" Most Americans would find it incomprehensible that the Chinese would hold U.S. POWs from the Korean War, and release them two decades later; yet, to the Chinese Communists, this policy had some rationale."
Unlike the result in World War II, Allied force did not achieve a military victory in Korea. The Korean War ended at the negotiating table between Communist North Korean representatives and United Nations representatives.

With regard to POW repatriation, the North Koreans initially demanded an "all-for-all" prisoner exchange. In other words, the North Koreans wanted an agreement similar to the Yalta Agreement of World War II. The United States was reluctant to agree to this formula based on its World War II experience with mandatory repatriation, knowing that thousands of those forced to return to the Soviet Union were either shot or interned in slave labor camps, where most of them died. After two long years of negotiations, the North Koreans agreed to the principle of voluntary or "non-forcible repatriation." This agreement stated that each side would release only those prisoners who wished to return to their respective countries.

Operation BIG SWITCH was the name given to the largest and final exchange of prisoners between the North Koreans and the U.N. forces, and occurred over a one-month period from August 5, 1953 to September 6, 1953.

Chinese and North Korean POWs were returned to North Korea, and U.S. and other U.N. troops were returned to South Korea. Approximately 14,200 Communist Chinese POWs elected not to return to the Peoples Republic of China; but only 21 American POWs elected to stay with the Communist forces, and likely went to China. These 21 Americans are defectors and obviously are not considered as unrepatriated U.S. POWs.

However, U.S. government documents state that nearly one thousand known captive U.S. POWs -- and an undetermined number of some 8,000 U.S. MIAs -- were not repatriated at the end of the Korean War.

Three days after the start of operation BIG SWITCH, the New York Times reported that

Gen. James A. Van Fleet, retired commander of the United States Eighth Army in Korea, estimated tonight that a large percentage of the 8,000 American soldiers listed as missing in Korea were alive.


A report by the U.N. Combined Command for Reconnaissance Activity, Korea, five days into operation BIG SWITCH, stated:

"figures show that the total number of MIAs, plus known captives, less, those to be U.S. repatriated, leaves a balance of 8,000 unaccounted for."

The report mentions numerous reports of U.N. POWs who were transferred to Manchuria, China, and the USSR since the beginning of hostilities in Korea. Specifically, the report stated

many POWs transferred have been technicians and factory workers. Other POWs transferred had a knowledge of Cantonese and are reportedly used for propaganda purposes.

The number of known U.S.POWs not repatriated from the Korean War was cited by Hugh M. Milton II, Assistant Secretary of the Army in January, 1954, in a memorandum he wrote four months after the conclusion of operation BIG SWITCH. Section 3, Part B reads:



1.There are approximately 954 United States personnel falling in this group. What the Department of the Army and other interested agencies is doing about their recovery falls into two parts. First, the direct efforts of the UNC Military Armistice Commission to obtain an accurate accounting, and second, efforts by G2 of the Army, both overt and covert, to locate, identify and recover these individuals. G2 is making an intensive effort through its information collection system world-wide, to obtain information on these people and has a plan for clandestine action to obtain the recovery of one or more to establish the case positively that prisoners are still being held by the Communists. No results have been obtained yet in this effort. The direct efforts of the UNC [United Nations Command] are being held in abeyance pending further study of the problem by the State Department.

2.A further complicating factor in the situation is that to continue to carry this personnel in a missing status is costing over one million dollars annually. It may become necessary at some future date to drop them from our records as `missing and presumed dead.'

In fact, the Defense Department did in fact "drop them" from DOD record as "missing and presumed dead," as were the non-repatriated U.S.POWs from the American Expeditionary Force in World War I, and World War II. In a memorandum to Milton from Major General Robert Young, the Assistant Chief of Staff, G-1 of the U.S. Army, Young updates Assistant Secretary Milton on the progress on dropping the U.S. POWs from DOD records:

2. Under the provisions of Public Law 490 (77th Congress), the Department of the Army, after careful review of each case and interrogation of returning prisoners of war, has placed 618 soldiers, known to have been in enemy hands and unaccounted for by the Communist Forces in the following categories:

313 - Finding of Death - Administratively determined, under the provisions of Public Law 490, by Department of the Army.

