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What Happened To American POWs In The Vietnam War?

Updated 26 Jun 2019 15.5k views11 items

Although the Vietnam conflict lasted for 20 years - from 1955 to the Fall of Saigon in 1975 - the United States government never officially declared war. Over 3 million people perished in the conflict, and hundreds of American and Vietnamese citizens were held in prison camps as unofficial POWs. The North Vietnamese captured American troops and the South Vietnamese held hundreds of North Vietnamese soldiers. These POWs were treated in different but perhaps equally awful ways. Americans suffered terrible treatment and years-long solitary confinement, while the South Vietnamese left their captives in miserable health conditions that ended many lives.

For some American POWs, life back in the US presented its own challenges. The US government levied charges against those who came to sympathize with the North Vietnamese point of view. It led one of the freed men to take his life. Even some of the United States' most notable figures, including John McCain, were housed in the notorious North Vietnam prison known as the Hanoi Hilton. The conflict in Vietnam was a controversial one, and POWs were at the center of the national conversation.

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