In honor of SP6 James L. Shirah, U.S. Army, Retired, Member of the 441st
Excerpts from Kiss the Boys Goodbye - How the United States Betrayed Its Own POWs in Vietnam
published in 1990 by Dutton Publishing and written by Monika Jensen-Stevenson and William Stevenson. (ISBN 0-525-24934-6)
* * * Quotation from pages 168-169 follows: * * *
A professional intelligence man, now retired, added to my growing sense that the [Senate] committee hearings were as unlikely to get to the bottom of the issue as the bureaucrats who had thrown away or otherwise ignored intelligence on live prisoners at the end of the Vietnam war.
"We abandoned those men," James L. Shirah told me in Georgia. "I saw firsthand some disgusting examples."
Shirah spent much of the 1960's as interrogator/ analyst/ documents examiner for a highly classified Army intelligence unit in Laos. He continued operating into the 1970's. "But in 1969, the kinds of missions I carried out were stopped, and by 1973, when the war ended, I had quit, emotionally, all other involvement. I had seen us throw away the best intelligence network our country ever had-" He described a network of Asian agents that had reinforced electronic intelligence on Americans in enemy hands. "When the U.S. ran out of Saigon, the CIA left for the enemy the files on thousands of these agents.
"Call me an anthropologist," said Shirah, referring to his cover. "That's what I still have to tell everyone. Even now, I'd have difficulty going before the [Senate] Committee because of these unjustified secrecy rules. But I will go on record-we knew everything about every man who was missing. I personally destroyed in acid my copy of the huge file-the number is 5310-03-E. The original's unburied in this secret archive at the 500th [MI] Group, Ford Island, off Hawaii. "
Shirah had fought as a member of an intelligence group-"the good side, not the bad part." I did not press him for an explanation until later. He was in a Georgia Hospital, in terrible pain, and seemed to want me to have certain information before it was too late. General "Heinie" Aderholt, who had run so many secret air operations from Thailand, vouched for his credentials, saying Shirah shared his own sense of shame.
POWs: America's Biggest Cover-Up
Tuesday, June 13, 2000
NewsMax.com should be congratulated for yesterday's banner headline about Newsweek magazine's report that some American POWs captured 50 years ago in the Korean War may still be alive.
The "mainstream" media has not given this story the coverage it deserves.
None of the Big Three networks covered this story on last night’s evening broadcasts. Not a word from Tom Brokaw – he who so loudly lauded the World War II generation in his best seller, "The Greatest Generation."
Not a word from Jennings or Rather. And not a word in the New York Times – supposedly the paper "of record."
The POW issue is a simmering cauldron of deception, perfidy, malfeasance and outright lies told by our government officials for two generations.
In fact, if Watergate is America’s biggest political scandal, the knowing abandonment and subsequent cover-up of American POWs in Korea, the Cold War and especially in Vietnam is America’s greatest act of criminal behavior.
In Melinda Liu’s Newsweek piece she quotes U.S. government officials expressing a Claude Raines type of "shock" – remember in "Casablanca" when he feigned surprise that there was gambling in a Humphrey Bogart-run gin mill? – that some POWs may very well still be alive in North Korea.
What a sham!
Our government has known from the very minute the Korean Armistice was signed that we were leaving behind hundreds of U.S. POWs.
President Dwight Eisenhower’s chief military aide, Maj. Philip Corso, personally informed the new president that these men were being kept back by the Communists for a future negotiating position. Ike expressed his unhappiness over this – but he did nothing to correct the situation.
Corso, who died last year, has for almost 50 years talked publicly about these conversations with President Eisenhower. Corso also wrote a book about this sad chapter in our history. But the rest of the U.S. government went into Full Cover-Up Mode. For decades now the official word coming out of the CIA, Pentagon and White House has been that there was "no evidence of any American POWs left alive in North Korea."
Of course this was – and is – a complete and total lie.
In January 1973 history virtually repeated itself. At the very conclusion of the Paris Peace Accords aimed at ending the Vietnam War, another American president, Richard Nixon, abandoned 600 American POWs in Vietnam and Laos.
Hopelessly mired in the Watergate scandal, Nixon could not expend his dwindling political and moral capital to force Hanoi to return the POWs kept behind to use as leverage to extract $4.5 billion promised – but never delivered – by Nixon.
So, instead of squaring with the people who twice elected him, Nixon chose to lie. Within weeks of the Paris Accords, Nixon told the American people that "all the POWs are home. No Americans remain in captivity in Southeast Asia.”
This, too, was a complete and total lie.
So for the last 27 years another group of American POWs has languished in captivity in Vietnam and Laos wondering, "Why has American abandoned me?"
The answer is simple: The American government has grown into a colossus of independent agencies with conflicting agendas. Only the elected officials answer directly to the American people. When those officials lie – and get away with it – those unelected bureaucrats follow suit.
Since the advent of the Cold War, the American news media has grown increasingly leftist. By the time of the Vietnam War the media had grown cynical and hostile toward Washington. The lies told by the military and the Johnson administration no longer were believed. The daily military briefings in Saigon became known as the "Five O'clock Follies."
Sadly, that cynicism and skepticism has not been applied by the media to the government cover-up of the living POWs.