275 - Report of Death - reported on good authority by returning prisoners.

21 - Dishonorable Discharge.

4 - Under investigation, prognosis undecided. Missing in Action for over one year.

2 - Returned to Military Control.

The number had already been dropped from 954 to 618 through a series of presumed findings of death for the "unaccounted-for Americans believed to be still held illegally by the Communists." Presumed findings of death were also to whittle down the number of U.S.soldiers listed as MIA.

According to the "Interim Report of U.S. Casualties," prepared by the Office of the Secretary of Defense, as of December 31, 1953 (Operation BIG SWITCH ended September 6, 1953), the total number of U.S. soldiers who had been listed as Missing in Action from the Korean War was 13,325. Still listed as MIA in January 1, 1954 were 2,953, and the figure for died, or presumed dead, was 5,140. 5,131 MIAs had been repatriated and 101 were listed as "Current captured."


On June 17, 1955, almost two years after the end of operation BIG SWITCH, the Office of the Secretary of Defense, issued an internal report titled, "Recovery of Unrepatraited Prisoners of War." The report admitted that,

After the official repatriation efforts were completed, the U.N. Command found that it still had slightly less than 1000 U.S. PWs [not MIAs] "unaccounted for" by the Communists.

Although frank and forthright, this report--written by staff of the Office of Special Operations--provides a glimpse into the thinking of those involved in the Korean POW issue. Sections of the report follow:

At the time of the official repatriation, some of our repatriates stated they had been informed by the Communists that they (the Communists) were holding `some' U.S. flyers as `political prisoners' rather than as prisoners of war and that these people would have to be `negotiated for' through political or diplomatic channels. Due to the fact that we did not recognize the red regime in China, no political or diplomatic negotiations were instituted, although [the]State [Department] did have some exploratory discussions with the British in an attempt to get at the problem. The situation was relatively dormant when, in late November 1954, the Peking radio announced that 13 of these `political prisoners' had been sentenced for `spying.' This announcement caused a public uproar and a demand from U.S. citizens, Congressional leaders and organizations for action to effect their release.

The eleven U.S. "political prisoners," were not the only U.S. servicemen the Chinese held after the Korean War. The New York Times, reported

Communist China is holding prisoner other United States Air Force personnel who were recently sentenced on spying charges following their capture during the Korean War. This information was brought out of China by Squadron Leader Andrew R. MacKenzie, a Canadian flier who was released today by the Chinese at the Hong Kong border. He reached freedom here two years to the day after he was shot down and fell into Chinese hands in North Korea...Held back from the Korean war prisoner exchange, he was released by the Peiping [sic] regime following a period of negotiations through diplomatic channels...Wing Comdr. Donald Skene, his brother-in-law who was sent here from Canada to meet him, said guardedly at a press conference later that an undisclosed number of United States airmen had been in the same camp with Squadron Leader MacKenzie...Wing Commander Skene said none of the Americans in the camp was on the list of eleven whose sentencing was announced by the Chinese November 23[,1954].


Despite some political inconvenience to the Department of Defense, the government felt that the issue and controversy had been controlled. A concluding report, "Recovery of Unrepatriated Prisoners of War," stated:

Such as they are, our current efforts in the political field, plus the `stand-by' alternatives developed by the military, represent the full range of possible additional efforts to recover personnel now in custody of foreign powers. On one hand, we are bound at present by the President's `peaceful means' decree. The military courses of action apparently cannot be taken unilaterally, and we are possessed of some rather `reluctant' allies in this respect. The problem becomes a philosophical one. It we are "at war," cold, hot or otherwise, casualties and losses must be expected and perhaps we must learn to live with this type of thing. If we are in for fifty years of peripheral `fire fights' we may be forced to adopt a rather cynical attitude on this for political course of action something like General Erskine outlined which would (1)instill in the soldier a much more effective `don't get captured' attitude, and (2)we should also push to get the military commander more discretionary authority to retaliate, fast and hard against these Communist tactics.

