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There's Problem with the Terminology

Faith and Trust .....
We must never Forget

Let's Talk Terminology
Northeast POW/MIA Network

Missing/Captured vs. POW - the term Prisoner of War or POW is no longer valid. Well....

Right Church Wrong Pew - We're sure many of our readers are familiar with this phrase "Right church wrong pew." For those who aren't, it simply means that your in the right location but just off a bit. During the year 2000, we expressed our concern that the status designation Prisoner of War would disappear. Based on information available to us, we believe the POW status would be replaced by the term Isolated Personnel or Isolated Persons.

On Feb. 12, 2000, the following appeared in Bits N Pieces - "A Look Into The Future - Bulletin... In OOTW, we have 3 IP's... Translation: In "Operations Other Than War" we have three "Isolated Persons." That's the new terminology. Wars are longer wars and captured Americans are no longer POWs. They are Isolated Personnel. This terminology comes from the 1999 Department of Defense Personnel Recovery Conference Report dated October 26 - 28, 1999. A scan of the body of this report reveals the phrase "Prisoner of War" is used only once, as is the acronym POW. The phrase "Isolated Personnel" appears, by our count, 13 times." 

We continued to express our concern over the expected discontinuation of the POW status. Our concern elicited a response from DPMO and in our October 21st edition of Bits we reported; "On October 5th, 2000, the National Alliance of Families received a letter from DPMO General Counsel James F. Gravelle. The letter states: "Let me assure you prisoner of war is not being replaced by isolated personnel. There is no initiative to do so and, basically, prisoner of war and isolated personnel are not interchangeable. Prisoner of war is a legal status of military personnel captured during an international armed conflict between two countries, and entitles those captured to humanitarian treatment under the Geneva Conventions. You may recall this status was claimed for our three soldiers who were captured in the Kosovo conflict in 1999. Claiming isolated personnel status for our captured personnel would be meaningless."

Mr. Gravelle was correct. Prisoner of War was not replaced by isolated personnel. However, he didn't tell us the plan was to eliminate the Prisoner of War status in favor with a category of Missing titled Missing/Captured. Nor, did he tell us, that at the time the letter was written, the wheels were already in motion to replace the POW status, but not with isolated personnel.

On December 18, 2002, almost two months after Mr. Gravelle's letter, the Dept. of Defense issued Instruction Number 1300.18. Its subject: "Military Personnel Casualty Matters, Policies, and Procedures defines the new Casualty categories, in Section E2.1.1.6. It reads: "Casualty Category. A term used to specifically classify a casualty for reporting purposes based upon the casualty type and the casualty status. Casualty categories include killed in action (KIA), died of wounds received in action (DWRIA), beleaguered, besieged, captured, detained, interned, missing, in action (MIA), and wounded in action (WIA)."

The following sections defines the new categories for those captured or missing.

E2.1.1.24. Missing. A casualty status applicable to a person who is not at his or her duty location due to apparent involuntary reasons and whose location may or may not be known. Chapter 10 of 37 U.S.C. (reference

(f)) provides statutory guidance concerning missing members of the Military Services. Excluded are personnel who are in an AWOL, deserter, or dropped-from-rolls status. A person declared missing is further categorized as follows:

E2. Beleaguered. The casualty is a member of an organized element that has been surrounded by a hostile force to prevent escape of its members.

E2. Besieged. The casualty is a member of an organized element that has been surrounded by a hostile force compelling it to surrender.

E2. Captured. The casualty has been seized as the result of action of an unfriendly military or paramilitary force in a foreign country.

E2. Detained. The casualty is prevented from proceeding or is restrained in custody for alleged violation of international law or other
reason claimed by the government or group under which the person is being held.

E2. Interned. The casualty definitely known to have been taken into custody of a nonbelligerent foreign power as the result of and for reasons arising out of any armed conflict in which the Armed Forces of the United States are engaged.

E2. Missing. The casualty is not present at his or her duty location due to apparent involuntary reasons and whose location is unknown.

E2. Missing in Action (MIA). The casualty is a hostile casualty, other than the victim of a terrorist activity, who is not present at his or her duty location due to apparent involuntary reasons and whose location is unknown.

A review of the entire directive finds that the phrase Prisoner or War or the acronym POW is never used.

The fact that the terminology Prisoner of War is no longer used was confirmed by Secretary of the Navy Gordon R. England. In his 11 October 2002 memo announcing the change in status of Capt. Michael Scott Speicher from Missing In Action to Missing/Captured, Secretary England stated: "Although the controlling missing persons statute and directives do not use the term "Prisoner of War," the fact supporting a change in Captain Speicher's category from Missing in Action to Missing/Captured would also support the conclusion that, if alive, he is a Prisoner of War."

If it walks like a duck and quacks like a duck, call it a duck. If an American service member is captured by hostile forces he or she is a Prisoner of War. Why not designate them as such?

Here is our theory. Back in 1999 and early 2000, we reported that DPMO was moving toward a reactive recovery effort for past conflicts, by the year 2004. That means they will only investigate when new information is received, taking the recovery effort from active to reactive based on new information. We stated that JTF-FA, as we know it, would cease to exist. That was proven correct with the announcement, this past summer of a merger of CIL-HI and JTF-FA. We also stated that there was a plan to eliminate the status of Prisoner of War. Again, we were proven correct.

DPMO is gearing up for its role in future conflicts. Among their goals is to never again be caught up in a 30, 40 or 50 year recovery operation. In order to achieve that goal you can't leave POWs behind. To insure that does not happen, you simply eliminate POWs. 

The phrase Prisoner of War says two thing. First it says Prisoner - living breathing human being. Second it says held by the enemy. Prisoner of War is a phrase that inflames. America does not leave its servicemen, its Prisoners behind. We don't leave POWs behind. At least that is what they'd like us to believe. We know differently.

The phrase Missing/Captured also says two thing. First it says Missing - This dehumanizes the status. Missing can be anything from your car keys to a person. Even in law enforcement when a person disappears they become a Missing Person not Missing/Beleaguered or Missing/Besieged or even Missing/Captured. Second, Missing/Capture gives the implication that your not really sure - maybe missing maybe captured and that is the key. In future conflicts, no one gets left behind because not one is Prisoner. They are just Missing with a slash....

The DPMO Strategic Plan we wrote about in 1999 and 2000, the plan we were assured was dead, is alive and well. We been proven correct on too many occasions to doubt that.

We may not always be in the right pew, but we've always been in the right church.

Nothing has changed at DPMO, and those who think things have need to take a good hard look before it's too late.






October, 2002


Director: Bob Jones
14 Forest Hill Road
Meredith, NH 03253

Chaplain: Artie Atkinson

We are a completely volunteer organization, veterans and non-veterans, using awareness, communication, education, legislation, and compassion to assuage the pain associated with one of the most devastating outcomes of service to one’s Country. As we honor POW/MIAs, returned and still waiting to come home, we aggressively pursue means to return the missing and protect those serving.