Intelligence Reports:
"In spite of 1,400 unresolved reports of first-hand live-sightings, the Department of Defense, remarkably, still believes it has "no evidence." How does it dismiss these reports?"
The original plan of the Minority Staff was to review the U.S.government's handling and evaluation of "live-sighting reports." Such accounts are first-hand narratives by witnesses who believe that they have seen American military personnel alive in various locations. They provide tantalizing glimpses of POW/MIAs who then vanish into the mist of the bureaucratic nightmare. For example, American POW/MIAs from the Korean War were seen alive as late as 1982 in the censored CIA document (obtained under a FOIA request) dated 1988 which is reproduced on the opposite page. There is no reason to believe that this is the last report on North Korean POW/MIAs.

For Vietnam, the U.S. Government has at least 1,400 such reports, including reports that have been received in 1991; indeed, even, one is told, in the past few weeks. In addition, the U.S.Government has received thousands and thousands of second-hand reports--accounts often full of vivid detail, such as "my brother told me he saw 11 American POWs being transported in a truck at such and such a place."

Yes, amazingly, the U.S.Government has not judged a single one of these thousands of reports to be credible. Instead, the policy enunciated by an official statement of the U.S.Government in 1973 was that there was "no evidence that there were any more POWs still alive in all of Indochina." In spite of 1,400 unresolved reports of first-hand live-sightings, the Department of Defense, remarkably, still believes it has "no evidence." How does it dismiss these reports?

In reviewing hundreds of the raw intelligence files on the 1,400 reports, Minority Staff investigators found a predisposition by DOD evaluators to ignore corroborative evidence, and little interest to follow-up what normal searchers would consider as good leads. Many cases, of course, were quite properly disposed of.

Yet often DOD evaluators seemed more intent upon upholding the validity of the 1973 "no-evidence" statement, as though "no-evidence" were a policy rather than a description of fact.

It is contrary to common sense that all of the reports--all 1,400--are spurious, especially in the light of such obvious contradictions as the actual return of the unfortunate Private Robert Garwood in 1979.

Garwood was a battle casualty taken into custody by the North Vietnamese under fire. However, his court martial as a collaborator and deserter solved two problems for DOD: By bringing up the charges DOD sought to redefine his case as a voluntary expatriate and therefore not technically a prisoner--and it enabled DOD evaluators to dismiss fully two hundred of the live-sighting reports. Since Garwood reported that he had been moved from prison to prison, the faulty logic of DOD seemed to demand that any report from the prisons he cited must have been a sighting of Garwood. The policy that there was "no evidence" of living prisoners made it necessary to assume that other U.S. prisoners in those prisons could not exist.

Garwood was convicted of one count of simple assault on a fellow POW, one count of aiding the enemy by acting as a translator, interpreter, and interrogator, one count of wearing black pajamas--the enemy uniform--and one count of carrying an AK-47 (unloaded) during a patrol. Whether these convictions added up to meaningful collaboration with the enemy or not, it was not proved that he was a voluntary deserter. Nevertheless the living proof that the "no evidence" policy was not correct was thoroughly discredited.

Convenient as the Garwood case was for DOD, the embarrassment still remained. Garwood was alive. There had been a live-sighting report on him in 1973 after DOD had publicly issued the "no evidence" policy. Indeed, documents and witnesses available to the Minority Staff show that CIA and DIA knew of Garwood's whereabouts, as well as other so-called U.S.deserters in Vietnamese custody, after 1973.

And now the reports proved to be correct. Since Garwood was alive in Indochina from 1973 to 1979, DOD logic was saved by his court martial. As a "collaborator" he may have been in North Vietnamese custody in 1973, but he no longer fit the definition of "prisoner," and so the integrity of the 1973 policy statement remained unassailed. Nevertheless, Garwood, upon his return, reported seeing another presumed deserter, Earl C. Weatherman, alive in 1977. He stated also that a third presumed deserter, McKinley Nolan, was also alive after 1973. It may be assumed that Garwood was not reporting a live-sighting of Garwood in these cases.

Indeed, a list has circulated among POW/MIA families purporting to show that 20 U.S.personnel listed as deserters, or AWOL, were left in North Vietnamese custody after OPERATION HOMECOMING, the 1973 prisoner exchange. Four others are listed as disappearing under unexplained or unusual circumstances. The Minority Staff takes no position on the validity of this list, but does note that almost all of the individuals cited appear on a DIA alphabetic list entitled "U.S.Casualties in South East Asia," dated 2/26/80, but are conspicuously absent from a similar DIA list dated 8/22/84.

In the light of what appears to be a compelling need on the part of DOD to uphold the "no evidence" policy, the Minority Staff believes that, if even one POW who was detained in South East Asia is still alive, no resources of the U.S.Government should be spared to locate him and effect his return to the United States if he so desires.

In recent days, the Government of North Vietnam has announced that it is willing to open its territory to relatives to search for any POW/MIAs or their remains. While that is an encouraging development, DOD should reciprocate with a similar gesture. DOD should open its territory too. The files of live-sighting reports and second-hand reports should be made available to families of the POW/MIAs and to any qualified investigator, particularly to Senators, Members of Congress and their staffs.

Such openness has not, up to this time, characterized the operations of DOD's Special Office of POW/MIA Affairs. On February 12, the Director of that office, Col.Millard A.Peck wrote a letter of resignation to his superior decrying the mind-set of cover-up and the policies which prevented a vigorous search for POW/MIAs who might still be living.

Observers described Colonel Peck as a man who had accepted the position with high motives and a sense of deep dedication. Yet his letter shows that he felt that he could no longer fulfill the demands of duty, honor, and integrity under the policies which he was asked to implement.

Nevertheless, he did not rush to seek publicity for himself. Colonel Peck's resignation first became known and was discussed publicly at a meeting of the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations in early April, but his letter did not become public until May.

The full text of the colonel's letter appears in this report as the Epilogue. It is in itself a sufficient commentary on the findings of this report.

Colonel Peck confirms that a "cover-up" has been in progress. He speaks of a "mindset to debunk"--that is, to discredit witnesses rather than to ascertain the truth of their statements. he says that there was no effort to pursue "live sightings." He states that "any soldier left in Vietnam, even inadvertently, was, in fact, abandoned years ago." He also criticizes the U.S.government's treatment of the families and friends of the POW/MIAs.

These statements should be evaluated in the light of Colonel Peck's long career of faithful service in the U.S.Army, including three combat tours in Vietnam, for which he was awarded numerous medals of gallantry, including the nation's second-highest award, the Distinguished Service Cross. These are serious charges put forth by a man who knows their seriousness. Moreover, he is one of the few who have intimate knowledge of the way the U.S.Government's POW/MIA policy operates.

Finally, the Minority Staff notes that Colonel Peck's conclusions are remarkably similar to the conclusions which the staff arrived at independently, having worked for nearly a year before Colonel Peck was appointed to the POW/MIA office. Out only acquaintance with him was during the few days in which his superiors allowed only Senator Grassley and staff to review live-sighting reports under strict constraints. Because of the atmosphere of tension surrounding these issues in the Executive Branch, our observations were limited to the fact that Colonel Peck was a competent professional acting according to his instructions. We now know in addition that he is a person of sound judgment and integrity.


The Department of Defense (DOD) has been gathering reports on live sightings of American prisoners since the United States became involved in the war in Southeast Asia. First-hand live-sighting reports are defined as eye-witness accounts of a person or persons whom the witness believes to be an American POW or American POWs seen in captivity in Southeast Asia.

