Reference Information Paper 90
A Finding Aid to Records Relating to American
Prisoners of War and Missing in Action from the Vietnam War Era, 1960-1994
Table of Contents
Appendix P: Selected Sources of Vietnam era POW/MIA Records Outside the National Archives
This list is not comprehensive, but it is printed here to further assist the Vietnam-era POW/MIA researcher. Documentation of the Vietnam War is massive and is preserved in a wide range of formats and institutions. This list does not address the many still and motion picture collections outside the National Archives that contain Vietnam POW/MIA footage.
An excellent discussion of Vietnam-era research in general is contained in the U.S. Army Center of Military History, Historical Analysis Series publication, "Researching the Vietnam Experience," by Ronald H. Spector. A substantial amount of documentation has been processed and released since this pamphlet was published in 1984, but the analysis and observations remain valuable.
Department of Defense
1. Department of Defense POW/MIA Office (DPMO)
Office of the Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for POW/MIA Affairs
The Defense POW/MIA Office (DPMO) has custody of records relating to POWs and MIAs from the Vietnam War period. Its holdings include Casualty Files for all missing Vietnam era American military personnel and civilians. It also has Returnee Files, including debriefings that are usually protected by privacy provisions, and other records. It has Source Files that include all kinds of sightings, the most numerous of which are live sightings, grave sightings, crash sightings, and hearsay information. The office also has custody of a collection of miscellaneous files including special studies relating to POWs and MIAs.
The DPMO also has custody of the Southeast Asia Photograph Collection of the Joint Task Force-Full Accounting (JTF-FA). The material was collected by three JTF-FA research teams who were granted access to archives and muse- ums in Vietnam, Laos, and Cambodia with collections of war related material. The research teams photographed war related objects and photographs that could contain information about POWs or MIAs. The collection contains over 25,000 photographs, some of which clearly contain POW/MIA information, while the status of other pictures such as dog tags, flight helmets, serial numbers on engine parts, and pieces of airplanes cannot be determined without extensive research. These documents are available to researchers in the Library of Congress publication, "Vietnam-Era Documentation Collection in Microform" (see Section VIII of this paper).
This office maintains custody of active records relating to POWs and MIAs, but it is not a research library or archive. Most of the records in its custody are closed to researchers to protect the privacy of the individual in question. Records that have been declassified and redacted and are available on microfilm from the Library of Congress. Files not released by Primary Next of Kin, under the conditions of the McCain Bill are not included among the micro- filmed documents, and photographs of dead Americans or of body parts are not included.
2. Joint Services Survival, Evasion, Resistance and Escape (SERE) Agency
9018 Black Road, Suite 101
Fort Belvoir, VA 22060-5212
(703) 806-6419 or 6420 FAX (703) 806-5262
This library/archives has over one million pages of documentation con- cerning SERE experiences. Present holdings consist primarily of documents and products related to the Vietnam Prisoner of War experience including transcripts and/or summaries of Vietnam POW returnees. A large portion of the information is exempt from disclosure because release of the information would violate confidentiality agreements and constitute an unwarranted invasion of personal privacy of returnees or their families. This library is not open to the public; access is limited to military services and other government agencies.
3. Air Force Historical Research Agency
600 Chennault Circle
Maxwell AFB AL 36112-6424
This facility has professional archivists on staff to assist researchers. The collection includes some classified records and information closed to the public due to other restrictions. The majority of the holdings are unclassified and include about 60 million pages of operational U.S. Army Air Forces and U.S. Air Force unit and organizational histories, personal collections, oral histories, historical studies, and holdings from other services and countries. Histories may contain narrative descriptions of organizational activity and operations. They may also include supporting documents and photographs, maps, and charts.
Information on POW/MIAs at the agency ranges from World War II through the Southeast Asia conflict. Histories may include information on individual MIAs. Special collections dedicated to POW/MIAs include unclassi- fied World War II escape and evasion reports and POW camp studies. There is limited releasable information on POW/MIAs from the Korean and Southeast Asia conflicts. Most is classified or has access restrictions due to the McCain Bill. In addition to the histories, the agency has various studies and reports on search and rescue operations in Southeast Asia.
The agency lists among its holdings two important monographs on POW/MIA issues: James B. Overton, Enemy Capture/Release of USAF Personnel in SEA, 15 Mar 1969 (275 pp.), which documents the capture and release of six POWs during the late 1960s, and Edward P. Bryan and Arthur P. Geesey, Joint Personnel Recovery in Southeast Asia (80 pp.), which reviews the efforts of the Joint Casualty Resolution Center to determine the status of American military and civilian personnel who became casualties or went missing.
