Until the Last Man Comes Home

POWs, MIAs, and the Unending Vietnam War

By Michael J. Allen

448 pp., 6.125 x 9.25, 28 illus., notes, bibl., index

  • Paperback ISBN: 978-0-8078-7272-7
    Published: August 2012
  • E-book EPUB ISBN: 978-0-8078-9531-3
    Published: September 2009
  • E-book PDF ISBN: 979-8-8908-8412-1
    Published: September 2009

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Fewer Americans were captured or missing during the Vietnam War than in any previous major military conflict in U.S. history. Yet despite their small numbers, American POWs inspired an outpouring of concern that slowly eroded support for the war. Michael J. Allen reveals how wartime loss transformed U.S. politics well before, and long after, the war's official end.

Throughout the war's last years and in the decades since, Allen argues, the effort to recover lost warriors was as much a means to establish responsibility for their loss as it was a search for answers about their fate. Though millions of Americans and Vietnamese took part in that effort, POW and MIA families and activists dominated it. Insisting that the war was not over "until the last man comes home," this small, determined group turned the unprecedented accounting effort against those they blamed for their suffering. Allen demonstrates that POW/MIA activism prolonged the hostility between the United States and Vietnam even as the search for the missing became the basis for closer ties between the two countries in the 1990s. Equally important, he explains, POW/MIA families' disdain for the antiwar left and contempt for federal authority fueled the conservative ascendancy after 1968. Mixing political, cultural, and diplomatic history, Until the Last Man Comes Home presents the full and lasting impact of the Vietnam War in ways that are both familiar and surprising.

About the Author

Michael J. Allen is associate professor of history at Northwestern University.
For more information about Michael J. Allen, visit the Author Page.


"A perceptive analysis of the history of the Vietnam War POW/MIA issue. . . . Valuable."--Publishers Weekly

"A valuable, even unique, contribution to the field. . . . Skillfully written, very well researched, and wonderfully documented and presents a fair and balanced view of the issues. . . . Appropriate for all who seek to understand the Vietnam War in a fuller context."--Library Journal

"[An] absorbing addition to the immense literature on the [Vietnam] war."--History News Network

"Allen does an excellent job chonicling the history of the Vietnam War POW/MIA movement. . . . [A] valuable look at what he accurately calls a 'strange' story."--Vietnam Veterans of America Magazine

"Presents the full and lasting impact of the Vietnam War in ways that are both familiar and surprising."--McCormick Messenger

"Wonderfully insightful and thoughtful. . . . By unraveling and revealing the various strands of memory created since the late 1960s by the U.S. government, POW/MIA activists, special-interest grops, political parties, and the Vietnamese, Allen clearly establishes his main theme."--Proceedings