POW/MIA & Cold War Veterans Memorial
Broad St at Pawcatuck River
Pawcatuck, New London County, Connecticut
"In honor of the brave and courageous imprisoned during service to their countryMay all those missing in action accounted for.Erected by VFW Harley P Chase Post 1265and Ladies Auxiliary November 8, 1987"
"In memory of all veterans whoserved during the Cold War1940's to 1990'sUSS Pawcatuck AO-108A fleet oiler named afterthe Pawcatuck RiverA joint project ofHarley P Chase VFW Post 1265and the Town of Stonington"
This small park is one of two that straddle the Pawcatuck River and there are three distinct memorial areas on the Connecticut side. These two generally compliment each other in tone, while the third is distinct enough to warrant a separate page.
The issue of accounting for all Prisoners of War and Missing In Action is a heartbreak without a reasonable solution. It became a cause celeb during the VietNam war when hundreds of men thought to be prisoners were not repatriated and their names did not appear on any listing as died in captivity. Where did they go?
The answer to that difficult question is a gruesome fact of war, especially one in which high explosives and high performance aircraft are routinely employed. An aircraft hit at altitude by a surface to air missile will not only come apart as a result of the explosion, the pieces and parts tend to scatter as they fall to earth. The hyperbole news term, "The aircraft slammed into the ground," isn't always true, and when it is. . . well, the large parts tend to bury themselves well below the surface of the earth. The flesh and bone of a human simply becomes an oily surface upon bits of metal.
The damage done by high explosives is pretty well imagined. Concussive blasts rip pieces and parts from the corporal human and thermal energy takes care of what is left. Frequently the only thing left are boots, web belts, and dog tags. Many combat soldiers would put an extra dog tag in each boot to ensure that at least a foot would be found and identified.
The count of missing soldiers from the VietNam war started at several thousand. Through dilligent and very expensive work by military and civilian agencies the total number is now well under two thousand,. About three percent of the VietNam in-country force went missing in action, a much lower ratio than the fourteen percent of the forces in Korea and World War II. The total number still unaccounted for in those two conflicts are well above 38,000, and with each passing year the chances of more being found, identified and repatriated are less and less.
World War I, which began and ended a century ago, still lists over seven thousand men missing. Over one thousand are still mising from the American Revolution, and the saddest and largest list of all is the 400,000 still unaccounted from the Civil War. There was little organized effort on either side of that conflict to pick up the dead immediately after the battles. On some battlefields rotting bodies would remain for weeks, or even months, before area church groups, grange associations, or farm owners would venture out to pick up what remained of the corpses that littered their fields.
For my civilian readers; If these descriptions have upset you, or triggered a dark emotional response, please think of what it did to the soldiers and airmen that survived those battles. The ripple in their psyche did not come from an artful description of armed violence, a movie or video game. No, their reaction comes from the memories of the actual event. They recall in vivid detail the thud, the boom, the whiz and the bang that was followed by waves of heat and screams that accompanied the sights of blood, feces, pieces of bone and specs of brain flying through the air. The combat veterans that lived through it get to carry that unpleasant memory for the rest of their lives. You won't see those guys wearing a pussy hat and carrying a sign in a protest march. You will never see them throwing a rope around a statue to tear down a memorial to other soldiers. You will never see them kneel as our national anthem plays, or step upon or burn our flag. You might see them wipe away a tear or gently convulse with a quiet sob as they remember a fallen friend. You will certainly see some of them as they join together to escort a comrade to his final rest,
These two monuments, and the thousands of others that i have visited, only ask that we remember those that have served and sacrificed. They don't ask that you understand the why or the how, but they do suggest that service is worth recognition.