veteran John Rambo...

. Several congressional investigations have looked into the issue, culminating with the largest and most thorough, the United States Senate Select Committee on POW/MIA Affairs
United States Senate Select Committee on POW/MIA Affairs
The Senate Select Committee on POW/MIA Affairs was a special committee convened by the United States Senate during the George H. W. Bush administration to investigate the Vietnam War POW/MIA issue, that is, the fate of United States service personnel listed as missing in action during the Vietnam...

 of 1991–1993 led by Senators John Kerry
John Kerry
John Forbes Kerry is the senior United States Senator from Massachusetts, the 10th most senior U.S. Senator and chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. He was the presidential nominee of the Democratic Party in the 2004 presidential election, but lost to former President George W...

, Bob Smith
Robert C. Smith
Robert C. "Bob" Smith is an American politician who has served in both the United States House of Representatives and the Senate. He is a member of the Republican Party.-Early life:Smith was born in Trenton, New Jersey...

, and John McCain
John McCain
John Sidney McCain III is the senior United States Senator from Arizona. He was the Republican nominee for president in the 2008 United States election....

. Its unanimous conclusion found "no compelling evidence that proves that any American remains alive in captivity in Southeast Asia."

This missing in action issue has been a highly emotional one to those involved, and is often considered the last depressing, divisive aftereffect of the Vietnam War. To skeptics, "live prisoners" is a conspiracy theory
Conspiracy theory
A conspiracy theory explains an event as being the result of an alleged plot by a covert group or organization or, more broadly, the idea that important political, social or economic events are the products of secret plots that are largely unknown to the general public.-Usage:The term "conspiracy...

 unsupported by motivation or evidence, and the foundation for a cottage industry of charlatans who have preyed upon the hopes of the families of the missing. As two skeptics wrote in 1995, "The conspiracy myth surrounding the Americans who remained missing after Operation Homecoming in 1973 had evolved to baroque intricacy. By 1992, there were thousands of zealots—who believed with cultlike fervor that hundreds of American POWs had been deliberately and callously abandoned in Indochina after the war, that there was a vast conspiracy within the armed forces and the executive branch—spanning five administrations—to cover up all evidence of this betrayal, and that the governments of Communist Vietnam and Laos continued to hold an unspecified number of living American POWs, despite their adamant denials of this charge." Believers reject such notions; as one wrote in 1994, "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."

There are also a large number of North Vietnamese and Viet Cong MIAs from the Vietnam war whose remains have yet to be recovered. In 1974, General Võ Nguyên Giáp
Vo Nguyen Giap
Võ Nguyên Giáp is a retired Vietnamese officer in the Vietnam People’s Army and a politician. He was a principal commander in two wars: the First Indochina War and the Vietnam War...

 stated that they had 330,000 missing in action. As of 1999, estimates of those missing were usually around 300,000. This figure does not include those missing from former South Vietnamese armed forces, who are given little consideration under the Vietnamese regime. The Vietnamese government did not have any organized program to search for its own missing, in comparison to what it had established to search for American missing. The discrepancy angered some Vietnamese; as one said, "It's crazy for the Americans to keep asking us to find their men. We lost several times more than the Americans did. In any war there are many people who disappear. They just disappear." In the 2000s, thousands of Vietnamese were hiring psychic
Psychic
A psychic is a person who professes an ability to perceive information hidden from the normal senses through extrasensory perception , or is said by others to have such abilities. It is also used to describe theatrical performers who use techniques such as prestidigitation, cold reading, and hot...

s in an effort to find the remains of missing family members. The Vietnamese Army organizes what it considers to be the best of the psychics, as part of its parapsychology force trying to find remains. Additionally, remains dating from the earlier French colonial era
French Indochina
French Indochina was part of the French colonial empire in southeast Asia. A federation of the three Vietnamese regions, Tonkin , Annam , and Cochinchina , as well as Cambodia, was formed in 1887....

 are sometimes discovered: in January 2009, the remains of at least 50 anti-French resistance fighters dating from circa 1946 to 1947 were discovered in graves located under a former market in central Hanoi
Hanoi
Hanoi , is the capital of Vietnam and the country's second largest city. Its population in 2009 was estimated at 2.6 million for urban districts, 6.5 million for the metropolitan jurisdiction. From 1010 until 1802, it was the most important political centre of Vietnam...

