DEAR ABBY: While cleaning out my garage, I found a P.O.W. bracelet in a small box. On the bracelet was engraved "LCDR JOHN McKAMEY: 6-2-65" -- and then a tiny white star.
If you can locate this man's family, I would be happy to send this bracelet to them. I was very young when the Vietnam War took place and know very little about it. Why was it started? And exactly what was accomplished? They don't teach much about it in school, and those who served in Vietnam seem reluctant to talk about it. -- KAREN A. TAMURA, CERRITOS, CALIF.
DEAR KAREN: The Vietnam War was the longest war in which the United States took part. It began in 1957 and ended in 1975.
About 58,000 American men and women died in that war, and approximately 365,000 were wounded. South Vietnamese deaths topped 1 million, and North Vietnamese losses ranged between 500,000 and 1 million men, women and children.
In terms of money, the war cost the United States more than $150 billion. According to the World Book Encyclopedia:
On Aug. 4, 1964, President Lyndon Johnson announced that the U.S. destroyers Maddox and C. Turner Joy had been attacked in the Gulf of Tonkin, off the coast of North Vietnam. (Some Americans doubted that the attack had even occurred -- it has never been confirmed.) President Johnson then asked Congress for power to take all necessary measures to repel an armed attack against the forces of the United States and to prevent further aggression. The war soon became an international conflict. Joining the U.S.A. were Australia, South Korea, New Zealand, Thailand and the Philippines.
On May 4, 1970, U.S. National Guard units fired into a group of peaceful anti-war demonstrators at Kent State University in Kent, Ohio -- killing four students and wounding nine others. Small wonder nobody wants to talk about it; it was not our proudest hour. Soon afterward, the Senate voted to repeal the Gulf of Tonkin Resolution.
The war ended when South Vietnam surrendered to North Vietnam in Saigon (now called Ho Chi Minh City) on April 30, 1975.
Those who are interested in locating other former prisoners of war may write to: The Assistant Secretary of Defense of Internal Security Affairs; Attn: Principal Adviser POW/MIA Affairs, Washington, D.C. 20301-3407.