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
Part II: Textual Records Relating to POWs and MIAs from the Vietnam War
[For more information about the records described in Parts IIA and IIB, contact the Textual Archives Services Division, National Archives at College Park, 8601 Adelphi Road, College Park, MD 20740. Telephone: 301-837-3510 Email: Contact NARA]
[For more information about the records described in Part IIC, contact the Center for Legislative Archives, National Archives and Records Administration, 7th and Pennsylvania Avenue, NW, Washington, DC 20408. Telephone: 202-357-5350]
A. Records of Military Organizations
- RG 472 Records of the U.S. Forces in Southeast Asia, 1950-1975
- RG 319 Records of the Army Staff
- RG 330 Records of the Office of the Secretary of Defense
- RG 338 Records of U.S. Army Commands, 1941-
- RG 342 Records of U.S. Air Force Commands, Activities, and Organizations
- RG 361 Records of the Defense Logistics Agency
C. Records of Congressional Investigations of POW/MIA Affairs
A. Records of Military Organizations
- Records of the Military Assistance Command, Vietnam (MACV)
II.6 In 1950 the United States Army established the Military Assistance Advisory Group (MAAG) Indochina to monitor and conduct military operations in Southeast Asia. In 1955 the MAAG Indochina was reorganized and redesignated as MAAG Vietnam and MAAG Cambodia. MAAG Vietnam functioned until 1964, when it was absorbed into the Military Assistance Command, Vietnam (MACV), which functioned until 1973. Throughout the war, the MACV operated as a subordinate unified command under the Commander in Chief of the Pacific Command (CINCPAC). The MACV never controlled the air war over North Vietnam and Laos, or the war at sea outside of Vietnam's coastal waters. The MACV had three major functions during the war. First, the MACV Commander (COMUSMACV) was part of the U.S. Ambassador's country team, consulting on solutions to the internal problems of South Vietnam; second, the MACV served as a field army headquarters; and third, the MACV assisted South Vietnamese Armed Forces.
II.7 The best place to begin research on MACV is with its command histories, 1964-73 (4 ft.). The MACV command histories were prepared by the Historical Branch, Office of the Secretary, Joint Staff, MACV, to summarize the activities of the command for each year from 1964 through 1973. The histories grew from about 200 pages in 1964 to a peak of 1,340 pages in 1967. Each history analyzes the events of the year by categories such as intelligence, the enemy, friendly forces, goals and strategy, operations in Vietnam, logistics, psychological operations, research and development, pacification and nation building, air operations, naval operations, and command concerns. The histories typically contain appended maps, tables, and other annexes.
II.8 The command history for each year beginning in 1965 has a section (usually an annex) on prisoners of war. The POW section reports on the numbers, conditions, and treatment of both American and allied POWs as well as enemy POWs. It discusses American and enemy policies and procedures for such things as the handling of POWs and the recovery or trading of them. The section includes brief summaries of incidents involving identified individuals, such as POW prison escapes; statements of changes in POW/MIA policies; statistical summaries; summaries of related actions in Congress and at home; maps of camps; copies of maps and photographs; and special reports. The final command history for 1972-73 includes a discussion of Operation Homecoming, the operation that processed the return of American POWs from Vietnam.
II.9 When the MACV command histories were written they were classified secret and top secret, and fewer than 150 copies were distributed to high level officials. At the time of this writing, the MACV command histories have been partially declassified. Sanitized copies of the command histories are available on microfilm from the United States Department of Commerce, National Technical Information Service, 5285 Port Royal Road, Springfield, VA 22161.
- Records of the Assistant Chief of Staff for Intelligence, MACV (J-2)
II.10 The Office of the Assistant Chief of Staff for Intelligence, MACV (J-2), was established in 1962 with responsibility for all matters of the command pertaining to intelligence and counterintelligence, and for advice to the commander on all aspects of military intelligence. In 1972 it was reorganized and redesignated the Intelligence Directorate, and in 1973 the office was discontinued. The records of the Assistant Chief of Staff for Intelligence (J-2), 1963-73 (239 ft.), constitute one of the best sources for certain types of information relating to American POWs and MIAs. They contain the daily journals of the Command Center, 1967-71; the publications and reports of the Air Reconnaissance Division, the Exploitation Division, the Combined Document Exploitation Center, and the Intelligence Division; and the interrogation dossiers of the Combined Military Interrogation Center, 1965-68. A series title list of the files from MACV (J-2) is in Appendix C. Also included among the records of the Office of the Assistant Chief of Staff for Intelligence are the records of the military intelligence units at the group, battalion, company, and detachment level. Appendix D lists units for which records are available at the National Archives.
- Records of the Combined Documentation Exploitation Center
II.11 The Combined Documentation Exploitation Center (CDEC) was created in October 1966 under the MACV Assistant Chief of Staff for Intelligence (J-2), with the mission of receiving and exploiting captured enemy documents as a source of military intelligence for assessments and planning. The Center's responsibilities included the initial screening, translation, storage, and retrieval of captured documents. The records of the Combined Document Exploitation Center, 1965-73, consist of CDEC Intelligence Bulletins (43 ft.), CDEC translation reports (37 ft.), weekly synopsis reports (1 ft.), and miscellaneous and general records (2 ft.). For the most part, these records are the product of the analysis of documents captured from the North Vietnamese/Viet Cong, which are available on 954 rolls of microfilm.
II.12 Documents captured during unit operations were forwarded directly to CDEC in Saigon for processing. They were assigned log numbers, classified by type, date, and circumstances of capture. They were then roughly translated to provide an English language summary and analyzed for general subject classification. Documents were further classified and analyzed and passed on to appropriate units depending upon the c- ryptological value or the existence of information about Central Intelligence Agency personnel or operations. A variety of documentation was kept at CDEC, including situation reports, circulars, directives, tactical plans, policy statements, after action reports, unit rosters, medical records, propaganda, passes, ID cards, pamphlets, personal diaries, photographs, and letters. Cover sheets were created for each document and summary or full translations prepared depending upon the informational content.