.

According to the Defense Prisoner of War/Missing Personnel Office there are still 1,681 U.S. servicemen still unaccounted for from the Vietnam War.

Cold War

According to the Defense Prisoner of War/Missing Personnel Office, as of 2000 there were still 125 U.S. servicemen unaccounted for from the Cold War.

The 1991–1993 United States Senate Select Committee on POW/MIA Affairs
United States Senate Select Committee on POW/MIA Affairs
The Senate Select Committee on POW/MIA Affairs was a special committee convened by the United States Senate during the George H. W. Bush administration to investigate the Vietnam War POW/MIA issue, that is, the fate of United States service personnel listed as missing in action during the Vietnam...

 investigated some outstanding issues and reports related to the fate of U.S. service personnel still missing from the Cold War. In 1992, Russian President Boris Yeltsin
Boris Yeltsin
Boris Nikolayevich Yeltsin was the first President of the Russian Federation, serving from 1991 to 1999.Originally a supporter of Mikhail Gorbachev, Yeltsin emerged under the perestroika reforms as one of Gorbachev's most powerful political opponents. On 29 May 1990 he was elected the chairman of...

 told the committee that the Soviet Union had held survivors of spy planes shot down in the early 1950s in prisons or psychiatric facilities. Russian Colonel General Dmitri Volkogonov
Dmitri Volkogonov
Dmitri Antonovich Volkogonov was a Russian historian and officer.-Biography:...

, co-leader of the U.S.–Russia Joint Commission on POW/MIAs, said that to his knowledge no Americans were currently being held against their will within the borders of the former Soviet Union. The Select Committee concluded that it "found evidence that some U.S. POWs were held in the former Soviet Union after WW II, the Korean War and Cold War incidents," and that it "cannot, based on its investigation to date, rule out the possibility that one or more U.S. POWs from past wars or incidents are still being held somewhere within the borders of the former Soviet Union."

Iran–Iraq War

The Iran–Iraq War of 1980–1988 left tens of thousands of Iranian and Iraqi military personnel, including some who had been held as prisoners of war, are still unaccounted for. Some counts include civilians who disappeared during the conflict. One estimate is that more than 52,000 Iraqis went missing in the war. Officially, the government of Iran lists 8,000 as missing.

Following up on these cases is often difficult because no accurate or surviving documentation exists. The situation in Iraq is additionally difficult because unknown hundreds of thousands persons are missing due to Iraq's later conflicts, both internal and external, and in Iran due to its being a largely closed society. In addition, relations between the countries remained quite poor for a long time; the last POWs from the war were not exchanged until 2003 and relations did not begin to improve until after the regime change brought on by the 2003 onset of the Iraq War. Some cases are brought forward when mass graves are discovered in Iraq, holding the bodies of Iranians once held prisoner. Websites have been started to attempt to track the fates of members of the Islamic Republic of Iran Air Force
Islamic Republic of Iran Air Force
The Islamic Republic of Iran Air Force ' is the aviation branch of the Iranian armed forces. The present Air Force came into being in the early 1980s when the former Imperial Iranian Air Force was renamed....

 shot down and captured over Iraq.

The International Committee of the Red Cross
International Committee of the Red Cross
The International Committee of the Red Cross is a private humanitarian institution based in Geneva, Switzerland. States parties to the four Geneva Conventions of 1949 and their Additional Protocols of 1977 and 2005, have given the ICRC a mandate to protect the victims of international and...