The DOD states that is has received in excess of 1,300 first-hand live-sighting reports since the end of the Second Indochina War (1955-1975). With the exception of a very small percentage of live-sighting reports that remain "unresolved," DOD has concluded that the vast majority of live-sighting reports do not pertain to any American POWs still in Southeast Asia. Given DOD's record of disproving these hundreds of live-sighting reports, there is little reason to assume that the few live sighting reports that are still "unresolved" will ever be determined by DOD to be valid eye-witness accounts of American POWs.

In the opinion of staff, many of the "resolved" live-sighting reports should be re-examined. There are numerous instances in which the Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA) explains away the validity of a report with a flawed or, at least, questionable analysis. Among the common explanations used by DIA to resolve live-sighting reports are the following: that a particular report in question is:

1)a fabrication;

2)a sighting of Soviet, Cuban, or other East bloc advisors;

3)a sighting of volunteers from Western countries working in Southeast Asia;

4)a pre-1979 sighting of Robert Garwood, the American POW who returned in 1979 and was, later, convicted of collaborating with the enemy;

5)a sighting of American civilians detained for various violations of the Vietnamese criminal code;

6)a sighting debunked or discredited--in other words, disregarded-- because the source's statement was found to be inconsistent with information DOD considered to be factual; or,

7)an out-of-date sighting of POWs who were repatriated during OPERATION HOMECOMING (1973).

Many times such rationales are valid for particular reports; however, the same explanations are also used in a rigid, bureaucratic manner in order to resolve reports and close the files. Staff reviewed hundreds of classified and declassified live-sighting reports. In the opinion of staff, many live-sighting reports were closed prematurely and disregarded when minimal additional effort may have resolved the veracity of live-sighting reports.

In some instances, the analysis and conclusion that these sightings do not refer to American prisoners cannot be supported by the contents of the respective files. The findings, in these cases, were premature or, worse, could not be supported by the facts of the case. Moreover, DIA's analysis in a general sense reflects an approach by DOD that appears to be geared toward disproving each live-sighting report, rather than each report receiving, as proscribed by official DOD policy, the "necessary priority and resources based on the assumption that at least some Americans are still held captive."

Thus, DOD has been able to construct a rationale to discredit "officially: nearly each and every live-sighting report. Staff found instances where DOD merely excluded from its analysis certain details of a valid sighting, such as a source's statement about the number of POWs sighted, their physical condition, a description of the camp or cave they were held in, whether they were shackled, or, whether they were gesturing for food; and by the exclusion of such corroborating details, the report could be labeled a fabrication. Furthermore, the exclusion of these details would not be known to anyone reading just the summary of the live-sighting report, or even by reading DOD's analysis of the report. Only by reading the "raw intelligence" can one learn such details.

DIA's greatest effort at corroborating a source's report is directed at the source's information about themselves, the source's description of the location of the live-sighting, and the source's explanation of how and when the sighting occurred. Great effort was not expended, however, to corroborate whether American POWs were in fact being held prisoner, or were working in or being transported through a particular location.

Any slight indicators of what DOD felt was an inconsistency in the source's description of the time, location, or circumstances of the sighting was used by DIA to erode, and therefore disprove the credibility of the source and/ or the source's live-sighting report is disregarded. It should also be noted that the debunking of such reports was not confined just to allegations of inconsistencies in the source's information; some live sighting accounts were dismissed for what, in the opinion of staff, seems to be dysfunctional analytical reasoning.

Once an analyst makes a conclusion, it seems to be cut in stone. In other words, the DIA is reluctant to change its conclusions concerning some individuals even when reliable evidence to the contrary is presented for review. Although it is obvious that the reliability of sources varies, it appears that DIA starts with the premise that every source is lying, and then works toward substantiating that premise. A more positive procedure would be to make every possible effort to substantiate the information before setting it aside.

One example of DIA's debunking mentality is illustrated by the case of U.S. Navy pilot LCDR James E.Dooley. Dooley was shot down, October 22, 1967, conducting a bombing run near Hanoi flying an A-4E aircraft. He crashed just south of Do Son, Haiphong Province, Democratic Republic of Vietnam (North Vietnam). Fellow pilots saw Dooley's aircraft after it was hit, watching it go down gradually until it hit about one mile offshore in the vicinity of Do Son. They did not see him eject from the aircraft. Limited observation by fellow pilots, weather, and the swiftness of the indecent may have led to some confusion over whether or not Dooley survived the crash of his aircraft.

Dooley is officially listed as KIA-BNR. Dooley was not returned or accounted for during OPERATION HOMECOMING in 1973. In 1987, a North Vietnamese refugee was interviewed by U.S. intelligence personnel at a refugee camp. The refugee described the shootdown of an American jet aircraft he witnessed in 1968 while in the area of Do Son, Haiphong Province. According to the source, he saw the pilot bail out with a tricolored parachute and try to swim out to sea to escape capture. The pilot fired a pistol at his pursuers before being captured. The refugee said, the captured pilot was stripped of his one-piece flight suit, placed in the sidecar of a motorcycle, driven across Do Son airfield and taken away by North Vietnamese officials to a waiting Chinese automobile.

An early DOD evaluation of the fisherman's information concluded the fisherman probably witnessed the shootdown of a Navy pilot named J.M.Hickerson, who was shot down two months after Dooley in the same general area of Dooley's shootdown. Hickerson was captured, and repatriated from North Vietnam in 1973.

However, after OPERATION HOMECOMING, information that Dooley was alive began to surface. In 1073, a U.S. POW who had been repatriated said he saw Dooley's name written on the wall of a prison cell in Hanoi. Two Thai special forces soldiers released from North Vietnamese custody in 1973 identified Dooley's photograph as a fellow inmate. Finally, a Communist propaganda photograph of captured U.S. pilots in Hanoi, dated after Dooley was shot down, shows a partial profile of a person that strongly resembles Dooley.

In April 1989, former POW Hickerson, in a written statement, described the details of his parachute landing and capture. Hickerson was disturbed that the fisherman's eyewitness account of the shoot down of an American Navy pilot was wrongly attributed to his shoot down. In his statement, Hickerson pointed out that he landed on the inside of the peninsula at Do Son, and therefore, he could not have been swimming out to sea when he was captured, as the fisherman described. Furthermore, Hickerson wrote, he did not fire his pistol before capture, as the fisherman described. Hickerson stated that his parachute was all white, not tricolored as the fisherman stated. Hickerson further stated that when he was shot down he wore a Marine utility uniform, consisting of pants and shirt, not a one piece flight suit as the fisherman described. Finally, Hickerson was taken to prison riding on the back of a bicycle, not in a jeep as the fisherman described.

Despite these sharply contrasting differences between the actual events of Hickerson's capture, and the fisherman's description of the shoot-down he witnessed, DOD refused to change its original conclusion that the captive witnessed by the fisherman was Hickerson. The fisherman may indeed have witnessed a capture, but the description of events more closely resembles the capture of Dooley, not Hickerson. In other words, a significant question remains: was Hickerson's shoot-down correlated to the fisherman's live-sighting report--despite the significant factual discrepancies between the two events--only because Hickerson was repatriated, and therefore the fisherman's live-sighting could be "resolved"?

In a message dated April 10, 1987, the Joint Casualty Resolution Center at Barbers Point sent an evaluation of the Dooley file to the National Security Council (Col.Childress), noting Dooley was listed in a "presumptive status of dead, body not recovered." The message says that Dooley's case was presented to North Vietnamese officials in August 1984 as a case under consideration during a POW/MIA technical meeting in Hanoi. What was the status of the JCRC inquiry in 1984? Were they looking for remains, or were they trying to ascertain the fate of a person believed to have been a POW in Hanoi's custody and not accounted for?

