Report of the
Senate Select Committee
The investigators pursued other lines of analysis as a compliment
to the cluster map and to check it. One of these analyses,
contained in a Memorandum to the Chairman and the Vice Chairman,
was a cluster analysis of the source files that the Defense
Department termed "unresolved live-sightings." At the time of the
analysis, about 110 eyewitness accounts remained unresolved. The
plot of these files failed to show cluster patterns. Statistical
analysis indicated that over half of these files were sightings of
persons who stayed behind by their own choice and were not in
captivity. A substantial portion of those files were sighting
prior to Operation Homecoming.
Other lines of analysis included a statistical comparison of
wartime and post-war fabrication in the data. During the war, the
Defense Department determined that only about 14 percent of the
reporting was fabricated. Beginning in 1973, the rate jumped to
about 85 percent of the reporting, within a month. This analysis
was performed on Louts 123 and graphed.
Source Analysis versus Content Analysis
Vice Chairman Bob Smith outlined the philosophy behind this aspect
of the Committee's investigation in his opening statement at the
August 4, 1992 hearing:
Eight years ago, when I first came to Congress, I got
involved in the POW/MIA issue. That involvement mostly
consisted of meetings with DIA personnel and listening to
briefings on sources. The meetings always dealt with the
sources of information.
Source analysis as it was presented usually meant taking
interviews, talking with other refugees about a source,
conducting various background checks, and sometimes
giving polygraph tests.
But the focus was clearly on the source more than what he
said. The analysts always concluded that a source
fabricated his story based on source analysis.
My colleagues and I felt that something was missing. We
never saw raw data, had no personal contact and saw no
What I now realize is that there is a second way of
analyzing information called content analysis. The two
other approaches complement each other in establishing
the accuracy of information.
Everyone agrees that bad intelligence sources produce bad results.
Therefore, if all the sightings of U.S. POWs in captivity since
Operation Homecoming are erroneous, then these reports are
irrelevant. But this is not the case. Even the DIA accepts that a
number of the intelligence sources are credible, such as the source
known as the "mortician."
The minority could not accept at face value many of DIA's final
evaluations of sources. For example, the minority would not accept
DIA's resolution that a live sighting was not credible when the
source passed multiple polygraphs and every item of his account had
been verified. Some investigators contend that it is reasonable to
draw a conclusion that a source of this quality provided credible
More than any other document, the Brooks Memorandum of September
1985 led the minority to accept a broader, more thorough, and more
all-encompassing approach to the analysis of the intelligence. Use
of a cluster-map analysis enabled Committee investigators to:
. assess together both the hearsay and the first-hand live-
. mesh technical intelligence information with human source
. discover patterns and relationships in the intelligence not
evident in DIA files; and
. establish a baseline to check the validity of the source
evaluations done by DIA.
One of the clearest differences between the two approaches is seen
in the results. In every instance that DIA found the source of a
live-sighting report after 1973 to be credible, the DIA analysts
left the resolution of the sighting open-ended, or decided that the
source had to have been mistaken as to the identity of the persons
seen, regardless of what the source said. In the former case, no
additional analysis was evident. In the latter, none was needed.
The minority assessed that credible sources produced believable
reports and credible information. Additional analysis could lead to
additional results. By using cluster and other forms of pattern
analysis, the minority learned, for example:
. the existence of logistic and administrative relationships
among camps in northwestern Laos and among camps in
northwestern Vietnam that are not reflected in DIA documents;
. evidence of a possible second set of camps in Vietnam from
which no prisoners returned; and
. differences in the policies, the patterns, and the
characteristics of POW incarceration in Vietnam and in Laos.
Most importantly, the cluster-map analysis created a context for
interpreting and understanding the limited amounts of signals
intelligence of POW movements is Laos and Vietnam, and for the
photography of alleged distress signals. In every instance, the
signal intercepts and the alleged distress signals coincided with
a cluster of live-sighting report posted to the map. This
integration had never been done before.
In conclusion, the minority believes that, based on this analysis,
the intelligence indicates a strong possibility that Americans
remained alive until 1989; however, we cannot prove it.
Majority View of the Committee
Ten senators concluded that while cluster analysis can possibly
assist in raising legitimate questions, without adequate sources
and fundamental report verification, the analysis is meaningless.
Plotting ten or twenty flags representing individual reports in the
close proximity on a map means very little if the reports
themselves are not valid. While it may raise questions depending
on the validity of the reports, it cannot in and of itself be taken
as evidence of someone being alive.
In the view of the majority of senators, the plot presented by some
staff investigators is fundamentally flawed because the items
posted have not passed a validity test. Any meaning a cluster
might purport to present is clouded when such plots include reports
that are known fabrications, possible fabrications, and in some
cases are characterized by a generalized reporting which in many
cases lacks precise geographic location or other factual
As DIA pointed out to the Committee, the map-plot presented by some
investigators included only 215 first-hand live-sighting reports,
70 percent of which the Department of Defense has judged and an
inter-agency review board has approved as being complete
fabrications. In addition, DIA emphasized that the other plotted
reports, many of which have only limited analytic value because
they lack specifics on the time and/or place of sighting.
