Vietnam MIA/POW Servicemen: NJ
- Accounted-For – This report includes the US personnel from NJ who have been accounted for (including POW returnees and POW escapees) and all personnel whose remains have been recovered and identified since the end of the war.
- Unaccounted-For – This report includes the US personnel from NJ who are still unaccounted for.
The U.S. government continues to account for Americans missing in Southeast Asia from the Vietnam War.
Since late 1973, the remains of over 700 Americans killed in that war have been returned and identified.
Many have been buried with full military honors in accordance with the wishes of surviving family members. Efforts continue to recover nearly 1,700 Americans who remain unaccounted-for from the conflict .
As part of an ongoing process, for over a decade the U.S. government has conducted joint field activities with Vietnam, Laos, and Cambodia.
Throughout those countries, U.S. teams investigate and excavate crash and burial sites. They interview many persons who have knowledge about loss circumstances .
The U.S. government has also obtained access to historical wartime records and archives. These often provide information relevant to the fates of missing Americans.
After eight years of warfare between the French and the communist-led Viet Minh, the 1954 Geneva Agreements ended France’s colonial rule and partitioned Vietnam into a communist-controlled North and a non-communist South backed by the United States. In the South, beginning in 1957, communist Viet Cong and re-inserted Northern Vietnamese troops waged a guerrilla campaign against the government of Ngo Dinh Diem. The North gradually increased their support, establishing the Ho Chi Minh supply trail in May 1959.
The U.S. tried to bolster the increasingly isolated Diem government with increasing numbers of advisers and materiel aid. In 1963, as the insurgency appeared to gain strength, Diem was overthrown by South Vietnamese military officers with the foreknowledge of the U.S. but the situation only worsened. The following year, in August 1964, the U.S. Congress approved the Tonkin Gulf Resolution (P.L. 88-408), authorizing President Johnson to expand conventional military operations in Vietnam without a formal declaration of war.
In March 1965, in order to strengthen the Vietnamese government and protect U.S. installations, the U.S. inserted, and started committing ground combat forces in the South, both Marines and U.S. Army forces. During 1965, to prevent the imminent collapse of South Vietnam, the United States also launched Rolling Thunder, a systematic bombing campaign against the North. In November 1965, the first major combat between the 1st Air Cavalry and North Vietnamese Army main force units occurred in the Ia Drang Valley in the Central Highlands, changing the nature of the war again. In 1968, with 549,500 U.S. military personnel in the South yet with victory still elusive, after a Vietnamese New Year’s (Tet) attack, much of the American public turned against the war. Rolling Thunder was suspended and in 1969 U.S. troop withdrawals began. Between 1970 and 1972, bombing of the North resumed intermittently and sometimes intensively but ground redeployments continued and the bulk of U.S. forces left the South.
Accounting for the Missing
Immediately after the Paris Peace Accords were signed on January 27, 1973, Operation HOMECOMING returned the 590 POWs captured in Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia (two POWs from Vietnam and a Cold War POW were released from China). The MIA families and some government officials, however, expected a greater number of returnees, giving rise to concerns that POWs had been withheld. This gave rise to the urgency of the accounting mission. Although Article Eight of the Accord called for mutual assistance among the parties in accounting for the missing, in the immediate postwar period, continuing hostilities precluded access to many sites. After the POWs came home, the U.S. still listed some 2,646 Americans as unaccounted-for, with roughly equal numbers of those missing in action, or killed in action/body not recovered.
Initially, the accounting was to be accomplished by the Four Party Joint Military Team, a temporary organization composed of representatives from the four signatories. U.S. and Republic of Vietnam teams conducted joint but restricted searches from February 1973 to March 1975 for Americans missing in South Vietnam. These met with only limited success, but did recover and identify some 63 servicemen, 23 of whom had died in captivity in North Vietnam, and five who had been killed in Laos. The work was severely limited after the ambush slaying of U.S. Army Captain Richard M. Rees by guerrillas on December 15, 1973, and ended completely with the Communist takeover of Vietnam on April 30, 1975.
From that point until September 1990, Vietnam unilaterally returned some 175 remains of missing Americans they had previously collected and stored. In the 1980s, spurred by suspicions over this withholding and the reports of the Indochinese refugees that POWs were held, the U.S. energized its efforts with high-level policy and technical meetings. Then in August 1987, President Reagan dispatched General John W. Vessey, Jr., USA (Ret.), Special Presidential Emissary to Hanoi on the POW issue, to find ways to resolve these continuing questions. As a result of the Vessey meetings, the Vietnamese permitted U.S. teams to search throughout the country. Joint searches began in Vietnam in September 1988. Parallel arrangements were reached in Laos and Cambodia at about this same time, with occasional targeted investigations in China as leads arose. Continuous joint searches began in April 1988 in Laos, and in October 1991 in Cambodia.
The U.S. then organized its accounting efforts in 1992 into the large scale field operations that continue to this day. Teams work several periods each year in Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia alongside their foreign counterparts. Together, they have interviewed thousands of witnesses and conducted archival research in all five countries regarding the fate of missing Americans. Their hard work has resulted in the continuous location of crash and burial sites all over the region, from the highest mountain top to underwater sites. Archeologists and anthropologists use meticulous site exploitation rules to find possible remains and material evidence. This is followed by a scientifically rigorous and forensic process that leads to an identification of the missing service members and a return to their family for burial.
Since U.S. government efforts began, the remains of more than 900 Americans killed in the Vietnam War have been recovered, identified, returned to their families and interred with full military honors. Recovery efforts continue today in search of the unaccounted-for Americans.