Until They Are Home
Bringing Back the MIAs from Vietnam, a Personal Memoir
6.125 x 9.25, 148 pp.
71 b&w photos. Map. Index.
Pub Date: 02/08/2011
Williams-Ford Texas A&M University Military History Series
Price:        $29.95

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Until They Are Home

Bringing Back the MIAs from Vietnam, a Personal Memoir

Thomas T. Smith

“Our mission continues . . . Until They Are Home!”—Motto of the Joint POW/MIA Accounting Command

 At the end of the Vietnam War—or American War, as it is called in Hanoi—2,585 Americans were unaccounted for in Southeast Asia. In 1992, a joint task force was established to continue the work of recovery, and its members became the first U.S. government representatives to return full-time to Vietnam.

Army Lt. Col. Thomas (“Ty”) Smith arrived in Hanoi a decade later, in 2003. Until They Are Home is both a heartfelt memoir and a fascinating inside look at his tour of duty in Vietnam, “a place of shadows within shadows, secrets within secrets."

Smith takes the reader on an extraordinary personal voyage from the shaded French boulevards of Hanoi to the remotest jungle trails of the border highlands. Written with a keen eye and touches of humor, Until They Are Home recounts life in the very heart of the mission to find and return to the families the remains of their loved ones. It offers equal parts historical context, political insight, social commentary, travelogue, and adventure chronicle.

From describing everything from his diplomatic negotations between the Vietnamese and American governments to presenting his view of commanding a remarkably complex mission in an unforgiving environment, Smith draws on memory, e-mails, letters, and journal entries to recreate the story of his mission in Vietnam. Smith and the forces serving under him found the remains of fourteen lost American servicemen—including two graduates of Texas A&M University.

The gripping, intensely personal narrative of Until They Are Home will fascinate general readers interested in the Vietnam War and its aftermath and will prove helpful to historians seeking primary information. It will also have great appeal to those with continuing involvement in POW/MIA issues and concerns.


THOMAS T. SMITH, COL. (Ret.) US Army, of San Antonio is the author of The U.S. Army and the Texas Frontier Economy, 1845–1900 (Texas A&M University Press, 1999) and The Old Army in Texas: A Research Guide to the U.S. Army in Nineteenth-Century Texas (Texas State Historical Association, 2000). He is a Fellow of the Texas State Historical Association.

What Readers Are Saying:

". . . Smith, a career soldier, is as qualified as one gets to be the author of this needed work--combining on-the-ground recovery experience in Vietnam with an education background as a historian."--Lee Lanning, author, The Only War We Had: A Platoon Leader's Journal of Vietnam

". . . an insider's account of how America goes about keeping the faith with those who fight our wars and meeting the commitment to never leave one of our own behind on the battlefield. . ."--James H. Willbanks, author, Abandoning Vietnam and The Tet Offensive--A Concise History

"The author's description of duty in Vietnam, "a place of shadows within shadows, secrets within secrets" is a picture of how two former enemies cooperated to achieve common goals - each side with different reasons to cooperate and different political bosses to satisfy. The author's description of the extensive preparation, expenditure of man-hours, and risk to the lives of the operational personnel shows the dedicated efforts the United States exerts to assure the best possible accounting for, and repatriation of, every lost service member. Until They Are Home is an absorbing, easy read that is helped greatly by the many photographs that illustrate every aspect of the MIA recovery process, from files research to moving repatriation ceremonies. Highly recommended for all service members and their families."--COL John B. Haseman, Military Review

"The author's account is a very personal one, replete with numerous interesting and instructive vignettes. His narrative, with numerous illustrations and one map, is truly a memoir, and as such, though indexed, it has neither footnotes nor a bibliography. It is a quick and easy read but one that will appeal to Vietnam veterans and their families, and those who have an interest in the recovery and identification of service personnel missing in action."--G. Alan Knight, The Journal of America's Military Past


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