Writer's Guide to Government Information

Resources to inject real life detail into your fiction

Archive for the tag “prisoners of war”

Vietnam-Era Prisoner-of-War/Missing-in-Action Database

The Vietnam-Era Prisoner-of-War/Missing-in-Action Database – http://lcweb2.loc.gov/frd/pow/

Representative questions that can be answered with this resource:

  • Where can I find stories of alleged ham radio contact with POWs?
  • What were military letters to spouses and parents like?
  • What stories were told about Vietnam POWs after the end of the war in 1975?
  • Where can I find a map of a POW camp?
  • Where can I learn about Korean War MIAs?


As the title of this resource indicates, this is a database of documents related to POWs and MIAs. What the database doesn’t indicate is that it has some records relating to the Korean War. Most of the the documents appear to evaluations of various reports of POWs and MIA soldiers. The original reports do not appear to be in the database, only the summary and responses. Correspondence to families is included in the database. Maps and low quality photographs are also contained in the database.

The database has a simple search box with no opportunity for fielded searches. Searching by name will often by useful. Terms are searched against brief database catalog records which are usually, but not always linked to PDFs files. The PDF files themselves have no searchable text.

The front page of the database also contains links to a number of documents of general interest relating to the Vietnam War, including:

  • Updated Casualty List
  • Estimative Products on Vietnam, 1948-1975 (PDF)
  • Peers Inquiry (My Lai)
  • The “McCain Bill” (PDF)
  • U.S. Senate Select Committee on POW/MIA Affairs
  • U.S. House of Representatives Select Committee on Missing Persons in Southeast Asia

Search Tips:

Although this database is a free text search, you can use the headings of records to narrow your results or focus on an area of interest. Some useful terms are:

  • [Country Name] – North Vietnam (NVN), South Vietnam, Cambodia, Laos, Soviet Union, Laos
  • field investigation report
  • Korean War
  • Letters to wife and parents
  • Group photograph
  • Ham radio
  • Photograph
  • Post-1975 Vietnam
  • PW camp

Problems of U.S. Marine Corps Prisoners of War in Korea

Problems of U.S. Marine Corps Prisoners of War in Korea. James Angus MacDonald, Jr. Occasional Paper. 1988. 289 pp.

(Paper: http://www.worldcat.org/oclc/18831902)
(Online: https://archive.org/details/TheProblemsOfUSMarineCorpsPrisonersOfWarInKorea)

Representative questions that can be answered with this resource:

  • What circumstances were US Marines captured under?
  • What did Chinese camp authorities mean by the terms “progressive” and “reactionary”?
  • How did Chinese indoctrination efforts actually facilitate communication efforts by allied prisoners?


From the introduction:

The purpose of this thesis is fivefold : (1) to record the combat actions in which Marines were captured by the enemy in Korea ; (2) to discuss the method by which the enemy processed Marine captives ; (3) to examine both North Korean and Chinese Communist interrogation and indoctrination techniques; (4) to describe individual and group experiences of Marine Corps prisoners of war in Korea ; and (5) to present a phase of the Korean War which is nowhere else to be found in English except in classified security dossiers and other Marine Corps and Navy documents.

Historical and command diaries and official histories furnish the basis for describing most combat actions. Experiences of POW’s are derived mainly from personal interviews and correspondence, official reports of captivity, sworn statements, official correspondence, and books and articles written by former POW’s. In addition all books and documents listed in the card file of the Library of Congress were screened for any mention of U.S. Marines or any general information which might have been of value to this study including many propaganda documents published in English by the Chinese Communists or other Communist sources. Hearings before Congressional committees which are pertinent to this thesis are also referenced.

In addition to the main text, there are lists of maps, photos and appendicies with detailed information on Marine POWs. A selective, unannotated bibliography begins on page 282 of the PDF file. Despite the length of this work, there is no index.

Navy Department Library Reading Room (World War I)

Navy Department Library Reading Room (World War I) – https://web.archive.org/web/20141029213005/http://www.history.navy.mil/library/online/readingroom.htm#worldone

Update 1/19/2015 – The Navy Department Library website was reorganized in fall 2014. While there still is an online reading room, it seems to have lost a chronological or by war organization. So I’m linking to the Internet Archive version.

Representative questions that can be answered with this resource:

  • How did the great Influenza outbreak of 1918 affect the Navy?
  • Where can I find a story about a World War I POW escape?
  • What tactics did German submarines use against Allied shipping?


List of articles, pamphlets and other resources relating to Naval activity during the First World War.

Navy Photos From the Initial Occupation of Japan

Navy photos from the initial occupation of Japan – https://web.archive.org/web/20130703130844/http://www.history.navy.mil/photos/events/wwii-pac/japansur/js-6.htm

UPDATE 1/19/2015 – The Naval History and Heritage Command recently reorganized their website and I could not find the Japan surrender photos there. So I’m linking to the Internet Archive version. I used the methods described in Appendix D, What to Do When URLs/Websites Break to recover this resource. If you do find a live link to these pictures, please let me know.

Representative questions that can be answered with this resource:

  • What do scenes of surrender look like?
  • How do liberated prisoners look?


This page from the Naval Historical Center provides access to a few dozen photographs taken by Navy personnel during the first month of the occupation of Japan. They include photos of the surrender of Japan, the takeover of various Japanese bases by American forces and a number of pictures of liberated Allied prisoners. Each photograph is captioned and each page of this site has additional commentary. The photographs on this site are divided into the following areas:

  • Amphibious Landings around Tokyo Bay, 28 August – 2 September 1945;
  • Liberation of Allied Prisoners of War in the Tokyo Bay Area, Part I;
  • Liberation of Allied Prisoners of War in the Tokyo Bay Area, Part II;
  • General MacArthur Arrives at Atsugi, 30 August 1945;
  • Takeover of Yokosuka Naval Base, 30 August 1945;
  • Miscellaneous Occupation Activities in the Tokyo Bay Area, 28 August – 2 September 1945.

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