MIA Facts Site

Report of the
Senate Select Committee
on
POW-MIA Affairs:
Section 17

Debriefings

Phase I of Operation Homecoming was the POWs' repatriation. The
exit point for all but nine returned POWs was Hanoi.

Phase II of Operation Homecoming was debriefing at Clark Air Force
Base by the Joint Debriefing and Casualty Reporting Center (JDCRC),
under the direction of CINCPAC. JDCRC had representatives from
each military service. Civilian and foreign returnees were
debriefed by the Service with which they were associated or by
members of the U.S. Embassy, Manila. Each Service handled its own
debriefings, differing in approach, but following common debriefing
instructions. The Army and Marine Corps used professional
intelligence debriefers whose sole job was debriefing. The Navy and
Air Force used a combination of escort and debriefer. The Navy used
only Air Intelligence Officers. Air Force escort/debriefers were
not chosen from specific specialties.

The Committee attempted to examine the process of debriefing
returning POWs at Clark Air Force Base in the Philippines, and
again when they returned to the U.S. to determine:

. the objectives of the debrief program;

. its planning -- what assets were devoted to the task and
how were they organized, deployed and funded?

. its implementation -- how adequately DoD debriefed the POW
returnees and how well they processed the POW/MIA debrief
reports. What all-source information was requested and
collected by DIA as a result of the debriefs? How were leads
(such as names, photos, etc.) followed? How fully were the
debriefing results reported to the Executive Branch and
Congress?

DIA made no final report aggregating the results of the individual
debriefings after Operation Homecoming. While DoD has
provided a substantial amount of material to the Committee, the
collection suffered with the passage of time. Without a final
report, and without complete files and access to information, it is
difficult to fully assess the adequacy of Operation Homecoming
debriefings nearly 20 years after the fact.

The returnees were processed in five cycles. Each group consisted
of 20-150 returnees, arriving at 8-10 day intervals. The debriefs
were transcribed, edited by the senior officer of each service, and
transmitted. When a returnee's debriefing was completed, the
intelligence packet, including the debriefing tape, transcribed
debrief and/or assessment report, would be assembled and sent by
the escort officer for relay to the appropriate CONUS hospital.

A summary of the debriefings included:

Returnees Debriefed:
USAF 324
USN 138
USA 71
USMC 22
US Civilians 23
Thai Civilians 2
German Civilians 2
Canadian Civilians 1

Total 583

Returnees Not Debriefed
USAF Medical 1
USMC Higher HQ directed 4
USA Higher HQ directed 6

Total 11

The committee learned a great deal about the debriefing process
from the testimony of Admiral and Mrs. Stockdale -- among them that
POW wives were never debriefed by DIA, and that Admiral Stockdale's
debriefing was limited to his 52-hour initial debriefing.

Senator Daschle: . . . ..Do I understand, Mrs. Stockdale,
that you have never been debriefed officially by the
Federal Government?

Mrs Stockdale: I think you understand correctly, yes never.

Senator Daschle: And Admiral Stockdale, to what extent have
you been debriefed, even in subsequent years, by DIA, by
anybody, as we try to put together our best information?

Admiral Stockdale: Nothing but my initial debrief, which was
rather extensive.

Phase III debriefings were conducted in the United States.

A symposium was held June 20-23, 1973 to discuss lessons learned.
The panelists thought the debriefings were accomplished without
major problems, although some debriefers complained that emphasis
was placed on familiarization with the POWS background and
insufficient stress was given to basic debriefing techniques.
Rapport between the POW and his debriefer facilitated the flow of
information. Each service attempted to first establish an
effective working relationship. The Navy allowed the debriefer to
escort the POW from Clark Air Force Base to the U.S., hoping that
this would cement a working relationship. The Army and Marine
Corps sought to achieve good rapport by matching the debriefer and
POW by rank, background and interest. Debriefers were primary
collectors of all available data.

While in captivity POWs had designated certain POWs to serve as
"memory banks," this created initial pressure because many early
returnees were hesitant to discuss information which they had not
been directed to gather and commit to memory. This stumbling block
was removed when senior POWS directed them to relate their entire
experience to debriefers.

Suspicions have surrounded the debriefing of returned POWs for
nearly 20 years, primarily because access has been restricted based
on debriefing agreements with the returnees. Did the
government leave men behind? Did key officials know it? Were the
returnees told to not report certain information? Was the prison
system a closed circle of knowledge; could there have been separate
prison systems not known to the returning POWS? Was the American
public told the truth?

Debriefing Results

Life in Captivity

Post-Homecoming debriefings and a DIA Intelligence Appraisal of
them, now unclassified, provide a summary of the prisoners of war's
experience in Southeast Asia.

