Effect On Popular Culture
In the words of one analysis, "The notion that the United States may have left men behind was hard to fathom, and Americans chose to partly solve this complex problem through fictional characters."
This was especially true in American films. The first was Chuck Norris's 1978 Good Guys Wear Black, which postulated a cynical U.S. government writing off MIAs with a bogus mission. 1983's Uncommon Valor, starring Gene Hackman, followed suit, as did Norris again in 1984 with Missing in Action.
By far the most visible film in this theme was Sylvester Stallone's Rambo: First Blood Part II in 1985, which did the most to popularize the idea that American POWs had been left behind after the war and that the government had no real interest in their rescue. The Rambo character, who in this film may have been partly modeled after Bo Gritz, was a Vietnam veteran commando still haunted by the multiple failures of the war. The pivotal moment of the film occurs when Rambo, realizing he was betrayed by the U.S. government and under torture from the Vietnamese and their Soviet allies, is put into radio communication with the officer who ordered the mission and tells him, "Murdoch. I'm coming to get you!" Rambo and the Norris films were commercially successful in both the United States and in Thailand and other parts of Southeast Asia, and did much to perpetuate the stock image of American prisoners held in bamboo cages.
Rambo was followed by Norris's 1985 prequel Missing in Action 2: The Beginning, as well as other films such as P.O.W. The Escape (1986) and Dog Tags (1990) that shared similar conceits. The Vietnam war POW/MIA issue was explored in some U.S. television series, such as the 1997 The X-Files episode "Unrequited".
Read more about this topic: Vietnam War POW/MIA Issue
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