Talk to the Veterans Crisis Line now
U.S. flag
An official website of the United States government

VA Health Systems Research

Go to the VA ORD website
Go to the QUERI website

HSR Citation Abstract

Search | Search by Center | Search by Source | Keywords in Title

Persistence of traumatic memories in World War II prisoners of war.

Rintamaki LS, Weaver FM, Elbaum PL, Klama EN, Miskevics SA. Persistence of traumatic memories in World War II prisoners of war. Journal of the American Geriatrics Society. 2009 Dec 1; 57(12):2257-62.

Dimensions for VA is a web-based tool available to VA staff that enables detailed searches of published research and research projects.

If you have VA-Intranet access, click here for more information

VA staff not currently on the VA network can access Dimensions by registering for an account using their VA email address.
   Search Dimensions for VA for this citation
* Don't have VA-internal network access or a VA email address? Try searching the free-to-the-public version of Dimensions


OBJECTIVES: To assess the long-term effects of the prisoner of war (POW) experience on U.S. World War II (WWII) veterans. DESIGN: Exploratory study. SETTING: Participants were recruited through the Hines Veterans Affairs Hospital; a POW reunion in Orlando, Florida; and the WWII veterans periodical, "The QUAN." PARTICIPANTS: One hundred fifty-seven American military veterans who were former WWII POWs. MEASURMENTS: Participants completed a mailed survey describing their POW experiences, POW effects on subsequent psychological and physical well-being, and ways in which these experiences shaped major decisions in their lives. RESULTS: Participants from the European and Pacific theaters reported that their captivity during WWII affected their long-term emotional well-being. Both groups reported high rates of reflection, dreaming, and flashbacks pertaining to their POW experiences, but Pacific theater POWs did so at higher rates in the present than in the past. Large portions of both groups reported greater rumination on POW experiences after retirement. Finally, 16.6% of participants met the requirements of a current, clinical diagnosis of posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) based on the Mississippi PTSD scale, with PTSD rates in Pacific theater POWs (34%) three times those of European theater POWs (12%). CONCLUSION: Traumatic memories and clinical levels of PTSD persist for WWII POWs as long as 65 years after their captivity. Additionally, rumination about these experiences, including flashbacks and persistent nightmares, may increase after retirement, particularly for those held in the Pacific theater. These findings inform the current therapeutic needs of this elderly population and future generations of POWs from other military conflicts.

Questions about the HSR website? Email the Web Team

Any health information on this website is strictly for informational purposes and is not intended as medical advice. It should not be used to diagnose or treat any condition.