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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 IV: Still Pictures

[For more information about the records described in Part IV, contact the Special Media Archives Services Division, Still Picture Unit , National Archives at College Park, 8601 Adelphi Road, College Park, MD 20740. Telephone: 301-837-0555 Email: stillpix@nara.gov]

IV.1 The Still Picture Branch of the National Archives holds photographic records of the conflict in Southeast Asia in several record groups. Only a small portion of the more than 60,000 images from the Vietnam period, however, relate directly to prisoners of war or missing in action. These records may be examined at, and copies ordered from, the Still Picture Branch, National Archives at College Park (Archives II), 8601 Adelphi Road, College Park, MD 20740-6001.

RG 111 Records of the Office of the Chief Signal Officer

    IV.2 The records of the Chief Signal Officer include over 1,038,800 black and white and color photographic images documenting the history of the U.S. Army from the French and Indian War through the Vietnam years. The photographs of U.S. Army operations in Vietnam, 1963-73, comprise over 20,000 images. Of these, only a few are related to POWs or MIAs. The seven series that are most likely to incorporate relevant images are described in the following paragraphs.

    IV.3 Series 111-C, color photographs of Signal Corps activity, 1944-83 (587 ft.), is the primary series of Signal Corps color prints, negatives, transparencies, and 35 mm slides for the period 1944-81. It also contains a small number of black and white prints and negatives, and a small number of items taken as recently as 1983. Subjects of photographic images include combat, Army posts, equipment, guns and weapons, aircraft, military exercises, military units and Special Forces, medical facilities, military ceremonies, American and foreign prisoners of war, foreign landscapes and populations, foreign armies and equipment, and art work depicting World War II, Korea, and Vietnam. Typed captions appear on the back of prints; and most negatives, transparencies, and slides have captions on envelopes or slips of paper accompanying them. This series contains over 102,000 images. Items in this series are numbered and arranged by Signal Corps assigned "C" or "CC" numbers. To assist researchers, several derivative series have been created that organize images into subject specific categories. Prints and negatives are filed in the primary 111-C series, and additional copies of relevant prints are filed in the following secondary series: CCA, army art collection; CCE, military and civilian personalities; CCG, portraits of general officers; CCK, U.S. Army activities in Korea; CCP, portraits of civilian personalities; CCS, U.S. Army Signal Corps, general subject file; CCV, U.S. Army activities in Vietnam; CPF, color print subject file, 1944-54; CRB, U.S. Army activities; and CTC, U.S. Army activities in Cambodia and Thailand. Three of these series are discussed in the following paragraphs.

    IV.4 Series 111-CCV, color photographs of the U.S. Army in Vietnam, 1963-73 (23 ft.), consists of approximately 18,000 4" x 5" color photographic images, arranged alphabetically by subjects such as aircraft, boats and transportation, guns and weapons, and named organizational units. A finding aid lists the categories in each box. There are approximately 400 prints of enemy POWs held in American and ARVN prisons under the subject headings POW, POW living conditions, and POWs Quang Tri. On the back of each print is a caption along with numbers referencing other print or negative series. There are two indexes to this series in the Still Picture Research Room, 111-CVX, a subject index, and 111-CVXX, a location index. Although this series pertains directly to Vietnam, it contains only a few photographs of American prisoners of war.

    IV.5 Series 111-CRB, photographs of U.S. Army activities, 1958-81 (46 ft.), consists of approximately 4,300 color and black and white prints arranged alphabetically by subject in 241 loose-leaf binders. Sixty-four binders document the activities of American forces and the Army of the Republic of Vietnam (ARVN) during the Vietnam War. Binders 172, 173, 198, and 199 contain photographs of enemy prisoners and activities in American and ARVN prisoner of war camps. Many of these photos were made during preparation for prisoner exchange. This series does not, however, appear to contain photographs of American POWs or MIAs.

    IV.6 Series 111-CTC, photographs of U.S. Army activities in Cambodia and Thailand, 1958-81 (2 ft.), contains approximately 400 black and white and color photographic images from Cambodia and Thailand during the period of the Vietnam War. The series does not appear to contain photographs explicitly described as those of POWs or MIAs, but is described here because it contains photographs from Southeast Asia that may be of value to POW/MIA researchers.