II.13 Index cards were prepared for every name and unit identification, and the information entered into an automated system known as File Search. The summarized or translated original and its related documents were then forwarded to be filmed on 35mm motion picture film. The documents were photographically recorded on the picture portion of the tape, and the file index information was recorded on the soundtrack portion. When Saigon fell in 1975 the File Search equipment and ancillary material was left behind.
II.14 The National Archives accessioned 106 File-Search-dependant motion picture reels, each 1,000 ft. in length and divided into ten segments. The individual segments were copied by the National Archives onto 954 rolls of standard 35mm microfilm. Rolls 2-914 contain copies of captured Vietcong and North Vietnamese documents, and rolls 915-955 comprise the CDEC Intelligence Bulletins. The microfilm, assigned the identifier A3354, includes approximately 3,000,000 images of captured documents and materials used by CDEC to process these documents. Although the National Archives has been unable to access the File Search subject codes, researchers can use the CDEC Intelligence Bulletins to facilitate research in this collection. A more detailed discussion of the records and search procedures is available in National Archives Special List 60, Captured North Vietnamese Documents of the Combined Document Exploitation Center.
- Records of the Combined Military Interrogation Center (CMIC)
II.15 The Combined Military Interrogation Center (CMIC) was established as a result of a 1965 agreement between the MACV and the Joint General Staff. As early as 1959 an Army of the Republic of Vietnam (ARVN) Military Interrogation Center conducted the interrogation duties, and beginning in 1962 an American advisor element was stationed at the ARVN Center. When the CMIC was activated in January 1967 it was the highest level military interrogation center in Vietnam. Its mission was the interrogation of selected captives for strategic-level military information. It also provided field interrogation teams in support of U.S. and Republic of Vietnam Armed Forces (RVNAF) tactical units. II.16 Several of the series of records listed under CMIC in Appendix C may contain information concerning American POWs and MIAs. The most concentrated documentation on POW/MIAs is in CMIC reports relating to U.S. military personnel prisoners of war or missing in action, 1969-72 (9 in.), which contains "Bright Light Reports" and other reports on POW/MIA subjects. Bright Light was the code word applied to information regarding the status of, or recovery operations concerning, downed U.S. air crews. Various types of documents and policies relating to recovery of missing and captured Americans carry the Bright Light designation: Bright Light Reports, Bright Light Reward Program, Bright Light Policy. Some of these reports document the location and organization of prisoner of war camps, including camp security, personnel, daily schedules, prisoner's diets, and clothing issue. Other reports document sightings of American POWs in camps or in transit, grave sightings, and other types of sightings.
- Records of the Assistant Chief of Staff for Operations, MACV (J-3)
II.17 The Office of the Assistant Chief of Staff for Operations, MACV (J-3), was established in 1962. The Assistant Chief of Staff for Operations, redesignated the Director of Operations in 1972, was the principal staff assistant to MACV in the control of unilateral and combined military and paramilitary operations including the overall planning, direction, and implementation of specific operations. Ten divisions and two advisory groups were subordinate to the office. The records preserved from each element (shown in Appendix E) document its activities.
II.18 The Evaluation and Analysis Division of MACV (J-3) was renamed several times during its existence. The names were Operational Plans and Analysis Branch (1964-65), Doctrine and Analysis Division (1965-68), Research and Analysis Division (1968-69), Studies and Analysis Division (1969-71), and Evaluation and Analysis Division (1971-72). The division's mission evolved to include conducting studies of operational effectiveness using operations research and systems analysis techniques; evaluation of progress toward U.S. military goals and coordination of semi-annual reviews; and the preparation of the lessons learned reports covering the combat experiences of friendly forces.
II.19 The records of the division include after action reports, 1965-71 (22 ft.), received from combat units throughout Vietnam. The reports, a primary source of information analyzed for preparation of lessons learned, are arranged by year and thereunder numerically with approximately 1,048 reports for 1965-68, 168 reports for 1969, 132 for 1970, and 104 for 1971. No reports are dated later than 1971. Many of these reports contain information relevant to certain American POW and MIA cases. A title list is available that gives the date of the report and the name of the unit.
II.20 The Command and Control Division of MACV (J-3) was responsible for keeping abreast of the tactical operations conducted by U.S., ARVN, and Free World Military Assistance Forces. It was to collect, record, display, and disseminate information on all operational matters, tactical intelligence matters, and combat status and support. It developed and directed emergency and other plans, and prepared daily and weekly summaries of ground combat activities for the Commander in Chief Pacific Command. In order to carry out its mission, the Command and Control Division acted as a central collecting point for several series of records that may contain information on American POWs and MIAs. Three of these series document the activities of MACV units throughout Vietnam: daily journals, 1963-72 (19 ft.), daily activity reports, 1966-72 (13 ft.), and Southeast Asia ground operations weekly summaries, 1966-70 (6 ft.). Appendix E includes a complete listing of the records of this division that are available in the National Archives.
- Records of the MACV Adjutant General
II.21 The Administrative Services Division maintained the MACV Adjutant General library, 1962-73 (34 ft.), a collection of directives and other issuances of MACV and its subordinate units. Issuances that relate to POWs or MIAs include directives specifying procedures for search and rescue operations, casualty reporting, "survival, escape and evasion," and special POW/MIA related operations such as Bright Light reporting. The principal means of access to this collection is an annually published list of MACV issuances.
- Records of the MACV CORDS Information Center
II.22 The Civil Operations and Revolutionary Development Support (CORDS) was created on May 9, 1967, to unify U.S. efforts toward the pacification and development of South Vietnam. On January 25, 1970, it was renamed Civil Operations and Rural Development Support (CORDS). CORDS was under the direction of the Commander of MACV, with a Deputy of CORDS who held the personal rank of Ambassador. MACV CORDS was responsible for military and civilian support of the government of Vietnam's pacification efforts, including its revolutionary development and related programs. The Deputy of CORDS was responsible for the formulation of plans, policies, and activities (civilian and military) supporting the pacification and development programs, and for advising MACV on local security and destruction of the Viet Cong infrastructure.