Had the media pushed, prodded and truly investigated the reports of American POWs seen alive in Korea, China, Russia, Vietnam and Laos, those men would long ago have been brought home by a government cowed by the threat of an infuriated electorate come election time.
An example of this was Jimmy Carter’s ham-handed inability to recover 52 American hostages held in Iran in 1979-1980. Carter – who never deceived the people on this issue – was heaved out of office in one of the biggest landslides in our political history. Can you imagine the political reaction if it is proven that live men are still being held in Korea or Vietnam and our government is covering this up?
American POWs May Still Be Alive In North Korea
Monday, June 12, 2000
NEW YORK – On the eve of the historic summit between North and South Korea, there has been a promising increase in the quantity and apparent quality of reports sighting American servicemen missing in the 50-year-old war.
A U.S. official tells Newsweek that "Since 1996, there have been firsthand reports of American POWs from the Korean War still living in the North." The official tells Beijing Bureau Chief Melinda Liu in the June 19, 2000 issue of Newsweek (on newsstands June 12) that the people who told the most persuasive stories got very close to the purported Americans – "like, in the same building."
In her article "The Last Casualties," Liu reports on the relentless search for U.S. Army Cpl. Roger Armand Dumas, who has been a POW since November 1950, by his brother, Bob Dumas.
Korea is the Cold War conflict that hasn't ended yet, a war that began a half-century ago this month. Newsweek reports that the long stalemate that followed the war may now be entering its final days. The United States is prepared to ease its economic sanctions on North Korea.
Meanwhile, Pyongyang is accelerating its cooperation with Washington to resolve the status of American servicemen still unaccounted for in Korea – more than 8,100 of them, quadruple the number in Vietnam, Newsweek reports.
Many of the 8,100 presumably died in battle, their bodies unrecovered from territory controlled by the North. In an agreement negotiated last week, the two sides scheduled a new search for remains beginning June 25, the 50th anniversary of the war's outbreak.
They WERE Abandoned!
Remembering Those We Left Behind
By Joseph D. Douglass Jr.
As we prepare to send tens of thousands of young men into war against Iraq, it seems only fitting that we honor and remember those left behind in prior wars.
The words of Navy Capt. Red McDaniel, who survived 6 years as a POW in North Vietnam, sums up the issue: "I was prepared to fight, to be wounded, to be captured, and even prepared to die, but I was not prepared to be abandoned." [i]
This is what happened to over 30,000 American servicemen, beginning in WW I and continuing through the first Gulf War. With the exception of the Gulf War, all were left behind in the hands of Communist regimes, whose brutality exceeded by any measure that demonstrated by the Nazis in World War II.
Little has been said by Washington officialdom to acknowledge the men had been left behind, abandoned. An exception to the rule is Sen. Herb Kohl, who wrote in 1992: "[Military] service is based on a belief in, and trust of, their government: that it will train them well, equip them superbly, and do everything it reasonably can to protect them and care for them. It is the credibility of those promises which the POW/MIA issue strains. For if, after all, the government does not keep its promises, then why should our soldiers honor their pledge to follow orders, even at the risk of their own lives. This Report [Final Report of the Senate Select Committee on POW/MIA Affairs] demonstrates that the government has not kept its promises to those who served in Vietnam. Even more disturbing, is the evidence which suggests - strongly suggests - that that the government failed to keep its promises to those who served in World War II, the Korean War, and the Cold War as well."
What lies behind this embarrassing state of affairs is well-connected treachery and connivance. The directing forces are not easily pin-pointed. As explained by Col Millard Peck, who ran the DIA POW/MIA office in 1989-1991, "The issue is being manipulated by unscrupulous people in the Government, or associated with the Government . [they] have maintained their distance and remained hidden in the shadows. this issue is being manipulated and controlled at a higher lever, not with the goal of resolving it, but more to obfuscate the question of live prisoners, and give the illusion of progress through hyperactivity. From what I have witnessed, it appears that any soldier left in Vietnam, even inadvertently, was, in fact, abandoned years ago, and that the farce that is being played is no more than political legerdemain done with "smoke and mirrors", to stall the issue until it dies a natural death."
In 1920, shortly after WW I, Russia was hit by a devastating famine. Just prior, the Russians had denied holding American captives When the Russians asked for food and medical assistance, a sharp U.S. official gave them an offer they could not refuse: release the American prisoners and we will send you food. Russian officials agreed to return the men when the food shipments commenced. We started shipping food, and they released 100 men. Then, they stopped. No more were released, but the U.S. continued shipping food, ignoring the Russian duplicity. The official position pronounced by the State Department was that no American servicemen were still held captive.
Following the victory in Europe in 1945, both Presidents Roosevelt and Truman sent directives to U.S. command in Europe that said there would be "no criticism of treatment [of American POWs] by the Russians" and that there would be "no retaliatory action to Russian failure to cooperate," which referred to Russian failure to give the United States access to American POWs in the German POW camps the Russians had captured. As a result, only the 4,165 American prisoners were released, those from the one camp visited (at Reisa). The remaining 21,000 Americans prisoners in German camps taken over by the Russians were abandoned to the Russians. They were shipped to Russia to lives worse than death. Records were then falsified by U.S. and British intelligence (an equivalent number of British POWs were also abandoned) in an effort to hide what had happened.
