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MIA, or Mythmaking in America Paperback – September 1, 1993

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Franklin ( From the Movement: Toward Revolution ) discusses the wide-spread conviction that American prisoners of war are still being held in Indochina as "bargaining chips" and that the U.S. government is not doing enough to secure their release. Many fervent believers, he demonstrates, are certain the government is engaged in a conspiracy to conceal evidence of the existence of dozens, if not hundreds, of POWs in Vietnam, Cambodia and Laos. Although not a shred of verifiable proof has surfaced, this pervasive myth, we're shown, has been continually reinforced in various ways that include POW-rescue movies such as Uncommon Valor, Missing in Action and the Rambo series, all of which depict idealistic American heroes snatching incarcerated GIs from the clutches of sadistic Oriental Communists. Franklin's argument that the Nixon administration concocted the POW/MIA issue to deflect public attention from the Vietnam war, while plausible, is not backed here by solid enough evidence. First serial to the Atlantic.
Copyright 1992 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Kirkus Reviews

A calm and thoughtful book on a firestorm of a subject, by Franklin (English and American Studies/Rutgers; War Stars, 1988, etc.). Are there any POWs in Vietnam now? Does it matter to those who have made political capital of the POW cause? Franklin observes that while the US blatantly violated the Paris Agreement ending the war, ``about the only proviso...scrupulously carried out...was Hanoi's implementation with respect to POWs.'' He points out that there were proportionately far more MIAs in WW II and Korea, and that the Viet Cong had nothing to gain in holding postwar prisoners. Franklin suggests we consider, in proportion to this handful of ``supposed victims,'' the devastation of an entire land, civilians included, by state-of-the-art weapons. Going to specific cases, he concludes that there are no POWs, and he undercuts the demonizing of North Vietnam with anecdotal evidence that Vietnamese, despite being bombed out of their homes, took captured airmen to safety and performed other kind acts. As in his earlier work, Franklin digs deep: Why is the POW/MIA flag, he wonders, the only one other than Old Glory ever to fly over the White House? Why does every state fly this flag at capitals, toll plazas, and rest areas, and mandate observance of National POW/MIA Recognition Day- -when a 1976 Congressional committee concluded that ``no Americans are still being held.'' Because, says Franklin, quoting David Cline, left for dead on a Vietnam battlefield, ``Americans want to believe that we were the good guys....'' And also because, the author adds, of the power of a myth, now embodied in such culture- heroes as Chuck Norris and Sylvester Stallone--''a story of ostensibly historic matter how bizarre...appears as essential truth to its believers.'' Intelligent, provocative, and courageous. -- Copyright ©1992, Kirkus Associates, LP. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 272 pages
  • Publisher: Rutgers University Press; Rep Exp edition (September 1, 1993)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0813520010
  • ISBN-13: 978-0813520018
  • Product Dimensions: 8.9 x 6 x 0.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 15.5 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (7 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,464,674 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

One of America's leading cultural historians, H. Bruce Franklin is the author or editor of nineteen books and more than 300 articles on culture and history published in more than a hundred major magazines and newspapers, academic journals, and reference works. He has given over five hundred addresses on college campuses, on radio and TV shows, and at academic conferences, museums, and libraries, and he has participated in making four films. He has taught at Stanford University, Johns Hopkins, Wesleyan, and Yale and currently is the John Cotton Dana Professor of English and American Studies at Rutgers University in Newark.

Before becoming an academic, Franklin worked in factories, was a tugboat mate and deckhand, and flew for three years in the United States Air Force as a Strategic Air Command navigator and intelligence officer.

Franklin has published continually on the history and literature of the Vietnam War since 1966, when he became widely known for his activist opposition to the war. His pioneering course on the war and his book M.I.A. Or Mythmaking in America have had a major national impact, and he is co-editor of the widely-adopted history text Vietnam and America: A Documented History. Vietnam and Other American Fantasies, offers a sweeping vision of American culture into the 21st century.

Another area where Franklin's work has achieved international distinction is the study of science fiction and its relation to culture and history. In 1961 he offered one of the first two university courses in science fiction, and his book Future Perfect played a key role in establishing the importance and academic legitimacy of the subject. His Robert A. Heinlein: America as Science Fiction won the Eaton Award for 1981; in 1983 he won the Pilgrim Award for Lifetime Scholarship of the Science Fiction Research Association; in 1990 he was named the Distinguished Scholar of the International Association for the Fantastic in the Arts; and in 1991 he was Guest Curator for the "Star Trek and the Sixties" exhibit at the National Air and Space Museum of the Smithsonian Institution.