II.23 Several series of records from the MACV CORDS Information Center may contain information relevant to POW/MIA research. The most important of these is a series of MACV CORDS command information reports, 1967-73 (46 ft.), many produced by the California-based Rand Corporation, the primary recipient of wartime Government contracts for the analysis and interpretation of data from Southeast Asia. This series includes approximately 9,800 reports. MACV CORDS records also include over 700 rolls of microfilm copies of Hamlet Evaluation System (HES) reports, Historical Information Management System (HIMS) reports, and a wide variety of other reports and analyses.
- Records of MACV Advisory Teams
II.24 MACV advisory teams assisting the Army of the Republic of Vietnam performed three types of functions: 1) advisory teams were attached to South Vietnamese Army, Navy, or Air Force units to give military advice and support in operational situations; 2) advisory teams were assigned to South Vietnamese logistical units and training commands to provide basic training to combat troops; 3) advisory teams were assigned to provinces where they worked directly under the CORDS organization, advising the Vietnamese on pacification efforts.
II.25 About 90 advisory teams operated during the war, and they created approximately 1,000 ft. of records between 1962 and 1973, including daily journals, intelligence summaries, operations reports/lessons learned, interrogation reports, after action reports, and general records. These are the records of front-line units, and they are likely to contain a variety of information relating to POWs and MIAs. Pertinent material filed among the general records may include Bright Light reports, memorandums on Bright Light policy, procedural memorandums such as "Commander's Notes" on identification of deceased personnel, and a variety of situation updates.
- Records of the MACV Studies and Observations Groups
II.26 The MACV Studies and Observations Groups (MACV-SOG) that operated in Southeast Asia were part of the joint service task force that included Army, Navy, Air Force, and Marine personnel, and were engaged in highly secret and unconventional military operations. MACV-SOG had about 2,000 personnel from the elite units of the services. Although they operated under the MACV, they reported directly to the Joint Chiefs of Staff (JCS) in Washington. Few records of MACV-SOG are available to researchers today. The only MACV-SOG records located during research for this paper consist of a copy of parts of the "MACV-SOG Documentation Study" that are among the Files of Sedgewick Tourison in the Records of the Senate Select Committee on POW/MIA Affairs. The reports, directives, and other material forwarded by MACV-SOG to the Joint Chiefs of Staff in Washington likely still exist among the records of that organization. At this time, however, no paper format records from the Vietnam era have been transferred by JCS to the National Archives. (See Section III for electronic records transferred by JCS.)
- Records of the 5th Special Forces Group (Airborne)
II.27 Special Forces (Green Beret) troops from the 1st Special Forces were sent to Vietnam in June 1957 on temporary duty assignments to the Nha Trang Commando Center, later known as the Vietnamese Special Forces Training Center. Their mission was to train South Vietnamese Special Forces troops in counterinsurgency and anti-guerrilla warfare. In September 1962, the 5th Special Forces (Provisional) was organized and took on the additional responsibility of advising and assisting the South Vietnamese government in the organization, training, equipment, and employment of Civilian Irregular Defense Group (CIDG) forces. CIDG forces consisted of indigenous troops, particularly of Montagnard tribes found in the highlands, who generally served in the area in which they lived. By 1963, border surveillance also had become part of their mission.
II.28 Although Special Forces camps initially were designed to provide security for area development, their strategic locations proved to be beneficial for infiltration interdiction, and the mission of the CIDG and their Special Forces advisors changed to one with a combat orientation. The 5th Special Forces Group (Airborne) was organized in October 1964 and assigned to Vietnam as its permanent duty station. Detachments of the 5th Special Forces Group on temporary duty were renumbered to reflect the four corps system in use by MACV and by USARV. Beginning in 1969 as part of the phasedown of U.S. troop involvement in Vietnam, Special Forces camps countrywide were closed or transferred to Vietnamese Special Forces, Ranger, or ARVN control.
II.29 The 5th Special Forces Group was headquartered at Nha Trang. Operating under the Group command were five companies that acted at the battalion level. Company A controlled Special Forces operations in III Corps and was headquartered administratively at Ho Ngoc Tao and operationally at Bien Hoa. Company B controlled Special Forces in II Corps and was headquartered at Pleiku. Company C controlled Special Forces in I Corps at Da Nang; Company D, IV Corps at Can Tho. Company E (Provisional), under the direct command of the group commander, maintained all Special Forces communica- tions including photographic facilities.
II.30 The operational arms of the 5th Special Forces were the detachments. "C" detachments were the operational detachments at the company level. Their number reflected the corps tactical zone in which they were stationed. "B" detachments reported to the "C" detachment for their corps area and were the controlling detachments for "A" camps or detachments. "A" detachments were the front line camps for the Special Forces. They reported to "B" detachments, although on occasion they were controlled by other army units for special operations. Each "A" detachment consisted of a small Special Forces team that, along with Vietnamese officers, controlled the Civilian Irregular Defense Group (CIDG) companies and battalions, usually made up of local forces, stationed at the camp.
- Records of "A" and "B" Detachments
II.31 The records of the Special Forces "A" detachments (72 ft.) contain documenta- tion of personnel losses and sightings and other reports related to American POWs and MIAs. There are records from 158 numbered "A" detachments. The records generally include after action reports, operations reports/lessons learned, monthly operational summaries, intelligence summaries, defense plans, historical summaries (some with photographs), construction files, and various one-timereports. A few of the detachments have daily journals and extensive photographs of camps and personnel. The files of the "B" Detachments (34 ft.) generally include the same types of records as the "A" Detachments. Appendix F contains lists of "A" and "B" Detachments for which there are records.
- Records of Assistant Chiefs of Staff, S-2 (Intelligence) and S-3 (Plans and Operations),
5th Special Forces
II.32 Some researchers may benefit from review of the files of the Assistant Chief of Staff for Intelligence (S-2), where daily journals (1 ft. 6 in.), intelligence summaries (7 in.), intelligence report files (4 in.) and command report files (3 in.) are collected. Others may find needed information in the files of the Assistant Chief of Staff for Plans and Operations (S-3), where daily journals (2 ft. 5 in.), operations reports/lessons learned (1 ft. 5 in.), after action reports (5 in.), monthly operations summaries (2 ft. 9 in.), and various other briefings and reports are filed.