Following the Korean War, Col. Phil Corso was on Eisenhower's White House staff. He was in charge of the POW issue. In Senate and House hearings in 1992 and 1996, he explained how Eisenhower made the decision to leave the missing American POWs behind after he, Corso, had explained to Eisenhower that thousands were missing, that US intelligence knew they had been shipped to Russia and China, and that achieving their return would be difficult. U.S. policy was clear, he explained. "We couldn't put pressure on the Soviet Union or the satellites, we couldn't - they had our prisoners and we couldn't put pressure on them. That was it. Our policy forbid us from doing it. If you did it, you were disobeying national policy." In implementing this policy, U.S. executive agencies - State, Intelligence, and Defense - subsequently denied any American POWs were left behind. This is still taking place today.
In 1973, at the time of Operation Homecoming following the end of the Vietnam War, President Nixon was told by Secretary of Defense Laird's point man on the POW issue, Dr. Roger Shields, "Mr. President, . we, we do have two missing for every man who did come home." President Nixon said, "Right," and then changed the subject. U.S. policy stated by the State Department the next day said no American captives remained in Vietnam. Add to this President Nixon's clear statement that all our POWs have been returned.
Vietnam remains a bitter example of our government's failure to honor its commitment to those who served our country. There has never even been a full accounting of those missing. The official numbers of those missing are only about a third of what they should be. Thousands of the missing are not counted, including special operations forces, military deployed in civilian garb, those listed as killed-in-action-body-not-recovered who were not killed but rather captured, intelligence operatives and administrators, State Department and AID employees, civilian contractors, and even many so-called deserters who were missing - not because they deserted but because they were captured as in the case of Bobby Garwood. Moreover, government efforts to lie about those abandoned, hide information, sweep live sightings of POWs under the rug, and order people who knew what happened to remain silent have been legion and personally experienced and documented by nearly every investigative reporter who became interested in the POW issue. One by one, these investigators have become enraged as they witnessed first hand how the government ran roughshod over honor and principle, and over many of the investigators.
Similarly, there has been no attempt to identify or count those captured during the 40-year Cold War. These missing Americans includes not only those captured while on missions in or over enemy territory but also hundreds if not thousands of men and women who were abducted in neutral and friendly countries and then drugged and taken away behind the Iron and Bamboo curtains. These captives may number in the thousands, but no one in Washington has cared enough to even try and add up the totals.
In all cases, the official government position, or policy, has been that no men were knowingly left behind and, thus, none will be found. This is why so little has been accomplished in the $100 million per year search for bones, which remains a living example of Col. Peck's "illusion of progress through hyperactivity."
At the same time, the unofficial word has been, "Sure we left hundreds behind, but what do you want us to do, start another war?" Or, "Sure there are hundreds still captive, but we cannot say anything because it might mess up our efforts to try and get them back." Or, as President Reagan told one of his senior staff, now a member of Congress, "We know that there are hundreds of POWs still alive. But these guys are leading very different lives, they have local wives, and we just don't want to shed light on them at this point." [ii]
One of the most deplorable, yet representative examples, is what happened to Bobby Garwood, who was captured when on a mission for a U.S. general in intelligence. He did not return from the mission, which was only a week prior to his scheduled return to the States, and was listed as a deserter. Evidently no one wanted to tell what really happened and explain why he was sent into a known hostile region without an armed escort. Later, U.S. intelligence painted him a deserter and instigated a special forces mission to assassinate him. Fortunately, it was not successful.
When informed in 1978 that Garwood was still a prisoner, the State Department discarded the message. Only when Garwood managed to get a second message out in 1979 was he released. He managed to slip a note to a Finnish executive who was in Hanoi. The Finn made the note public and Garwood was released to avoid the embarrassment. Upon his return, the Marine Corps put him on trial for behavior unbecoming a prisoner of war and seized all his back pay. Then they rigged the trial and prevented those who could attest to his prisoner status, such as the former North Vietnamese official Col. Tran Van Loc, from telling the truth at the trial.
Former POW Col. Ted Guy later explained, "Garwood had to be discredited so that he would not be believed." Among other things, Garwood had personally witnessed roughly 100 American POWs still in captivity in Vietnam in 1979, as reported by the Wall Street Journal's Bill Paul in a feature news story in 1984.
The head of the Defense Intelligence Agency, Gen. Tighe, tried to stop the court marshal after Garwood was released. He believed Garwood was telling the truth and that Garwood should be carefully debriefed because of his valuable knowledge about missing Americans. But, no one else in the government wanted to know what Garwood knew, especially the Marine Corps brass. Later, after he retired, Tighe himself debriefed Garwood and attested to the reliability and importance of Garwood's knowledge. Then, the government did its best to discredit Gen. Tighe.
Not a nice story. But it is an excellent and representative example that accurately characterizes our government's handling of the POW/MIA issue for the past fifty years. When will it stop? Certainly not until the American people decide to bring it to an end and not let the government continue to "obfuscate the question of live prisoners, create the illusion of progress through hyperactivity, and stall the issue until it dies a natural death."
