Report of the
Senate Select Committee
8/65 International Committee of Red Cross appeals to
combatants to observe the Geneva Conventions with
respect to the treatment of prisoners of war.
United States, South Vietnam (GVN) accept; Vietcong
(PRG), Democratic Republic of Vietnam(DRV) reject.
7/21/66 Defense Department issues directive saying that
Americans captured in Vietnam should be considered
prisoners rather than "detainees"; thereby
providing grounds for the US to invoke the Geneva
5/14/69 President Richard Nixon proposes eight points for
ending the war, including the release of all POWs.
8/69 Secret talks begin between President Nixon's
National Security Advisor, Dr. Henry Kissinger, and
representative of the DRV.
9/3/69 Ho Chi Minh, President of North Vietnam, dies.
5/70 Ambassador William Sullivan testifies before House
Foreign Affairs Committee that "Most Americans
captured by Communist forces in Laos remain in
10/7/70 Nixon proposes the immediate, simultaneous,
unconditional release by both sides of all POWs in
Indochina. Defense Department lists 458 Americans
as POWs at the time.
12/70 DRV turns over a list of 339 American POWs to
Senator Edward Kennedy.
5/31/71 In secret talks, US proposes POW return upon
setting of a date for US withdrawal. Rejected by
7/1/71 DRV proposes publicly a 7 point plan in which it
agrees to return POWs as part of an overall
8/16/71 In secret talks, DRV proposes that POW lists be
exchanged on the day a peace agreement is signed.
10/11/71 In secret talks, US proposes an 8 point plan,
promising a total withdrawal from South Vietnam of
US forces within six months of an agreement,
contingent upon release of all military and
civilian prisoners in Indochina that would begin
and end simultaneously with the troop withdrawals.
1/72 DRV release 451 letters of POWs held in North
1/25/72 Nixon reveals secret Kissinger-DRV talks. Makes
public US proposal of 10/71.
3/72 DRV release 251 POW letters to US journalist
4/23/72 Pathet Lao (LPF) spokesman Soth Petrasy ties
discussions on a POW release to a total US bombing
halt and claims that US prisoners are detained in
secure places inside various caves in northern
5/8/72 Nixon announces the mining of North Vietnamese
10/8/72 Breakthrough in Kissinger-Le Duc Tho discussions.
US agrees to settlement without North Vietnamese
withdrawal from South Vietnam; DRV agrees to
settlement without immediate resignation of South
Vietnamese President Thieu. Agreement virtually
10/20-22/72 Exchange of messages from Nixon to DRV Prime
Minister Pham Van Dong regarding "understandings"
concerning the release of US POWs in Cambodia and
10/20-24/72 Draft peace agreement falls apart due to opposition
from President Thieu.
10/26/72 Kissinger press conference, "Peace is at hand".
11/20/72 Negotiations resume in Paris.
12/16/72 Kissinger announces deadlock in talks and blames
12/18-30/72 Christmas bombing of Hanoi and Haiphong.
1/8-13/73 Kissinger and Le Duc Tho resume talks and arrive at
a draft agreement, including understandings and
1/21/73 Thieu agrees to settlement.
1/23/73 Paris Peace Accords announced. Nixon states,
"Within 60 days from this Saturday, all Americans
held prisoner of war throughout Indochina will be
released. There will be the fullest possible
accounting for all of those who were missing in
1/24/73 Kissinger states, "We have been told that no
American prisoners are held in Cambodia. American
prisoners held in Laos and North Vietnam will be
returned to us in Hanoi."
1/26/73 Kissinger tells members of the National League of
Families that the peace agreement's "understandings
on Laos are absolutely clear concerning POW
releases in a time frame similar to that in
1/27/73 Paris Peace Accords signed. Cease-fire goes into
effect. A supplementary protocol provides for the
release of POWs in roughly equal installments at 15
day intervals during a 60 day period. The DRV/PRG
prisoner lists contain 717 names, of which 577 are
American (555 military, 22 civilian). The lists do
not include any American prisoners held in Laos.
1/29/73 A State Department spokesman states, "We firmly
expect - to have a list of POWs to cover Laos."
During a meeting of the Washington Special Actions
Group (WSAG), representatives of the Joint Chiefs
of Staff and DoD express hope for the return of "40
or 41" American POWs from Laos. DIA compiles a
list of 87 personnel recorded as POW by DIA yet not
on either the dead or alive lists presented to the
US by the DRV or PRG.