Reports of the fate of these Americans continued to come to the attention of the United States government. One such report, a Foreign Service Dispatch (cable) by Air Pouch dated March 23, 1954, sent from the U.S. diplomatic post in Hong Kong to the State Department in Washington, sheds some light on the fate of hundreds of U.S.POWs captured during the Korean War. The report reads:

American POWs reported en route to Siberia

A recently arrived Greek refugee from Manchuria has reported seeing several hundred American prisoner of war being transferred from Chinese trains to Russian trains as Manchouli near the border of Manchuria and Siberia. The POWs were seen late in 1951 and in the spring of 1952 by the informant and a Russian friend of his. The informant was interrogated on two occasions by the Assistant Air Liaison Officer and the Consulate General agrees with his evaluation of the information as probably true and the evaluation of the source as unknown reliability. The full text of the initial Air Liaison Office report follows:

First report dated March 16, 1954, from Air Liaison Office, Hong Kong, to USAF, Washington, G2.

This office has interviewed refugee source who states he observed hundreds of prisoners of war in American uniforms being sent into Siberia in late 1951 and 1952. Observations were made at Manchouli (Lupin), 49 degrees 50'-117 degrees 30' Manchuria Road Map, AMSL 201 First Edition, on USSR-Manchurian border. Source observed POWs on railway station platform loading into trains for movement into Siberia. In railway restaurant source closely observed three POWs who were under guard and were conversing in English. POWs wore sleeve insignia which indicated POWs were Air Force noncommissioned officers. Source states that there were a great number of Negroes among POW shipments and also states that at no time later were any POWs observed returning from Siberia. Source does not wish to be identified for fear of reprisals against friends in Manchuria, however is willing to cooperate in answering further questions and will be available Honk Kong for questioning for the nest four days.' Upon receipt of this information, USAF, Washington, requested elaboration of the following points:

1.Description of uniforms or clothing worn by POWs including ornaments.
2. Physical condition of POWs.
3. Nationality of guards.
4. Specific dates of observations.
5. Destination in Siberia.
6. Presence of Russians in uniform or civilian clothing accompanying movement of POWs.
7. Complete description of three POWs specifically mentioned.

The Air Liaison Office complied by submitting the telegram quoted below.

FROM USAIRLOSGN LACKEY. CITEC4. REUR 53737 following answers submitted to seven questions.

(1) POWs wore OD outer clothing described as not heavy inasmuch as weather considered early spring. Source identified from pictures service jacket, field, M1943. No belongings except canteen. No ornaments observed.

(2) Condition appeared good, no wounded all ambulatory.

(3) Station divided into two sections with tracks on each side of loading platform. On Chinese side POWs accompanied by Chinese guards. POWs passed through gate bisecting platform to Russian train manned and operated by Russians. Russian trainmen wore dark blue or black tunic with silver colored shoulder boards. Source says this regular train uniform but he knows the trainmen are military wearing regular train uniforms.

(4) Interrogation with aid of more fluent interpreter reveals source first observed POWs in railroad station in spring 1951. Second observation was outside city of Manchouli about three months later with POW train headed towards station where he observed POW transfer. Source was impressed with second observation because of large number of Negroes among POWs. Source states job was numbering railroad cars at Manchouli every time subsequent POW shipments passed through Manchouli. Source says these shipments were reported often and occurred when United Nation forces in Korea were on the offensive.

(5) Unknown.

(6) Only Russian accompanying POWs were those who manned train.