DIA asserts that notwithstanding the limited value of plotting non-
valid or unverified reports, they have used cluster analysis as a
"tool." During the hearings on August 4th, referred to above,
Major Jeannie Schiff (USAF) testified as follows:
DIA has analyzed clusters since the mid-1980s. In fact,
when a new source report is received at DIA it is
standard procedure to look at all previous first-hand and
hearsay reports in the same geographic area and to look
at any report that contains similar information
regardless of source or location.
DIA briefed the results of cluster analysis to Members of
Congress in 1987...
After careful analysis, we did not find a single report
or group of reports within any of the... areas identified
by the Senate (Committee staff) which could confirm that
a U.S. POW was held against his will after the war.
DIA asserts that the Brooks Memorandum is in error. DIA maintains
that, contrary to Brooks' finding ('basic analytical techniques,
such as plotting all sightings on a map to look for patterns and
concentrations, have never been utilized"), their analysis invoke
a computer-generated plot which is more thorough than any hand
plotting by analysts. DIA adds that Brooks was never responsible
for the day-to-day management of the POW office and even that
limited command lasted only a few weeks.
Analysis of Clusters
During public hearings on Aug. 4 and 5, 1992, the Committee
reviewed the DIA's overall handling of live-sighting reports and
discussed, in depth, "clusters" of reports, totalling 155, in four
particular areas: 1) the Hanoi Ministry of Defense area; 2) the Son
La region of northwestern Vietnam; 3) northeast Laos (Viengxay
area) and 4) the part of northwestern Laos known as the Oudomsai
Hanoi Ministry of Defense (Vietnam)
One cluster of 22 firsthand and 48 hearsay reports centers around
a secure area in downtown Hanoi that houses the top military and
intelligence offices of the Vietnamese Government. During
questioning, Senator Smith cited six unresolved reports, and one
previously resolved report, that mention, to one degree or another,
an underground detention facility in the area, including several
that refer to a prison beneath the Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum. The
reports allege that American POWs had been held during certain
periods in such a facility after the war.
In response, Mr. Robert DeStatte, a senior DIA analyst, pointed out
discrepancies among the reports with respect to the location of the
alleged detention facility and cited conversations with area
residents who denied seeing any U.S. prisoners after the time of
Operation Homecoming. He also expressed skepticism about the
existence of an underground prison because the high water table in
Hanoi would, in his judgment, make the construction of extensive
underground facilities impossible.
Under questioning, DIA officials said that they had not asked the
Vietnamese for permission to inspect all of the buildings cited by
sources as containing a prison, nor had they examined aerial
photography for evidence of construction of a prison beneath the Ho
Chi Minh Memorial.
A delegation of Committee Members visited the area of the Defense
Ministry on November 16, 1992 and found two underground bomb
shelters, but no evidence that there is or has been an underground
detention facility at the location. Nonetheless, the statements by
DeStatte at the Committee's August hearing proved to be inaccurate.
During the Select Committee's final week of hearings in early
December, 1992, Vice-Chairman Bob Smith noted that:
Our intelligence agencies have confirmed the existence
of, and I quote, "a below-grade infrastructure far more
elaborate than one would find at a mausoleum." We have
also heard from the Russian Ambassador that there is a
restricted underground area beneath the Ho Chi Minh
mausoleum...there is a very large underground area
beneath Ho Chi Minh's mausoleum and the Citadel that
certainly would have been large enough and secure enough
to detain any number of American POWs in the 1980's.
During the hearing on December 4, 1992, DeStatte responded:
...whether one can build an underground facility there or
not, you'd have to check with qualified engineers. It
would be my guess that if you're willing to devote the
resources and the money, that you can build an
underground facility anywhere.
...(but) if the stories of an underground prison were
true, then we should be able to replicate those stories,
to corroborate them by interviewing other persons who are
familiar with the same area, the same events, the same
...our investigators have spoken with many persons who
could have corroborated the stories if those stories were
true. In the end, we're left with a large number of
credible witnesses whose testimony has refuted the
unsubstantiated stories of the few...
Mr. DeStatte also cited the statement Russian Ambassador to Vietnam
Rashid Camadolin to the press on Aug. 15, 1992 in which he stated
that there is a restricted underground area beneath the mausoleum
in which there is a cooling device and a triple generator for
protection against power outages. According to Mr. DeStatte, the
Russian Ambassador dismissed the possibility that US POWs were ever
held in the area.
During the same hearing, Select Committee Chairman John Kerry
When we were on our trip (to Vietnam) last week, we were
given access to classified information. Through both
technical and classified sources, we have learned at
least to the satisfaction of those on the trip, that in
fact there is no underground "prison" or facility in that
Vienxgay is located in a remote area of northeastern Laos and
served as wartime headquarters for the Laotion Communist forces,
also known as the Pathet Loa or LPF. During the war, LPF leaders
lived in caves in the area as a protection against American bombing
raids. There is also evidence that some U.S. POWs were held
prisoner in the caves during the war.