The efforts within all branches of the executive to attack information that men were left behind (that is, "debunking" live sighting reports) and especially information that describes the war crimes and atrocities the Communists have committed in their use of American captives has been especially disconcerting. In the process of diverting attention away from the full truth, numerous stories respecting the fate of the American POWs have been propagated. First, the men were sent to Chinese and Russia slave labor camps, or as referred to in Russia, the GULAG. This was the story before the full brutal nature of the Russian GULAG was revealed in several books. Following the Vietnam War, the explanation quietly publicized was that those missing were only deserters who were now involved in the illegal drug trade and did not want to come home. On a more benign note, beginning in the latter days of the Reagan Administration the story was concocted that those missing had taken wives, were raising families, and did not want to return, or, as emerged during the first Bush Administration, were living nicely in Russia in make-believe American towns where they were helping to train Russian spies, such as is depicted in the novel The Charm School.
All these stories did contain elements of truth, but only a minimal portion. What they did not tell was the devastating part of the reality, which begins in World War II with the use of American POWs in medical experiments by the Japanese in Unit 731 that was based in China and for live vivisection in a Japanese university hospital. In both cases, these crimes were deliberately keep secret from the American people by U.S. political, military, and intelligence officials and all the responsible Japanese were set free and protected in the case of Unit 731 and, in the case of those who conducted the live vivisections, freed after minor prison terms. All information was classified and hidden. There was no public trial or accountability as took place in Nuremberg, German.
As despicable as these Japanese atrocities were, they cannot compare with the scale and magnitude of the atrocities our ignored American POWs suffered at the hands of the Communists. The brutal, repressive, and inhuman nature of the Communists leaders was well known, as early as the 1920s. This was not just the imprint of the Communists who seized control of the government but the combination of the Communist terror coupled with the Russian culture as handed down by leaders such as Ivan the Terrible and the intelligence services of the Czars. The use of prisoners in medical experiments - for example, the development of assassination techniques and work with chemical and biological agents - had begun at least by 1928. In the late 1940s U.S. intelligence knew that Russia deliberately built chemical and biological warfare laboratories near prisons and GULAG facilities to be near a supply of human guinea pigs. There was also intelligence on the shipment of American POWs to facilities where these experiments were conducted during and following World War II.
More details of the horrendous nature of the Russian experiments became known to U.S. intelligence, military, and political officials early in the Korean War, as Col. Corso testified to Dornan's Committee in 1996. During the Korean War he was on CINCPAC intelligence staff. His responsibility included obtaining intelligence on captured Americans. "I received numerous reports that American POWs had been sent to the Soviet Union . These POWs were to be exploited for intelligence purposes and subsequently eliminated." Corso described medical experiments that were performed "Nazi style," about which he was particularly upset. "The most devilish and cunning were the techniques of mind altering. Many of our POWs died under such treatment. I was getting reports that came from enemy territory in Korea, that they had some sort of a hospital up there . we sent out agents to try to get the information and I never did get much information on the hospital itself. I passed that [intelligence on the mind-control and other experiments] on to C. D. Jackson [a special assistant to the President] and other administration officials when I was at the White House."
Shortly after a special Senate Select Committee for POW/MIA Affairs was established to investigate the missing American POW/MIAs issue in late 1991, information from a top-level Czech official who had defected to the United States in 1968 began to surface. This source, Gen. Maj. Jan Sejna, had been personally involved in sanitizing the Korean War hospital that Corso (above) had targeted in North Korea. Corso explained that the hospital was built for the purpose of conducting medical experiments upon captured Americans. The Americans were used as guinea pigs for testing the effects of high radiation exposure. They were used in testing the effects of chemical and biological warfare agents and as expendable subjects in the development of an important new class of chemical warfare agents, psychoactive drugs for use in covert "mind-control" operations. They were also used as live cadavers upon which the military doctors could practice various operations such as amputations and organ removal. Finally, they were used in graduated torture experiments to determine the limits of psychological and physiological "stress" the Americans could endure.
Several thousand Americans were killed in the North Korean hospital. At the conclusion of the Korean War, roughly 100 Americans who were still of experimental value were shipped to Russia through Prague. The process continued in Vietnam. Czechoslovakia assisted the Russians in the development of chemical and biological warfare agents and psychoactive drugs and in the human experiments conduced in Vietnam, Laos and Russia. Sejna himself witnessed 600 American POWs as they transited through Prague on their way to Russia. Sejna monitored the Czech participation and the operational results. He also had a 20-year record following his defection in providing valuable information to U.S. and allied intelligence. At the time he defected, 1968, and through the end of the Vietnam War, U.S. intelligence did not question him respecting American POW/MIAs, notwithstanding many obvious reasons for doing so. Indeed, his CIA handlers were not interested in any information of strategic significance. (Extensive details provided by Gen. Sejna on the Soviet operations and development projects that used the American POW guinea pigs are included in the book Betrayed: The Story of Missing American POWs, written by this author.)
When Sejna's knowledge began to surface, the response of the various executive agencies was not to learn what Sejna knew, but to discredit him, silence him, bury his testimony, and tell the Czech and Russian intelligence services what he was saying so that they could police up their own records and sabotage any sources that might confirm or extend his information. None of this was a case of examining what Sejna had to say and then rejecting it as not credible. No, in all cases none of those involved wanted to know. Their only mission was to silence Sejna, discredit him so that no one would get interested in what he knew, and seek the help of enemy foreign intelligence services who also would not want Sejna's information to draw attention.