As with a number of cases in JCRC's files, there are conflicts. It is not known how many potential cases of mismatch in casualty incident information there are in DOD files. The Dooley case is but one example of questionable analysis of live-sighting information by DOD of unaccounted-for airmen and soldiers from the Second Indochina War.


Beyond the problem of flawed, or questionable analysis are more fundamental problems. Staff has identified numerous weaknesses in the methodology and procedures for collecting and analyzing information from refugees. These weaknesses may be found in the procedures for soliciting the information, follow-up interviews, mobilization of adequate manpower, weak linguistic capabilities, the improper methodology for identification of sources; and the failure in many cases to obtain native language statements from sources during initial contact.

The primary responsibility for collecting this information originally rested with the JCRC, a Joint Chiefs of Staff organization within DOD. Presently, that responsibility rests with DIA. After the fall of the Republic of Vietnam (South Vietnam) government in 1975, JCRC offices were stationed within Thailand to carry out this mission.

In Thailand, the procedure for collecting POW information was as follows: JCRC officials, depending on the availability of resources, traveled to various refugee centers to collect information on purported live-sightings of U.S.POWs within Laos, Vietnam and Cambodia. At each refugee camp, JCRC officers would make announcements in the camps requesting that any refugees who have knowledge of American POWs should report, at a certain time, to a certain location, for debriefing. On occasion, volunteer workers at refugee camps, when initially processing the arriving refugees, would also elicit such information, and report it to JCRC.

The problem with this procedure is that it depends too much upon the initiative of frightened, confused refugees, who have been traumatized by their experience of fleeing their country, and are deeply suspicious of any governmental authority, even one that is trying to help them. The practice of making a general announcement--often referred to contemptuously by government officials as the "cattle call," with the subsequent interviews as the "round-up" could easily be seen as a threat or danger signal to anyone who had contact with American POWs; contrariwise, it might suggest to a refugee with a manipulative mind that providing information, even if false, might be a way to get ahead in the refugee resettlement system. In the first case, opportunities to get valid reports are lost through fear; in the second, false reports are encouraged.

A more effective method is the so-called "canvassing method." Each refugee is asked questions about possible POW sightings as part of their initial refugee processing, thereby making it unnecessary for a prospective informant to stand out publicly, and lowering the threshold of resistance to discussing the topic. However, the canvassing method requires that JCRC personnel be stationed within easy reach of the refugee camps, a practice which was not followed.

Another failure in collecting information from refugees involves follow-ups to initial interviews. Follow-up procedures require JCRC officials to conduct interviews once a source indicates having information pertaining to American POWs still in Southeast Asia. The information would then be sent to DIA for analysis and follow-up interviews, if necessary. Originally, DIA provided to the JCRC staff additional questions to be asked; however, since JCRC did not have adequate manpower to cover the number of refugees pouring out of Laos, Cambodia (Kampuchea), and Vietnam, this procedure was not followed.

In excess of 300,000 Asian refugees fled from these countries; yet JCRC staff never exceeded thirty-four officials in number on-site in Southeast Asia. The cumbersome nature of this procedure impeded the timeliness of the follow-up interviews. As a result, the information collected was dated and, therefore, its usefulness was diminished.

Limited manpower and the methodology used for both initial and follow-up interviews were major weaknesses in JCRC's collection procedures. Initially, this limitation was especially true of the shortage of trained linguists. Indeed, DOD recognized this problem and sought to increase manpower. In 1987, DIA groups were established throughout Southeast Asia to collect POW information first-hand. This effort was code-named "STONEY BEACH." The program added greatly to the quality, quantity and timeliness of information provided by the refugees.

The STONEY BEACH program enabled subsequent debriefings of refugees to be conducted in a more comprehensive manner. Unfortunately, once information was obtained, no effort was spared to utilize other intelligence methods available to corroborate selected content of the live-sighting report.


Notwithstanding numerous government documents available under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA), documents in public archives, and published works, most of the extensive covert military operations throughout Southeast Asia between 1955 and 1975 remain classified. As a result, DOD's list of U.S.personnel lost while on covert, or "black" military operations in Southeast Asia (i.e. Laos, Cambodia, Thailand, North Vietnam, South Vietnam, Burma, and the southern provinces of the Peoples Republic of China) is highly suspect.

As a result, this precludes a presentation of evidence that the lists of POW/MIA and KIA-BNR from Southeast Asia are skewed as a result of withholding of casualty counts from black operations. But the continued effort by the U.S. government to keep records of these operations classified, or to withhold information related to these operations under FOIA exemptions tends to indicate information on U.S. casualties related to these activities may not be accurate. An early 1970s Senate hearing on military operations on Southeast Asia was given classified information on losses from classified operations in Southeast Asia, but that information remains classified and it not included in this report.

Needless to say, the covert nature of classified operations has to remain secure even when personnel involved disappear. According to sources interviewed for this report, if an individual on a covert military or intelligence operation is lost--becomes an unrecovered casualty, i.e. either captured or KIA-BNR-he might be declared dead immediately (KIA-BNR); or he might be listed MIA, followed by a presumptive finding of death issued after 12 months elapsed. According to these sources, benign cover stories were sometimes prepared to explain the disappearance of individuals lost on covert or classified missions in Southeast Asia to reflect a MIA or KIA-BNR status. If such a cover story remains as the official account of such casualties, then it would impact on any future evaluations of an individual casualty file because the official case file contains erroneous information as to circumstances or location of the casualty.

One source interviewed alleges that, in order to protect the existence of some classified operations conducted during the Second Indochina War, U.S. casualties from these operations may have been explained away as training accidents in an entirely different geographic location (e.g., Thailand or Okinawa), or as battle losses in areas of South Vietnam even though the loss occurred in another Indochina location (e.g., Laos,Cambodia,or North Vietnam). If casualty information has been manipulated, as alleged by some people, to protect the secrecy of special operations, then what guarantee is there of oversight of accountability for U.S. personnel who were declared KIA-BNR or MIA from such covert operations???

Due to the classified nature of these covert or special warfare missions, there exist no easily accessible records of those involved in these missions; therefore, "presumptive findings of death" might be based upon faulty date in such individual case files. Or, perhaps if the review boards for individual casualty cases for persons lost during classified operations in Southeast Asia had access to the true circumstances of the loss, they might be able to make an absolute finding of death in some cases rather than prolonging the agony of the survivors by publishing faulty findings based on circumstances contrived to conceal covert operations.

In order to arrive at a true accounting for U.S.personnel from "black" operations in Southeast Asia, the following fundamental questions must be answered:

1)When did the United States begin covert operations in Southeast Asia?

2)Which U.S.agencies or military departments participated in such operations?

3)How many U.S.citizens served in Southeast Asia on classified operations during those years?

4)What were the losses of personnel in these operations?

5)Where did the losses occur?

6)What efforts have been made to account for those persons who failed to return from the classified missions?

The extent of United States covert operations in Southeast Asia identifiable through nonclassified, or declassified sources indicated a large number of U.S. military and civilian personnel were lost on these missions. DOD has publicly stated, after release of this investigations's Interim Report last October, all personnel lost on covert missions during the Second Indochina War are on the public casualty lists and that there is no secret list of casualties from covert operations in Southeast Asia.

However, sources interviewed by staff indicated otherwise. Are the public versions of these lists accurate as to the time, date, place, and status of the individuals engaged in classified operations when lost? Are survivors from classified operations the source of live-sighting reports of American POWs in Laos? There is reason to question DOD further on this problem of losses related to classified or covert operations in Southeast Asia.