(7) Three POWs observed in Station restaurant appeared to be 30 or 35. Source identified Air Force non-commissioned officer sleeve insignia of Staff Sergeant rank, stated that several inches above insignia there was a propeller but says that all three did not have propeller. Three POWs accompanied by Chinese guard. POWs appeared thin but in good health and spirits, were being given what source described as good food. POWs were talking in English but did not converse with guard. Further information as to number of POWs observed source states that first observation filled a seven passenger car train and second observation about the same. Source continues to emphasize the number of Negro troops, which evidently impressed him because he had seen so few Negroes before.

Comment Reporting Officer: Source is very careful not to exaggerate information and is positive of identification of American POWs. In view of information contained in Charity Interrogation Report No.619 dated 5 February 54, Reporting Officer gives above information rating of F-2. Source departing Hong Kong today by ship. Future address on file this office.

In this connection the Department's attention is called to Charity Interrogation Report No.619,forwarded to the Department under cover of a letter dated March 1, 1954, to Mr.A.Sabin Chase, DRF. Section 6 of this report states, "On another occasion source saw several coaches full of Europeans who were taken to USSR. They were not Russians. Source passed the coaches several times and heard them talk in a language unknown to him.


The report from Hong Kong was specifically discussed in Major General Young's April 29, 1954 memorandum to Assistant Secretary of the Army, Hugh M. Milton,II. Young, responding to Milton's request to "consolidate information on prisoners of war which may remain in Communist hands," states that the Hong Kong report

corroborates previous indications UNC POWs might have been shipped to Siberia during Korean hostilities...reports have now come [to the] attention [of the] U.S.Government which support earlier indications that American prisoners of war from Korea had been transported into Soviet Union and are now in Soviet custody. Request fullest possible information these POWs and their repatriation earliest possible time.

One CIA intelligence report, which had an information date as of October 1950 - February 1951, confirmed that hundreds of Negro troops were held by the North Koreans. The CIA report stated:

1.One Republic of Korea soldier who was captured by the Communists on 29 October 1950 was sent to a war prison camp at Pyoktong (125-26, 40-36) in North Pyonman. This camp in early November had about 1,000 American war prisoners, of whom about 700 were Negroes, approximately 1,500 ROK prisoners, and about 300 civilian employees of the United Nations forces. A different three page CIA intelligence report, on Prisoner of War Camps in North Korea and China, with information dated January-May, 1952, described the Chinese Communist system of camps for U.N.POWs.

War Prisoner Administrative Office and Camp Classification

1. In May 1952 the War Prisoner Administrative Office (Chan Fu Kuan Li Ch'u) (2069/0199/4619/3810/5710) in P'yongyang, under Colonel No-man-ch'i-fu (6179/7024/1148/1133), an intelligence officer attached to the general headquarters of the Soviet Far Eastern Military District, controlled prisoner of war camps in Manchuria and North Korea. The office, formerly in Mukden, employed 30 persons, several of whom were English-speaking Soviets. LIN Mai (2651/6701) and NAM IL (0589/2480) were deputy chairmen of the office.

2. The office had developed three types of prisoner-of-war camps. Camps termed `peace camps', detaining persons who exhibited pro-Communist leanings, were characterized by considerate treatment of the prisoners and the staging within the camps of Communist rallies and meetings. The largest peace camp, which held two thousand prisoners, was at Chungchun. Peace camps were also at K'aiyuan Ksien (124-05, 42-36) and Pench'i (123-43, 41-20).

3. Reform camps, all of which were in Manchuria, detained anti-Communist prisoners possessing certain technical skills. Emphasis at these camps was on re-indoctrination of the prisoners.

4. Normal prisoner-of-war camps, all of which were in North Korea, detained prisoners whom the Communists will exchange. Prisoners in peace and reform camps will not be exchanged.