Captivity ranged from several hours in South Vietnam to more than
eight years in the North. Most servicemen were captured during the
height of the bombing of the North between 1966 and 1968. POWs
captured prior to December 1971 were known as the "Old Guys." The
majority of POWs were Air Force and Navy pilots shot down over
North Vietnam and virtually all were captured within minutes
because they descended directly into populated areas. Many
suffered ejection injuries and shock which made evasion impossible;
while others evaded successfully for up to 12 days. Evasion in
Laos was somewhat easier and many more downed airmen were recovered
in the sparsely populated and otherwise more permissive
environment. POWs captured in Laos and taken to North Vietnam had
spent less than three weeks in Laos itself.

The PRG returned 122 U.S. POWs; 28 were released in South Vietnam.
All but one had been captured by the Viet Cong and detained near
the Cambodian border and the last POW was held in the Delta region.

The remaining 94 POWs were captured north of Da Lat City after 1968
and moved to North Vietnam for detention.

Living conditions in the South were primitive and life was hard.
POWs often were chained or bound for long periods, primarily as a
security precaution. Movement was frequent and involved walking
several weeks between camp sites, and the daily survival routine
varied little through the years. There was no overall policy or
systematic torture of POWs in South Vietnam, but treatment varied
by individual camp commanders and guards. It was more difficult to
survive captivity in the South, but escape was easier, and 26 POWs
(about 12 percent) captured in the South escaped.

Treatment in North Vietnam varied over three eras. Until late 1965,
there was little use of torture. From late 1965 until late 1969,
torture and mistreatment was common. Beginning in late 1969,
torture and mistreatment declined. "Camp rules" were the basis for
punishment, and they specified that all American POWS were
criminals. This was consistent with North Vietnamese protests that
the Geneva Convention on prisoners did not apply to American POWs
because the war was an undeclared one.

The Prison System

In North Vietnam, 13 camps were used for permanent detention, eight
outside of Hanoi and five within the city. Three camps outside of
Hanoi were used exclusively to hold POWs captured in South Vietnam
and Laos. Four camps were used only for POWs captured in the
North. POWs from all areas were confined in the remaining camps.
The primary camps were Hoa Lo Prison and Cu Loc, dubbed by American
POWs the "Hanoi Hilton" and the "Zoo," respectively.

POWs arriving in Hanoi normally were moved directly to the Hanoi
Hilton, a maximum security prison built in the heart of the city by
the French in the early 1900's. It was divided into three parts:
(1) "New Guy Village," called "Heartbreak" from 1965 to late
1971, served as the interrogation facility throughout the war; (2)
"Little Vegas;" and (3) "Camp Unity," the largest section first
used to detain Americans in 1970.

After interrogation at the Hanoi Hilton, POWs would remain in
Little Vegas or be transferred to either the Plantation or the Zoo.

The Plantation was initially a showplace camp for visits and later
held 108 POWS from Laos and South Vietnam. The Zoo housed nearly
200 POWs at one time and replaced the Plantation as the North
Vietnamese showplace during the last years of the war and was the
camp visited by Ramsey Clark, Jane Fonda, and Joan Baez.

Prior to 1970, POWs were held in small to medium-sized camps or in
small isolated groups within the camps. After the Son Tay raid,
the smaller camps were closed, the POWs consolidated, and treatment
of POWs improved. In late 1972, the North Vietnamese readjusted
the camp system in anticipation of the POW release. The American
POWS were released from North Vietnam in four increments: the
first two from the Hanoi Hilton, the third from the Plantation, and
the fourth from the Zoo. All POWs captured in South Vietnam and
Laos who were held in North Vietnam were released from the Hanoi
Hilton.

Information About Unaccounted-For Servicemen

A preliminary Committee staff analysis of a computer listing
of non-returnees named in the debriefing report showed that
51 servicemen named by returnees had not returned from Southeast
Asia. Upon the Committee's request, DIA prepared a case-by-
case review of these 51 cases and determined that 51 names
in the USAF listing were inaccurately correlated. A summary
accompanying the DIA review explained:

These debriefs were reviewed for intelligence value
immediately after Operation Homecoming in 1973. It must be
emphasized that the returnees were asked for information they
may possess on unaccounted for Americans, not just for
information on known prisoners of war.

Of the 51 listed, the following observations remain true:

. Many POWs reported on individuals they personally saw dead.