In 1996, Congressman Bob Dornan asked Sejna to testify respecting his knowledge before Dornan's House committee, which Sejna agreed to do. This is when a 1992 DIA memo surfaced. It was signed by DIA director, Lt. Gen. Clapper. The memo stated that when Sejna's knowledge about what happened to American POWs began to surface, Sejna was subjected to a 4-hour hostile polygraph, during which he "showed no signs of deception." Another internal DIA memo surfaced in which the intelligence directorate of DIA offered to help debrief Sejna and corroborate his testimony. The memo was written by a senior analyst who had worked with Sejna on several projects, including international terrorism, and knew how open he was and how valuable the information he had provided over twenty years had been. Their offer, needless to say, was not accepted. Nor did Sejna hesitate in fulfilling his decision to testify before Dornan's committee about what he knew after he was threatened three times that he would be killed if he testified. The last threat came before he left home on the very morning he was to testify. Slightly less than a year following his testimony, he was dead.
This, too, should come as no surprise. Only people who have tried to surface the truth have "suffered grief," as Col. Peck explained. There seems to be a succession of people who became warriors in the search for the truth only to have received numerous threats, lost their jobs, had their careers ruined, and ultimately become most disheartened and discouraged. Alternatively, never have any of those who lied, including under oath, blocked the release of information requested under FOIA, destroyed information and files, threatened witnesses, directed many with personal knowledge to keep silent or lose their jobs, and all the other nefarious activities encountered by the numerous investigative researchers ever been punished or held accountable. Only those who tried to get at the truth have suffered grief.
Even worse, it now appears that various efforts to find and rescue missing men have been carefully and consistently compromised, sabotaged, or simply cancelled. This applies to efforts during the Vietnam War as well as after. In his study of rescue attempts, Code-Name Bright Light, Jay Veith could not find one example where a prisoner was found and freed. What he found was tremendous problems in getting intelligence out of CIA, command lack of attention, and, most disturbing, compromise. Upon review, the long succession of failures underscores the comment a special forces major gave to Red McDaniel. Following a talk Red gave on missing POWs, the major and several members of his special forces team approached Red. "Someone in our government doesn't want those men to come home," he quietly told Red. "In the past eighteen months we have planned two different rescue missions into Southeast Asia. We knew where the men were. We knew how many men were there. We were ready to go. We were excited about it. But, at the last minute, both times, someone cancelled the mission."
Reports continue today that indicate American POWs remain captive in North Korea, Vietnam and Laos, China, Russia, and Iraq. Those still missing and alive could number in the hundreds. Yet only three in Baghdad are acknowledged and it has been a ten-year fight to get those three acknowledged.
Every year more and more of the truth is surfaced as unwitting investigators become curious and, before they know what is happening, get emotionally involved because of the horrendous duplicity and deceit levied upon those who were called to serve and upon their wives and families. Each investigator has been able to recover a bit more of the truth and the record grows. [iii] Today, there is no question respecting the basic facts: 1) thousands of Americans were abandoned, 2) this was not due to accident or lack of intelligence, 3) the men were subsequently denied, 4) information on their fate was buried or destroyed, 5) families of the missing men were lied to and stonewalled, 6) efforts to recovery POW/MIAs have been little more than a charade, designed to frustrate public and surviving family interest while the issue dies a natural death, 7) maintain the silence respecting the crimes of the Communists, especially where economic interest might be adversely affected and, 8) the fate of servicemen left behind is not to be allowed to interfere with business and commerce.
At the same time, every year it has become increasingly difficult to capture serious high-level attention because of the growing fraternity of top-level officials who have become compromised, because of the devastating impact of the decisions to abandon the men, and because of the experience and justified arrogance of the faceless army of bureaucrats who have maintained the silence, and because families and investigators have become increasing frustrated and distant from the suffering of those still captive, comforted by the belief that most are dead or living new lives with families and don't want to be disturbed.
In the days following 9-11, we became awakened to a massive "new" enemy whose size is hard to judge because it is so diffuse, distributed, secretive, and because of the politics involved in trying to figure out what countries and leaders are for us, or against us, in the war. The war ahead will be long and difficult, as repeatedly all the war cabinet principals have made clear. With or without Iraq, and whether or not that war is a repeat of the first Gulf War or something disastrously different, the war will grow.
For the most part, the new Bush Administration has shown a determination to address problems that have been ignored for the most part for a good thirty years and President Bush certainly sees himself as a no nonsense, "can do" President. While it will be difficult, there may be a window of opportunity in which to encourage a change in our government's POW/MIA policy and attitude.