 (ICRC) has been active in trying to resolve MIA issues from the war; in October 2008, twenty years after the end of the war, the ICRC forged a memorandum of understanding with the two countries to share information collected in pursuit of resolving cases. Families are still desperate for knowledge about the fate of their loved ones.
In Iran, efforts at answering families' questions and identifying remains are led by the POWs and Missing Commission of the Islamic Republic of Iran Army
Islamic Republic of Iran Army
The Islamic Republic of Iran Army is the ground force of the Military of Islamic Republic of Iran. In Iran, it is also called Artesh, which is Persian for "army." As of 2007, the regular Iranian Army was estimated to have 465,000 personnel plus around 350,000 reservists for a total of 815,000...

, the Red Crescent Society of the Islamic Republic of Iran
Red Crescent Society of the Islamic Republic of Iran
Red Crescent Society of the Islamic Republic of Iran was formed in 1923 as the name of Red Lion and Sun Society of Iran. It was changed to the Red Crescent society after the Islamic Revolution and has its headquarters in Tehran.-Wikileaks Report:...

, and the Foundation of Martyrs and Veterans Affairs.
In Iraq, efforts are led by the Ministry of Human Rights.

Gulf War

According to the Defense Prisoner of War/Missing Personnel Office
Defense Prisoner of War/Missing Personnel Office
The Defense Prisoner of War/Missing Personnel Office , as part of the United States Department of Defense, reports to the Undersecretary of Defense for Policy through the Assistant Secretary of Defense . DPMO provides centralized management of prisoner of war/missing personnel affairs within the...

, 47 Americans were listed as POW/MIAs at some point during Operation Desert Storm. At the conclusion of the Gulf War
Gulf War
The Persian Gulf War , commonly referred to as simply the Gulf War, was a war waged by a U.N.-authorized coalition force from 34 nations led by the United States, against Iraq in response to Iraq's invasion and annexation of Kuwait.The war is also known under other names, such as the First Gulf...

 of 1991, U.S. forces resolved all but one of those cases : 21 Prisoners of War were repatriated, 23 bodies were recovered and 2 bodies were lost over the Gulf and therefore classified as Killed-In-Action, Body Not Recovered. That one MIA case, that of U.S. Lt. Cmdr. Michael Scott Speicher, became quite well known. He was reported as missing after his F/A-18 was shot down in northern Iraq on the first night of the war. Over the years his status was changed from missing to killed in action to missing-captured, a move that suggested he was alive and imprisoned in Iraq. In 2002, his possible situation became a more high-profile issue in the build-up to the Iraq War; The Washington Times
The Washington Times
The Washington Times is a daily broadsheet newspaper published in Washington, D.C., the capital of the United States. It was founded in 1982 by Unification Church founder Sun Myung Moon, and until 2010 was owned by News World Communications, an international media conglomerate associated with the...

ran five successive front-page articles about it in March 2002 and in September 2002, U.S. President George W. Bush
George W. Bush
George Walker Bush is an American politician who served as the 43rd President of the United States, from 2001 to 2009. Before that, he was the 46th Governor of Texas, having served from 1995 to 2000....

 mentioned Speicher in a speech to the United Nations General Assembly
United Nations General Assembly
For two articles dealing with membership in the General Assembly, see:* General Assembly members* General Assembly observersThe United Nations General Assembly is one of the five principal organs of the United Nations and the only one in which all member nations have equal representation...

 as part of his case for war. However, despite the 2003 invasion of Iraq and U.S. military control of the country, Speicher was not found and his status remained under debate. It was eventually resolved in August 2009 when his remains were found in the Iraq desert, where according to local civilians, he was buried following his crash in 1991.

How many Iraqi forces went missing as a result of the war is not readily known, as estimates of Iraqi casualties overall range considerably.

Operation Iraqi Freedom (Iraq War)

A small number of coalition soldiers went missing in action in Iraq immediately following the 2003 invasion
2003 invasion of Iraq
The 2003 invasion of Iraq , was the start of the conflict known as the Iraq War, or Operation Iraqi Freedom, in which a combined force of troops from the United States, the United Kingdom, Australia and Poland invaded Iraq and toppled the regime of Saddam Hussein in 21 days of major combat operations...

