POW - Prisoner of War
Those who serve in the United States military are true American heroes. They risk their lives so that Americans can continue to enjoy their freedom. But war is a messy abomination. Men and women are sometimes captured and used as leverage. These everyday men and women are tossed into deeply stressful situations, not knowing if they will ever make it out. These men and women are known as POWs. And this is their history.
During the Revolutionary War, as many as 20,000 colonists were held as POWs, and as many as 8,500 died whilst in captivity. Perhaps the most famous POW is Francis Scott Key, author of The Star-Spangled Banner. During the War of 1812, Key was aboard a British vessel when he wrote it. America has the only national anthem that is penned by a POW. The Civil War had over 400,000 POWs between the Union and Confederacy, the most in any conflict in US Military history. The Spanish-American War saw less than a dozen American soldiers become POWs and were exchanged in about six weeks. In World War I, over 4,000 US Military soldiers become POWs. There were 147 confirmed POW deaths during WWI. World War II, the Korean War, and the Vietnam War brought the darkest stories of POW internment. About 94,000 Americans were POWs in Europe, while 30,000 were POWs in the Pacific Theater. These POWs experienced overcrowded conditions and forced work, with those in the Pacific Theater facing a near 40 percent death rate for POWs. The Korean War resulted in over 7,000 American POWs. These soldiers experienced forced marches, brutal punishments, and even a political "re-education" by the North Koreans. During the Vietnam War, the North Vietnamese saw captured American soldiers as political criminals, not POWs. As a result, these soldiers were treated very harshly. 766 Americans are known to be POWs during this war, and 114 died during their captivity. The torture of these American POWs in Vietnam was common. During the Persian Gulf War, 23 Americans were made POWs. These men and women experienced physical abuse during their captivity. Thankfully all 23 soldiers were returned to the United States.
MIA - Missing in Action
All wars have one thing in common: men and women don't return home. Families of soldiers that are killed in action are informed, but families of MIA soldiers never know why their loved ones never returned home. The sad truth is that there are over 81,000 Americans that are still MIA. Those numbers broken down are 72,000 coming from WWII, 7,500 from the Korean War, 1,500 from Vietnam, 126 from the Cold War, and 6 from conflicts since 1991. Not much information is known about why these numbers are still so high, there is still much demand to lower this number, and MIA families want answers.
POW and MIA soldiers know what it means to have their freedom taken away. These men and women have gone through hell and deserve respect. So next time you see the POW/MIA flag, remember those who have been stripped of their freedom to protect yours and those who still have not returned home.
Written by: Dawson Strong