POW means prisoner of war. One cannot assume imprisonment; there must be evidence. MIA means missing in action. About the only evidence required is to not answer roll call. Everyone in authority in the armed services knows these definitions, and they make their policies accordingly. They also know what a driving force the issue has become, and make their combined POW/MIA list accordingly The lists were separate until the Viet Nam War. The issue is entirely manufactured from a conflation of the two concepts by people who, apparently, cannot tell the difference

The fact that the Viet Nam number is lower represents a prodigious effort by the government to account for every last person. WWII was conducted in mostly flat and entirely temperate terrain, which could be thoroughly searched immediately following the war. VN was mountainous jungle with vegetation that can overgrow bodies in days, and investigators could not return for many years

Following the Paris Peace Accords (WP) of January 1973, U.S. prisoners of war were returned during Operation Homecoming during February through April 1973. During this, 591 POWs were released to U.S. authorities; this included a few captured in Laos and released in North Vietnam. U.S. President Richard Nixon (WP) announced that all U.S. servicemen taken prisoner had been accounted for.[1] At that time, the U.S. listed 2,646 Americans as unaccounted for,[2] including about 1,350 prisoners of war or missing in action and roughly 1,200 reported killed in action and body not recovered.[3][4]

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