- Records of Special Forces Companies
II.33 Records similar to those just described can be found among the records of Companies A, B, C, D and E, each of which had Assistant Chiefs of Staff for Intelligence, and Assistant Chiefs of Staff for Plans and Operations that collected similar types of data, and produced similar reports, summaries, and general correspondence.
- Records of the 5th Special Forces Group Adjutant General
II.34 Awards background files, 1964-72 (18 ft.), arranged by year and thereunder by General Order number, often contain testimony of eye-witnesses and other documenta- tion describing the valorous acts performed by Special Forces personnel. The records may provide background or describe incidents in which Special Forces personnel were lost.
- Records of the U.S. Army Vietnam (USARV)
II.35 The rapid buildup of United States Army ground forces, both combat and logistical units, in 1965 resulted in the establishment of an all-army headquarters element under the operational control of the Military Assistance Command Vietnam (MACV) to directly command these units. On July 20, 1965, the United States Army Support Command Vietnam was reorganized and redesignated the United States Army Vietnam (USARV) with the missions of operational control of all U.S. Army and Free World Military Assistance Forces in the Republic of Vietnam and establishment of organizations to support these forces. The troop strength of USARV grew from 100,000 officers and men in 1965 to a high point of over 325,000 in 1969. Beginning in mid-1969 United States forces began redeploying from Vietnam, and troop strength was reduced. On May 15, 1972, the functions of USARV and MACV were consolidated and a new organization was designated the United States Army Vietnam / Military Assistance Command Vietnam Support Command (USARV/MACVSUPCOM).
- Records of the Command Historian
II.36 The office of the Command Historian bore several names (Historical Branch, Historical Division, Military History Branch) during its brief existence, but for most of the period it operated under the USARV G-3 Assistant Chief of Staff for Operations. The mission of the Command Historian was to plan and supervise the execution of the Command Historical Program. It monitored, provided guidance for, and coordinated military history activities throughout the command, including the assignment and supervision of the military history detachments and the Army Combat Artist Program. In coordination with the Adjutant General, it monitored the collection, preservation, and disposition of historically valuable records, and it maintained the historical reference files and headquarters organizational history file.
II.37 The records of the Command Historian consist of the following nine series: daily journal, May 17, 1966-December 31, 1968 (1 ft.); general records, 1966-72 (3 ft.); operations reports/lessons learned, 1965-72 (90 ft.); after action reports (13 ft.); senior officer debriefing reports, 1967-72, (4 ft.); exit interviews, 1971, (5 in.); operation speedy express background files, 1968-69, (5 ft.); historian's source file, 1967-73, (5 ft.); and Medical Department activity reports, 1967-79, (3 ft.). The series most likely to include records relating to POWs and MIAs are the operations re- ports/lessons learned, the after action reports, and the historian's source file.
- Records of the Military History Detachments
II.38 The U.S. Army activated military history detachments to serve with major tactical and support units during the Vietnam War. The mission of the detachments, each composed of one officer and one enlisted man, was to identify and preserve historically valuable records and to conduct oral history interviews. At the height of the conflict, twenty-seven military history detachments were assigned to Army units in Vietnam. Records from twenty-three military history detachments, 1960-73 (86 ft.), are held by the National Archives. The records collected by these units generally provide a good starting point for further research. Each military history detachment's records are filed separately, and may include the following types of documents: organizational histories, daily journals, situation reports (SITREPs), intelligence summaries (INTSUMs), after action reports (AARs), operations reports/lessons learned (ORLLs), issuances, interrogation reports, photographs, operations plans (OPLANs), and maps and charts. Researchers should note that the numerical designations of the military history detachments did not correspond to the major units to which they were attached and some of the history units moved from one command to another.
- Records of the Counterintelligence Branch of the USARV Deputy Chief of Staff for
Operations, Plans and Security (G-2, G-3, and G-5)
II.39 The Deputy Chief of Staff for Operations, Plans and Security was created on October 1, 1970, to consolidate the offices of the Assistant Chiefs of Staff for Operations (G-3), Intelligence (G-2), and Civil Affairs (G-5). The office exercised supervision over the activities of the Operations, Plans, Force Development, Security and Intelligence, Doctrine, Systems Analysis and Evaluation, and Civil Military Operations Divisions. Regarded as the records of the 525th Military Intelligence Group, the security classified records related to United States military and civilian personnel missing in action or prisoners of war, 1967-71 (9 ft.), are organized alphabetically by name of the POW or detainee, and contain reports of last sighting, affidavits from witnesses, yearly and biyearly status updates, items of personal interest, items written in the handwriting of the POW or MIA, physical examination records, and other records that might aid in the identification of individuals or remains. See Appendix D for additional information about the records of military intelligence units.
- Records of the USARV Adjutant General's Section
II.40 Several series of records among the records of the Adjutant General's Section contain information about POWs and MIAs. The mission of the Adjutant General was to assure that military personnel management, administrative services, and personnel strength accounting effectively contributed to the accomplishment of command missions. The office also provided direct supervision of Replacement/Returnee and Rest and Recuperation Processing Facilities, the USARV Data Service Center, and U.S. Army Postal Services. The functions of the Section were carried out by the Administrative Services Division, the Enlisted Replacement Division, the Military Personnel Division, the Personnel Actions Division, the Personnel Management Division, and the Replacement Operations Division. A list of the records series for the individual divisions is in Appendix G. Those discussed in the following sections contain information related to American POWs and MIAs.
- Records of the Casualty Branch, Personnel Actions Division
II.41 The records of the Casualty Branch consist of five series, the most important of which are security classified general records relating to U.S. military personnel missing in action, 1965-73 (13 ft.), and casualty case files, 1969-71 (57 ft.). These latter are reference copies of selected casualty case files and do not constitute a complete collection of Army casualty files. (More complete casualty case files on Army personnel missing in action are at the Army Office of POW/MIA Affairs.) Casualty case files generally include: official report of casualty reports, annual review of missing persons status reports, copies of medical and dental records, various types of correspondence, statements, and related materials such as hand-drawn maps. Information in casualty case files is often exempt from disclosure for reasons of privacy or national defense; however, redacted copies of the files are available on Library of Congress microform publications described in Section VIII of this paper.
