Exploring Ambiguous Loss: Wives of Servicemen Missing in Action in Vietnam

The first report of an American missing in action (MIA) during the Vietnam Conflict occurred in 1961, and such losses continued until the fall of South Vietnam in 1975 (Department of Defense, 2005). During that 14-year period, the Department of Defense listed 2583 men, from all branches of the services, as MIA or killed in action/body not recovered (KIA/BNR). Since the conclusion of the conflict, the United States has conducted joint operations with the Republic of Vietnam, Laos, Cambodia, and China to survey and excavate known loss sites in an attempt to recover the remains of missing servicemen. To date, the United States has accounted for 741 servicemen formerly listed as MIA. Identifiable remains have been returned to the respective families for burial. The number of servicemen remaining unaccounted for is officially listed as 1842 (Department of Defense, 2005). For 30 or more years, the families of these men have waited for conclusive evidence of the fate of their loved one.

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