While the prisoner of war—missing in action (POW—MIA) movement began gaining national attention and widespread momentum during the Vietnam War, American military personnel had gone missing during active service for two hundred years prior. Since the Revolutionary War, the U.S. has lost MIAs in numbers ranging from fifty-two in the Persian Gulf War to over 70,000 in World War II.
For those left behind, three outcomes are most likely: the MIA is found alive, the MIA is found deceased, or the MIA remains missing. Since 1973, the federal government has actively sought to search for, recover, and identify MIAs from all conflicts through organizations like the central identification laboratory, the joint task force-full accounting, and, most recently, the Joint POW-MIA Accounting Command (JPAC) based in Hawaii. To date, the U.S. has identified over 1,300 MIA remains, providing closure to families and friends. Still, there are over 90,000 americans who are still missing in action.
Wisconsin’s first MIAs occurred during the civil war and have continued into the twentieth century, with both World Wars, Korea, Vietnam, and the Cold War all claiming their victims. Today, the state remembers its MIAs by observing POW—MIA day annually on the third Friday of September.
The five stories of individual Wisconsin MIAs in this exhibit are meant to honor all of the state’s missing personnel by providing a glimpse at the experiences of the service people and their families.