2/1/73 North Vietnam provides a list (the DRV/Laos list)
of 9 Americans (7 military, 2 civilian) and 1
Canadian which is represented as the list of POWs
captured in Laos. The DRV receive a secret letter
from Nixon dealing with Article 21 of the Paris
Accords (reconstruction funding).
2/2/73 Nixon message to DRV labels the DRV/Laos list as
"unsatisfactory," since it contains only 9 of 317
American personnel unaccounted for in Laos.
2/3/73 First meeting of the Prisoner of War Subcommission
of the Four Party Joint Military Commission (FPJMC)
2/5/73 USAF EC47, with a crew of eight, shot down over
Laos. Some intelligence analysts later suggest that
four of the crew may have been captured.
2/10-12/73 Kissinger visits Hanoi for talks with DRV leaders.
POW and economic aid issues discussed.
2/12/73 First release of American POWs: 116 by DRV, 27 by
2/14/73 US and DRV announce Joint Economic Commission (JEC)
to oversee reconstruction in North Vietnam.
2/17/73 LPF spokesman Soth Petrasy says that the Pathet Lao
is holding American POWs who will be released after
a cease-fire goes into effect in Laos.
2/21/73 "Agreement on Restoring Peace and Achieving
National Concord in Laos" signed between the Pathet
Lao and Royal Laotian Government. US ceases
bombing Laos. US embassy official John Gunther
Dean informed by Soth Petrasy that the Pathet Lao
"does hold foreign prisoners, including Americans."
3/13/73 WSAG meeting discusses POWs in Laos. Results in
message from Kissinger to DRV asking for an
explanation of statements by Soth Petrasy about the
presence of additional U.S. POWs in Laos.
3/14-16/73 US sends message regarding POWs in Laos to DRV, but
no response is received. China releases 2 US POWs.
3/19/73 DRV representative informs the US that the LPF is
responsible for the release of US POWs in Laos and
gives no assurances that those on the DRV/Laos list
will be released by the deadline of 3/28/73.
3/20/73 Kissinger message to Pham Van Dong protests the
inadequacy of the DRV/Laos list and failure of DRV
to take its obligations seriously.
3/21/73 DIA memo indicates that the DRV/Laos list does not
contain US personnel captured by the LPF, but
rather only those captured in Laos by DRV forces.
DIA further states LPF should have information on
live US POWs beyond those on the DRV/Laos list.
3/22/73 Admiral Thomas Moorer, Commander of JCS, sends
cable suspending U.S. troop withdrawal pending
receipt of assurances of release for "all, repeat
all American prisoners held throughout Indochina."
3/22/73 U.S. Ambassador to Laos, McMurtrie Godley, sends
cable advocating two step approach: 1) conditioning
U.S. withdrawal on release of prisoners on the
DRV/Laos list and 2) follow up on additional POWs
in Laos within the framework of the Laos peace
3/23/73 Admiral Moorer sends cable directing that U.S.
withdrawal will be completed contingent on release
of prisoners on the DRV/Laos list.
3/26/73 DRV tells US that the LPF will agree to release
prisoners on the DRV/Laos list and that the
prisoners would be released in Hanoi on March 28.
3/28/73 US POWs on DRV/Laos list released.
3/28/73 Defense Secretary Elliott Richardson sends memo to
Kissinger recommending options for obtaining an
accounting for U.S. POW/MIAs in Laos.
3/29/73 President Nixon announces "All of our American POWs
are on their way home." Last American troops leave
4/1/73 The last POW released through Operation Homecoming,
Army Captain Robert White, is released by PRG. A
total of 591 Americans return alive during
4/4/73 Four Party Joint Military Team holds first meeting,
discusses accounting of 1,328 MIAs and 1,100 as
4/5/73 Cable from Ambassador Godley indicates that the
U.S. Embassy in Vientiane has become pessimistic
about possibility that LPF holds additional U.S.
4/5/73 U.S. Senate votes 88-3 to bar the use of any
previously-appropriated funds to provide economic
aid to the DRV.
4/6/73 US Senator Ed Brooke is told by Pathet Lao
spokesman Petrasy that no more American prisoners
are held by the LPF.
4/12/73 At press conference, Dr. Roger Shields, head of the
DOD's POW/MIA Task Force, says "we have no
indications at this time that there are any
Americans alive in Indochina."
4/16/73 U.S. begins two days of air strikes along the Ho
Chi Minh Trail in Laos.
4/19/73 US breaks off talks with DRV concerning economic
aid in response to alleged cease-fire violations.
4/25/73 LPF spokesman Soth Petrasy tells the Associated
Press that there are no American POWs in Laos.
5/1/73 Secretary of Defense Richardson directs that the
DOD's POW/MIA Task Force be phased out.
