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Clark Special Collections

Southeast Asia/Vietnam War

The Vietnam War (1954–1975) was a protracted conflict that pitted the communist government of North Vietnam and its allies in South Vietnam, known as the Viet Cong, against the government of South Vietnam and its principal ally, the United States. Called the “American War” in Vietnam (or, in full, the “War Against the Americans to Save the Nation”), the war was also part of a larger regional conflict and a manifestation of the Cold War between the United States and the Soviet Union and their respective allies.

During the conflict 766 Americans are known to have been prisoners of war (POWs), of which 114 died during captivity. More than 200 Americans were reported missing in action (MIA). Unlike previous wars, the length of time spent as a POW was extensive for many, with some being imprisoned for more than seven years. Torture was common and the Geneva Convention was not followed, as the North Vietnamese claimed the Americans were political criminals, not prisoners of war. Americans gave nicknames like Alcatraz, the Hanoi Hilton, Briarpatch, the Zoo, and Dogpatch to many of the prison camps where they were kept. After American forces raided one camp, Son Tay, the North Vietnamese moved POWs from the countryside of North Vietnam into Hanoi. American POWs were released and returned home as part of Operation Homecoming in 1973. Perhaps more than any other war, Vietnam continues to illustrate the complexity of the POW/MIA issue.

Clark Special Collections holds valuable and unique resources regarding Southeast Asia, the Vietnam War, and the prisoner of war experience. Efforts are currently underway to make those resources available to Academy Cadets and other researchers, and the finding aids for some of our Southeast Asia collections can be found at the links below. More of our Vietnam POW collections are also available in Clark Special Collections on the sixth floor of the McDermott Library.

Research Tools:


Image: "They Got Colonel Larson" by Maxine McCaffrey. Clark Special Collections, McDermott Library.