In most conflicts, the ‘morning report’ was a document produced every morning for every basic unit of the Army, by the unit clerk, detailing personnel changes for the previous day. The morning report supported strength accountability from before World War II until the introduction of SIDPERS during the 1970s.

The report was signed by the unit’s Commanding officer, and submitted to the appropriate higher administrative unit. It was the source for tabulation of the Army’s centralized personnel records.

The morning report detailed changes in the status of soldiers in the unit on the day the change occurred, including for example, transfers to or from the unit, temporary assignment elsewhere (TDY), on leave, promotion or demotion, and other such events. Familiar abbreviations such as KIA (killed in action), AWOL (absent without leave), WIA (wounded in action), and MIA (missing in action) were the authorized notations used on the morning report for those statuses.

During the Korean War, morning reports were expanded to include more information about events that resulted in any status changes. Sometimes this can be a vivid account of combat actions, providing a glimpse into an infantryman’s wartime experience. During the Vietnam War, morning reports were revised again to only include information on personnel changes and the location of the unit’s headquarters.

Debriefing of pilots during WWII.

Another form of accountability was the interrogation or debrief, an event that happened after every mission in World War II. When the B-17 Flying Fortresses landed, aircrews were taken to a building, given food and coffee, and then seated at a table with a debriefing officer.

The debriefing officer, using a preprinted Interrogation Form, thoroughly questioned the crew about what happened during the mission, identifying planes in the squadron that were shot down and if they saw any parachutes.

What went right, and what needed to be done differently in the future. The debriefs were compiled and the lessons learned used to improved the effectiveness of the next bombing raid.

Going from MIA to POW

Unless friendly forces saw it and tell someone in charge to confirm, or an escaped prisoner can confirm the exact names of those captured, then the missing soldiers (who cannot otherwise be proven to be dead or deserters) are classified as missing in action.

They stay in that status for quite some time, until either the capturing power tells them the names of POWs, often through intermediaries like the International Committee of the Red Cross, UN, or the Swiss Government, or there are prisoner exchanges or escaped prisoners who can then be reconciled with the lists of the missing.

Often, returned POWs can confirm many of the other POWs, and also some deaths, desertions, requests for asylum, traitors, sleeper agents activated, etc.

Statistics on U.S. POWs and MIAs in Vietnam and past wars are often mutually irreconcilable. The table below, as with all such material, are not always compatible in detail, but they do provide some basis for comparison.

U.S. POWs, World War I (1917-1918) through the Iraq War (2003-Present)

Total WWI 1917-18 WWII 1941-45 Korea 1950-53 Vietnam 1961-73 Persian Gulf 1991 Somalia 1992-94 Bosnia 1995-Present Kosovo 1999-Present Afghanistan 2001-Present Iraq 2003-Present
Captured & Interned) 142,233 4,120 130,201 7,140 725 23 1 0 3 0 10
Returned to U.S. Military Control 125,208 3,973 116,129 4,418 661 23 1 0 3 0 9
Refused Repatriation 21 0 0 21 0 0 0 0 0 0 0
Died while POW 17,004 147 14,072 2,701 64 0 0 0 0 0 0
Still officially held by enemy forces 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 1*

Sources: All data except for Iraq from Stenger, Charles A., Ph.D. American Prisoners of War in WWI, WWII, Vietnam, Persian Gulf, Somalia, Bosnia, Kosovo, and Afghanistan: Statistical Data Concerning Numbers Captured, Repatriated, and Still Alive as of January 1, 2003. Prepared for the DVA [Department of Veterans Affairs] Advisory Committee on Prisoners of War. Mental Health Strategic Care Group, VHA [Veterans Health Administration], [by] the American Ex-Prisoners of War Association. Iraq data obtained from Department of Defense (DOD) documents and press releases, and regular press reports.

* Reports of the death of this POW, first listed as missing on April 9, 2004, and confirmed as a POW on April 23, 2004, have not been confirmed; he is still listed as captured by U.S. military authorities.