Committee investigators identified 35 post-war reports of Americans
in captivity in the Viengxay area, of which 13 are first-hand. Many
of the reports come from individuals who claim to have worked as
guards or as prison trustees in the area in which the Americans
were allegedly held captive. The reports were spaced throughout the
1970's and early 80's, with the most recent dating from 1986. The
reports generally cite a small number of American prisoners (no
more than a dozen), held separate from other prisoners, although
three reports from the 1980's cited more than 200 prisoners.
According to the DIA, the LPF did capture some American prisoners
and detain them at Vienxgay during at least the early part of the
war. None of these prisoners returned at Operation Homecoming. In
May of 1973, the plane of civilian pilot Emmet Kay went down in
Laos. Mr. Kay was captured and sent to Hanoi but then returned to
Vienxgay where he was held captive in a cave until his release in
September, 1974. Beginning in 1975, large numbers of Soviet
agricultural and medical advisers began operating in the area.
Sightings of the Russians and of Emmet Kay may, according to DIA,
account for some of the subsequent live-sighting reports. DIA has
interviewed 157 refugees who formerly resided in the region who
deny that any other U.S. POWs were held in the area after 1973. The
DIA dismissed as completely unrealistic the three reports of more
than 200 U.S. POWs being held captive in the mid-1980's.
Son La Area (Vietnam)
The Son La area is a large and relatively remote area of northern
Vietnam, bordered on the south by Laos and extending almost to
China. It includes a series of prisons and is about 100 kilometers
west of the Yen Bai prison, which is where Robert Garwood spent
most of his time. A number of the resolved sightings from the Son
La area have been correlated by DIA to Robert Garwood. Between 1976
and 1978, the North Vietnamese Army operated a series of detention
camps for former South Vietnamese military personnel (ARVN) in the
Committee investigators identified 19 reported sightings of
Americans in captivity in and around the Son La area. Of these
reports, 9 were first-hand and 10 hearsay. Thirteen of the
sightings were in the mid to late 1970's. Most involve brief,
apparently accidental, sightings of a group of alleged prisoners
held separate from the rest of the prison population. For example,
in separate reports in 1976, one U.S. person was reportedly seen
cutting bamboo, a group of 60-70 U.S. POWs were allegedly seen on
a soccer field, and six POWs were apparently seen working. In 1977,
there was a hearsay report that American prisoners were about to be
moved, a report that 24 foreigners were seen under guard and a
reported sighting of 40-50 Americans in a camp. In 1978 and 1979,
there were another four reports of sightings of relatively large
(30-50) groups of POWs in the area. Towards the end of 1979, China
invaded this part of Vietnam and the reported sightings of large
numbers of Americans stopped. Subsequent reports, all hearsay,
involve the alleged sighting only of individual or small numbers of
Mr. Sheetz of DIA testified that the U.S. Government had received
a total of 30 reports about the possible presence of U.S. POWs from
individuals who had been under detention in the Son La area during
the late 1970's, aside from the many reports correlated to Robert
Garwood. Of the 30 reports, 18 were thought to be fabrications and
12 had been correlated to other types of individuals--such as
Swedish development workers or Soviet advisers.
Mr. Gary Sydow, Chief of the Analysis Branch of the DIA's POW/MIA
Office, testified that DIA does not believe there is any evidence
that American POWs were ever held in the ARVN detention camp system
in the Son La area. According to Mr. Sydow, "We've learned a lot
about this system. But to hunt for PW's, this is not a place I
would look." DIA officials also testified that they had interviewed
more than 3700 former inmates of the prison system and been told by
only a very small number about the possible presence of Americans
other than Robert Garwood. According to Mr. DeStatte:
There was a tremendous flow of information there. None of
these camps existed in isolation, and while...there was
a small number of people who said that there was a number
of PW's, of Americans other than Robert Garwood, I would
point out that a tremendous number--a tremendously larger
number of people were in that same system who were
exposed to the same information flow. They say no.
The DIA officials did testify, however, that a 1979 reported
sighting of 40-50 Caucasians, while under guard, bathing in a
stream alongside a road in Son La province remains under active
The Oudamsai region is a very remote area of northern Laos in which
few, if any, American operations occurred during the war. Committee
staff investigators identified 30 reported sightings of American
POWs in the area following the end of Operation Homecoming. Of
these, six are first-hand, the rest hearsay. The reports generally
relate to the detention of small numbers of Americans in caves or
camps, separate from those holding Lao prisoners, in or near the
five prisons in the region.
Sources of the reports were usually Lao prisoners out on work
detail or individuals providing services to the prisons. The
reported sightings extend in time from 1973 until 1989. The reports
during the 1970's generally referred to less than 10 American
prisoners, three reports from 1986 to 1989 cited between 16 and 21
Mr. Warren Gray, Chief of the Current Operations Branch of the
DIA's POW/MIA Office, testified that there is no evidence that
Americans were held in the Oudomsai region or elsewhere in Laos
after Operation Homecoming. According to interviews with more than
1000 Lao refugees conducted by the DIA and other U.S. agencies,
there were no U.S. POWs in the Oudomsai region. The refugees did
say, however, that there were large numbers of Soviet advisers,
usually travelling with an armed escort because of the presence of
Lao resistance forces in the area. Several of the alleged sightings
of U.S. POWs were attributed by DIA to sightings of the Soviet
Asked to summarize the DIA's view of sightings in the Oudomsai
region, Mr. Gray said:
There are several points that should be made with regard
to Oudomsai, Luang Prabang, and Phong Saly, the three
areas for which this cluster (of reports) was brought
together. First of all...the Lao resistance has complete
access to all three provinces. They were well-attuned to
the fact that there are reward offers of millions of
dollars if they bring out live POWs.