5/7/73 American civilian pilot Emmet Kay and Hmong
intelligence team are shot down and captured by LPF
in Laos. Kay is released 9/74.
5/21/73 Brig. General Robert Kingston, Commander of the
JCRC, tells the Associated Press that "There is no
indication that any Americans listed as missing in
action in southeast Asia are still alive."
5/23/73 Le Duc Tho tells Kissinger, regarding American POWs
in Laos, that "I have acknowledged to you that all
of them have been released."
6/8/73 Acting Secretary of Defense William Clements
directs that no changes in status from MIA to POW
are to be made without his specific approval.
6/13/73 US and DRV issue joint communique pledging to renew
efforts for full implementation of the Paris
7/29/73 US protests to Vietnam about failure to comply with
MIA accounting provisions of the Paris Accords.
8/15/73 US ceases bombing Cambodia. All official US
military operations in Indochina ended.
8/17/73 Clements issues memorandum directing service
secretaries to proceed with change of status
determinations as provided by the law.
9/7/73 Kissinger testifies at hearings on his confirmation
as Secretary of State.
9/14/73 Agreement on joint provisional government in Laos
10/14/73 POW/MIA families meet with Soth Petrasy in
Vientiane, but receive no information.
12/15/73 An American is shot and killed by Vietcong forces
while investigating a crash site near Saigon.
1/22/74 Rep. Ben Gilman reports being told by Hmong General
Pang Pao that "8 to 10 young American pilots were
being held by the North Vietnamese..." Gilman also
reports that Soth Petrasy has assured him that
there are no US prisoners in Laos other than Emmet
1/28/74 Sieverts tells Senate Foreign Relations Committee
that the General Pang Pao report is
3/6-13/74 North Vietnam returns the remains of 23 US POWs
listed as died in captivity.
3/8/74 Exchange of Vietnamese POWs under Paris Accords
4/5/74 Provisional Government of Laos is formed. Under
the terms of the 2/21/73 Laos Cease-Fire Agreement,
any US POWs must be released within a 60-day period
following the establishment of this government.
4/17/74 DIA memo reviews reports of US POWs being sighted
in Southeast Asia following Operation Homecoming.
4/17/74 Cambodian communist guerrilla force, the Khmer
Rouge, captures Phnom Penh.
8/9/74 Nixon resigns; Gerald Ford becomes President.
9/74 Emmet Kay is released by the Pathet Lao
4/30/75 Saigon falls to DRV and PRG forces. US institutes
trade embargo against all of Vietnam.
6/21/75 North Vietnamese Premier Pham Van Dong sends a
letter to 27 US Representatives in which he links
U.S. contributions to healing Vietnam's war wounds
with information on American MIAs.
8/23/75 Laotian capital of Vientiane falls to the Pathet
8/29/75 North Vietnam releases 9 American civilians
captured earlier in the year in South Vietnam.
12/2/75 Pathet Lao establish Lao People's Democratic
12/21/75 Remains of 3 US pilots returned in Hanoi following
meeting with Members of the House Select Committee
on Missing Persons in Southeast Asia (The
7/21/76 Philip Habib, Under Secretary of State for
Political Affairs, testifies that there has been no
accounting of the 320 MIAs in Laos by the Pathet
Lao or the DRV. Further, Habib notes that the DRV
has continually linked the issue of cooperation in
accounting for missing Americans to the issue of
U.S. reconstruction aid.
7/31/76 Hanoi announces repatriation of 48 Americans
stranded in Vietnam after fall of Saigon.
11/12/76 Vietnam and US representatives hold talks in Paris.
Talks break down as Vietnam says it cannot
implement Article 8 (MIAs) as long as the US
refuses to honor Article 21 (reconstruction aid).
11/15/76 US vetoes Vietnamese application for entry into the
12/13/76 House Select Committee on Missing Persons in
Southeast Asia, the Montgomery Committee, files its
report. Major conclusion is that "No Americans are
still being held as alive as prisoners in
1/20/77 Jimmy Carter is sworn in as President.
2/25/77 President Carter appoints Commission headed by
Leonard Woodcock "to seek information on missing
U.S. personnel," and to receive and report back on
the views of Vietnam and Laos "on matters affecting
3/16/77 Woodcock Commission arrives in southeast Asia for
talks with DRV and Lao leaders. Discussions deal
primarily with MIAs and reconstruction aid.
3/19/77 Vietnam returns remains of 12 US pilots.
3/24/77 Woodcock Commission reports to the President that
"There is no evidence to indicate that any American
POWs from the Indochina conflict remain alive."
