Presenter: Michael RIcchetti (Confirmation milestone seminar)

While there is an enormous amount of literature on the history of the United States involvement in the Vietnam War, the subject of U.S. relations with Vietnam during the post-war period has been neglected. Most literature during the war was concerned with the legitimacy and rationale of U.S. actions in Vietnam. Following the war, especially during the 1980s, a revisionist scholarship sought to justify U.S. actions as being non-imperialistic, even evoking a rhetoric that U.S. participation was a “noble cause” in its attempt to contain the threat of communist expansion. Crucial to this rhetoric was the fate of American prisoners of war (POWs) and missing in action (MIAs) which became a highly politicised topic during this period. Depictions of the POW/MIA issue in film, memorials, memory and the media, shaped not only public perceptions but also the development of U.S. policy towards the Vietnamese government. This study uses an interdisciplinary approach that incorporates elements of cultural and political history, arguing that revised memory of the Vietnam War in popular culture and memorialisation pressured successive administrations to adopt punitive policies against the Vietnamese government.