They have been looking for live POWs on a daily basis.
Early on, the Lao resistance turned in some hearsay
reporting. They made up some of the reporting on their
own and we said through their channels, knock it off. If
you have valid information, we want it, otherwise do not
use the POW issue for monetary gain . . . . because it's
not going to be accepted.
But the resistance has access to those areas. We have
access to the resistance leaders. They have told us to a
person that if they get POW information, we'll be the
first to know. They've had no valid POW information from
any of these three provinces.
The question of methodology with respect to evaluating live-
sighting reports was revisited on December 4, 1992, during the
Committee's final hearing, in the following exchange between Mr.
Robert Sheetz of DIA and Vice-Chairman Bob Smith:
Mr. Sheetz:...it's not enough just to take individual
reports and throw them up on the map. You've got to look
at them in the context of all that you know. This is
another way of talking about doing all-source
analysis...evaluating each report in terms of what you
know about the area and how the report fits in.
Senator Smith: But, Bob, nobody is representing anything
differently than that on the map...
Obviously, a firsthand report is better than a hearsay
report in terms of the source. But in terms of the
plotting, if 10 different hearsay reports, all
independent, plot in the same grid coordinates it ought
to send a signal out (that) you ought to take another
look at it...
what is being misrepresented here is that somehow every
one of these reports are valid. Nobody has said that. We
just simply took the grid coordinates that were in your
information and put them up there just to see where they
came. And that is the way they clustered. Many of them
will be bogus, as you have said.
But the point is...if you missed something in the past
because it was not done, then it is worth a second look.
And I think we ought to be...working together to go
through those ones.
Other Live-Sighting Reports
In addition to the examples mentioned above, there were other
reports which the Comittee focused on in Vietnam. An ethnic Chinese
refugee left Vietnam in 1979 and related a story which DIA deemed
While employed as a mortician in Hanoi, responsible for treating
the stored remains of American MIAs, the refugee stated that he saw
two unidentified Caucasians as late as 1979, whom he believed were
"progressive" Americans who remained after the Vietnam War under
the custody of the Vietnamese Government. The "mortician" has
passed a polygraph examination to this effect and was deposed by
the Committee during its investigation.
Another example in Vietnam on which the Committee focused were the
live-sighting reports by former Marine PFC Robert Garwood, who
remained in Vietnam until 1979. During a week-long deposition,
Garwood told the Committee that he had seen what he believed were
live American POWs between 1973 and 1978. Most notably, Garwood
stated that he had seen American POWs in a prison camp at Thach Ba
Lake in 1977 and in a box car at a railway crossing in 1976.
Although the DIA stated as recently as June 1992 that no such
prison ever existed at Thach Ba Lake, the Committee notes that the
presence of this prison was confirmed by the Vietnamese to the
Chairman and Vice Chairman in December 1992. Whether Americans ever
were held in this facility and were moved through a railway
crossing, as Garwood claims, remains under investigation.
Current Status of Live-Sighting Investigations
In April, November and December 1992, Members of the Select
Committee traveled to Vietnam and Laos for discussions with
officials in those countries on several subjects, including
cooperation in the investigation of live-sighting reports.
In Laos, the Committee has found recent improvements in
cooperation, although investigations are hindered by the hazardous
geography and inclement weather that characterizes the Laotian
During meetings in Vietnam, the Select Committee repeatedly pressed
officials (1) to accelerate the pace of jointly run live sighting
investigations, particularly those identified as priorities by
American officials, with the hope that all unresolved priority
reports could be investigated by the end of the Committee's tenure;
and (2) to permit what have become known as "short notice live
sighting investigations." A "short notice" investigation occurs
when US investigators present Vietnamese officials with the details
of a live sighting report and receive permission to conduct an
immediate on-site investigation. The primary advantage of a "short
notice" investigation is that it reduces the risk that the
investigation will be compromised through the "coaching" of local
residents or by the removal or alteration of physical evidence.
The degree of Vietnamese cooperation on live-sighting
investigations has improved considerably, in part as a result of
the Committee delegation visits. At the time of the Committee's
visit in November, eighteen "priority" first-hand live sighting
reports concerning Vietnam remained uninvestigated. The schedule
then in place called for completion of the 18 investigations
sometime in the spring of 1993. During meetings in Hanoi between
November 15-17, 1992, however, the Select Committee obtained a
promise from Vietnamese officials to accelerate the pace so that
investigation of the 18 remaining priority cases would be completed
by early December.