One case in point if the March 11, 1968 combat loss of a U.S. Air Force communications/navigation site located on top of Phou Pha Thi, Sam Neua Province, Laos, known as Site 85. Eleven personnel lifted out by an Air America helicopter during the battle, the remaining eleven personnel manning the site that day are officially listed KIA-BNR.

The site was classified, its mission classified, and the circumstances of these March 1968 battle casualties remained classified for many years. Even today, much of the information related to Site 85's equipment, purpose, effectiveness, and battle loss is still classified.

The site provided the Air Force with all-weather capabilities for bombing Hanoi and Haiphong, North Vietnam. Its primary electronic navigation system was known by the acronym TACAN. The site was identified with a nearby classified landing strip operated under CIA covert funding and known as Lima Site 85. The former Air Force TACAN site on Phou Pha Thi is generally referred to as "Site 85."

Site 85 was built in 1967, over the objections of the U.S.Ambassador to Laos, and manned by a hand-picked team of Air force technicians in 1968. The Air Force technicians for Site 85, listed as Lockheed Aircraft Systems employees on paper, had been discharged from military and were paid through Lockheed. The Air Force promised that their service credit would be restored once their classified mission was completed. This cover was necessary to avoid violating the provisions of the 1962 Geneva Peace Accords for Laos prohibiting foreign military presence in Laos.

Almost immediately after the March 10-11 attack on Phou Pha Thi, the indigenous forces, Thai and Hmong, providing security to the site were ordered to destroy it with heavy weapons fire before leaving the mountain top on March 11. These U.S. sponsored, CIA led indigenous guerrilla troops carried out their orders. To insure the complete destruction of the site, American A-1 aircraft in Laos attacked the site with rocket and machine gun fire.

After the successful Communist attack on the mountain site, the U.S.Ambassador to Laos declared the eleven missing Air Force personnel dead. No U.S. bodies were recovered or, for the most part, none identifiable with this group were seen after the attack. Finally, U.S. jet fighters were brought in from out of country to finish the destruction of the mountain site with bombs and rockets. On March 12, 1968, the U.S. indigenous guerrilla force from the mountain site were all accounted for at a rendezvous point. They had no Site 85 survivors from Phou Pha Thi with them.

However, the Thai sergeant in charge of the indigenous guerrilla force guarding Site 85 told Committee staff that three of the Air Force technicians at the TACAN site were taken prisoner by the North Vietnamese/Pathet Lao attacking force. He gave this information to American intelligence officers in 1968.

A review of POW live-sighting documents, declassified under FOIA rules and released in 1978, contain reports that three American prisoners were brought to a village near Phou Pha Thi by North Vietnamese troops about the time of the attack on Phou Pha Thi. Documents from these files also refer to Americans held in the caves near Phou Pha Thi, while other caves in Sam Neua were used by Pathet Lao, North Vietnamese, and advisers from the Peoples Republic of China.

Throughout the declassified POW files used by this staff, it was not uncommon to see reports that American prisoners were seen in these caves in Sam Neua Province. Since no bodies were ever recovered from Phou Pha Thi by U.S.forces, and there are no eyewitnesses to say that all eleven missing men were killed in the battle.

The Air Force officer in command of Site 85 and other similar activities in Laos was at the unit's Udorn, Thailand headquarters when Site 85 was overrun. According to him, he was told that destruction of Site 85 was not attempted until after there was reasonable evidence that no Americans were still alive on the mountain top.

But a declassified CIA report of the incident shows the destruction of the site by the indigenous guerrilla force and American A-1 aircraft was started almost immediately. The jet aircraft bombing of Site 85 on March 12 was a day or more sooner than what the former commander believed to be the truth. According to reports of the loss of Site 85, aerial photos taken on March 11 and 12, 1968 show bodies on the ground, but the bodies cannot be identified as non-Asian or, U.S. military personnel assigned to Phou Pha Thi.

In September 1990, an Air Force captain traveling in Laos while conducting research related to his doctoral study arranged to interview a Pathet Lao general officer. During the interview, the Lao officer claimed to have taken part in the March 10-11, 1968 assault on Site 85. The Lao officer, told the Air Force captain that three U.S.Air Force technicians survived the Phou Pha Thi mountain battle in 1968 and were turned over to North Vietnamese troops for further transport to North Vietnam.

This information corroborates the Thi sergeant's report that three U.S. personnel were captured during the battle for Site 85.

In view of this most recent information on survivors from Site 85, the prisoner of war intelligence reports concerning three Americans seen at a village near Phou Pha Thi after the attack on Site 85 and other POE reports for that time period need to be reviewed and reevaluated to determines if any of them pertain to the Site 85 personnel. If three men survived the battle at Site 85, why haven't they been accounted for by the North Vietnamese? What was their actual fate? Given that no prisoners were ever repatriated from Pathet Lao control this incident takes on ever greater significance.

The Air Force losses at Site 85 are only one example of the controversy over U.S. casualties in Southeast Asia as a result of covert, or classified military operations. Cross-border operations by U.S. Special Forces (SF), Army Long Range Reconnaissance Patrol (LRRP), and Marine Force Recon sometimes resulted in their members never being seen or heard from again. Air Force air support operations in Laos under the name of the "Ravens" resulted in numerous casualties, while members of the Ravens were officially listed as "civilians" serving in Laos. Navy SEAL, swift boat, or riverine force operations into North Vietnam, Laos, or Cambodia remain classified, including their non-re- covered casualties. The so-called "black operations" undertaken by DOD organizations, the Department of State, and the CIA in Indochina are still not openly discussed by veterans. Moreover, military history monographs and a number of other books have been published on Navy Riverine Forces in Southeast Asia, but preliminary research show the true story of these shallow draft boats is still buried in U.S.Navy files.

Who has accounted for their battle casualties and how accurate are those records? In addition to the military operations, there is ample evidence of Americans participating as civilians in covert operations, or classified activities outside of the Republic of Vietnam (e.g.,Air America, Continental Air Services, CIA para-military operations), who accounts for those losses resulting from such "civilian" activities?

U.S. military and civilian losses in Southeast Asia during the entire period of the Second Indochina War must be reviewed for accuracy, as well as a means of providing information to the next of kin of these battle casualties. DIA, in its news release concerning the Interim Report released by Committee staff in October 1990, asserted that ALL American casualties are accounted for on its list of MIA, POW, or KIA-BNR for the war in Southeast Asia. Without cross checking between operational reports from covert and/or classified missions and unclassified casualty lists, this will remain an open question.


Two methods are used to account for missing Americans in Southeast Asia. One is the statutory presumptive finding of death in individual cases; the other is categorizing casualties as Killed in Action-Body Not Recovered (KIA-BNR). In either case, when human remains are repatriated from Southeast Asia, they are identified against persons in these two categories. When an identification is accounted for as having died while in Indochina War zone.

Individually, members of the military services, or U.S.Government employees who were missing while serving in Indochina and remain unaccounted for, can be declared dead by the secretary of the military service or head of the government agency responsible for that individual. Basically, the U.S.Code permits the secretaries and/or heads of agencies to declare an individual dead after the person has been missing for 12 months under circumstances indicating he or she may have died. Each case is decided on its own merits and cases may be reopened if sufficient evidence is presented indicating the individual may still be alive, although not physically returned to U.S. control.

Both presumptive findings of death, and KIA-BNR status strongly prejudice subsequent evaluations of live-sighting information. For example, live-sighting information is much more likely to be disregarded in the field as a result of an individual having been already assigned to one of the legal status of death categories without identifiable human remains to substantiate the status.

