May 27, 2012. Hanoi. The real story of America’s abandoned fathers, brothers and sons, betrayed and forgotten POW/MIAs in Vietnam. 3,109 men - That’s the number of US soldiers that were left behind. One day in 1973, the US government was negotiating their release. The very next day, the same American government declared them all officially dead. It was simply easier and cheaper than pursuing their release. Here’s the real story of what happened to America’s POW/MIAs in Vietnam.
A generation later, many refuse to forget what really happened to America's POW/MIAs.
The following true story was originally researched and published in the early 1990’s by the American Defense Institute. Also produced and distributed throughout the 1990’s and early 2000’s by your editor and The Liberty House. This article was one of the first ever published by Whiteout Press - ‘Americans Abandoned – POW/MIAs in Vietnam’.
The real story of America’s abandoned fathers, brothers and sons, betrayed and forgotten POW/MIAs in Vietnam.
March 1973: After years of fighting the Communists in SE Asia, the United States calls it quits, and its sons who fought the war and were captured by the enemy, some imprisoned for up to 8 years, prepare for their time of liberation and a return to the Land of the Free.
“To see that US aircraft, the Air Force uniforms come out of that aircraft, it melts your heart because you know freedom’s just a few hours away. It’s kind of hard to hang in there, day after day, in my case, 2110 days, you’ve just got to have absolute belief that some day your country’s going to come get you. When I went to Vietnam, I was prepared to be killed, to be wounded, even to be captured. But I was not prepared to be abandoned by the country that sent me there” – former American POW.
The war ended in January 1973, with a negotiated cease fire. 591 prisoners, or only about 12 percent of those requested by the US, were returned during “Operation Home Coming” in February and March 1973. Laos was another story. More than 500 pilots were shot down over Laos during the war. But none were returned, even though the Laos government indicated they desired to release American POW’s.
February 19, 1973 (UPI): “A Pathet Lao spokesman said his group is holding American prisoners of war who will be released after a cease fire goes into effect.”
But how many POW’s were they holding?
March 25, 1973 (UPI): “US sources believe that a substantial number of missing in Laos – perhaps as many as 100 – still may be alive.”
Laos made it clear. If American POW’s were to be released, Laos needed a separate cease fire agreement with the US – one separate from the agreement made with North Vietnam. A Washington Post report headline dated February 18, 1973 stated, “Pathet Lao says, no truce, no American POW’s”. But the US government appeared unwilling to negotiate a cease fire with Pathet Lao. And American chief negotiator at the Paris peace talks, Henry Kissinger, wanted American prisoners held in Vietnam and Laos returned in Vietnam through Hanoi.
March 26, 1973: North Vietnam announces they will release the last American prisoners being held, on March 27 and 28.
March 26, 1973 (AP): “The US demand that it also release POW’s captured in Laos, is beyond the Paris Peace Agreement.”
Capt. Eugene “Red” McDaniel (former POW): “After having asked for over 3,700 men, they gave us their list, the Vietnamese list of 591, which I happened to be one of. We accepted that list and came home in four groups. 591 men. And on April 13, 1973, and this is public record, the US government said, ‘they’re all dead!’. Well, my question is, what happened to those other 3,109 that we asked for between March of 73 and April 73, when we declared them all dead. What happened to those men?”
And, why would the United States government declare American prisoners of war dead, less than three weeks after US sources reported to UPI that as many as 100 were still alive, and after the United States originally asked for 3,700 men?
In a futile attempt to buy freedom for America’s POW’s, a secret letter dated February 1, 1973, was sent to the North Vietnamese Prime Minister from Henry Kissinger. The letter stated that the United States was willing to pay $3.2 billion dollars over five years. While this offer was being made by the Executive Branch, Congress was busying itself investigating the torturous treatment received by our servicemen at the hands of their Communist captors. Many former American POW’s testified to being tortured any number of ways throughout a given day.