Franklin's first book, The Wake of the Gods: Melville's Mythology, has been in print continually since 1963 and is regarded as a classic work of scholarship and criticism. He is a past president of the Melville Society, and continues to publish about Melville.

Prison Literature in America: The Victim as Criminal and Artist established Franklin as the world's leading authority on American prison literature. His anthology Prison Writing in 20th-Century America is widely influential.

The Most Important Fish in the Sea: Menhaden and America
shows how menhaden have shaped America's national--and natural--history, and why reckless overfishing now threatens their place in both. The book has already led to the introduction of two bills in Congress.

Perhaps Franklin's most important book, however, is War Stars: The Superweapon and the American Imagination, which has been widely hailed as a classic since its original publication in 1988. In 2008, he published a revised and expanded edition that sweeps through more than two centuries of American culture and military history, tracing the evolution of superweapons from Robert Fulton's eighteenth-century submarine through the strategic bomber, atomic bomb, and Star Wars to a twenty-first century dominated by "weapons of mass destruction," real and imagined. Interweaving culture, science, technology, and history, he shows how and why the American pursuit of the ultimate defensive weapon--guaranteed to end all war and bring universal triumph to American ideals--has led our nation and the world into an epoch of terror and endless war.

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

19 of 23 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on December 17, 2000
Format: Paperback
Franklin has done a great service for contemporaty America, and the collective memory of the Vietnam War in U.S. history. His book illustrates that maxim that truth is not only the first casualty of war, but often suffers long after a war has concluded.
His extensive research reveals that the post-Vietnam War POW/MIA "myth" (i.e. a misrepresentation of the truth) has been a cruel hoax propagated by right-wing politicians (Nixon, Kissinger, Robert Dornan, Ronald Reagan, Ross Perot, and a host of others) in an attempt to create a pseudo-history of the Vietnam War where the U.S. military become the "real" victims of this war, not the millions of Vietnamese soldiers and civilians whose country was destroyed.
As Franklin notes, "every responsible investigation conducted since the end of the war has reached the same conclusion: there is no credible evidence that live Americans [were] held against their will in Vietnam, Laos, Cambodia, or China" after the war." (p. 14) Franklin knowledgeably concludes his book by noting that "the last chapter of the Vietnam War cannot be written so long as millions of Americans remain possessed by the POW/MIA myth."
The lesson is clear. Beware of false politicians who manufacture bogus history while cruelly exploiting other peoples' tragedies to further their own warped and self-serving political agenda. H. Bruce Franklin's book more than lives up to John Lennon's Vietanm-era plea - "gimme some truth, just gimme some truth." You'll find it in this book.
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12 of 15 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on April 2, 2001
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This book is really great, it's about a very important but little understood issue. It's full of factual documentation of all aspects of the MIA issue -- from how the counting was done, to the various political angles the issue took at various times throughout the war -- and is a great read, as well. It brought back a lot of memories of the bizarre things that went on then, and still do today.
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11 of 14 people found the following review helpful By R. Goff on February 24, 2007
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I stumbled across this book while doing some research on Vietnam and found it to be fascinating. Franklin argues that the POW/MIA myth is a concoction of politicans, right-wing political activists, and hucksters who have kept the POW issue alive as an open wound and thus reframed the Vietnam War with Americans as the true victims. This myth has been kept alive by Hollywood films such as Missing in Action and Rambo and has done a disservice to Americans' attempt to understand the Vietnam War.

Having grown up in the post-Vietnam era, I was also fascinated by tales of POWs and the possibility that some may still be alive. As I got older, however, I came to suspect that this was largely a myth designed to deceive the American public once again about Vietnam. This book has confirmed by suspicion.

Franklin examines the "numbers game" of POW/MIAs and explodes the possibility that any are still alive or that the Vietnamese government has not fully accounted for POWs or had any reason to keep some secretly, while releasing others. Franklin also debunks many of the alleged "live sightings" and the conspiracy theories associated with alleged POWs.

Well worth the read.
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Chad Baker on August 28, 2009
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I think about this book, and the myths, lies and distortions that it debunks every time I see one of those POW/MIA logos plastered on a motorcycle helmet, or flying above a public building. It is bizarre to me that the government itself endorses and propagates this myth decades later. This book provides a compelling and rational look at the very beginnings of the POW/MIA myth; who created it, who promoted it, and what they had to gain from it. It is eye-opening and unforgettable.
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