    IV.7 Series 111-SC, Signal Corps photographs of American military activity, (3,000 ft.), is a large series of over 680,000 black and white photographic images covering events occurring during the period from 1754 to 1981, arranged in numerical order by Signal Corps photo number. The images are indexed by subject in 111-SCY, an index available in the Still Picture Research Room. Only a few photographs are listed in 111-SCY under the heading "Vietnam, prisoners."

    IV.8 Series 111-SCA, U.S. Army Signal Corps photographs of military activity during WWII, Korea, and Vietnam, 1941-81 (1,100 ft.), consists of over 300,000 black and white photographic images arranged in 7,717 albums. Photographs are arranged in albums by subject such as Army posts, geographic locations, aerial views, Army maneuvers, branch of service, personalities, subjects, and overseas geographical areas. The albums are numbered sequentially. Approximately 8,000 photographs from the Vietnam era are arranged in rough chronological order in 77 albums numbered 3049a through 3049yyy. Because the images from the Vietnam period are not arranged by subject, photographs related to POWs and MIAs might be found in any of the 77 albums. A six volume album subject list is available. A small number of photographs of Vietnam POWs are not filed in the 77 Vietnam era albums. Album 4957 contains 17 photographs documenting the release of three American POWs to members of II Field Force, Vietnam, in January of 1969, and album 4970 contains three photographs of starved South Vietnamese who had been held in Viet Cong prisons.

    IV.9 Series 111-VNP, photographs of American prisoners of war from the Vietnam War, 1961-82 (1 ft.), contains approximately 800 color and black and white photographic images of military personnel captured during the Vietnam War. The majority of the 4" x 5" prints are official military portraits, but also included are less formal images, possibly provided by friends and family when no official portrait was available. The series consists of images of POWs from the Air Force, Navy, Marine Corps, and Army and includes some views of welcome home ceremonies.

RG 112 Records of the Office of the Surgeon General (Army)

    IV.10 Record Group 112 contains photographs relating to army medical training, facilities and equipment, and therapeutic treatment for troops. Series 112-VT, photo- graphs from the Army Medical Department, Vietnam, 1960-70 (3 ft.), contains approximately 1,200 photographic images taken or acquired by the Army Medical Department relating to its involvement in the Vietnam War. A folder title list describes the subjects under which images are filed: organizations, hospital facilities, combat, surgery, veterinary services, helicopter evacuation, etc. A folder, entitled "Prisoners of War Freed by the 101st Airborne Division," contains a photograph of an injured American and three photographs of Vietnamese who were freed.

RG 127 Records of the U.S. Marine Corps

    IV.11 Record Group 127 includes over 216,000 photographic images (some of works of art) illustrating the history of the U.S. Marine Corps (USMC), 1775-1981. The photographs document historic events, battles, and USMC units, and include formal and informal pictures of officers and enlisted men, uniforms, weapons, training programs, aircraft, and equipment. The Marine Corps photographs contain about 6,000 color images and 14,000 black and white images from the early 1960's through 1971 relating to Vietnam. Three series, in particular, contain images relating to the topic of this paper. IV.12 Series 127-GG, general photographic file of the Marine Corps, 1958-81 (53 ft.), consisting of approximately 40,000 images, is organized according to subject categories. Section B.09 (Behavioral and Social Sciences, Law) contains seven photographs of the former prisoner of war Robert Garwood upon his return to the United States. IV.13 The 10,000 black and white photographs of U.S. Marine Corps activities in Vietnam, 1962-75 (15 ft.), that form series 127-GVB are arranged alphabetically by subject and thereunder by year in categories such as: aerials (by town), aircraft (by type), artillery, beachheads, captured weapons, ceremonies, helicopters (by year and by model), medical - MEDCAP and personnel (by year), patrols (by year), ARVN (by year), Viet Cong tunnels and caves (by year) etc. Under the heading "Combat" are approximately 3 feet of photographs arranged by year and by operation name. The principal photographs relating to POWs and MIAs are filed under two headings: approximately 180 photographs under "Operation Homecoming," and approximately 40 photographs under the heading "Prisoners of War." Most of the latter are of Americans held in captivity in Viet Cong prison camps, and are labeled "homecoming - confinement series." IV.14 The 4,700 color photographs of U.S. Marine Corps activities in Vietnam, 1962-75 (6 ft.), in series 127-GVC are arranged alphabetically by subject in categories such as: aerial views (by town or type of installation), aircraft (by type), artillery, beachheads, captured weapons, ceremonies, combat (by year and by operation name), helicopters (by year and by model), etc. These photographs are organized under the same file plan as the black and white files. A file titled "Operation Homecoming" contains over 40 photographs of POWs and family and friends at homecoming celebrations.