Aside from the obvious need to find and free those still held captive, there is an even deeper reason for re-assessing the whole POW/MIA tragedy. Red McDaniel's wife in her book After the Hero's Welcome: A POW Wife's Story of the Battle Against a New Enemy has captured this reason in Red's inner philosophy which he expressed late one night:
If our government does not keep its end of the bargain with our fighting men, it violates one of the principles that made America. We can have the biggest force in the world but we'll lose the battle if we lose our integrity. The POW issue is a question about the erosion of our country's fundamental values. The people Red McDaniel had talked with across the nation understood this and held fast to the same principles that had pulled him through the ordeal of Communist captivity. "Dorothy," Red said as he laid down in bed that night, "we have to keep trying to solve the riddle of the POWs. For the men in Delta, for all the others who still serve, who want to believe in their country, we have to keep trying." Isn't it time for all Americans to stand straight and demand the full release of all information respecting the men we left behind? Isn't it time to make the finding and release of all those men who remain captive a task that is at least as important as finding, capturing, and bringing to justice those responsible for 9-11?
Isn't it time to end the charade and false images of cooperation and for the American government to start keeping the promises it made to those it called to serve their country in WWI, WWII, Korea, Vietnam, the Cold War, the Gulf War, and, looking ahead, the growing war on terrorism and terrorist regimes? Else, why would anyone want to serve?
The fight for freedom and the human condition should begin at home.
Dr. Douglass is a national security affairs analyst and author. His latest book is Betrayed: The Story of America's Missing POWs.
[i] This article is a condensed version of a talk given to Indiana Chapter 1 of Rolling Thunder on November 9, 2002. The material is taken from Betrayed: The Story of Missing American POWs by Joseph D. Douglass Jr., published in 2002 and available through book stores (ISBN 1-4033-0131-X) or from the publisher at www.1stbooks.com/bookview/9840 on the Internet or toll free by phone at 1-888-280-7715.
[ii] "Reagan Admitted Hundreds of POWs Left Behind," NewsMax.com, September 2002, p. 50.
[iii] For a start, see Missing In Action: Trail of Deceit by Larry J. O'Daniel, "Robert Garwood Says Vietnam Didn't Return Some American POWs" by Bill Paul in Wall Street Journal, 60 Minutes, "Dead or Alive" produced by Monica Jensen-Stevenson, We Can Keep You Forever produced by Ted Landreth, A Chain of Prisoners: From Yalta to Vietnam by John M. G. Brown and Thomas G. Ashworth, Kiss the Boys Goodbye: How the United States Betrayed Its Own POWs in Vietnam by Monica Jensen-Stevenson and William Stevenson, An Examination of U.S. Policy Toward POW/MIAs by Foreign Relations Republican Staff, The Bamboo Cage: The Full Story of the American Servicemen still held hostage in South-East Asia by Nigel Cawthorne, After the Hero's Welcome: A POW Wife's Story of the Battle Against a New Enemy by Dorothy McDaniel, Missing in Action: The Soviet Connection produced by Ted Landreth, Americans Abandoned produced by Red McDaniel, Numerous Newsday articles by Sydney H. Schanberg, Soldiers of Misfortune: Washington's Secret Betrayal of American POWs in the Soviet Union by James D. Sanders, Mark A. Sauter, and Cort Kirkwood, Moscow Bound: Policy, Politics and the POW/MIA Dilemma by John M. G. Brown, The Men We Left Behind: Henry Kissinger, the Politics of Deceit and the Tragic Fate of POWs After the Vietnam War by Mark Sauter and Jim Sanders, Last Seen Alive: The Search for Missing POWs from the Korean War by Laurence Jolidon, Left Behind and One Returned radio interview tapes produced by Dr. Stanley Monteith, The Medusa File by Craig Roberts, Leading the Way and Everything We Had by Al Santoli, Why Didn't You Get Me Out by Frank Anton, Spite House: The Last Secret of the War in Vietnam by Monika Jensen-Stevenson, Code-Name Bright Light George J. Veith,: One Day Too Long: Top Secret Site 85 and the Bombing of North Vietnam by Timothy N. Castle, Trails of Deceit by Larry O'Daniel, Korean Atrocity: Forgotten War Crimes by Philip D. Chinnery, Left Behind and One Returned radio interview tapes produced by Dr. Stanley Monteith, and Betrayed by Joseph D. Douglass, Jr.
Learn the Truth
We should not have to become experts in the field of abandonment, but we are. We should not have to become versed in FBIS transmissions, but we do. We should not have to become versed in DoD Message Center Traffic, but we do. We should not have to become versed in NSA radio intercepts of enemy traffic, but we do. We should not have to become scholars of the testimony given to the Select Committee on POW/MIA Affairs, but we have. We should not have to understand the intricacies of satellite imagery analysis, but we have. We should not have to understand the differences of certainty ratings of the NPIC, but we have.
Because if we do not become experts in the field of abandonment, versed in FBIS transmissions or DoD Message Traffic or NSA Radio intercepts of enemy traffic, or scholars of the testimony given to the Select Committee on POW/MIA Affairs, or understand the intricacies of satellite imagery analysis or understand the differences of certainty ratings of the NPIC, then the Defense POW/MIA Office will be able to debunk any and all information pertaining to the survival of Americans abandoned or the cooperation of SE Asian countries on the repatriation of remains of American servicemen.
That is their job. They sound much better at it than we do. They have had an abundance of practice at it. They can devote huge resources to spin control, while we must live within our meager budgets. This is where you commit yourself to education. The following is a list of books that should be read in order for you to understand exactly what has transpired. These books show how our servicemen and some civilians were abandoned after the US pullout of Vietnam.
