The Mitchell Center has its roots in the 1000 Aviator Study. The 1940 Program gave the Navy its first comprehensive look at personal attributes of successful student aviators. From it, better aviation selection standards were created.
With the anticipated end of hostilities in Vietnam, planning for a Center for Prisoner of War Studies (CPOW) at Point Loma, California began in 1971. During Operation Homecoming, 660 United States Military POWs were repatriated from South East Asia prisons between January and May 1973. The Department of Defense funded a five-year charter for all the services to evaluate the effect of captivity among the repatriated POWs.
The Navy and Marine Corps personnel were seen at the Naval Aerospace Medical Research Laboratory. In 1978, the CPOW Charter ended and the Navy and Marine Corps records were archived. The evaluations, however, were transferred to and continued at the Naval Aerospace Medical Institute (NAMI). NAMI later became subordinate to the Naval Operational Medicine Institute, which later became the Navy Medicine Operational Training Center.
Captain Robert E Mitchell was the cornerstone of the program. He was integral to the 1000 Aviator Study, involved in the planning of the CPOW, and performed the repatriated POW evaluations until 1990, when he finally retired. As a result of CAPT Mitchell's vision and singular effort, the Mitchell Center expertise was recognized, Army and Air Force Vietnam, Operation Desert Storm and Operation Iraqi Freedom repatriated POWs, Somalia and Bosnia hostages/detainees, and program funding were added.
1940 1000 Aviator Study begins
1970 1000 Aviator Study concludes
1973 Original DoD 5-year Charter for Prisoner of War (POW) Studies
1976 A Navy matched Comparison Group was added
1978 The Air Force and Army end their part of the Original POW Studies, the Navy (ie CAPT Mitchell) continues
1991 Operation Desert Storm Repatriates added, 21 all services
1992 VA $100,000 Grant to document and publish long term health effects on Naval aviators
1993 Air Force authorized their former Vietnam repatriated POWs
1996 Congress appropriates $1,000,000 to establish a Center for Prisoner of War Studies.
1997 Army authorized their former Vietnam repatriated POWs
1998 Congress appropriates a second $1,000,000 to continue support of research for the RPOW program
1998 Dedication of Bldg 3933 as the REM Center for POW Studies
2003 Operation Iraqi Freedom Repatriates added, 8 Army
2004 Department of Navy-Robert E Mitchell Foundation, Inc MOU allows gifting of money, IAW SECNAVINST 4001.2G, to the Robert E Mitchell Center for POW Studies
2010 Hostages/Detainees from Somalia & Bosnia are also eligible for participation