Vietnam Veterans for Factual History

Facts not myths

Myth: With the signing of the Paris Accords, the communists did return all our POWs to us

Fact: This is a very controversial subject with little agreement between those who insist none were left behind and those who insist some were left behind.  The controversy resides partly in the dichotomy which characterizes the war itself.  Some think the war was in Viet Nam and all POWs in Vietnam were accounted for.  Others point out that the war was also in Laos and Cambodia, both of which were controlled, to some extent, by North Viet Nam.  While the surviving POWs in North Vietnam were almost certainly returned, there is no proof that all Lao and Cambodian POWs were returned.  In fact, the government lists 1,616 still unaccounted for and puts all of the unknowns in the category of presumed dead.  While is probable that a large number were dead, it's impossible to say that they all were without proof of their deaths.

  • At the end of hostilities, in 1973, 2,646 men and women were unaccounted for.
  • 1,972 men and women were unaccounted for in Viet Nam. 574 were unaccounted for in Laos. 60 were unaccounted for in Cambodia. 10 were unaccounted for in China.
  • 1,095 of the 2,646 were listed as KIA, BNR (Killed in Action, Body Not Recovered) leaving 1,551 missing or prisoners of war.  591 were returned by North Viet Nam in 1973. To date, 684 POWs have been returned alive.
  • The remaining missing and unaccounted for are 1,616 according to the government. 841 are KIA/BNR, but 727 are listed as presumed dead.
  • There is little question that a large number of the unaccounted were either KIA or killed after being taken prisoner.  There is also little question that some survived and have not yet been accounted for.
  • There is evidence to suggest that some prisoners in Laos and Cambodia were never returned.  It's likely that all are dead by now.

Confirming Evidence

MIA Facts

Vietnam War MIA/POW List


Are there any Vietnam War-era POWs still alive in Laos? – A trip to Sam Neua and Vieng Xai Caves 

Abandoned in Laos

An Honest Man Says POWs Live in Laos


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