4. Air Force Military Personnel Center
Casualty Operations Division
POW/MIA Inquiry Division
550 C Street West, Suite 14
Randolph Air Force Base, TX 78150-6001
The Air Force Military Personnel Center coordinates all USAF MIA matters and inquiries. Researchers seeking assistance or the location of records pertaining to USAF MIA personnel may wish to contact the center.
5. United States Air Force / Air University Library
Maxwell AFB, AL 36112-5564
(205) 953-2888 or 2606
The AUL collection contains classified, privileged, and releasable publica- tions; but only government employees, active duty and retired military person- nel, dependents and other authorized individuals are granted lending privileges. The AUL holds over 510,000 cataloged military documents; 850,000 maps and charts; 280,000 books; 120,000 bound periodicals; and 120,000 regulations and manuals. It subscribes to 2,000 periodicals and newspapers and holds extensive back periodical sets. Much of the military documents collection consists of papers written by the AU faculty and students, studies conducted by scholars, and studies and reports prepared by defense industry contractors.
Records containing information about Vietnam era POWs or MIAs include: 1) papers, studies, and reports on subjects such as combat rescue operations, the evolution of search and rescue operations, survival, escape, and evasion doctrine and procedures, and POW experiences; 2) directives documenting such things as MIA administrative reporting procedures, definitions and procedures regarding MIA/KIA status determinations, procedures for notification of next of kin, and casualty assistance and benefits entitlements; 3) current maps and aeronautical charts that may assist researchers in locating wreck sites or deciphering map coordinate grid references in wartime after-action reports.
6. U.S. Army Aviation Systems Command
4300 Goodfellow Blvd.
St. Louis, MO 63120-1798
The primary finding aid for MIA-relevant records held by the Army Aviation Systems Command is a computer printout entitled "Aviation Loss File Listing, 1953-1980." The data base lists chronologically the lost aircraft along with serial numbers, date and place of loss, and unit to which the aircraft was assigned. It is the only compilation of army aviation losses, and will be of use to researchers who have located crash sites. The data base contains both privileged and releasable records.
7. U.S. Army Military History Institute
Carlisle, PA 17013-5008
(717) 245-3611 or 3601
The USAMHI is open to the public Monday through Friday, except holidays. It contains classified, unclassified, privileged, and releasable materi- als. Researchers are encouraged to make appointments for assistance.
The Institute's military history collection includes over 264,000 bound vol- umes, 9,000 periodicals, 1,000,000 photographs, 16,000 boxes of manuscripts including diaries, memoirs, letters, and other papers, and over 400,000 classified and unclassified military documents, including publications in numbered series. The military history books date from as early as the 15th century and describe the historical roots of the American Army.
The Institute has produced various working bibliographies relating to the repatriation of POWs and other internees. Some examples of the type of material relating to Vietnam era POWs and MIAs include: History of the Vietnam War microfiche collection, which includes over 20,000 pages on POW/MIA matters; MACV Historical Office Documentary Collection microfilm; Classified Studies from the Combined Intelligence Center Vietnam microfilm; and reports such as "Prisoner of War Repatriation Planning," 31 Dec. 1971, and "Report of Return of U.S. PW Activities at Hanoi," 12 Feb. 1973.
8. U.S. Army Casualty and Memorial Affairs Operations Center
U.S. Total Army Personnel Command
2461 Eisenhower Avenue
Alexandria, VA 22331-0482
The records related to the Vietnam period consist of over 1,000 cubic feet of individual deceased Army personnel files along with associated indexes.
9. U.S. Marine Corps Historical Center
Reference Section (HDH-2)
Washington Navy Yard, Section 58
Washington, DC 20374-0580
(202) 433-3483 FAX (202) 433-4691
The holdings of the Historical Center include: a library collection of more than 40,000 titles focused on military subjects, including histories, biographies, and unit journals; a periodicals collection of journals and post and station newspapers; an oral history collection of over 5,000 interviews; an art collec- tion of over 7,000 items; a personal papers archive consisting of 2,600 collec- tions totaling 1,500 feet; the official operational records archive consisting of over 2,000 feet of command chronologies, war diaries, after action reports, messages, overlays, and related documents; and a historical reference collection of secondary sources.
The archival, oral history, and library records are well indexed and user-friendly. The personal papers archive has a computerized subject index of over 8,000 terms. It has an online catalog available to Center visitors. Official records stored in the Washington National Records Center are listed in a dBase program, as are the oral history tapes.
