In the wake of the prisoner exchange that resulted in the release of captured American soldier Bowe Bergdahl by the Taliban people from the president to generals to pundits. I wonder where this myth originated?
The reality is somewhat different. When the cease fire that brought a halt to the Korean War (it’s still not officially over) took place although the North Koreans released about 500 American prisoners the Pentagon believed that they continued to hold nearly a thousand more, as published by the New York Times in 1996.
Whether American prisoners remained in Viet Nam after the accords concluding the Viet Nam War were signed in 1973 is a matter of some controversy. The Pentagon and several Congressional investigations have insisted that none were but activists have accused the Pentagon and Congress of conducting investigations with directed findings. It’s possible that several hundred American prisoners were left behind in Viet Nam and never released. We can’t really be sure.
I think the truth of the matter is that insisting that we never leave soldiers behind is believed to be more conducive to maintaining morale, that the idea is more aspirational than reality, and that we can, do, and have left prisoners behind. The only way to assure otherwise is to insist on unconditional surrender by the enemy and be willing to back that up with action. That’s a strategy we haven’t followed for 70 years.