5. Officials of North Korea prisoner of war camps sent reports on individual prisoners to the War Prisoner Administrative Office. Cooperative prisoners were being transferred to peace camps. ROK [Republic of Korea] officers were being shot; ROK army soldiers were being reindoctrinated and assimilated into North Korean army.

13. On 6 January four hundred United States prisoners, including three hundred Negroes, were being detained in two buildings at Nsiao Nan Kuan Chaih, at the southeast corner of the intersection, in Mukden. One building, used as the police headquarters in Nsiso Nan Knan during the Japanese occupation, was a two-story concrete structure, 30 meters long and 20 meters wide. The other building, one story high and constructed of gray brick, was behind the two-story building. Both buildings had tile roofs. All prisoners held here, with the exception of three second lieutenants, were enlisted personnel. The prisoners, dressed in Chinese Communist army uniforms, with a red arm band on the left arm, were not required to work. Two hours of indoctrination were conducted daily by staff members of the Northeast Army Command. Prisoners were permitted to play basketball in the courtyard. The attempt of three white prisoners to escape caused the withdrawal of permission for white prisoners to walk alone through streets in the vicinity of the camp. Two Chinese Communist soldiers guarded groups of white prisoners when such groups left the buildings. Negroes, however, could move outside the compound area freely and individually. Rice, noodles, and one vegetable served daily to the prisoners in groups of 10 to 15 men. One platoon of Chinese Communist soldiers guarded the compound.


In an attempt to resolve the unrepatriated U.S.POW problem from the Korean war, by diplomacy, the United States officially communicated with the Soviet government on May 5, 1954. The official U.S.request to the Soviet Union stated:

The Embassy of the United States of America presents its compliments to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Union of the Soviet Socialist Republics and has the honor to request the Ministry's assistance in the following matter.

The United States government has recently received reports which support earlier indications that American prisoners of war who had seen action in Korea have been transported to the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics and that they are now in Soviet custody. The United States Government desires to receive urgently all information available to the Soviet Government concerning these American personnel and to arrange their repatriation at the earliest possible time.

On May 12, 1954, the Soviet Union replied:

In connection with the note of the Embassy of the United States of America, received by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics on May 5, 1954, the Ministry has the honor to state the following:

The United States assertion contained in the indicated note that American prisoners of war who participated in military actions in Korea have allegedly been transferred to the Soviet Union and at the present time are being kept under Soviet guard is devoid of any foundation whatsoever and is clearly far-fetched, since there are not and have not been any such persons in the Soviet Union.

The Soviet response predicates denial of access to the men on its refusal to characterize the U.S. personnel as "prisoners of war." In fact, the Soviets made it a practice to refuse to acknowledge the U.S. citizenship of the U.S. soldiers; as a result--from the Soviet's standpoint--the Soviet denial is accurate.

Nor was this lesson ever learned. According to a April 15, 1991 press advisory issued by the United States Department of State, the United States once again requested that the Soviets "provide us with any additional information on any other U.S. citizens who may have been detained as a result of World War II, the Korean conflict or the Vietnam War," a request that repeated the mistake of asking for information only about U.S.citizens that the State Department made 37 years earlier.

The State Department also made a point of including in its recent press advisory the government's usual statement that "in the interest of following every credible lead in providing families of U.S.service members with information about their loved ones. Furthermore, according to the press advisory, the State Department specifically asked the Soviets only about "two U.S. planes shot down in the early 1950s," and did not ask the Soviets any specific questions about any non-repatriated POWs from World War II, the Korean War, and the Vietnam War. It seems apparent that if the Department of State expected to get solid information from the Soviet government, then the State Department would have sent a much more comprehensive and appropriately phrased request.

The sincerity of the State Department's declared intention to follow "every credible lead in providing families of U.S. service members with information about their loved ones" is, therefore, suspect. One U.S.government document dated January 21, 1980, a memorandum from Michael Oksenberg to Zbigniew Brezezinski, the National Security Advisor under President Carter, reveals the cynical view and attitude of at least one U.S. government official with regard to the non-repatriation issue,

a letter from you is important to indicate that you take recent refugee reports of sightings of live Americans `seriously.' This is simply good politics; DIA and State are playing this game, and you should not be the whistle blower. The idea is to say that the President [Carter] is determined to pursue any lead concerning possible live MIAs.