Supposedly, KIA-BNR status has stricter evidence criteria than does a presumptive finding of death. However, even KIA-BNR status has its problems when it comes to accounting for missing Americans in Indochina. Two illustrative cases of KIA-BNR problems--that were NOT among classified files reviewed by staff--follow.

In one case, a Vietnamese source identified the picture of a U.S. Marine as a person he saw in the custody of North Vietnamese forces. However, the U.S. official debriefing the source concluded the source was mistaken because the Marine identified in the photograph by the Vietnamese source was officially listed as KIA-BNR. As a result of the U.S.official's conclusion, this live-sighting report is considered to be "resolved". Since even in the extremely short Gulf War, Americans officially reported to be killed in battle were in fact captured, and later repatriated by the Iraqis, it is likely that some servicemen reported to be KIA-BNR were in fact captured.

In another case, a U.S. serviceman who was reportedly last seen wounded on a Vietnam battlefield was subsequently listed as KIA-BNR. But a year afterward, he had to be reclassified as POW when a handwritten letter from him, dated after his presumed death, was found on the body of a dead Viet Cong soldier in South Vietnam. The letter was addressed to the serviceman's family and talked of life in a Viet Cong prison camp. Based on this information, the Marine Corps changed the corporal's status to POW and promoted him in absentia to sergeant. At the conclusion of OPERATION HOMECOMING in 1973 he was not repatriated. Since then, based on a lack of evidence that he is alive, the serviceman has been found, presumptively, to be dead.


Part of DOD's solution to "resolve" POW/MIA or KIA-BNR cases is to identify recovered remains of individuals from Southeast Asia, and match those remain with unaccounted-for or missing Americans on the Vietnam-era casualty lists. However, the Committee has reviewed numerous cases that pieces of bone, or bone fragments were the basis for the identification of the remains of POW/MIA or KIA-BNR cases. These cases, if measured against court room body identification and death evidence criteria, would not be acceptable in court proceedings, except to infer, or to provide circumstantial evidence that something happened to a human being (s) at that location. Furthermore, a scientific evaluation of remains identification methodology used by DOD can be most politely described as not being based on any known and accepted forensic procedures.

In many cases, remains identified by DOD show that there is a probability that such remains are likely of the persons thought to have perished at a particular place. This determination is further complicated since individual skeletal were consumed by natural or in some cases, manmade forces. However, proof that bone fragments belonging to an individual were recovered is sorely lacking in many instances.

In some cases, DOD has made "identifications" of individual servicemen based on less than a handful of bone FRAGMENTS. Further, in some cases, this finding was made by DOD, despite live-sighting reports that some of the individuals declared dead, and their remains "identified" at a crash site, were seen in captivity after the supposed date of death.

For example, on October 5, 1990, at Arlington National Cemetery, DOD buried the "remains" (bone fragments) of four U.S.servicemen presumed to have died when a helicopter crashed in Laos during the war. These remains were buried with full-military honors. Then, their names were taken from the unaccounted- for-list, and added to the list of those accounted for from the Second Indo- china War. However, according to family members, and admitted by DOD, two of the caskets of "remains" contained no bones at all--no physical matter, whatsoever. The two coffins were empty.

The burial charade was based on specious deductive DOD procedures. The air- craft manifest for that flight listed four American military personnel and nine South Vietnamese troops on board the helicopter when it crashed in Laos. Based upon the flight manifest documentation, identification of a ring belonging to one of the Americans on the flight, and supposed positive identification of two teeth (one each allegedly identified for the two persons whose caskets had bone fragments in them), each of these cases were closed with everyone accounted for and buried with full military honors at Arlington National Cemetery.

Scientifically, these remains buried October 5, 1990 were not identifiable by any known or accepted forensic analysis. In the statements released to the press at the time of these "burials" DOD referred to "remains" and new cases "accounted for." Clearly, the implication in these statements is that physical remains had been recovered and restored to the families of the servicemen. Yet that is not what DOD means. DOD obviously has its own language, its own definitions of ordinary words, and its own purposes--mainly "resolving" cases--to be served.

Furthermore, there is some information that at least one of the four Americans may have survived the helicopter crash in Laos, but his actual death took place much later and he was buried at the Pathet Lao prison camp in which he was being held. In 1986, a Laotian eyewitness, a member of the Royal Laotian Army, reported that he had been imprisoned with Captain Nelson--one of the four "buried" at Arlington National Cemetery. The Laotian stated that he nursed Captain Nelson until he died, and that he was the one who buried Nelson. The Laotian identified a photograph of Captain Nelson, and provided DOD specific locations, geographical details as well as a hand-drawn map of the camp, with Nelson's grave site marked. Although the Laotian's report did indeed confirm the death, the death was not the result of being killed inaction. Moreover, the alternate explanation of his death revealed the flaws in DOD methodology. Despite this evidence, DOD made a determination that the Laotian was not credible, and closed the case.


Another problem in identification arises from the Vietnamese practice of warehousing remains of U.S.POWs for purposes of barter. In 1979, a former North Vietnamese government official, commonly referred to as "The Mortician," defected to the United States. The Mortician testified before the United States Congress that he was personally responsible for preserving and storing in excess of 400 remains of American servicemen. The United States Defense Intelligence Agency, uncharacteristically, has publicly vouched for The Mortician's credibility with regard to his statement that he cared for the U.S.remains. These remains are warehoused in Hanoi.

To date, since the end of hostilities with North Vietnam, only 255 sets of remains of U.S. servicemen have been returned to the United States. Many of these remains have been recovered as the result of "joint-excavations" of plane and helicopter crash sites by United States and Vietnamese government personnel. Characteristic of the complete lack of cooperation the Minority Staff of the United States Senate Committee on Foreign Relations has received from the Executive branch throughout in this inquiry, DOD has consistently refused to give the Committee the number of U.S.remains, out of the total 255, that have been excavated despite the Committee's repeated requests for this information.

Given the statement of The Mortician, it is apparent that the Vietnamese have not returned many of the remains of U.S. servicemen in their possession. Even assuming that every one of the 255 remains returned to the United States was from the Vietnamese warehoused stock--which the Committee knows is not the case--they would still have 145 remains stored in Hanoi.

While this policy of doling out remains of U.S. servicemen, one set at a time, in an on-again off-again fashion, may be repugnant to Americans, it accurately reflects the Vietnamese government's ideology, history, and the repatriation policies of its Communist allies.


The responsibility for forensic identification of remains of U.S. Armed Forces personnel in the Pacific theater rests with the Army Central Identification Laboratory, Hawaii (CIL-HI). According to DOD, by early 1990 CIL-HI had identified 255 sets of repatriated remains from Indochina as the remains of U.S. personnel unaccounted for from the Second Indochina War. For a number of years, CIL-HI has been identifying remains of missing U.S.personnel from the Korean War and World War II's Pacific Theater still being discovered or, in a recent case, returned by foreign governments.

A prominent physical anthropologist, Dr.Michail Charney, Professor Emeritus, at the University of Colorado and an internationally recognized expert in the science of forensics has conducted an extensive review of physical remains "identified" as missing Americans from Southeast Asia by CIL-HI. He concluded that it was scientifically impossible to have identified the cases he reviewed from the bone fragments returned to the next of kin.

In fact, according to Charney, the misidentification of these individuals had to be intentional, since there was no scientific basis to make any type of identification. Dr.Charney has reviewed CIL-HI's identification of remains in many other cases. According to Dr.Charney, CIL-HI has falsely identified as many as eighty separate sets of remains of U.S. servicemen previously listed as MIA or KIA-BNR.

