Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Issue of Missing Vietnam Vets Called Manipulative Myth

Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Issue of Missing Vietnam Vets Called Manipulative Myth

Article excerpt

M.I.A. OR MYTHMAKING IN AMERICA. By H. Bruce Franklin, Lawrence Hill Books, 240 pp. $17.95

THIS election campaign is proving once again that the Vietnam War - how one conducted oneself at the time, and how one's world view was shaped by that period - still is a very deep and emotional issue in the United States. And of all the complex psychological and cultural aspects of the war that remain nearly two decades after Americans stopped fighting in Southeast Asia, none has persisted longer than the question of whether United States servicemen still are being held as prisoners.

If anything, the POW (prisoner of war) controversy has become even more intense in recent years, despite the lack of any substantial evidence that Americans remain there against their will. In trying to sort out the facts and assertions, Rutgers University scholar H. Bruce Franklin concludes that myth has overshadowed reality, and that Americans over the years have been doubly manipulated: First, by US government officials trying to prop up support for an increasingly unpopular war by diverting attention from a corrupt ally not worth fighting for (the South Vietnamese government), and by directing that attention to getting back brave and mistreated American men being held hostage. Second, by the popular media - particularly Hollywood - which have cynically and deceptively reinforced an erroneous belief of many surviving captives through dozens of violent - and usually racist - Rambo-type films.

In "M.I.A. or Mythmaking in America," Franklin methodically builds his case on the record concerning the numbers of POWs and MIAs (missing in action). That record shows, for example, that "Vietnam and the Pathet Lao actually released or accounted for 15 more prisoners than the Defense and State Departments had listed as likely prisoners, even though both agencies had attempted to inflate their figures. …

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