View Full Version : Missing in Action: Amnesia

03-22-2014, 09:44 AM
A few questions:
-- what is the correct wording?
-- how much info would the family receive?
-- how long after the "missing" bit would the soldier be officially "dead"?(this question already answered)
-- would this info be sent in a telegram?

Context: a soldier from British Guiana, fighting in Asia in WWII. He goes missing in Burma sometime before the end of the war. The family in BG is informed (parents and young wife).
The wife plans to remarry; how long will it take for her to be officially a widow?

In the end, it turns out that he is not dead after all. Right now, I have it that he has amnesia and lived with and was cared for by Buddhist monks for several years. I'm not sure how much the amnesia thing is a cliche. Any tricks to make it more plausible and not just a literary device to explain his non-communication for six years?

In the end, something from the past triggers his memory and he returns home. He asks the ... what institution would he have to inform of this to get his papers back etc? The War Office? ANyway, he asks them not to inform the family as he wants to return in person and surprise them. Is that OK?
Thanks for any help you can give, any tips or suggestions.

03-22-2014, 10:22 AM
Russia is thinking now about declaring the WWII MIAs dead, but they haven't actually done it yet. So obviously the term varies greatly. Perhaps some militaries never make a declaration of death at all for MIAs, but leave it up to the civil authorities?

03-22-2014, 10:36 AM
Thanks. This would be Britain. If they don't declare dead I'll have to change it so they aren't married after all -- bother!

03-22-2014, 11:15 AM
OK found this through google (https://answers.yahoo.com/question/index?qid=20100810202527AAaHA6K)

The court may be persuaded that a missing person’s death occurred, if it can be shown the person was “exposed to a specific peril of death” (ie. the tsunami or war) and the person’s absence remains otherwise unexplained. The court will also accept as evidence the military’s finding that one of its members has gone missing in action.

In such case, it can be as little as a year.
The Full Story

Natural and manmade disasters of unprecedented scale have called international attention to the complexities of the legal presumption of death when no bodies can be found. Normally in the UK a missing person may be declared legally dead no less than seven years after disappearing without explanation, unless other convincing evidence of the person’s death can be shown. Elsewhere, the wait is even longer.

I can work with that. Now for the other questions, especially the amnesia one.

03-22-2014, 05:03 PM
Personally, I love amnesia stories, but I know it is far more common in fiction than in reality.

If you are worried about it, would it be plausible in your story to have him WANT to forget? Not his wife, perhaps, but maybe whatever made him end up MIA was in some way his fault. He feels guilty for the other deaths. The years with the monks could be a healing process.

But as far as I'm concerned, go with the amnesia. The doctors can say that there are many things about the mind they do not know, because that's true.

jaus tail
03-22-2014, 06:44 PM
Maybe he finds a more attractive woman in Asia, has a one night stand with her which results in a baby, so he doesn't want to return. He doesn't love the woman but feels guilty for cheating on his wife so stays in Asia with the child. But after some time the child and woman die, so the guy can now return home to his first wife like nothing ever happened.

03-22-2014, 07:39 PM
Thanks all of you...
jaus tail, that's actually a very good solution (and I've just finished a wonderful novel which has something like this, though it's not because of amnesia ... the Cavalet Chronicles) --- but the trouble is, the story is told from the wife's POV and I don't think that is something he will report to her when he finally returns. If I were using multiple POV's then it would certainly work well.

03-22-2014, 08:03 PM
Burma (or Myanmar) has a lot of deep jungle. What if he was badly injured, helped by the Burmese equivalent of backwoods farmers, and took a long time to recover. Then even longer to make his way out of the jungle to a city. That could take years.

The other option would be that he spent years as a POW, taken by a group of Japanese who didn't accept the end of the war for some time after Japan surrendered.

Siri Kirpal
03-22-2014, 09:56 PM
Sat Nam! (literally "Truth Name"--a Sikh greeting)

Did he receive a brain injury? That might trigger amnesia.


Siri Kirpal

03-23-2014, 12:48 AM
The problem with amnesia is that it doesn't work the way it does in movies. The most common form is that you can't remember who you are and you don't form new memories. The closest to what you want is called "billfold syndrome." Literally you open your wallet, look at your photo and wonder "Is this who I am?" One guy followed in a PBS show years ago, was struck by this while in the middle of an airport. There's a few other types. Some people lose the ability to have short term memories transfer into long term. The big problem is that all these are permanent.

Billfold syndrome might work if he's discovered by reporters doing war recovery stories. He only know's he's a soldier because the monks said he was dressed like one. They do a story on him and help get him back to British Guiana. At the airport, one of his old squad mates shows up having read the story, and takes him home.