In fact, the Committee delegation was able to participate
personally in the investigation of six of the eighteen priority
cases. Under the leadership of the DIA, and with the cooperation of
the Vietnamese, Committee Members and staff conducted on-site
inquiries into live-sighting reports involving:
. the Citadel, a secure military compound in Hanoi analogous to
the U.S. Pentagon (two reports emanating from the Citadel were
. the X-4 Prison in Ho Chi Minh City, analogous to the U.S. FBI;
. the Rach Gia Prison in Ha Tien Province;
. a mountaintop in Chau Doc Province; and
. the An Diem Prison in Da Nang.
In each location, the team of Members, staff and DIA investigators
searched for corroboration of details of the relevant live sighting
report by surveying the physical layout and appearance of the area
and by interviewing local residents. All six live sighting reports
proved to be inconsistent with the information obtained during the
on-site investigations, and none turned up evidence that live
Americans remain in captivity in Vietnam.
Since the conclusion of the Committee's visit, the pace of
investigations has continued and all of the priority investigations
in Vietnam have now been completed. Unfortunately, none of these
priority live sighting reports has been found to be valid.
The "short notice" live sighting investigations provide a useful
gauge of the level of the Government of Vietnam's cooperation on
the POW/MIA issue. These investigations often require a substantial
intrusion into government operations or into the privacy of
Vietnamese citizens. Despite this, the Vietnamese have been
extremely cooperative recently in responding to US requests for
short notice investigations. As of early December 1992, US
investigators had conducted 16 short notice live sighting
investigations in Vietnam.
Despite the heightened cooperation of the Vietnamese, and despite
the increased focus of US officials upon the investigation of live
sighting reports, the caseload for future investigatory action
remains. This was illustrated by a discussion involving Senator Tom
Daschle, Admiral Charles Larson, Commander CINCPAC, and Major
General George Christmas, Commander of CINCPAC Operations during
the Select Committee's hearing on December 4, 1992:
Sen. Daschle: We talked about trying to complete the
[priority] live sighting investigations by ... the end of next
week, December 10th. Are we going to be able to maintain that
schedule? To what degree are you satisfied, if we can meet
that schedule, that we [will] have exhausted our live sighting
Admiral Larson: Senator, I don't think we'll ever exhaust the
live sighting investigations. They keep coming in. We still
have 99 unresolved cases, so they come in as we resolve them.
We've picked out the priority ones. DIA has assessed those as
priority, have given them to us, and we pursue those as fast
as we can in the field. And I think the last one is up by the
Chinese border now, the folks are up there today working on
Sen. Daschle: We had about eight or nine, I think, when we
left [Vietnam in November 1992], and you say now those
priority cases are all --
Admiral Larson: This is the last one.
General Needham: Yes, sir. ...[T]he last report I have is we
were down to one, and that one was up on the Chinese border
... and they're up there right now, in fact, may have actually
finished it. But it's one that takes a couple of days to get
up there and a couple of days to get back.
General Christmas: But as an example, we have 24 more cases
that have just arrived in Bangkok.
Sen. Daschle: 24 more live sighting cases?
General Christmas: That's correct. And we will begin -- eight
of those are reinvestigations, but we will begin a program
then tomove on with those 24. So it's very dynamic.
Sen. Daschle: Now are those live sightings that have just
recently occurred, or are they old live sightings that are
being turned over to you for the first time?
Admiral Larson: Most of these are old live sightings that have
been screened and presented to us for either investigation or
re-investigation. Most of the ones I screened were probably
four or five -- some of them were probably four or five years
old, but they're not all current that are happening right now.
In early January 1993, the caseload of live-sighting investigations
to be done totalled 40; JTF-FA teams returned to Southeast Asia to
undertake these and other investigations on Jan. 2, 1993.
Example : Pleiku, November 1992
Another live-sighting investigation was conducted by a committee
staff investigator and a member of Joint Task Force-Full Accounting
(JTF-FA) November 21-25, 1992, following the departure of the
committee delegation. The investigation began in Ho Chi Minh City
and ended in Pleiku, Gia Lai-Kontum Province.
Acting on information provided by a Chinese-Vietnamese resident,
Mr. Luu, of Tacoma, Washington, the investigation team was composed
of Gary Flanagan of JTF-FA, Ho Xuan Dich, Director of the Vietnam
Office for Seeking Missing Persons, and Col. William E. LeGro,
Mr. Luu had provided Col. LeGro with the name and address of a
Vietnamese resident of Ho Chi Minh City who had information about
"William George Morgan," allegedly an American POW living freely,
or being held, in the central highlands of Vietnam. The team found
the source, Mr. Toan, at home in his coffee-house. As it
developed, Mr. Toan had no personal knowledge about "Morgan", but
agreed to lead us to someone who did. He also produced three
bundles of human remains (bones and skulls), which appeared to be
Mongoloid, rather than Caucasian. They were later collected by the
Vietnamese for joint forensic examination.
Mr. Toan accompanied the team to Xuan Loc, a 90-minute drive east
of Ho Chi Minh City. Here they interviewed Mr. Bao who also had no
personal information about "Morgan," but offered to guide us to a
man who did. Mr. Bao also offered three bundles of bones which
also appeared upon casual inspection to be Mongoloid.