. These cases were quickly resolved when the bodies were recovered. Following this were the following POW/MIA cases:
  • On April 9, 2004, US Army soldier SSG Keith Matthew "Matt" Maupin
    Matt Maupin
    Keith Matthew "Matt" Maupin was a United States Army Private First Class captured by Iraqi insurgents on April 9, 2004, while serving in the Iraq War, after his convoy came under attack by rocket-propelled grenades and small arms fire near Baghdad, Iraq .On June 28, 2004, Arabic-language...

     (at that time a PFC) was captured in an ambush near the Baghdad International Airport. On April 16, 2004, Maupin appeared on a videotape that was broadcast by the Arabic-language television network Al Jazeera. On June 28, 2004, Al Jazeera reported that Maupin was executed by a group identifying itself as The Persistent Power Against the Enemies of God and the Prophet. The method of execution in the video was a gunshot to the head. On March 30, 2008, Maupin's father told local newsmedia that the remains of his son had been found. He states that an Army general had told him that DNA was used to identify the remains. According to an Army statement, Maupin's remains "were recovered northwest of Baghdad on March 20, by soldiers from 1st Battalion, 21st Infantry, based out of Schofield Barracks, Hawaii, part of the 25th Infantry Division's 2nd Stryker Brigade Combat Team."
  • On June 19, 2004, a US Marine of Lebanese background, CPL Wassef Ali Hassoun
    Wassef Ali Hassoun
    Wassef Ali Hassoun was a United States Marine Corps corporal who was charged with desertion for leaving his unit and apparently engaging with others in a hoax to make it appear that he had been captured by terrorists on June 19, 2004 while serving in Iraq...

    , went missing and claimed to have been captured. He later turned up in Lebanon, and was flown home to the U.S. It was soon discovered Hassoun made the kidnapping story up, and Hassoun is currently a fugitive.
  • On June 16, 2006, a three US soldiers patrol in an armored humvee was overwhelmed south of Baghdad. One soldier died during the fight, while the other two were captured and tortured to death. Their names were PFC Kristian Menchaca
    Kristian Menchaca
    Kristian Menchaca , Brownsville, Texas, was a United States Army Private First Class who was tortured, killed, and mutilated by Al-Qaeda in Iraq. He was married to Christina Menchaca of Big Spring in September 2005, before he was deployed to Iraq.-Military life:Menchaca was one of two U.S...

     and PFC Thomas Lowell Tucker
    Thomas Lowell Tucker
    Thomas Lowell Tucker from Madras, Oregon, was a Private First Class of the U.S. Army tortured, killed, and mutilated by Al-Qaeda in Iraq. He was one of two U.S. soldiers seized by the Mujahideen Shura Council during an attack that left a third soldier Spc. David J...

    . Their bodies were found on June 20, 2006.
  • On October 23, 2006, US Army soldier SSG Ahmed Qusai al-Taayie
    Ahmed Qusai al-Taayie
    Staff Sergeant Ahmed Kousay Altaie is an Iraqi American United States Army linguist soldier, who was captured on October 23, 2006 in Baghdad.-Early life:...

     (at that time a SPC) was captured by insurgents and is listed as missing-captured. He appeared in a proof of life video in February 2007 but was not heard of again until 2010. In February 2010, it was confirmed that he was killed while in captivity by his captors at an unknown point in time.
  • On May 12, 2007 a US Army observation post was overrun by Iraqi insurgents
    May 2007 abduction of US soldiers in Iraq
    The May 2007 abduction of US soldiers in Iraq occurred when Iraqi insurgents attacked a military outpost in Qarghouli, west of Yusufiyah and south of Baghdad, killing four US soldiers and an Iraqi Soldier before capturing Spc. Alex Ramon Jimenez, Pfc. Joseph John Anzack and Pvt. Byron Wayne Fouty...