- Records of the Awards Branch, Military Personnel Division
II.42 The records of the Awards Branch document military awards granted to Army personnel who served in Vietnam. The records in these files may contain documentation describing the events and conditions under which a soldier was captured or became missing. Pertinent series in the National Archives include: military awards case files relating to Medal of Honor and Posthumous Award nominees, 1966-72 (8 ft.); individual military awards case files, 1969-73 (415 ft.); and military awards to foreign personnel, 1969 (6 ft.). A typical file consists of copies of the general order granting the award, witness accounts, recommendation forms, narrative descriptions and summaries of gallant conduct, hand-drawn battle maps, correspondence, messages, newspaper clippings, review board decisions, and other documents relating to military awards granted to U.S. Army personnel. The files of the Medal of Honor recipients and Posthumous Award nominees generally are the most voluminous. In addition to the Medal of Honor, the awards covered in branch records include the Silver Star, the Distinguished Flying Cross, Legion of Merit, Distinguished Service Award, Army Commendation Medal, the Bronze Star, the Air Medal, the Purple Heart, and the Vietnamese Armed Forces Training Medal and the Staff Service Honor Medal.
- Records of the Aviation Section
II.43 The mission of the Aviation Section was to advise the Deputy Commanding General of USARV on all aviation matters. It issued policy guidance, developed plans, provided staff supervision, established training programs, and furnished technical advice. In addition, it monitored and exercised staff supervision over the aviation logistical activities of the 34th General Support Group. The records of the Aviation Section include non-combat aircraft accident reports, 1965-73 (127 ft.), with gaps in 1967 and 1968, some of which may contain information relevant to POW/MIA matters.
- Records of the U.S. Delegation to the Four Party Joint Military Commission, January
27, 1973 - March 31, 1973
II.44 The Four Party Joint Military Commission (FPJMC) was established under Article 16 of the Agreement on Ending the War and Restoring Peace in Vietnam (Paris Peace Accords) on January 27, 1973. The FPJMC was scheduled to function for sixty days to ensure joint action by the parties to implement specific provisions of the peace agreement. In particular, Article 8 of the agreement compelled all parties "...to get information about those military personnel and foreign civilians of the parties missing in action, to determine the location and take care of the graves of the dead ... and to get information about those still considered missing in action." Seven sites in the Republic of Vietnam were established as coordination points for liaison officers of the four governments and representatives of the International Commission of Control and Supervision (ICCS). These sites were Hue (Region I), Da Nang (Region II), Pleiku (Region III), Phan Thiet (Region IV), Bien Hoa (Region V), My Tho (Region VI), and Can Tho (Region VII). Due to the failure of the People's Revolutionary Government ("Viet Cong") delegation to provide field representatives, these field sites were not as effective as envisioned in the Paris Agreement. Appendix Hcontains a list of the FPJMC records series, along with the volume of records in each. Of particular interest to POW/MIA researchers are the historian's background files (8 ft.). Appendix I lists titles of folders in these background files.
- Microfiche Publications of the Defense Technical Information Center (DTIC), 1954-75
II.45 During the course of the war in Vietnam, 1954-75, and in the decade following, approximately 7,000 significant documents, reports, and studies dealing with United States involvement on the Southeast Asian mainland were deposited in the Defense Technical Information Center (DTIC). About half of the DTIC collection consists of U.S. Army-authored combat reports, operations reports/lessons learned, and senior officer debriefing reports. The remaining portions of the collection consist of declassified portions of the MACV command histories, 1964-73; MACV system for evaluating the effectiveness of RVNAF (SEER) reports; and various "think-tank" products produced under Defense Department wartime contracts, in particular, contracts with the Rand Corporation. II.46 The operations reports/lessons learned were compiled quarterly by all U.S. Army combat units committed to the war and the senior officer debriefing reports were prepared by Army general officers on completion of their combat tours. All were classified initially, but subsequently were reviewed by Army Declassification Operations personnel pursuant to Executive Order. The declassification review resulted in near 100 percent declassification of the operations reports/lessons learned. Those held for continued protection generally involved intelligence methodology and sources. They number less than 25 reports.
II.47 The remaining 3,500 declassified operations reports/lessons learned are available on microfiche under the original DTIC call number, i.e., AD- number, from the National Technical Information Service. DTIC call numbers are provided in an inventory produced by the DTIC. The inventory is presented in three formats: 1) alphabetical listing by report title; 2) alphabetical listing by personal author; 3) alphabetical listing by corporate author and monitor agency. The National Archives holds reference copies of this DTIC microfiche. Some, but not all, of the original paper copies of the records included on the microfiche are among the MACV and USARV records retired to the National Archives and described elsewhere in this paper.
II.1 Record Group (RG) 472 includes the records of the U.S. military and joint organizations that served in the Southeast Asia/Vietnam area from 1950 to 1975. The record group includes the records of the Military Assistance Command, Vietnam (MACV), the unified command that controlled American military forces in Vietnam, its predecessors, and its component and subordinate commands. Also part of RG 472 are the records of the Defense Attache Office, Saigon, the U.S. Delegation to the Four Party Joint Military Commission, the Military Assistance Command Thailand/Joint U.S. Military Advisory Group Thailand, and the Military Equipment Delivery Team, Cambodia.
II.2 MACV exercised operational control over all American forces in Vietnam during the major period of the war, from 1962 to 1975. Its predecessors were the Military Assistance Advisory Groups (MAAG) for Vietnam and Cambodia. Its subordinate commands included the United States Army Vietnam (USARV), the 7th Air Forces, the 3rd Marine Amphibious Force, and the U.S. Naval Forces, Vietnam.
II.3 The various military components that have contributed records to RG 472 comprise staff elements that not only shared functions but also element names, a fact which can complicate research within these records. For example, MACV, the umbrella organization controlling all American forces in Southeast Asia, had an Assistant Chief of Staff for Intelligence (J-2) and an Assistant Chief of Staff for Operations (J-3). The U.S. Army in Vietnam, which operated under MACV, also had an Assistant Chief of Staff for Intelligence (G-2) and an Assistant Chief of Staff for Operations (G-3), and the Army Special Forces (the Green Berets) also had Assistant Chiefs of Staff for Intelligence (S-2) and Plans and Operations (S-3). Within the Army each division had its G-2 and G-3 officers and within each division, each tactical unit had its S-2 and S-3 officers. The same pattern holds for the other Assistant Chief of Staff positions and for the Adjutant and other offices. At each level similarly named staff elements carried out similar functions.
