Missing in Action (1984)
Missing in action is the story of Colonel James Braddock (Chuck Norris) who survives being in a Vietnamese POW camp. After the war ends Braddock still believes that American soldiers are still being held captive in POW camps so Braddock goes back to Vietnam to find these soldiers with his veteran friend Tuck (M. Emmet Walsh).
This film is one example of the way the Vietnam War was represented in film in the 1980’s. This film is a sensationalised interpretation of the issue of missing in action soldiers. As in this film Colonel Braddock essentially single-handedly rescues the American prisoners of war from Vietnam. Whereas in reality US POW were released from Vietnam through a series of diplomatic negotiations in January 1973, called ‘Operation Homecoming’. Furthermore, in ‘Missing in Action’ Colonel Braddock saves the prisoners of war ten years after he escaped from a POW camp himself. So not only does he save the prisoners of war but he has previously been one himself, which makes the story more of a revenge story, rather than one about America wanting to save its missing soldiers.
During the Vietnam War 58, 209 American soldiers died, and 2,489 went missing. And of those missing soldiers around 1,300 soldiers are still unaccounted for. During Nixon’s presidency, the Secretary of Defence first used the terms POW/MIA to refer to these missing soldiers. These phrases were used as propaganda to make it seem like all of these 1,300 missing soldiers were prisoners where as in reality a vast majority of them were thought to be dead. Referring to these soldiers as ‘Missing in Action’ or ‘Prisoners of War’ was a way for the US to influence international opinions of Vietnam to make the Vietnamese seem cruel.
However films like ‘Missing in Action’ can be seen as showing America as actively fighting for the freedom of these prisoners, as the President sends Colonel Braddock back to Vietnam to free the US prisoners of war. When in reality those Prisoners of War that were released were released through peaceful means and for a period of time America’s way of dealing with the POW issue was to deny there were any US prisoners in Vietnam. So it can be seen that the representation of POW in the 1980’s had a very pro America approach, rather than showing the realities of the situation.