How far back does the POW/MIA issue go?

By John Bates, VietNow National POW/MIA Chairman

POW/MIA emblemHow far back does the POW/MIA issue go? That’s a question I have thought about, and the truth is that the issue probably dates back to the beginning of man’s history. Further back even than Roman days, and everything since – right up to the New World discovery of the Americas. I’m sure the Incas and the Mayans who were captured by the Spaniards never found their way back to their homes. And what about those who were captured by pirates? And during the American Civil War – did those who survived Andersonville (and other prisons) find their way back home?

In modern times, how many presidents knew about our POW/MIAs, and the fact that not all would return to our shores? During World War II we had President Franklin D. Roosevelt, who died before the end of the war. Did he have knowledge of what was going to happen to the prisoners once the war would inevitably come to an end?

Eisenhower was in a position to know, so we have to wonder if he knew and approved of what had happened. We may never know the answers.

Then there was President Harry S. Truman, who became our leader upon the death of Roosevelt. Truman, as president at the end of the war, must have had knowledge of American prisoners who didn’t return home. Did he know that the Russians took some of them back to Russia? Did he approve of this in order to not cause trouble with the Russians, considering the POW/MIAs to be just one more part of the price of war? Under Truman we took part in another war, in Korea – and once again, at the end of the police action (as they called it), there were known American POWs who did not return from North Korea. We know that some POWs, who had been held for 50 years in North Korea, escaped or returned in some other fashion. What about other POW/MIAs who are very likely still being held in North Korea, China, and Russia, ever since the war?

Moving on to President Dwight D. Eisenhower – he, too, must have had some idea of what happened to American soldiers who did not return home after World War II and the Korean War. Eisenhower was in a position to know, so we have to wonder if he knew and approved of what had happened – and if so – left to wonder why. We may never know the answers.

Next came President John F. Kennedy, and things didn’t get any better for the missing with him at the helm of government. After his death we had President Lyndon Johnson, and we all know what he did or didn’t do in regard to American POW/MIAs.

But this is where we became part of the issue. This is the era when we got involved in the POW/MIA issue. We are the ones who know what our government has done to stop the truth from coming out.

Presidents Nixon, Ford, Carter, Reagan, Bush 41, Clinton, Bush 43, and our current president have done nothing to bring our missing POW/MIAs home. No party, Republican or Democrat, can make any claim to the families of the POWs/MIAs that they aided in their return.

Currently, we wait for Bowe Bergdahl, who is being held by the Taliban, very likely in Pakistan. Bergdahl has been held since 2009, and just had another birthday in March, separated from his family and his country. Let’s have some action. Get him home now, Mr. President. Show that you are our leader, and lead him home.

This is where we became part of the issue. This is the era where we got involved in the POW/MIA issue. We are the ones who know what our government has done.

When it comes to politicians talking about bringing our POW/MIAs home, be sure to listen very closely to what they are really saying. Sometimes it’s what they are not saying that is most important – and listen to both sides of their mouths. One side tells us what we want to hear, while the other side is saying something totally different. All politicians will tell veterans and POW/MIA families how hard they are working for them, but I believe most are just talking to make us feel good, and to get our votes.

Make no mistake: There are some good politicians who actually do work for veterans, and who are trying to bring the POW/MIAs home. But politicians like that are few and far between.

 

John Bates, VietNow National POW/MIA ChairJohn Bates, USNR serves as a VietNow National Director and as the VietNow National POW/MIA Chair.