Dr.Charney has levied these serious charges against CIL-HI both publicly and to Committee staff. Dr. Charney states,

This facility [CIL-HI], entrusted with the analysis of mostly skeletonized remains of our servicemen and women in the identification process, is guilty of unscientific, unprofessional work. The administrative and technical personnel have engaged knowingly in deliberate distortion of details deduced from the bones to give credibility to otherwise impossible identification.

Dr.Charney also went on to say that CIL-HI has blatantly and deliberately lied about a large number of the remains CIL-HI has identified. Dr.Charney states that, in his professional opinion, CIL-HI technicians have in some instances made identifications of remains based on human remains or other material not capable of providing such an identification. He further states that many of the technicians who performed the identifications lacked advanced training in the field of forensic anthropology. Prior to 1986, CIL-HI's technicians referred to themselves as "doctors" when, in fact, they had never been awarded doctorates in medicine or any other recognized academic or medical discipline.

After 1986 U.S. House of Representatives hearings on the CIL-HI facility in which Dr.Charney and Dr.George W.Gill, another expert in the field of forensic anthropology, both testified on about CIL-HI, the Army attempted to correct the deficiencies in procedure and staffing identified by Drs.Charney and Gill, as well as other witnesses. The Army hired recognized experts with doctoral credentials for the staff, even though the senior anthropoligist-who had the final authority to make identifications at CIL-HI -- was a person with questionable academic credentials.

The senior anthropologist, a longtime employee of CIL-HI, did not hold a doctorate in the field of anthropology but, had worked in the field of forensic anthropology since the end of World War II. To accomplish his task at CIL-HI he insisted on using a theory he developed for the identification of human remains, a theory that was rejected by the anthropological scientific community.

Between 1985 and 1987, Dr.Charney reviewed CIL-HI's identification of thirty sets of repatriated remains from North Vietnam and he concluded that CIL-HI had wrongly identified these remains as those of individual U.S.servicemen from MIA or KIA-BNR lists. In each of these cases, the material matter available to the CIL-HI forensic examiners (bone parts and fragments) was not sufficient to identify a specific individual by sex, race, height, weight, physical peculiarities, etc. CIL-HI technicians responsible for identifying remains, in some instances, employed forensic methods and procedures not recognized by the international community of professional forensic anthropologists.

According to Dr.Charney, the CIL-HI technicians deliberately misidentified remains as individual U.S.servicemen off the list of unaccounted for during the U.S. war in Southeast Asia. He believes the only conceivable reason for this demonstrable pattern of misidentification was a desire to clear the lists of MIA while deceiving the MIA families through the return of misidentified remains.

Dr.Gill, former secretary of the physical anthropology section, American Academy of Forensic Sciences, and a member of the board of directors of the American Board of Forensic Anthropology, substantiates Dr.Charney's statements concerning CIL-HI. Dr.Gill has publicly stated

It is clear from the bones that the problem in the CIL-HI reports results either from extreme carelessness, incompetence, fabrication of data, or some combination of these things. These charges levied by Dr.Charney and Dr.Gill against CIL-HI have not been refuted by DOD, and this inquiry has found no evidence that contradict Dr. Charney or Dr.Gill.


The problem of accountability for individual American casualties has been addressed by every administration since the 1973 conclusion of the Second Indochina War. During the Carter Administration, for example, a DOD commission -- politically sensitive questions are best handled by Commissions, especially if the object is to show the government is taking action to resolve the issue of unaccounted for servicemen--was established to review the status of individual MIA cases.

In these cases, for purposes of compensation to the next of kin, the commission issued the following directive:

The Commission has used the date of April 1, 1973 as the last date of entitlement to prisoner of war compensation in cases where the actual date of death is not known and where a finding of death has been issued after that date...[because]...the last known prisoner of war was returned to the control of the United States.

The commission further stated:

There have been reports of sightings of Americans in Southeast Asia after that date [April 1, 1973], but neither the identities or status of those persons nor the reliability of the reports are known to be established...Therefore, the Commission finds that, in the absence of evidence to the contrary, April 1, 1973 is the last date when members of the U.S.Armed Forces were held prisoner of war by a hostile force in Southeast Asia.

After a presumptive finding of death has been issued, surviving spouses, next of kin, or children are entitled to government-sponsored death benefits, e.g., six-months pay for spouses of deceased military members, government life insurance, etc. The individual is then removed from the active roles of the military service or agency responsible for him/her.

Among the issues yet to be determined by this inquiry are the following:

1) Was all intelligence reviewed pertaining to each individual who was presumptively found to be dead?

2) Have any cases ever been reopened and the presumptive finding withdrawn based upon live-sighting information, or any cases where the date of presumptive death was not changed to match information received well after the initial finding?


On May 6, 1991, the Figaro newspaper published in Paris a statistical summary of the fate of French forces fighting in Indochina who had been taken prisoner. The French forces were composed of French nationals, French Legionnaires, Africans and North Africans, indigenous members of the French Expeditionary Force drawn from Indochina, and local forces from Laos and Cambodia.

The statistical table was compiled by the Historical Service of the French Army and shows that of 39,888 prisoners held by the vientminh, 29,954 were not returned. This total includes 2,350 French nationals and 2,867 Legionnaires who were taken prisoner but not returned.

Today in France there is great interest in the fate of French prisoners of the Indochina war. Owing to the efforts of French Senator Jean-Jacques Beucler, what has come to be called the "Boudarel Affair" has become front page news since this past February.

The Boudarel Affair involved the discovery of Georges Boudarel, a Frenchman who acted as a deputy political commissar in Vietnamese prison camps during the First Indochina War. He was in charge of brain-washing French prisoners, and has been accused of being an accessory to torture. Nothing was known of his whereabouts for years. Then it was discovered that, after serving in the Communist International underground in Southeast Asia and in Eastern Europe, he had obtained a teaching post in the French school system.

A new book by a former prisoner who charges that he was tortured by Boudarel has just appeared in France. Written by Claude Bayle, PRISONNIER AU CAMP 113 is a detailed revelation of life as a prisoner of the Vietnamese revealing conditions so primitive that is not so surprising thousands never returned.


In 1946, after a series of armed clashed with Ho Chi Minh's forces in North Vietnam, France agreed to allow Ho's group to establish an autonomous state within French Indochina. The DRV's capital was placed in Hanoi with Ho Chi Minh and the Indochina Communist Party in control.

Problems persisted between the French colonial government and the DRV. As various other political factions and nationalist forces within Indochina collectively resisted French colonial rule of Indochina, armed conflicts intensified. Finally, in late 1946, the Vietnamese communists and various nationalist forces combined into a revolutionary army that is commonly referred to as the Viet Minh. A full scale "war of liberation" was started in 1946 to remove the French colonial government from Indochina. The Viet Minh took to the mountains and jungles to wage their war. When the Viet Minh left the cities of Vietnam they took several hundred French prisoners, military and civilian, into the jungles and mountain highlands with them. The Viet Minh's war with France, now referred to as the First Indochina War, refers to the period 1946 through 1954, when the Geneva Peace Accords wee signed. The war included revolutionary factions in Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia.

The 1954 Geneva Accords required France to withdraw its colonial government from Indochina, provide for an exchange of prisoners, repatriation of remains of war dead, and division of Vietnam (i.e., North and South Vietnam divided at the 17th parallel) pending elections for public determination of a form of government and the unification of Vietnam into a single state.