The Center has a large collection of materials relating to POW/MIA affairs from World War II to Vietnam. From Vietnam there are specific official records related to POWs; however, much of this information is protected under the Privacy Act. Operational records are excellent sources of certain types of research, as are personal diaries and memoirs in the personal papers archive. Some oral histories are relevant to this field of research. The library contains copies of all official USMC histories and monographs, plus books on the topic. The reference collections also contain information of considerable value on POW/MIA matters.
10. Commandant of the Marine Corps
Headquarters, USMC (MHP-10)
Marine Corps Casualty Section
2 Navy Annex
Washington, DC 20380-1775
The USMC Casualty Section holds unclassified, privileged, and releasable records. Privileged and releasable information may be examined by family members only. The Casualty Section holds a limited collection of casualty files. Files on Marines unaccounted for in Vietnam include investigative reports as well as family letters and inquiries.
11. U.S. Naval Historical Center
Washington Navy Yard
Washington, DC. 20374-0571
The Naval Historical Center has classified, privileged, and releasable records and publications relating to Vietnam era POW/MIA affairs. It operates through a number of archival, library, and museum branches, the principal ones of interest to the POW/MIA researcher being: the Operational Archives Branch (202-433-3170), which collects and preserves selected types of records; the Navy Department Library (202-433-4131), which holds over 170,000 volumes relating to the navy and naval science; the Naval Aviation History Branch (202-433-4355), which maintains aviation command history records; the Ship's History Branch (202-433-3643), which maintains research files on every commissioned Navy ship; and the Photographic Section of the Curator's Branch which holds a small number of POW photographs.
The primary source of Navy POW/MIA records from the Vietnam era is the Operational Archives Branch, with its collections of operational reports, plans, command histories, message files, papers of individual officers, and Operation Homecoming files. Many of the records in this branch are from the files of the Special Assistant to the Chief of Naval Operations for POW/MIA Affairs (1964-81).
The Ship's History Branch maintains the ship command histories, which are written by the Commanding Officer and summarize a ship's operations for a calendar year. They also have the files from the Medals and Awards Branch, which list citations for decorations and describe the valorous acts performed.
The Naval Aviation History Branch has custody of the Naval Air Com- mand Histories for Naval Air Squadrons and Carrier Air Groups from 1957 to the present. They have a computerized listing of all Navy and Marine aircraft shot down between 1965 and 1972, a data file on every Naval aircraft operated by the Navy, and a microfilm collection of Aircraft History Cards, 1911-87, and on Aircraft Accident Reports, 1920-55. A general subject file on Vietnam era subjects is also available.
12. U.S. Navy POW/MIA Affairs
Bureau of Naval Personnel
POW/MIA Affairs Pers-663P
2 Navy Annex
Washington, DC 20370-6630
(703) 614-3338 or 1-800-443-9298
The Navy POW/MIA Affairs office does not have public research facilities, but it is open to next of kin and official visitors by appointment. The office holds the casualty records of Navy personnel from the Vietnam period whose remains are unrecovered. The casualty files contain unclassified records, including personal correspondence with the families; official records regarding the cases; and results of investigations for servicemen. Some of the records are on microfilm.
13.U.S. Navy Naval Safety Center
NSA Norfolk, VA 23511-5796
(804) 444-6728 or 3250
The Naval Safety Center does not have facilities for private researchers, but welcomes public inquiries submitted by mail. Their holdings include computerized and microfilm reports of naval aircraft losses since July 1955; incident files and Personal Injury/Death reports since 1969; and a limited number of certain specialized reports, including microfilm reports of Direct Enemy Action events from the Vietnam War.
University Publications of America
14. University Publications of America
4520 East-West Highway
Bethesda, MD 20814-3389
A portion of the records cited above, as well as other records related to the Vietnam war, are available on microfilm from University Publications. Some of the relevant collections on film are: Records of the Marine Corps in the Vietnam War (78 rolls); U.S. Army Build-Up and Activities in South Vietnam, 1965-72 (29 rolls); Records of the Military Assistance Command in Vietnam (90 rolls); Transcripts and Files of the Paris Peace Talks on Vietnam, 1968-1973 (12 rolls); U.S. Armed Forces in Vietnam, 1954-1975 (21 rolls); Papers of William C. Westmoreland (25 rolls); Records of the Westmoreland v. CBS Case (1,010 microfiche); The War in Vietnam: Classified Histories by the National Security Council (8 rolls); The Johnson Administration and Pacification in Vietnam, 1966-68 (15 rolls); Vietnam Documents and Research Notes Series (6 rolls); and related National Security Files, CIA Research Reports, and Special Studies of Foreign Nations.
Note: Compiled by Charles E. Schamel. Published by the National Archives and Records Administration, Washington, DC, 1996.
Web version prepared 1999. Additions and changes incorporated in the Web version are between brackets  and in italics.