II.4 A large number of operational units and staff elements existed in Southeast Asia during this period, and it is not feasible to describe separately the records of each. This paper describes the records of the major units and elements that collected data relevant to POW/MIA research. Appendixes A through G provide overviews of the structure and records of several military components. Appendix A shows the organizational structure of the major components of U.S. Forces in Southeast Asia during the Vietnam War. RG 472 contains records for most of these components. Appendix B provides a list of the records of one of the major units listed in Appendix A; the records of the 1st Cavalry Division (Airmobile) are typical of those created by a combat division and the offices, staffs, and brigades under it. Appendix B can be generalized to describe the records created by many of the USARV-controlled Army units at the group, battalion, detachment, and company level. The list was current at the time this paper was written, but additional records are continuously being received and described by the staff of the National Archives. Appendix C lists the staff elements subordinate to the MACV Assistant Chief of Staff for Intelligence (J-2) and the records series from each element. Appendix Dlists records available for the Army military intelligence groups, battalions, companies, and detachments that existed in Vietnam during the period. Appendix E lists the organizations under the MACV Assistant Chief of Staff for Operations (J-3) along with the records series created by each. Appendix Flists the major staff elements of and operational units under the command of the 5th Special Forces and the designations and dates of service of its A and B detachments. Appendix Glists records of the USARV Adjutant General's Office and its subordinate staff elements.
II.5 Appendix H and Appendix I also cover records from RG 472, but these describe the records of the U.S. Delegation to the Four Party Joint Military Commission, a short-lived organization that existed to implement the provisions of the Paris Peace Accords, including those related to the return of prisoners of war.
- Records of the "Vietnam War Crimes Working Group"
II.48 Records pertaining to enemy prisoner of war and detainee activities, 1967-74 (2 in.), were created and accumulated by an unofficial "Vietnam War Crimes Working Group" under the Discipline and Order Division of the Office of the Deputy Chief of Staff for Personnel (DCSPER). The Discipline and Order Division already had responsibility for monitoring war crimes allegations, dissent in the Army, and other sensitive subjects. This informal working group coalesced in 1970 as allegations about war crimes in Vietnam began to attract public attention in the wake of the My Lai Massacre. The group's records pertain to the U.S. and Republic of Vietnam Armed Forces handling of enemy POWs and detainees during the Vietnam conflict as monitored by the DCSPER. Records include MACV documents on POW/detainee operations and procedures; MACV, CINCPAC, and Department of the Army manuals and regulations concerning POW and detainee operations; background briefing and information material on the history and development of allied POW/detainee programs and the construction and operation of facilities; records concerning the U.S. Delegation to the Four Party Joint Military Commission's post-ceasefire POW negotiations and exchange efforts; messages and papers on the Department of the Army's study and assessment of the POW/detainee program; and records concerning the production of a documentary film on U.S. and RVNAF POW/detainee programs during the Vietnam conflict.
- Records of the U.S.-Russian Joint Commission on POW/MIAs (Task Force Russia), July
17, 1992-October 29, 1993
II.49 The U.S.-Russia Joint Commission on POW/MIAs was created on March 20, 1992, to collect information on American servicemen who were unaccounted-for in the former Soviet Union. On June 29, 1992, Task Force Russia was created to provide support to the Commission. Task Force Russia searched Russian and American archives for information on missing Americans from World War II, the Korean War, the cold war, and the Vietnam war, and interviewed numerous citizens of the former Soviet Union. The records of the Task Force (1 ft.) consist of 23 biweekly reports, 6 tri-weekly reports, 2 analytical reports, and 4 compendiums of verbatim translations. Forming an important part of the documentation collected by Task Force Russia are the four batches of documents presented by Russian General Dimitri Volkogonov (co-chairman of the Joint Commission) to the United States Senate Select Committee on POW/MIA Affairs at a hearing on November 11, 1992. The Russian language documents were translated by Task Force Russia staff and published by the Senate Select Committee on POW/MIA Affairs on pages 445-1044 of its "Hearings on Cold War, Korea, WWII POWs," November 10 and 11, 1992. The original Russian language documents that were presented to the Senate committee by General Volkogonov are part of the committee's records, among the files of the select committee's Chief Clerk Nancy Cuddy.
- Records of the U.S. Army 22d Prisoner of War/Civilian Internee Information Center
II.50 The Center was established in 1967, within the Office of the Provost Marshal General, as the executive agent of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Department of the Army, to plan, develop, and administer programs relating to prisoners of war in U.S. custody. The records of the Center, 1949-76 (37 ft.), show that the PWCIIC assumed responsibility for the collection of records relating to American POWs held by enemy forces as well as enemy POWs held by American or allied forces. The records are organized in three subseries according to their original classification: formerly secret (1 ft.), formerly classified (14 ft.), and unclassified (22 ft.). Within each subseries the records are arranged according to The Army Functional File System.
II.51 The records consist of declassified and unclassified studies, reports, and intelligence data that Defense Department components were required to submit to the Center through military channels to document compliance with the prisoner of war provisions of the four Geneva Conventions of 1949 and other applicable international laws. Although some records pertain directly to the administration of the Center, most provide information on prisoners of war, civilian internees, and other detained persons. The submissions contain a wide variety of documentation concerning detainees and captured personnel of World War II, the Korean War, and the Vietnam War. Included are a substantial number of memorandums, studies, and reports on enemy POW camps, policies and treatment of POWs, American military and foreign policy, and other subjects relating to American POWs and MIAs. Researchers, however, are advised to disregard The Army Functional Filing System (TAFFS) numbers in favor of thoroughly scanning the folder-title lists or, if possible, examining each file. For example, most of the records are categorized under TAFFS numbers 511-1 through 511-14, which concern "Enemy PW/CI/detainees," but many of the records filed under these numbers relate to American POWs. The formerly classified records filed under TAFFS 511-02 include reports on "US/GVN Treatment of VC/NVN Prisoners;" on "VC/NVN Policies for Handling US & ARVN PW;" and on "Impact of Communist Offensive on EPW Camps."
