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Baltimore Sun

The lesson of America's forgotten POWs

Sun reporter Jonathan Pitts writes that on the 50th anniversary commemoration of the Vietnam War, "some 1,600 Americans taken prisoner remained missing in 2014" ("Vietnam veterans honored for their service, a half-century later," March 29).

That statement contradicts the federal government's claim that the return of "all" POWs in Operation Homecoming was accomplished at the end of March, 1973.

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According to Lynn M. O'Shea's account in her exhaustively detailed book, "Abandoned in Place: The men we left behind," the 591 U.S. soldiers who actually returned were "far below what U.S. officials expected."

Ms. O'Shea cites "the weakness of the Paris Accords [that] left the U.S. with no way to ensure the return of all prisoners held, the failure at a camp called "Nhom Marrott," which former National Security Adviser Richard Allen said was "the best chance we ever had to rescue live POWs," and a government bureaucracy more interested in lifting the trade embargo and normalizing relations with Vietnam than in the release of U.S. soldiers.

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As for the "commemoration," I think author, columnist and Vietnam veteran Fred Reed had it right when he wrote that "there is no honor in going to someone else's country and butchering people you don't know because some political general told you to."

That comment is as apt for our failed interventions in the Middle East today as if was for our involvement in Vietnam half a century ago.

Geary Foertsch, Rehoboth Beach, Delaware


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