The following morning, the team picked up Mr. Bao in Xuan Loc and
continued east and north on National Route 1, reaching Tuy Hoa by
dark. The journey resumed the next dawn and by mid-morning the
team was passing through the village of Ha Tam, between An Khe and
Mang Yang on National Route 19. Here Mr. Bao directed a halt in
front of a small, thatched shelter and introduced the team to Mr.
Anh, who told them that the source of information was Mr. Long in
Pleiku and that he would guide them to Mr. Long.
The meeting with Mr. Long is described in the live-sighting report
At 1200 hours on 24 November, the team arrived in Pleiku
town. At 1210 the team arrived at 83 Nguyen Viet Xuan
Street, which is located on the south side, and uphill
from, Route 19 on the way into the main section of Pleiku
town. The team stayed close to Mr. Bao and Mr. Anh when
they exited the vehicle and walked to the residence of
Mr. Long. Mr. Bao knocked on the door, and a Vietnamese
male answered the door. Another man then came to the
door, and Mr. Anh said that it was Mr. Long. Mr. Long
invited us in and we entered the building.
The living area of the residence smelled strongly of
alcohol and the man who identified himself as Mr. Ho Xuan
Long appeared to have been drinking heavily. Mr. Long
identified himself as a 40-year-old ethnic Vietnamese.
After introducing the team, we informed Mr. Long that we
had been following information leads about an American
living in the Central Highlands in a remote region.
During the introduction, team members noticed that Mr.
Long's left arm was heavily bandaged. Subsequently,
during the interview, Mr. Long occasionally appeared to
be in severe pain. The team explained that Mr. Toan in Ho
Chi Minh City had led us to Mr. Bao in Xuan Loc, and that
Mr. Bao had led us to Mr. Anh in Ha Tam, and that Mr.
Anh, in turn, had led us to Mr. Long's residence in
Pleiku. The team then asked Mr. Long if he had any
information on live Americans.
Mr. Long expressed some initial surprise that a joint
U.S./SRV team would be visiting him and then said that he
had gone with "some others" to a very remote area where
an American was living. Mr. Long said that 12 or 13 other
men had gone to a border defense post with him. At this
point, the team asked Mr. Long who the other men were and
who did the men meet with at the border defense post. Mr.
Long responded in vague terms and said that the group of
men had gone to the border defense post "to the west" of
Pleiku at a location about ten kilometers from the
Cambodian border. Mr. Long said that it took the group
two days to travel to the border defense post. Mr. Long
then said that he himself had never seen an American
alive in that region, but he knew that the American was
alive. The team asked Mr. Long how he knew the American
was alive, and Mr. Long responded that he just knew the
American was alive because he had heard others talking
about the American. The team asked Mr. Long to identify
anyone who knew of the live American, and Mr. Long
refused to answer. After Mr. Long refused to answer
several questions from the team members, Mr. Long
responded that he would not answer any more questions.
The team asked Mr. Long to reconsider, and Mr. Long
changed his story. Mr. Long said that he knew that the
American was alive because he had gone to a Montagnard
village where all of the villagers talk about the
American. The team asked Mr. Long for details about the
village and the villagers. Mr. Long refused to answer.
At this point, Mr. Dich and Mr. Manh of the VNOSMP tried
to impress upon Mr. Long the importance of his responding
to questions from the joint team. Mr. Dich and Mr. Manh
re-introduced the American members of the team, then re-
introduced the Vietnamese members of the team. After re-
explaining the purpose of the team's visit, Mr. Manh
asked Mr. Long if he had ever seen the American living in
the highlands. Mr. Manh also asked for details about the
border defense post, its numerical designator, and who
was in charge of the border defense post. Mr. Long
refused to answer.
Mr. Bao and Mr. Anh, who were present, but had remained
silent up to this point, then asked for Mr. Long's
assistance. Both Mr. Bao and Mr. Mr. Anh appealed to Mr.
Long to find a way to lead the team to the location where
the American was living. Mr. Bao and Mr. Anh also
appealed to Mr. Long to do so as a humanitarian act and
not for monetary gain. Mr. Long refused to respond to
their requests. Instead, Mr. Long said that he was afraid
to answer. The team informed Mr. Long that if he would
describe precisely where the remote location was, the
team would proceed there immediately, regardless of what
type of transportation was required. Mr. Bao and Mr. Anh
both asked Mr. Long to find a way to tell the team what
he knew. Mr. Long said he was sorry but he would need
time to think about it. Mr. Dich then asked Mr. Long if
the border defense post in question was Border Defense
Post 93. Mr. Dich also asked Mr. Long if the man in
charge of the border defense post was Mr. Bien. Mr. Long
said that he would not answer those questions. Mr. Dich
them told Mr. Long that the team would leave him alone to
think about the situation and would return in the evening
to talk some more. Both Mr. Dich and Mr. Manh assured Mr.
Long that he had nothing to fear so long as he told the
truth. The team left Mr. Long's residence after notifying
him that we would return at 1800 hours the same day.