The executive branch's disinformation tactics against concerned mothers and fathers extended to Congressmen and Senators. One case is found in a December 21, 1953 letter sent to the Secretary of State from Senate Majority Leader Lyndon B. Johnson with regard to a constituent letter from Mr.Paul Bath of Marshall, Texas, who wrote Senator Johnson about a U.S.News and World Report article titled "Where are 944 Missing GI's?"

The first reaction of the Secretary of State's office was to call Johnson and dispose of the matter by phone. However, as a written reply was requested, Thurston B. Morton, the Assistant Secretary of State for Congressional Relations, was tasked to reply. The evolution of the text of Morton's letter to Johnson--which took four rewrites to complete--definitively illustrates the ambivalence with which the United States government has approached the non-repatriation issues. The four drafts still exist today, and they illustrate how the State Department artfully sought to mislead the most powerful leader in Congress at the time.

The first draft of the State Department's response contained the following text:

On September 9, the United Nations Command presented to the Communist representatives on the Military Armistice Commission a list of approximately 3,404 Allied personnel, including 944 Americans, about whom there was evidence that they had at one time or another been in Communist custody. The kinds of evidence from which this list was drawn included letters written home by prisoners, prisoners of war interrogations, interrogations of returnees, and Communist radio broadcasts. The United Nations Command asked the Communist side for a complete accounting of these personnel.

On September 21, the Communists made a reply relative to the list of names presented to them by the United Nations Command on September 9, in which they stated that many of the men on the list had never been captured at all, while others had already been repatriated.

This entire section was crossed out by Morton, but a persistent foreign service officer sent Morton back the second draft, with the section quoted above unchanged, as well as a new sentence at the end of the introductory paragraph which read:

He [Mr.Paul Bath of Marshall, Texas] can be assured that efforts are being made to obtain the release of all our men in Communist custody and may be interested in having the following information about this matter.

The second draft also contained a new page which followed the paragraphs used in the first draft. The second page of the second draft read:

General Clark, in a letter of September 24 [1954,two and a half weeks after Operation BIG SWITCH ended] to the Communist side, stated that he considered their reply [that the 944 U.S. men were never captured or had been repatriated] wholly unacceptable, and pointed out that by signing the armistice agreement the Communists had undertaken a solemn obligation to repatriate directly or to hand over to the custody of the Neutral Nations Repatriation Commission all of the captured persons held by them at the time the armistice was signed. He pointed out that this obligation was binding upon them and applied to all United Nation's Command persons regardless of where captured or held in custody. I am enclosing a copy of General Clark's letter of September 24 which you may wish to send to your constituent.

On November 21, the United Nations Command provided the Communist side with a revision of its original list of unaccounted for Allied personnel which it had presented to the Communists on September 9. The revised list contained a total of 3,400 names, and the figure for United States prisoners of war unaccounted for was increased by eight to a total of 952.

On November 21, the United Nations Command protested in the Military Armistice Commission to the Communists that they had still failed to give a satisfactory reply concerning the list of unaccounted for United Nations Command personnel, and pointed out that additional evidence provided by three Korean prisoners of war who recently defected to the United Nations side corroborated the United Nations Command statements that the Communists were withholding prisoners of war. The United Nations Command demanded that the Communists "hand over to the custody of the Custodian Forces of India all those prisoners that your side still retains."

Ambassador Arthur Dean has also referred to this problem in course of his negotiations with the Communists at Panmunjom. Your constituent may be assured that it continues to be our determined purpose to obtain the return of all personnel in Communist custody and the United Nations Command will make every effort to accomplish the objective.