During the war, the largest group of French prisoners taken by the Viet Minh was at the battle of Dien Bien Phu, North Vietnam. On May 8, 1954, when the French forces surrendered to the Viet Minh, about 6,500 French troops (including French regulars, Foreign Legionnaires, colonial troops from Africa and North Africa, and colonial troops from Indochina, as well as some civilians with the troops at Dien Bien Phu) were taken prisoner by the Viet Minh. French casualties related to Dien Bien Phu were approximately 2,242 KIA and 3,711 MIA. During the war, about 39,000 POWs were taken by the Viet Minh, with approximately 11,000 being returned during repatriation.

None of France's war dead from Dien Bien Phu or other battle sites in North Vietnam, and none of its war dead from Viet Minh prison camps or military hospitals were repatriated. By contrast, all French prisoners held by nationalist or communist forces in Laos and Cambodia were returned or accounted for, as were the remains of French war dead in those two areas.

According to historians on the First Indochina War, the high rate of deaths in Viet Minh camps occurred because of the harsh conditions in those isolated camps. Also, prisoners with severe wounds, such as head, chest, and abdominal wounds, stood little chance of survival in these camps because of a total lack of medical treatment facilities and /or supplies. In addition to the harsh camp conditions and inadequate medical facilities, the Viet Minh marched the French prisoners taken at Dien Bien Phu many miles to camps, causing many deaths during the march. And, during the prisoner exchange, the Vietnamese again marched the French prisoners over long distances, causing the death of a number of the prisoners en route to exchange points.

Only a very small number of French Union troops were able to escape after the siege at Dien Bien Phu. Seventy eight are recorded as having successfully make it back to French custody by traveling overland towards Laos. Of that number, nineteen were Europeans, the remainder were troops indigenous to Indochina.

There are reports that some French POWs were kept in forced labor status, while others were given years of indoctrination in Marxist-Leninist revolutionary doctrine and North Vietnam's anti-colonial philosophy at re-education centers before being returned to French African and North African colonies. The Vietnamese separated officers from non-commissioned officers, non-commissioned officers from other enlisted troops. They separated colonials from Legionnaires, and French regulars from all other troops. They separated the prisoners by race and emphasized the differences in races between the Europeans, the blacks, and the Arabs. Reeducation (Marxist-Leninist indoctrination) was concentrated on African and North African colonial troops.

Just as the Soviets did at the conclusion of World War II in the Pacific and Europe in 1945, after the signing of the 1954 Geneva Accords, so too they sent a delegation to North Vietnam to repatriate forcibly French Foreign Legion POWs identified as former nationals of Soviet bloc nations. The North Vietnamese repatriated some Legionnaires and large numbers of colonial troops from non-Soviet bloc countries directly to their homelands, via China, without notification to the international commission overseeing the Indochina prisoner exchanges. As a result of the forced repatriations by the Soviets and unreported repatriations by North Vietnam, there are great disparities in accounting for French POWs released by the North Vietnamese after the 1954 Geneva Accords.

In 1962, about forty "Metropolitan" French POWs were returned to France. After their return, the French government charged these former POWs as deserters, or "ralliers" and court martialed them, giving some of them prison sentences of up to five years and no back pay for the period they were prisoners in North Vietnam. Another group of about twenty Metropolitan French POWs chose to remain in North Vietnam. This latter group was court martialed in absentia for capital crimes committed during the war and elected to remains in North Vietnam rather than return to France and face execution.

Writer William Stevenson, a noted BBC correspondent who covered the French Indochina War, told the staff about interviews he had with French soldiers held captive by the North Vietnamese. He was of the opinion that the French prisoners seemed to be mentally deficient, possibly as a result of their long, harsh imprisonment, or severe brainwashing techniques known to have been employed by the North Vietnamese. Robert Garwood, a former U.S. POW who voluntarily returned from Vietnam in 1979, stated that, during the mid-1970s, he saw French prisoners used as forced laborers in a North Vietnamese dairy farm not far from Hanoi. Garwood believed the French POWs he saw were former Legionnaires who had not yet earned French citizenship when taken prisoner during the First Indochina War. Because of that, they had no home country to accept them after the war.

During the 1954 French withdrawal from North Vietnam, the French gave the North Vietnamese construction equipment, railway equipment, and various pieces of land and water transport equipment, as well as stores of non-military supplies already in North Vietnam. From 1955 until sometime in the 1970s, the French government paid the Democratic Republic of Vietnam (North Vietnam) an estimated $30 million, via Hungarian banks, for maintenance of French military graves. In return, the North Vietnamese periodically repatriated remains of French military dead to France; however, all the remains repatriated were exhumed from graves already known to French authorities. Best information available indicated none of the war dead from Dien Bien Phy, the Viet Minh prison camps, or the death marches were ever repatriated to France.

In 1971, to resolve the lingering problem over the unaccounted-for POW/MIA from the First Indochina War, the French Foreign Minister declared all unaccounted for French POW/MIA in Indochina as dead. According to author/historian Bernard Fall, the actual number of French casualties in the First Indochina War was never made public. In 1973, the French resumed diplomatic relations with North Vietnam.


In 1975, after the successful invasion into South Vietnam by North Vietnamese and Communist forces, the North Vietnamese captured two high-ranking South Korean officials who were assisting the South Vietnamese in the defense of their country. The North Vietnamese promptly imprisoned the South Koreans. During their imprisonment, the South Korean government negotiated continually with the Vietnamese for the release of the two South Koreans.

The two South Koreans remained imprisoned throughout the years of negotiation for their release. The Vietnamese never admitted--not even once--that the South Korean POWs were being held in prison. Even after the South Korean government presented the Vietnamese government incontrovertible photographic evidence that showed that the two South Korean POWs were incarcerated in Vietnam, the Vietnamese government continued to deny holding the men.

Five years after the South Koreans were captured--in 1980--the Vietnamese government repatriated the two prisoners to South Korea. Still, after their release, the Vietnamese government denied that it ever held the men.

foot notes: Individuals must complete, honorably, their initial six-year enlistment in the Legion to be eligible for French citizenship.
Garwood's information on French POWs still being used as forced labor by the North Vietnamese was not verifiable without access to classified files.
Source material for the French Experience included books by Bernard B. Fall, Jules Roy, and Archimedes L.A.Patti. Testimony of Anita Lauve before the House Select Committee on Missing Persons in Southeast Asia, April 1976, was also used.
Other material was developed through interviews conducted by staff.


DATE: 12 FEB 1991


SUBJECT: Request for Relief


1.PURPOSE: I, herby, request to resign my position as Chief of the Special Office for Prisoners of War and Missing in Action (POW-MIA).


  • a.Motivation. My initial acceptance of this posting was base upon two motives: first, I had heard that the job was highly contentious and extremely frustrating, that no one would volunteer for it because of its complex political nature. This, of course, made it appear challenging. Secondly, since the end of the Vietnam War, I had heard the persistent rumors of American Servicemen having been abandoned in Indochina, and that the Government was conducting a "cover-up" so as not to be embarrassed. I was curious about this and thought that serving as the Chief of POW-MIA would be an opportunity to satisfy my own interest and help clear the Government's name.

  • b.The Office's Reputation. It was interesting that my previous exposure to the POW-MIA Office, while assigned to DIA, both as a Duty Director for Intelligence (DDI) and as the Chief of the Asia Division for Current Intelligence (JSI-3), was negative. DIA personnel who worked for me, when dealing with or mentioning the Office, always spoke about it in deprecating tomes, alluding to the fact that any report which found its way there would quickly disappear into a "black hole."