    , four American and one Iraqi soldier were killed. Three US soldiers were captured. They were PFC Joseph J. Anzack Jr., PVT Byron W. Fouty and SPC Alex Jimenez. Iraqi police found PFC Anzacks' body in the Euphrates River south of Baghdad on May 23, 2007 bearing signs of torture. On June 4, 2007. The insurgent organization Islamic State of Iraq
    Islamic State of Iraq
    The Islamic State of Iraq , is an umbrella organization of a number Iraqi insurgency groups established on October 15 2006.The group is composed of and supported by a variety of insurgency groups, including its predecessor, the Mujahideen Shura Council, Al-Qaeda, Jeish al-Fatiheen, Jund al-Sahaba,...

     (ISI) claimed that they killed PVT Fouty and SPC Jimenez and also claimed that their bodies were buried and would not be returned to their families. On Wednesday July 9, 2008, the bodies of PVT Byron Fouty and SPC Alex Jimenez were found in an area south of Baghdad known as the "triangle of death". The families of the victims were notified and the Defense Department released a statement to the public on July 11, 2008.


SSG Ahmed Qusai al-Taayie
Ahmed Qusai al-Taayie
Staff Sergeant Ahmed Kousay Altaie is an Iraqi American United States Army linguist soldier, who was captured on October 23, 2006 in Baghdad.-Early life:...

 is currently the only US serviceman listed as missing in action from Operation Iraqi Freedom, although with the recent events on February 2010 discussed above, his status could change.

Operation Enduring Freedom (Afghanistan War)

On July 1, 2009, US Army soldier SGT (then a PFC) Bowe R. Bergdahl, 23, of Ketchum, Idaho, was declared missing, which was later changed to captured on July 3 of that year. A video was shown of him on July 18, 2009 indicating that he had been captured. A second video was released on December 25, 2009, again showing him in captivity. On April 7, 2010, the Taliban released a third video of Bergdahl in captivity. In the new video Bergdahl has a full head of hair, a beard and pleads for the release of Afghan prisoners that are held in Guantanamo and Bagram.

SGT Bowe R. Bergdahl the only American soldier listed as missing from the War in Afghanistan (Operation Enduring Freedom).

On July 4, 2011, a British soldier went missing in central Helmand Province in Afghanistan. The Taliban later confirmed responsibility for his capture, but also announced they had executed him when ISAF
ISAF
ISAF may refer to:* International Sailing Federation, the world governing body for Olympic and other competitive sailing.* International Security Assistance Force, the NATO-led security mission operating in Afghanistan since 2001....

 forces attempted to rescue him in the following hours. The soldier was later named as twenty year old Highlander Scott McLaren of the 4th Battalion, Royal Regiment of Scotland. His body was recovered and returned to the UK following a firefight with the insurgents holding his body.

Animals

Military animal
Military animal
Military animals are non-human creatures that were used in warfare. They are used as working animals to aid in combat related applications or weaponized. Domesticated animals such as dogs, pigs, oxen, camels and horses are used for functions such as transport and bomb detection...

s can also be officially declared as being Missing In Action.

Colloquial usage

MIA is sometimes used in American English to describe difficulty finding something, particularly a person. "The employee is MIA." It is less often used in this context in UK English, where the equivalent phrase is "gone AWOL".

See also

  • Tomb of the unknown soldier
    Tomb of the Unknown Soldier
    Tomb of the Unknown Soldier refers to a grave in which the unidentifiable remains of a soldier are interred. Such tombs can be found in many nations and are usually high-profile national monuments. Throughout history, many soldiers have died in wars without their remains being identified...

  • West Coast Memorial to the Missing of World War II
    West Coast Memorial to the Missing of World War II
    The West Coast Memorial to the Missing of World War II is a monument dedicated to missing soldiers, sailors, marines, coast guardsmen, and airmen of World War II. It is a curved wall of California granite set in a grove of Monterey pine and cypress and overlooking the Pacific Ocean...


External links

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