POW, or prisoner of war, is a person captured by the enemy during a war. MIA, or missing in action, is a person that has gone unaccounted for during a war. These terms are not to be used lightly because of the pain and suffering that comes with them.
When captured by the enemy, you are considered a POW. In the years before the 17th century, any and all POW's were killed or put into slavery. This was finished in 1648, at the end of The Thirty Years War. It was ruled that prisoners were released without ransom. During the American Civil War, a German US political reformer Francis Lieber drafted the first set of regulations concerning prisoners during wartime.
After millions of prisoners were killed during WWII, the Geneva Convention (1949) was created. It broadened the definition of prisoner of war to include civilians. The South Vietnamese were charged with violating the Geneva Convention during the Vietnam War.
Also, during the Korean War, the United Nations forces accused the Chinese and the North Koreans of brainwashing their POW's. The Pentagon's last POW from Desert Storm and earlier was declared dead in 1994, but the MIA list always has names on it.
There are still prisoners listed as missing from wars dating back to the Civil War. The US tries to use the CIA to infiltrate into other countries to try and find missing soldiers. Some MIA soldiers are abandoned or deserted; sometimes the person makes a home of where they were left. It is believed that over one eighth of men that are on the recent MIA list are alive and well, but in another country. The men on the list almost have to be presumed dead.
When the US captures a person, we...