5/3/77 The U.S. and Vietnam begin two days of talks in
Paris. The US proposes mutual and unconditional
restoration of diplomatic relations. Vietnam turns
the proposal down and insists that it will not
normalize relations until US makes good on
commitment to provide economic aid.
5/19/77 State Department declassifies 2/1/73 letter from
President Nixon to DRV leaders promising
5/26/77 Secretary of Defense Harold Brown recommends to
President that status reviews of missing US
personnel be resumed. The memo expresses pessimism
about the possibility that any of the MIAs will be
found alive, and argues that continuing Americans
in missing status adds to the pressure on the
United States to make concessions to Vietnam.
6/2/77 US and DRV begin two days of talks in Paris. No
agreements are reached, but the US is given
information on the deaths of 20 US pilots during
7/20/77 Vietnam joins the United Nations, US supports the
9/77 Vietnam returns 11 sets of remains of MIAs.
8/21/78 A delegation led by U.S. Rep. Sonny Montgomery
arrives in Vietnam. Delegation later receives the
remains of 11 US pilots.
3/79 Marine private Robert Garwood, a defector during
the Vietnam war, returns to America from Vietnam.
4/80 Vietnam's Ministry of Foreign Affairs releases a
"White Paper" on the "Question of Americans Missing
in the Vietnam War." The MIA issue is linked to
1/20/81 Ronald Reagan is sworn in as President.
5/13/81 The Washington Post reports on an inconclusive US
reconnaissance operation aimed at confirming the
presence of live Americans in Laos.
8/81 Vietnam issues a statement on the MIA question,
which refers to the cases of Americans who were
"reportedly captured but not registered" and who,
because of "war circumstances," died or became
"missing" on their way to detention centers.
2/82 President Reagan formally designates POW/MIA issue
as a matter of "highest national priority."
11/11/82 The Vietnam Veterans Memorial is dedicated in
l/5/86 US and Vietnam begin two days of talks in Hanoi.
Two sides agree that the MIA question is a
"humanitarian one that cannot be used as a
political condition for normalization of
5/27/86 A DIA Task Force, chaired by Gen. Eugene Tighe,
concludes that there is "a strong possibility" that
American POWs are still alive and being held
against their will in Vietnam.
2/87 General John Vessey (ret.) is appointed
Presidential Emissary to Vietnam on POW/MIA
8/1/87 General Vessey arrives in Hanoi for three days of
talks. Resulting joint statement says that
"specific measures were agreed upon to accelerate
progress towards accounting for Americans missing
in action, and to address certain humanitarian
concerns of Vietnam."
8/19/87 US and Vietnam reach agreement concerning searches
for American MIAs.
1/19/89 "Final Interagency Report of the Reagan
Administration on the POW/MIA Issue in Southeast
Asia" is released. Report finds that there exists
"no conclusive evidence" of live US POWs being
1/20/89 George Bush is sworn in as President. General
Vessey is reappointed as Presidential emissary on
4/8/91 The US presents its "roadmap" to Vietnam, linking
steps towards the normalization of relations to
progress in POW/MIA matters and Cambodia.
8/2/91 The US Senate passes legislation (S.Res.82) to
create a Select Committee on POW/MIA Affairs.
11/6/91 Select Committee hearings begin.
1/92 US Joint Task Force Full-Accounting is created
under the Pacific Command. General Thomas Needham
is named chief.
2/13/92 Senators Kerry and Smith arrive in Moscow to
discuss the fate of American MIAs in WW II, Korea,
and Vietnam. One Vietnam MIA case is resolved.
Russian government acknowledges that some American
deserters were brought to the Soviet Union after
the Vietnam War, but there is no evidence that any
still remain in Russia.
3/4/92 A US delegation headed by Asst. Secretary of State
Richard Solomon arrives in Vietnam. US agrees to
provide small scale humanitarian aid to Vietnam in
return for increased efforts by Vietnam to resolve
the POW/MIA issue.
4/20/92 Senate Select Committee delegation begins week long
fact-finding mission to southeast Asia.
9/92 US gains access to more than 4,000 Vietnamese
photos of American casualties taken during the war.
10/92 Existence of photos acknowledged publicly.
10/17-19/92 General Vessey leads a delegation of US officials,
including Senator John McCain, to Vietnam to
discuss ways to improve MIA accounting.
11/16-21/92 Senate Select Committee delegation visits Vietnam
12/17-18 Senate Select Committee delegation visits Hanoi.
12/19-21 Senator Bob Smith visits Pyongyang and Beijing.