RG 306 Records of the U.S. Information Agency

    IV.15 The United States Information Agency maintained a Photo Library in which the centerpiece was a "Master File" consisting of prints and negatives of photographs disseminated abroad through various press and Government publications. This file, now in NARA custody and designated series 306-PS, master file photographs of U.S. and foreign personalities, world events, and American economic, social, and cultural life, 1948-83 (735 ft.), consists of over 167,000 prints organized into five subgroups. A subject card index, 306-X, available in the Still Picture research Room, provides access to the images in each subgroup. The index to subgroup 306-PS-C, 1960-74, shows approximately 400 images, and subgroup 306-PS-D, 1950-75, approximately 600 images under the subject heading "Vietnam." The photo-index cards contain both the image and a brief description. Images include American POWs being paraded through streets and in cells, and ARVN prisoners freed from Communist POW camps.

    IV.16 A smaller file of miscellaneous Vietnam photographs, 1958-74 (2 ft.), designated series 306-MVP, consists of approximately 500 photographs from the Press and Publications Service used in pamphlets and other publications. They are divided into general subject headings, and include 18 photographs of Vietnamese released from Viet Cong POW camps. The pictures show the emaciated condition of POWs and one image of stocks where POWs were chained.

RG 342 Records of U.S. Air Force Commands, Activities, and Organizations

    IV.17 More than 282,000 photographs in this record group document U.S. Air Force activities and personnel from 1945 through 1981. Series 342-B, photographs of U.S. Air Force activities, facilities, and personnel, domestic and foreign, 1954-80 (374 ft.), contains over 133,000 images arranged alphabetically by subject in 1,927 albums divided into subgroups by subject or geographic location. The portion of the collection that documents Southeast Asia during the Vietnam War consists of 9,000 black and white images in 145 albums and 6,000 color images in 107 albums. Serving as a finding aid to this series is a four-volume master list of headings and sub-headings on the spines of the 1,927 albums. In the albums, photographs are arranged by subject such as airplanes, bombs and bombing missions, crews, and transportation. While subheadings on the albums facilitate searches for selected images, the index cards provide descriptive material, dates, and sources. Vietnam black and white series album VN 117 contains approximately 90 photographs, including a large number of aerial views of Communist POW camps. Vietnam color album 84 contains 15 images of both Americans and Communists in captivity, some of which were made by the Communist captors for propaganda purposes.

RG 428 General Records of the Department of the Navy, 1947-

    IV.18 The photographic collection of the Department of the Navy includes over 379,000 photographs of officers and enlisted men, ships and boats, aircraft, ordnance and equipment, bases and other facilities, geographical areas, naval operations, and other subjects relating to Navy history since 1947. Color and black and white photographs from the Vietnam period are among the general photographic files of the Department of the Navy, 1958-81 (2,332 ft.). A "visual aid" index to this series, 428-GX, arranged alphabetically by subject, includes approximately 5,000 references under the heading "Vietnam." Subjects indexed within the Vietnam group include refugees, aircraft, ships, squadrons and operations by name, and town locations. The principal photographs relating to POWs and MIAs are under two headings: under the heading "Prisoners of War, allied" are approximately 700 photographs of American prisoners of war; and under "Operation Homecoming" are roughly 650 photographs of American POWs.


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.

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