National Week of Concern for Americans Who Are Prisoners of War or Missing in Action
By the President of the United States of America
The first American still being held by the enemy was captured in South Vietnam on March 26, 1964. Now, with the seventh anniversary of that event approaching, the number of Americans missing in action or known captured in the Vietnamese conflict has grown to about 1,600. Most of these men are officers and enlisted men of the Army, the Navy, the Air Force, and the Marine Corps; some are civilians. Even in captivity, they continue to serve our Nation in the highest sense of honor and duty to country. We owe them, in turn, no less than our strongest support and our firmest pledge that we will neither forget them nor abandon them.
This Government has made and will continue to make strenuous efforts in behalf of these Americans who are prisoners of war or missing in action. In the face of the enemy's callous indifference to the plight of these men and their families, we have sought to focus the attention of the world on the barbaric attitude of North Vietnam and its agents throughout Indochina. We have conducted vigorous diplomatic efforts to resolve the prisoner of war problem on a purely humane basis for the prisoners we hold as well as for our brave men held prisoner.
The Geneva Prisoner of War Convention of 1949 sets forth the minimum standards for humanitarian treatment applying to all prisoners of war. Some 125 nations including all of those involved on both sides in the Southeast Asia hostilities have acceded to the Geneva Convention and have pledged to observe its humane standards. And on a moral plane above and apart from these formal rules, all civilized peoples are subject to the basic humanitarian standards long established in international law and custom.
In view of the continuing disregard of this Convention and basic humane standards by North Vietnam and its agents—their refusal to identify all of the Americans being held, to permit impartial inspection of their camps, to release the seriously sick and wounded prisoners, to provide humane treatment, and to permit prisoners to correspond regularly with their families—and in view of their adamant refusal to consider negotiation regarding the release of prisoners, the Congress of the United States has, by House Joint Resolution 16, requested the President to designate the period beginning March 21, 1971, and ending March 27, 1971, as "National Week of Concern for Prisoners of War/Missing in Action."
NOW, THEREFORE, I, RICHARD NIXON, President of the United States of America, do hereby designate the period March 21, 1971, through March 27, 1971, as National Week of Concern for Americans Who Are Prisoners of War or Missing in Action. I call upon all the people of the United States to observe this week in heartfelt prayer, and in ceremonies and activities appropriate to voice deep concern for the prisoners and missing men, to inspire their loved ones with new courage and hope, and to hasten the day when their ordeal may end.
IN WITNESS WHEREOF, I have hereunto set my hand this nineteenth day of March, in the year of our Lord nineteen hundred seventy-one, and of the Independence of the United States of America the one hundred ninety-fifth.