Writer's Guide to Government Information

Resources to inject real life detail into your fiction

Archive for the tag “Prisoners”

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

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.

Prisoner Locator Tools for Describing Characters

Prisoner Locator Tools

If you’re writing about a prisoner or an ex-con and want to add some details about his criminal history and appearance, you might consider using a state prisoner locator tool. A number of states have prisoner lookups. Some are very terse, only offering a name and a prison. Some states are richer in their information displays. Here are a few worth exploring:

Arkansas – Inmate Population Information Finder    http://adc.arkansas.gov/inmate_info/index.php


Prisoner database that can be searched not only by name, gender, age and race, but also by type of crime including: Assault, Drug Crime, Forgery/Counterfeiting, Fraud/Embezzlement, Kidnapping, Manslaughter, Murder, Other Crime, Other Violent Crime, Property Crime, Racketeering, Robbery, Sex Crime, Theft, Weapon Offense. Records include weight, height, sentencing history and prisoner photos when available.

Georgia – Inmate Query


Prisoners may be searched by name, aliases, gender, age, primary offense (incl abuse of gov’t office), sentence status, conviction county and more. Prisoner records include photos, offense details, project release dates, and aliases and identifying marks when available.

Kansas – Offender Population Search


Many fields available to search for offenders. Includes inmate information, including photos and offense history.

Search Tips:

If unsure how to start searching, use “smith” as a last name. Sometimes that will bring up too many results. In that case, add “john” as a first name and that ought provide a reasonable number of hits to walk through. For brooding characters with relatively common names, searching by a character name may produce additional food for thought.
If you’re trying to describe a criminal, try searching by type of offense. This can be good for “I expected a rapist to look like ________, not like this guy.”

To find more online inmate locator tools, visit the Prisoner Locator Tools list maintained by the ALA Government Documents Roundtable at

Women of Protest: Photographs from the Records of the National Woman’s Party [NWP] (1875-1938)

Women of Protest: Photographs from the Records of the National Woman’s Party [NWP] (1875-1938) – http://www.loc.gov/collection/women-of-protest/about-this-collection/

Representative questions that can be answered with this resource:

  • What did 19th and early 20th Century prison uniforms look like?
  • What were suffragettes arrested for?
  • What did early protest rallies look like?


Aside from documenting a significant part of the struggle of American women to get the right to vote, this collection may also be of some value in documenting women’s prison uniforms. The collection has a large gallery called Suffrage Prisoners, of women put in jail for their role in the suffrage movement. Some of the pictures feature women in prison garb, although many seem to be portraits taken far from prison walls.

Most of the photos represented here are either portraits of NWP members or photos that highlight the Nation Woman’s Party’s tactics which included parades, picketing and street demonstrations. There are over 2600 photographs in the whole collection of which 448 photos are available in this digital collection. If you live within driving distance of Washington DC, you may be able to examine the photos in person. Check with the Library of Congress before hopping in the car.

There are three essays associated with this collection and all three might be helpful to people writing about protest movements or strong female characters:

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