  • c.General Attitudes. Additionally, surveys of active duty military personnel indicated that a high percentage (83%) believed that there were still live American prisoners in Vietnam. This idea was further promulgated in a number of legitimate veteran's periodicals and professional journals, as well as the media in general, which held that where there was so much smoke, there must be fire.

  • d.Cover-up. The dark side of the issue was particularly unsettling because of the persistent rumors and innuendoes of a Government conspiracy, alleging that U.S. military personnel had been left behind to the victorious communist governments in Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia, and that for "political reasons" or running the risk of a second Vietnam War, their existence was officially denied. Worse yet was the implication that DIA's Special Office for POWs and MIAs was an integral part of this effort to cover the entire affair up so as not to embarrass the Government nor the Defense Establishment.

  • e.The Crusade. As a Vietnam veteran with a certain amount of experience in Indochina, I was interested in the entire POW-MIA question, and willingly volunteered for the job, viewing it as sort of a holy crusade.

    f.The Harsh Reality. Heading up the Office has not been pleasant. My plan was to be totally honest and forthcoming on the entire issue and aggressively pursue innovative actions and concepts to clear up the live sighting business, thereby refurbishing the image and honor of DIA. I became painfully aware, however, that I was not really in charge of my own office, but was merely a figurehead or whipping boy for a larger and totally Machiavellian group of players outside of DIA. What I witnessed during my tenure as the cardboard cut-out "Chief" of POW-MIA could be euphemistically labelled as disillusioning.


  • a.Highest National Priority. That National leaders continue to address the prisoner of war and missing in action issue as the "highest national priority" is a travesty. From my vantage point, I observed that the principal government players were interested primarily in conducting a "damage limitation exercise", and appeared to knowingly and deliberately generate an endless succession of manufactured crises and "busy work". Progress consisted in frenetic activity, with little substance and no real results.

  • b.The Mindset to Debunk. The mindset to "debunk" is alive and well. It is held at all levels, and continues to pervade the POW-MIA Office, which is not necessarily the fault of DIA. Practically all analysis is directed to finding fault with the source. Rarely has there been any effective, active follow through on any of the sightings, nor is there a responsive "action arm" to routinely and aggressively pursue leads. The latter was a moot point, anyway, since the Office was continuously buried in an avalanche of "ad hoc" taskings from every quarter, all of which required an immediate response. It was impossible to plan ahead or prioritize courses of action. Any real effort to pursue live sighting reports or exercise initiatives was diminished by the plethora of "busy work" projects directed by higher authority outside of DIA. A number of these grandiose endeavors bordered on the ridiculous, and -- quite significantly -- there was never an audit trail. None of these taskings was ever requested formally. There was, and still is, a refusal by any of the players to follow normal intelligence channels in dealing with the POW-MIA Office.

  • c.Duty,Honor and Integrity. It appears that the entire issue is being manipulated by unscrupulous people in the Government, or associated with the Government. Some are using the issue for personal or political advantage and others use it as a forum to perform and feel important, or worse. The sad fact, however, is that this issue is being controlled and a cover-up may be in progress. The entire charade does not appear to be an honest effort, and may never have been.

  • d.POW-MIA Officers Abandoned. When I assumed the Office for the first time, I was somewhat amazed and greatly disturbed by the fact that I was the only military officer in an organization of more than 40 people. Since combatants of all Services were lost in Vietnam, I would have thought there would at least be a token Service representation for a matter of the "highest national priority." Since the normal mix of officers from all Services is not found in my organization it would appear that the issue, at least at the working level, has, in fact, been abandoned. Also, the horror stories of the succession of military officers at the C-5 and C-6 level who have in some manner "rocked the boat" and quickly come to grief at the hands of the Government policy makers who direct the issue, lead one to the conclusion that we are all quite expendable, so by extrapolation one simply concludes that these same bureaucrats would "sacrifice" anyone who was troublesome or contentious as including prisoners of war and missing in action. Not a comforting thought. Any military officer expected to survive in this environment would have to be myopic, an accomplished sycophant, or totally insouciant.

  • e.The DIA Involvement. DIA's role in the affair is truly unfortunate. The overall Agency has generally practiced a "damage limitation drill" on the issue, as well. The POW-MIA Office has been cloistered for all practical purposes and left to its own fortunes. The POW Office is the lowest level in the Government "efforts" to resolve the issue, and oddly for an intelligence organization, has become the "lightening rod" for the entire establishment to the matter. The policy people manipulating the affair have maintained their distance and remained hidden in the shadows, while using the Office as a "toxic waste dump" to bury the whole "mess" out of sight and mind to a facility with the limited access to public scrutiny. Whatever happens in this issue, DIA takes the blame, while the real players remain invisible. The fact that the POW-MIA Office is always the center of an investigation is no surprise. Many people suspect that something is rotten about the whole thing, but they cannot find an audit trail to ascribe blame, so they attack the DIA/POW-MIA "dump", simply because it has been placed in the line of fire as a cheap, expendable decoy.

  • f."Suppressio Veri, Suggestio Falsi". Many of the puppet masters play a confusing, murky rols. For instance, the Director of the National League of Families occupies an interesting and questionable position in the whole process.

    Although assiduously "churning" the account to give a tawdry illusion of progress, she is adamantly opposed to any initiative to actually get to the heart of the problem, and, more importantly, interferes in or actively sabotages POW-MIA analyses or investigations. She insist on rewriting or editing all significant documents produced by the Office, then touted as the DIA position. She apparently has access to top secret, codeword message traffic, for which she is supposedly not cleared, and she received it well ahead of the DIA intelligence analysts. Her influence in "jerking around" everyone and everything involved in the issue goes far beyond the "war and MIA protester gone straight" scenario. She was brought from the "outside", into the center of the imbroglio, and then, cloaked in a mantle of sanctimony, routinely impedes real progress and insidiously "muddles up" the issue. One wonders who she really is and where she came from.


  • a.The Stalled Crusade. Unfortunately, what began on such a high note never succeeded in embarking. In some respects, however, I have managed to satisfy some of my curiosity.

  • b.Everyone is Expendable. I have seen firsthand how ready and willing the policy people are to sacrifice or "abandon" anyone who might be perceived as a political liability. It is quick and facile, and can be easily covered.

  • c.High-Level Knavery. I feel strongly that 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.

  • d."Smoke and Mirrors". 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.

  • e.National League of Families. I am convinced that the Director of this organization is much more than meets the eye. As the principal actor in the grand show, she is in the perfect position to clamor for "progress", while really intentionally impeding the effort. And there are numerous examples of this. Otherwise it is inconceivable that so many bureaucrats in the "system would instantaneously do her bidding and humor her every whim.

  • f.DIA's Dilemma. Although greatly saddened by the role ascribed to the Defense Intelligence Agency, I feel, at least, that I am dealing with honest men and women who are generally powerless to make the system work. My appeal and attempt to amend this role perhaps never had a chance. We all were subject to control. I particularly salute the personnel in the POW-MIA Office for their long suffering, which I regrettably was unable to change. I feel that the Agency and the Office are being used as the "fall guys" or "patsies" to cover the tracks of others.


  • a.One Final Vietnam Casualty. So ends the war and my last grand crusade, like it actually did end, I guess. However, as they say in the Legion, "je ne regrette rien..." For all of the above, I respectfully request to be relieved of my duties as Chief of the Special Office for Prisoners of War and Missing in Action.

  • b.A Farewell to Arms. So as to avoid the annoyance of bein shipped off to some remote corner, out of sight and out of the way, in my own "bamboo cage" of silence somewhere, I further request that the Defense Intelligence Agency, which I have attempted to serve loyally and with honor, assist me in being retired immediately from active military service.

    Colonel, Infantry