- Records of the U.S. Army Office of POW/MIA Affairs
II.52 "Task Force 250" was created under the Office of POW/MIA Affairs, U.S. Total Army Personnel Command, to process POW/MIA records for release to the Senate Select Committee on POW/MIA Affairs and to the public under the McCain Bill and Executive Order 12812. Task Force 250 was composed of 33 military and civilian members who reviewed documents and provided redacted copies to the Department of Defense Central Documentation Office. The Documentation Office in turn provided copies of the documents to the Senate Select Committee for their examination and to the Library of Congress, where they were made available to the public in two microform publications. The microfilm publications are described in more detail in this paper in Section VIII.
II.53 The Task Force 250 records in National Archives custody are the original, unredacted, documents that appear in redacted form in the Library of Congress microfilm publications. On the microfilm publication entitled, "Vietnam-Era Documentation Collection in Microform," the Task Force 250 documents are identified as "Army-PC" (personnel casualty), "Army-IN" (intelligence), or simply "Army" files. The latter include files on various aspects of Operation Homecoming; letters to various individuals, organizations and officials; memorandums; notifications; status changes; task force meetings; and various reports. Documents from the Army Office of POW/MIA Affairs also appear in the Library of Congress microform publication, "Correlated and Uncorrelated Information Relating to Missing Americans in Southeast Asia."
II.54 A list of documents transferred from the Army Office of POW/MIA Affairs to the Department of Defense POW/MIA Office (DPMO) is available at the Center for Legislative Archives at the National Archives. The Center also maintains an automated index to the "Vietnam-Era Documentation Collection in Microform." By using both list and index, a researcher can determine which documents on the microfilm came from the Army, and very often can locate the casualty file or sighting of a named individual.
- Records of the Military Airlift Command, 3rd Aerospace Rescue and Recovery Group
II.55 The Military Airlift Command (MAC) provides air transportation for personnel and cargo for all military services on a world-wide basis. In addition, MAC furnishes weather, rescue, photographic, and charting services for the Air Force. The Third Aerospace Rescue and Recovery Group was formed at Tan Son Nhut Air Base near Saigon to serve as the primary rescue agency in Southeast Asia. The group also had squadrons stationed at Da Nang and Tuy Hoa, Vietnam, and Udorn, Thailand. Among the few records from this organization in National Archives custody are logbooks recording daily flight information pertaining to air rescue sorties in Southeast Asia, such as reports of downed aircraft, parachute sightings, air/ground communications with downed crews, and rescue attempts. The records, which include information about combat rescues and saves in North Vietnam, South Vietnam, and Laos, are organized in two series: logbooks of 3rd Aerospace Rescue and Recovery Group, January 1, 1966-November 30, 1967 (1 ft.), and logbooks from OL-B, 3rd Aerospace Rescue and Recovery Group, April 26, 1965-January 7, 1968 (1 ft.).
RG 361 Records of the Defense Logistics Agency
- Records of the Survivability/Vulnerability Information Analysis Center (SURVIAC)
II.56 The Combat Data Information Center (CDIC, later SURVIAC), served as the central repository and data dissemination center for combat, combat related, operational, and test data that could be utilized in studies of aircraft, ship, and ground vehicle survivability, vulnerability, maintenance, logistics, and military operations. Data sets were amassed by the CDIC to provide a central location where combat and operational damage and loss data on U.S. material, personnel, and facilities might be stored and disseminated for the benefit of the defense research and development community. Some of the data sets may contain valuable information for the POW/MIA researcher.
II.57 A particularly important group of records constitutes the Vietnam Combat Operational Data Set, composed of records that came from four different sources: the Joint Chiefs of Staff, the Secretary of Defense, the Joint Commands, and the United States Army Vietnam. The records are on 664 rolls of microfilm and 775 microfiche and include documentation on six data categories: combat operations, intelligence, Army aviation, service support, pacification, and general information on the Vietnam War, 1961-75. The filmed records include: air, ground, river, and sea operation reports of the U.S. Pacific Command, 1965-75 (563 rolls); MACV operational summaries, situation reports, and weekly military reports, 1961-67 (36 rolls); MACV telecoms and weekly summary reports, 1966-72 (5 rolls); MACV daily intelligence summaries (DISUMS), 1969 (1 roll); MACV daily situation reports (OPREP4), 1967-69 (299 microfiche); MACV weekly summary reports (OPREP5), 1967-70 (366 microfiche); MACV daily intelligence summaries, 1968-69 (110 microfiche); National Military Command Center operational summaries, 1965-77 (9 rolls); pacification program report records, 1964-65 (10 rolls); and Commander in Chief of the Pacific Command historical preservation data, bibliographical lists, 1961-72 (40 rolls). At the time of this writing, most of the filmed material remains classified. Only 33 rolls of the Commander in Chief of the Pacific Command film are unclassified and available to researchers.
B. Records of CivilianOrganizations RG 59 General Records of the Department of State
RG 59 General Records of the Department of State
- Records of the Bureau of Far Eastern Affairs
II.58 The earliest records of missing or captured military personnel in Southeast Asia are part of the central subject file of the Office of East Asian Affairs, 1958-63 (boxes 157-161). The records consist of a black binder labeled "List of US Armed Forces Personnel Believed Held by the Communists," which contains entries for 470 missing persons. The list was compiled in 1954. Accompanying it are dossiers on each of the missing individuals, many of whom were considered to be missing in China.
- Collection of Declassified Copies of State Department Records
II.59 In response to a request by the Senate Select Committee on POW/MIA Affairs for access to copies of all records relating to POWs and MIAs during the Vietnam War, State Department lot files were searched and copies of relevant documents made and declassified. The resulting collection consists of declassified copies of State Department documents relating to POW/MIA affairs in Southeast Asia during and after the Vietnam War, 1965-92 (54 ft.). The originals remain among the appropriate State Department lot files.