The interview continued, with Mr. Long becoming increasingly
evasive and nervous. Finally, Mr. Long departed from his assertion
that he had seen the American:
Mr. Long, noticeably shaking, said the[n] he knew a man
at a border defense post near the location where the
American was kept hidden. Mr. Long repeated that he could
only go to the location alone. Mr. Dich and Mr. Manh both
encouraged Mr. Long to cooperate and tell the team what
he knew. At this point, Mr. Long said that the only
reason he only knew the story of the American living in
the central highlands was because he had met a man named
Huy Luu in Ho Chi Minh City at a coffee house operated by
a young man named Toan. Mr. Long quickly changed the
subject and said that he knew of approximately 20 sets of
remains of U.S. servicemen. To substantiate this, Mr.
Long went to a room at the rear of his residence and then
returned with the photocopy of an identification card. .
The team consulted field listings of unaccounted for U.S.
personnel and informed Mr. Long that the identification
data on the card did not correspond to any known
Americans missing in Vietnam.
The team then questioned Mr. Long about his knowledge of
remains alleged to [be] the remains of U.S. servicemen.
Mr. Long said that he knew of approximately 20 such
remains. When asked where the remains were and who had
custody of them, Mr. Long said that he only knew of the
remains because the local people who had them in their
custody had approached him and asked him to help them.
Mr. Long said that each of the remains was available for
a price of $5,000 (USD) in gold or that all 20 of the
remains could be purchased for $100,000.
The team agreed that Mr. Long was evasive and probably had no
information on any living American in the highlands. Mr. Dich
informed Mr. Long that the People's Committee would meet with him
later that evening to decide on what to do about Mr. Long's
dealings in false information about Americans. This meeting took
place, but the American members of the team were not invited to
The following morning Mr. Flanagan and Col. LeGro attended a
meeting with the People's Committee and heard from Major Hien, the
commander of the border post in question. Information presented at
this meeting appeared to show that the story of the American in the
highlands was a venerable rumor, probably founded in the Caucasian
resemblance of an old, blind tribesman who lived in a village
southwest of Pleiku. It was quite apparent that Mr. Long was
attempting to make his living trafficking in POW information and
remains, but it was unclear whether he was a leading figure in this
enterprise or part-agent/part-victim. Mr. Luu's role was also in
question, as were the involvements of Toan, Bao, and Anh.
As long as live-sighting reports remain under investigation, they
constitute a measure of potential evidence that US POWs may have
been left behind and survived in captivity, at least for a time.
It is also possible that one or more of DIA's past report
evaluations is incorrect. As rigorous as the current analytical
process appears to be, it remains dependent at times on deductions
that, although highly logical, are still less than 100% certain.
Examples of this are cases where DIA has correlated sightings to
Soviet advisers because advisers were present in an area or
discounted reports because multiple other refugees from a
particular area have reported seeing no U.S. POWs. The existence of
a small degree of uncertainty is inevitable in making such
judgments and a small degree of uncertainty is all that is -- or
should be -- required to ensure that the live-sighting followup
process continues to be taken very seriously and that evaluations
be done with enormous care.
Arriving at a firm judgment about the overall significance of live-
sighting reports is complicated by several factors. Many such
reports are obvious fabrications. Others are so vague as to make
meaningful follow-up impossible. Nailing down specific information
about incidents that may have occurred ten or fifteen or more years
ago is, at best, extremely difficult. And as mentioned above,
analytical judgments, even when professionally arrived at, often
retain an element of subjectivity.
Another complicating factor in assessing live-sighting reports is
the frequent need for foreign country cooperation. In that sense,
the U.S. Government's official investigators are caught in what is
perhaps the ultimate "Catch-22". If an apparently credible report
should be received concerning the possible presence of Americans in
Vietnam or Laos, cooperation from the governments of those
countries may well be required to check the report out. But the
very process of asking permission jeopardizes the credibility of
the investigation. As a result, the DIA supplements its official
requests with other means of gathering information, but these other
methods may be relatively slow and uncertain. One routine but
increasingly available method of gaining information consists
simply of talking to average Vietnamese in their own cities and
villages. The presence of full time American investigators in Hanoi
and hopefully, in Laos and Cambodia, as well, should augment the
amount of information collected by this method.
The Committee notes that political changes particularly in
Cambodia, but also in Vietnam and Laos, have greatly expanded the
number of Caucasians living or traveling freely in southeast Asia.
This creates a likelihood that there will be a rising number of
well-intentioned, but inaccurate, reports concerning possible
American POWs. It is important that procedures be established so
that the limited resources of DIA investigators are not squandered
on reports that obviously do not pertain to possible U.S. POW/MIAs.
It is DIA's judgment that the live-sighting reports they have
received and evaluated do not constitute "evidence" that any U.S.
POWs remained in captivity in southeast Asia after the war,
although the possibility that this did occur cannot be ruled out.
There was considerable discussion by Committee Members during the
course of its investigation about DIA's use of the term "evidence"
in that statement. Some Members felt that the number and detail of
live-sighting reports clearly constituted "evidence" that Americans
were left behind, even if serious questions about the validity of
individual reports had been raised. Other Members agreed with DIA
that a large number of reports does not necessarily signify
anything if there are strong reasons to discount each of the
reports. No Committee Member would argue that existing reports
constitute hard proof that American POWs remained behind or are
still being held captive in southeast Asia.