An Untold Story
D.E. Bordenkircher as told to
Library of Congress 97-93396
Copyright © 1998 by S.A. Bordenkircher
Con Son Island, a South Vietnamese penal colony in the South China Sea is the major setting for this book which highlights the total betrayal of American efforts in Vietnam by Americans from home.
Don Bordenkircher, a Corrections Department professional was hired in 1967 from the administrative ranks of San Quentin Prison by the United States Agency for International Development - Office of Public Safety, (USAID/OPS), as Senior Advisor to the South Vietnamese Director of Corrections and his forty-one correctional centers. One of which was Con Son Island. He would spend the next five years in this capacity. His mission was simple: Teach the South Vietnamese how to operate a humane correctional program and it would send a message to the North which may have reciprocated by treating our POWs humanely.
While the mission statement may have been simple, the mission was not- -and this was not due to South Vietnamese resistance toward humane treatment of prisoners.
William Colby, Tom Harkin, Don Luce and the world press, especially the American press, all play a major part in betraying the true US effort and one must wonder if power, greed or 15 minutes of fame were the culprits. This book may not be about American Prisoners of War, but yet it is as much about them as it is about betrayal. For in the end, there is the factor that if South Vietnam treated its incarcerated poorly, then North Vietnam would retaliate.
For a more detailed review, click on the jacket of the book.
Code Name Bright Light
The Untold Story
of U.S. POW Rescue Efforts
During the Vietnam War
George J. Veith
The Free Press
a div. of Simon & Schuster, Inc.
Copyright © 1998 by George J. Veith
When one thinks of American Rescue attempts during the Vietnam War, the immediate picture of the Son Tay raid comes to mind. Jay Veith painstakingly details the many efforts of the US Military to rescue US Prisoners of War during the Vietnam War.
From MACV-SOG to the advent of the Joint Personnel Recovery Center through the frustrations of non cooperation from the US Ambassador to Laos to the interservice rivalries to the withholding of intelligence by the Central Intelligence Agency.
This book will reveal the culprits behind the POW/MIA issue as well as some heroes who truly tried to do everything within their power to capitalize on intelligence and effect the rescue of Americans held captive.
Veith also touches upon something that the PoW/MIA Forum together with the Northwest Veterans Newsletter are exploring: Were the Communist Vietnamese informed of US war effort operations, including attempts to rescue American POWs, before the fact? Toward the end of this book Veith tells us that in excess of 200 POWs were moved just prior to one such rescue attempt.
For a more detailed review, click on the jacket of the book.
Why Didn't You Get Me Out?
Frank Anton, with Tommy Denton
The Summit Publishing Group, Arlington TX
Copyright © 1997 The Summit Publishing Group
This is one of the most powerful books that has ever come out! The author, Frank Anton, is a former POW who was held in the jungle POW camps in South Vietnam. Yes, South Vietnam. Warrant Officer Anton was on a routine chopper mission in January of 1968 when he was shot down. What followed was a little over 5 years of hell.
Frank has drawn renderings of the five POW jungle camps that he was held in, and these renderings are in his book. This book could easily have been named, "Hidden In Plain Sight," because these jungle POW camps were within miles of US firebases and/or camps!
Anton was incarcerated with Bobby Garwood, the Marine Pfc. who returned to the United States in 1979. While Frank does not paint a flattering picture of Garwood, he has stated that he does not view Garwood as either a traitor or a hero--he views Bobby as a victim.
Anton's debrief was the longest of any returned Prisoner of War, (6 days), and the debrief revealed more about US intelligence on Prisoners of War during their captivity then you could imagine.
The book is a fast read and you cannot help but glean new respect for what these heroes went through. Frank deserves our respect and admiration and we are honored to be able to count him among our friends.
For a more in depth review, click on the jacket of the book.
The Last Secret of the
War in Vietnam
W.W. Norton & Company, New York
Copyright © 1997, Monika Jensen-Stevenson
Jensen-Stevenson became convinced while conducting research for her book, Kiss The Boys Goodbye, that Bobby Garwood had been victimized first by the Vietnamese that held him and then again by the government of the United States.
But little did Jensen-Stevenson suspect the extent in which the US Government would go. Does the term Phoenix Program mean anything to you? It will, once you have absorbed this book!
A Marine Lt. Colonel sought out Monika and told her his sordid tale. This tale is detailed in Spite House and takes you through a maze of military intelligence, assassination, contempt, remorse and redemption. It also makes you ask yourself why.
Why would a Marine motor pool driver, with just 10 days left to his tour, go A.W.O.L., desert to the enemy, and 6 years after the US pullout indicate to a foreigner that he was a POW who wanted to come home? It also makes you wonder why the US military was so intense when it came to Garwood.
But it is more than that. The book delves into black operations, assassinations after the US pullout, abandonment and betrayal. It details the lives of two very different people on a collision course; both of whom love the corp., God and country.
It is also seriously flawed. Jensen-Stevenson takes Garwood at his word without researching what he has told her. Indeed, there is an episode in the book where Garwood is singled out for torture by a doctor, who pulls out Garwood's toe nail. The doctor in question, an American POW, was repatriated to the US in 1973 during Operation Homecoming and subsequently testified against Garwood after Garwood's release in 1979.