One of the most brutalized of all, had this to say, “We’re talking, seven days and seven nights with no sleep, kneeling on concrete twenty-four hours a day, electric shock treatment about three hours per session, getting beaten with a fan belt about fifty times. And that was just the physical torture. The psychological torture was even worse. They’d come down and interrupt your daily interrogation and tell you there’s been a change in your family. And if you asked what kind of change, they would say, you don’t need to know. And you live with that for the next three or four years.”
April 6, 1973: Angered by reports of torture, the US Senate voted 88-3 to bar any financial aid to North Vietnam.
April 12, 1973: The Pentagon declares all American POWs dead.
April 30, 1973: White House staffers Bob Haldeman, John Erlichman and John Dean, were forced to resign. The POW issue was forced to take a back seat as the Nixon Administration became entangled in Watergate.
Being skeptical of Nixon’s ability to deliver the $3.25 billion dollars, which he never did, the North Vietnamese decided to keep their collateral, meaning prisoners from the war. And it wasn’t the first time the Vietnamese had ransomed prisoners. French POWs waited years for an agreement to be made. Evidence shows one example of this old Communist technique taking place after the liberation of numerous Nazi prison camps after World War II.
Stalin had held thousands of American and Allied prisoners, vowing not to return any of them unless numerous Soviet demands were met. General Eisenhower was aware that Americans were being held prisoner in the Soviet Union just weeks after the end of the war. In a secret message dated May 9, 1945, sent to General George Marshall in Washington, he estimated the number of prisoners being held at 25,000. Ominously, those Americans never returned home.
American POW’s taken from the Korean War were also transported to the Soviet Union. This fact was confirmed in a secret memo to the US Embassy in Moscow from then Secretary of State John Foster Dulles, advising the Soviets that the United States was indeed aware that US POW’s from Korea were being held in the Soviet Union. Also verifying this is a Combined Reconnaissance Activities Report, dated February 24, 1953, as well as a CIA report dated July 15, 1951, which also mentions 78 American POW’s from Korea being held in a camp in China.
Former Defense Intelligence Agency Director Daniel Graham had this to say, “The Soviets would come with a list of specialties and look and pick among the POW’s being held in North Korea and then ship them out.” A CIA intelligence report dated as recently as March 9, 1988, indicates that at least some American POW’s from the Korean War may still be alive. It states, “11 Caucasians, possibly American prisoners, were seen on a farm north of P’Yongyang.”
Did History Repeat Itself?
What are the chances that American POW’s from Vietnam were also shipped to the Soviet Union?
According to Jerry Mooney, Former National Security Agency analyst, when the Soviets had the occasion to take into their possession, prisoners with superior technical knowledge, they would move them to a small underground prison located in Vietnam. The prisoners would then be taken to a small air field and flown to the coast. From there, they would be taken by boat, rather than by plane, to the USSR. He explains, “If a ship went down, the evidence was gone. If a plane goes down, there’s evidence all over the place.”
Testimony before the Senate Select Committee on POW/MIA Affairs in 1991 by a former Soviet KGB official and a former Vietnamese General, suggests American POW’s were interrogated by the Soviets. Committee member, Senator Robert Smith, explains the significance of this admission, “All the American POW’s who came home, never gave any indication that they were ever interrogated by Russians. So, if that’s the case, where are all the ones who were?”
Smith and the Chairman of the Senate Select Committee on POW/MIA affairs, Senator John Kerry, were appointed to a joint US/Russian Commission to comb KGB files for answers regarding the fate of American prisoners from World War II, Korea and Vietnam.
Former President George Bush Sr., “There’s no hard evidence of prisoners being alive.”
Former Congressman and former consultant to the Defense Intelligence Agency, Bill Hendon, strongly disagrees with the former President as he furiously lists cases of documented sightings to the Senate Committee: “49 in North Vietnam, 200 in North Vietnam, 4 in South Vietnam, 184 in Vietnam, 70 to 80 in North Vietnam, a ‘truck load’ in North Vietnam, 2 in Laos, ‘a group’ in North Vietnam, 50 in Laos, 230 in Vietnam from the CIA, and 219 more in Vietnam from a Vietnamese doctor who testified that he took care of them.”
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