Assistant Secretary Morton rejected all the proposed changes in the second draft by crossing them out. The third draft of the letter to Johnson was so disagreeable to Morton that he typed out two sentences and attached it to the draft and crossed out all others that related to the State Departments reply. As a result, the final letter read:

My dear Senator Johnson:

I refer to your letter of December 21, acknowledged by telephone on December 30, with which you enclose a letter from Mr.Paul Bath of Marshall, Texas concerning an article in the December 18 issue of U.S.News and World Report. It is believed that Mr.Bath refers to the article "Where are 944 Missing GI's?" on page 27 of this publication.

I am enclosing copies of a statement recounting the efforts being made to secure the return of American prisoners of war who MIGHT still be in Communist custody which I believe will be of assistance to you in replying to your constituent. As the statement points out, it continues to be our determined purpose to obtain the return of all personnel in Communists custody and we will do everything possible to accomplish this objective.

With regard to questions as to whether there are military personnel or other United States citizens in the custody of the Soviet Government, a few of the prisoners-of-war of other nationalities recently released by the Soviet Government have made reports alleging that American citizens are imprisoned in the Soviet Union. All of these reports are being investigated by this Department with the cooperation of other agencies of the Government.

You are probably aware that representations which the United States Government recently made to the Soviet Government resulted in the release in Berlin on December 29 of Homer H. Cox and Leland Towers, two Americans reported by returning [German] prisoner-of-war as bein in Soviet custody. The Department will investigate, as it has done in the past, every report indicating that American citizens are held in the custody of foreign governments.

Sincerely Yours,

For the Secretary of State,

Thruston B. Morton

It is noteworthy that Morton's letter contained no specific or accurate information, as contrasted with the three rejected drafts which had such information. The rhetoric of the State Department could not go beyond the word "might" to describe the possibility of U.S. soldiers being held by Communist forces. On the one hand, the State Department was taking credit for having released two Americans from the Soviet gulag and for investigating "every report indicating that American citizens are held in custody of foreign governments," but on the other it was dismissing any real possibility that there could be more POWs in Communist prisons.


The People's Republic of China, as noted earlier, released a Canadian Squadron Leader thirteen months after the last U.N.POW was repatriated by the Communist forces. In 1973 Chinese Communists released two American POWs who had been captured during the Korean War, along with a pilot, Philip Smith, who was shot down over the Gulf of Tonkin during the Vietnam war. During Smith's seven years in solitary confinement in a PRC jail, he had been shown the two U.S.POWs from the Korean War whom the Chinese Communists were still holding. Smith said the Chinese told him:

they wouldn't release me, and would hold me like they'd done to these other guys until I recanted.

Most Americans would find it incomprehensible that the Chinese would hold U.S. POWs from the Korean War, and release them two decades later; yet, to the Chinese Communists, this policy had some rationale.

At the conclusion of operation BIG SWITCH, the United States Government failed to pursue vigorously credible reports and left U.S. citizens, held against their will, in custody of the North Koreans, the mainland Chinese, and the USSR. Whether any of these men are still alive is --tragically--unclear.

The fate of the more than 8,000 men listed as MIA who were administratively found to be "presumed dead" is a mystery. No rebuttal was ever made to General Van Fleet, who stated in the fall of 1953 his belief that a large percentage of the 8,000 American soldiers listed as missing in Korea were alive. "A large percentage" translates into thousands of U.S. soldiers who were never repatriated by the Communist forces after the Korean war.

Seven years after operation BIG SWITCH, one Foreign Service Dispatch to the State Department in Washington contained the names of two U.S.Korean POWs working in a Soviet phosphorus mine. The cable, recently "sanitized" by the United States government, originally contained the names of the two U.S.POWs, but the names were blacked out in the sanitized version. According to the United States government, having abandoned soldiers to a life of slave labor and forced captivity, is attempting to protect the same abandoned soldiers "privacy."