II.60 The collection is arranged in five subseries: 1) records of Frank A. Sieverts, Special Assistant for POW/MIA Affairs; 2) POW/MIA telegrams, 1973-92; 3) public access documents, 1968-92; 4) Paris Peace Accord documents, 1968-72; and, 5) Department of Defense documents, 1965-92. The collected documents consist of copies of correspondence, telegrams, texts of speeches, document analyses, memorandums, computer printouts, foreign service lists, lists of POWs and MIAs, newspaper and magazine articles, transcripts of audio messages, and various other documents relating to POW and MIA affairs in Southeast Asia. There may be some degree of overlap between these records and the four series of copies of records of the State Department in the files of the Senate Select Committee on POW/MIA Affairs. (See Appendix J, series 13-16.)
II.61 After the war in Vietnam, Senate and House of Representatives committees investigated a number of issues relating to POWs and MIAs in Southeast Asia. The committees generally held hearings and produced legislation. In many cases the only records consist of printed testimony from public hearings. Appendix O lists publications of Congressional committees that include references to POWs and MIAs. The only substantial collections of unpublished records are from the 1975 House Committee on Missing Persons in Southeast Asia and the 1991-92 Senate Select Committee on POW/MIA Affairs.
RG 46 Records of the United States Senate
- Records of the Senate Select Committee on POW/MIA Affairs, 102d Congress, 1991-93
II.62 The Senate Select Committee on POW/MIA Affairs was created in the fall of 1991 to conduct a full investigation of the issues surrounding the possibility that American POWs and MIAs were left behind in Southeast Asia, and to provide for full disclosure of the facts. The committee was created to reestablish trust between the United States Government and the American people on this sensitive matter. The select committee's final report (S. Rpt. 103-1) begins with the following statement:
American POWs and servicemen have met the test of personal honor, and so have the families of those still missing from past American wars. For these families, there have been no joyous reunions, nor even the solace of certainty ratified by a flag draped casket and the solemn sound of taps. There has been no grave to visit and often no peace from gnawing doubt. For them there has been only the search for answers through the years when they did not have active and visible support from their own government to the present day when our ability to get real answers has finally been enhanced. Their search for answers is truly understandable . . .
Members of the select committee identified six tasks to be accomplished during its existence: 1) reestablish trust between the Government and the people on a most painful and emotional issue; 2) investigate and tell publicly the complete story about Government information concerning and activities on behalf of POWs and MIAs; 3) examine the possibility that unaccounted for Americans might have survived in captivity after POW repatriations at Odessa in World War II, after Operation Big Switch in Korea in 1953, after cold war incidents, and particularly after Operation Homecoming in Vietnam in 1973; 4) ensure priority status for efforts to account for missing Americans, not only in word but in practice; 5) encourage cooperation from foreign governments; and 6) pursue the truth, at home and overseas.
II.63 To accomplish these ends, the committee conducted a broad and thorough investigation that followed three basic methodologies: 1) seeking guidance from family members, activists, and researchers on investigative priorities; 2) seeking and receiving access to the POW/MIA related records of many Government agencies; and 3) gathering information by interviewing relevant officials and other individuals, and traveling to remote locations to search foreign archives and receive testimony.
II.64 The records of the select committee reflect its investigative priorities. When the committee was disbanded in January of 1993 it retired 285 feet of unclassified records and 93 feet of classified material to the National Archives with the stipulation that the records be described and opened to the public as soon as possible. An inventory of the select committee's records has been incorporated in this paper as Appendix J. It describes 52 series organized into 6 subgroups: 21 series (158 ft.) consisting of copies of POW/MIA related records received from other Government agencies; 13 series (52 ft.) consisting of general records of the committee, including transcripts of hearings and depositions, and committee publications; 14 series (57 ft.) consisting of the files of the investigative staff; 2 series (6 ft.) consisting of audio-visual materials; a series consisting of electronic files; and a series of classified records (92 ft.). As the classified records series is redacted and declassified, a new parallel series is being created. Appendix K, Appendix L, and Appendix M provide more detailed lists for some of the series. Select committee publications are included in Appendix O.
RG 233 Records of the United States House of Representatives
- Records of the Select Committee on Missing Persons in Southeast Asia, 94th Congress,
II.65 The Select Committee on Missing Persons in Southeast Asia existed from September 11, 1975, to December 13, 1976, and pursued the following objectives: 1) to determine whether any missing Americans remain alive in Southeast Asia, 2) to help to create an international climate where meaningful talks could be conducted with those who can provide information on MIAs, 3) to evaluate U.S. Government treatment of the POW/MIA issue during and after the Vietnam War, and 4) to establish POW/MIA guidelines for future conflicts. In carrying out its work, the committee heard almost 50 witnesses in open hearings, held 20 executive sessions to receive sensitive testimony; held high-level talks with key government officials in Vietnam and Laos, and other international officials; and conducted an independent investigation that included interviewing over 150 individuals and requesting needed documents from the Department of Defense.
II.66 The committee investigated the likelihood and probability of injury or death resulting from ejection from aircraft and parachute landing, as well as the difficulties posed by infection, starvation, illness, climate, and hostile forces if the individual survived ejection and parachute landing. Committee members also investigated and analyzed the network of fabricators perpetrating hoaxes on POW/MIA families. Their investigations took them to interview former Presidents and Secretaries of State, and to travel to Europe, Laos, and Vietnam. The final report of the committee stated its conclusion that: "no Americans are still being held alive as prisoners in Indochina, or elsewhere, as a result of the war in Indochina."
II.67 The records of the committee consist of 15 feet of files documenting its work. The files include correspondence, telegrams, memorandums, regulations and policy documents relating to POWs and MIAs, statistics, investigative and background files, transcripts of executive session meetings, and legislative bill files created in the course of the committee investigation. Approximately one-third of the files contain classified material. Appendix N is a box list for the records of the select committee. Under the standing rules of the House of Representatives, the investigative records and executive session transcripts remain closed for a period of 50 years after their creation; they will open in 2026. The remaining materials remain closed for a period of 30 years after their creation; they open in 2006. The protections of national security classification and personal privacy apply even after the records are opened under House rules. Select committee publications are included in Appendix O.
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.