The doctor read the book and filed suit against Jensen-Stevenson because he claims what he did was not torture; he merely fixed a painful ingrown toenail that Garwood was suffering from at the time. Interestingly, Garwood refused to give Jensen-Stevenson an affidavit for her defense and she ended up having to recant that portion of this book.
In another segment of the book, there is reference made to USMC snipers who were relieved of their weapons and given a special rifle to use in the field and then forced to return it after the mission. In effect what is being said is that these snipers, who rely on their weapons as we rely on the air we breath, were given untested weaponry in place of their own, sent on dangerous missions and returned the special weapon after use. I've spoken to many, many Marines; some of them snipers, who claimed that there is no way that this occurred.
While the book makes many good points, I would be remiss if I did not point out that it is flawed. Read it and take from it what you will. We did not prepare a further detailed review.
Leading the Way
How Vietnam Veterans
Rebuilt the US Military:
An Oral History
Ballantine Books, New York
div. of Random House
Copyright © 1993, Al Santoli
A Congressional aid to two US Representatives, former Vietnam Veteran Al Santoli has done an excellent job in proving that the Vietnam Veteran was instrumental in rebuilding the US Military.
From the jungles of SE Asia to the desert of Saudi Arabia to the no-fly zone of Iraq and the peace keeping mission in Bosnia, Santoli shows that a our military had risen like the Phoenix from the ashes of a post Vietnam War demoralized military to the technological wonder that we all witnessed during the Gulf War.
Whether or not Santoli meant to, there is some interesting POW/MIA information contained in this book as well. Pay Specific attention to Andrew Gembara's narrative.
For a more detailed review, click on the jacket.
The Men We Left Behind
Henry Kissinger, the Politics
of Deceit and the Tragic
Fate of POWs After the
Mark Sauter, Jim Sanders
National Press Books, Washington DC
Copyright © 1993 Mark Sauter and Jim Sanders
Sauter and Sanders team up again to bring us an explosion of evidence that men were left behind with the full knowledge of the United States Government. There is more evidence here that men were abandoned than the State of New Jersey had against Bruno Hauptman in the Lindbergh kidnapping...and they executed him!
America felt that a great weight was lifted from its shoulders when Henry Kissinger negotiated the end of the Vietnam War and President Nixon proclaimed that the negotiation was, "Peace with honor."
But honor had little to do with the fates of those that were summarily and wantonly abandoned. Through sheer detective work and intense research of the National Archives, as well as interviews with families of missing Americans, Sauter and Sanders exposes the treachery that was used in achieving peace with honor.
Here is an opportunity to learn how the US Government worked in collusion with its enemy to abandon the very people that had been sent by our government to SE Asia to protect democracy.
We did not prepare a more detailed review of this book.
Soldiers of Misfortune
Washington's Secret Betrayal
of American POWs In The
James D. Sanders, Mark A. Sauter
and R. Cort Kirkwood
National Press Books, Washington DC
Copyright © 1992, Sanders, Sauter & Kirkwood
Jim Sanders, Mark Sauter and Cort Kirkwood make the case that thousands of American Prisoners of War were systematically transferred to the Soviet Union.
A compellingly outrageous story of US POWs held captive by the Soviet Union as well as the Washington bureaucrats who have for over a half-century lied to the American public, not to mention the world! Their traitorous actions have kept the lid on the most disgraceful cover-up in the history of the United States that continues today!
Both Sanders and Sauter are investigative journalists and Sanders is a former law enforcement agent who is currently facing trial for his independent investigation into the TWA 800 fatal crash.
This book exposes that cover-up.
We did not prepare a more detailed review of this book.
Kiss The Boys Goodbye
How The United States
Betrayed Its Own POWs In Vietnam
Monika Jensen-Stevenson & William Stevenson
Plume Publishing, New York
Copyright © 1991 Monika Jensen-Stevenson
This is a comprehensive study of the entire POW/MIA from the inception of the issue. Monika Jensen-Stevenson, a former 60 Minutes producer, took five years to write this indictment of our military leaders, our politicians and the press. Monika uncovers deceit in government never before exposed.
From Operation Homecoming to the Baron 52 case to Bobby Garwood's return from Vietnam to his subsequent court martial, Jensen-Stevenson takes you on an odyssey of betrayal the magnitude of which is mind boggling.
For a more in depth review, click on the jacket of the book.
One Day Too Long
Top Secret Site 85
and the Bombing of North Vietnam
[Dr.] Timothy N. Castle
Columbia University Press, New York
Copyright © 1999 Columbia University Press
A riveting tale of heroism and patriotism, One Day Too Long tells the full story of a covert military operation in Laos that resulted in the largest ground combat loss of US Air Force personnel during the Vietnam War.
If you want to know what the term plausible deniability means, this book educates you succinctly. USAF personnel being "sheep dipped" and suddenly working for Lockheed Aircraft Corporation at a top secret location in Laos where they directed the bombing of North Vietnam. How the Vietnamese were so determined at taking this mountaintop TACAN site that they even attempted to toss bombs from a bi-plane and finally scaled almost 2,000 feet straight up to overtake the mountaintop.
A must read book! For a more detailed review, click on the jacket.
You Can Order Any of These Books From Here!
Ye Must Be Born Again!