TWELVE years ago United States troops withdrew from Vietnam. But for some American families the war is not over: 2,455 US servicemen and civilians are unaccounted for. Now a modest but welcome sign has appeared that the process of resolving the MIAs' status may be speeded up: US and Vietnamese officials have reportedly agreed to excavate jointly a site near Hanoi where a US bomber crashed. This would be the first time an American team had been permitted to search in Vietnam for remains of US servicemen.
Vietnam and the US have their own reasons for trying to speed up resolution of the MIA issue. Vietnam wants US economic and technical aid; as a condition Washington insists on a substantial accounting of MIAs. The US desires resolution of MIA cases so as to close a door on an unhappy era. And there is the humanitarian ground: Families of the missing deserve to know their fate.
Vietnam should be pressed hard to account for the MIAs. Insofar as feasible, crash sites should be excavated. And reports should be thoroughly investigated that American prisoners of war are still in captivity in Indochina. The US, and Vietnam, owe all Americans the most thorough accounting possible.