The Committee investigation also found that:
. There is no evidence that officials or investigators from DIA
have concealed or covered up information concerning the
possible presence of live Americans in Southeast Asia.
. The current DIA staff, especially those based in southeast
Asia, deserve credit for an enormous and steadily increasing
amount of work performed under very difficult and
. In order to ensure objectivity, there must be a continued and
conscious effort on the part of DIA leadership to maintain an
attitude among analysts that presumes the possible survival of
U.S. POWs in southeast Asia to the present day.
. The DIA should routinely review its analytical methods for the
purpose of ensuring the most rigorous possible, all-source,
evaluation of live-sighting reports, including hearsay reports
. Continued emphasis should be placed on establishing a strong,
on the ground, live-sighting investigatory capability in Laos
and Cambodia and on expanding that capability within Vietnam.
. The highest priority should continue to be given to credible
reports that live Americans are currently being held.
Pilot Distress Symbols
The purpose of this part of the investigation was to determine the
possibility that a number of symbols and markings, identified
through the use of overhead reconnaissance photography, might have
been attempts by American POWs to communicate their location to
U.S. intelligence collectors. These possible distress symbols,
several of which match pilot distress symbols used during the war,
span a period from 1973 to 1988, and as late as June 1992.
The Committee also undertook an examination into actions taken by
the Government to investigate those symbols. U.S. investigators
did not act on one provocative symbol, even after four U.S.
Senators travelled to a remote area of Laos to investigate it
themselves. It was not until the Committee scheduled a public
hearing on it six months later that U.S. investigators began their
work. In contrast, while it took the U.S. six months to request
permission to visit the site, the Government of Laos granted
permission in just two days.
As part of their overall training, U.S. Air Force pilots received
survival training. The Air Force's Joint Services Survival,
Evasion, Resistance, and Escape Agency (JSSA) developed and
conducted much of the training program. Some of the survival
training during the Vietnam War-era was conducted at Fairchild Air
Force Base. Another part, focused specifically on jungle survival,
was conducted at Clark Air Force Base in the Philippines. The
length of the courses varied. Depending on the year in which the
training was conducted, the Fairchild phase could have been 12-20
days in length and the Clark phase might have been 3-5 days long.
Although the program was conducted by the Air Force, some Army,
Navy and Marine Corps personnel also participated. Many subjects
were taught during these programs, but training that focused on
ground to air signaling was of particular interest to the
Ground to air signals could consist of pyrotechnic signals, sea dye
marker, mirrors, or signals based on sticks, rocks or soil which
would be arranged in patterns clearly recognizable from the air.
Pilots were taught to use shadows to enhance and add a three-
dimensional effect to the letters.
Specific letters used for the ground symbols were determined by the
U.S. Pacific Command (PACOM), the military regional command
responsible for the conduct of the war in Southeast Asia. The
signals were changed periodically so that the secrecy of their
meaning could be maintained. It appears that the practice of using
letters for ground-to-air signalling started in 1966 and the style
of the letters evolved throughout the war with the directive to add
appendages to the letters taking effect in October 1971.
The preferred means of signalling, of course, was by a survival
radio. Voice communications over these radios relied upon special
authentication procedures. Normally, this would be a four digit
number or "authenticator number." Once a downed pilot established
communications on a survival radio, he would use the authenticator
number to verify his identity with the search or rescue aircraft.
This method of authentication would make it more difficult for
enemy forces to mimic a downed pilot and lure unsuspecting allied
aircraft into a trap. Ground-to-air signalling was an essential
part of pilot survival training.
Military Escape and Evasion Program
During the war years, the Services gave many pilots who flew in
Southeast Asia individual authenticator numbers to identify
themselves by radio or other means in the event of their shootdown
or capture. Combat squadrons also gave their flyers primary and
back-up Escape and Evasion (E&E) signals to use to identify their
location, as either an evader or a POW. Some Army Special Forces
troops were also given E&E distress signals for their use. These
distress signals were classified and changes periodically. Pilot
authenticator numbers were also classified. During the years of
the Southeast Asian conflict, both national level and Service
intelligence organizations were required to be alert for any Escape
and Evasion (E&E) symbols marked on the ground, as part of the
overall effort to recover downed pilots or identify possible
detention sites for POWs. A number of Search and Rescue operations
were mounted during the war, based on the detection of E&E symbols.
The Committee held Hearings on this issue on October 15, followed
on the 16th by a closed hearing on a 1981 covert operation, which
was triggered largely by a possible distress signal. A number of
depositions and interviews of DIA, CIA and JSSA personnel, related
to the Symbols investigation were also completed. The
investigation focused on identifying all possible symbols detected
by overhead photography, all contemporaneous written documentation
and analysis pertaining to such symbols, and on what efforts were
taken by DIA to investigate the origin of the symbols. Most
documentation has been declassified and line drawings of the
possible symbols were prepared by CIA and DIA.