. Many names reported to debriefers were heard in the prison
communication system; when investigated after Operation
Homecoming, most of these reports were cleared:

. Many reports came from queries by one individual, about
what happened to a particular individual; they were
questions, not answers. (58 percent)

. Where the source was identified, it was determined that
he had never seen the listed man, (16 percent)

. Some individuals were reported as seen in the company of
a group, but no other member of the group reported having
seen the individual. (14 percent)

. Several reports of possible POWs in a particular camp
were based upon phonetic spellings seen on camp walls or
elsewhere, or on radio broadcasts. (6 percent)

. One report correlates to an individual (Howard Lull) who was
captured but killed before entering the camp system (Howard
Lull, XX)

. Five of the individuals on the list of 51 names are Vessey
cases. (Hestle, Lane, Eidsmow, Entrican, and Finley)"

Some of the returning POWs also provided debriefers with "memory
lists" of fellow POWs believed to have been in the prison system at
some point in time. These included the "LuLu Group" (POWs captured
in Laos who entered the prison system in North Vietnam), the "Lost
Sheep List" (POWs who "disappeared" in the prison system) and the
"Lonely Hearts List" (POWs seen dead or dying in the prison
system). The committee requested copies of all such lists. The DoD
response is included here for the record and discussed
elsewhere in this report chapter dealings with government
knowledgeability and actions.

No information about live Americans was reported from the
debriefings of returned POWs to any member of the U.S. delegation
to the Four Party Joint Military Commission.

The DIA provided the Secretary of Defense weekly summaries of the
Homecoming debriefings. These reports showed that, after collating
all the debriefings, only three men named by some POWs (whose fate
was not learned from other POWs) were not accounted for. The
remains of these three men later were returned.

On April 17, 1974, DIA provided the Military Service Intelligence
Chiefs a review of all reports received since Operation Homecoming
of prisoners still held in Southeast Asia:

Cambodia: None of the 27 Americans released by the PRG at
Loc Ninh, South Vietnam in February 1973 were held with, or
had knowledge of, the fate of any other American or foreign
POWs in Cambodia. DIA listed 27 Americans and approximately
20 foreign journalists missing at the time of this report. No
information on the fate of either group was obtained during
Operation Homecoming.

Laos: Ten prisoners, nine Americans and one Canadian, were
released at Gia Lam Airport on March 28, 1973. Since
Operation Homecoming, the Pathet Lao claimed to hold no
Americans prisoner except Mr. Emmet J. Kay. Live-sighting
reports at the time of this report in 1974 remained
unconfirmed, but DIA noted ." . . it is clear that the Pathet
Lao had captured some personnel who were not released," and
noted Eugene Debruin and Lt. Col. David Hrdlicka as examples
of those known to have been captured by the Pathet Lao and not
released. The Pathet Lao made various statements over
the years indicating their knowledge of American POWs in Laos.

DIA concluded in 1974 that the Pathet Lao had yet to provide
even a partially satisfactory accounting of the approximate
300 American POWs unaccounted for in Laos.

North Vietnam: In addition to the POWs released during
Operation Homecoming, the list of 457 U.S. POWs contained the
names of 23 servicemen reported by the North Vietnamese to
have died in captivity. The remains were released in mid-
March 1974. DIA noted in April 1974 that there were no
intelligence reports of U.S. POWs alive in North Vietnam.
Intelligence reporting was generally limited to sightings of
U.S. personnel who were subsequently released or died in
captivity.

South Vietnam: 122 captured Americans were released during
Operation Homecoming. The PRG provided a list of 40 more
Americans who were reported died in captivity. DIA noted in
1974 that approximately 400 Americans remained unaccounted for
in South Vietnam. Reports of American POWs in Tay Ninh, Chau
Doc and Dar Lac provinces were unconfirmed, but two U.S.
collaborators/deserters were identified, DIA reported.

Other Indications

After Operation Homecoming, U.S. officials and others looked to new
information about POWs' experience for additional leads. For many
years, POWs were not permitted to send or receive letters. When
mail finally was allowed by the North Vietnamese, the U.S. gained
new information about its POWs.

Defense Secretary Melvin Laird recalled that about 5000 letters had
been received and, through them, about 470 POWs in Vietnam and five
in Laos had been identified.

Five individuals verified in captivity by war-time letters but did
not return at Operation Homecoming:

Dennis W. Hammond (USMC) was captured on February 1968. He
wrote a letter that was never mailed by his captors that
positively identified him as captured. A 1968 Vietnamese
radio broadcast indicated that Hammond made a statement.
Hammond subsequently died in captivity; his death and burial
were verified by a POW who returned. Hammond's remains have
not been repatriated.

PFC Donald L. Sparks (USA) was captured on June 17,1969. A
letter written nearly a year after his capture was found on
the body of a dead North Vietnamese soldier. PFC Sparks
remains unaccounted for and is one of the 135 Vessey
discrepancy cases.

Capt. Robert Young, (USA) was captured on May 2, 1970. A
statement dated in 1970 purported to have been made by Young
was found among captured enemy documents. A 1971 FBIS report
reported a statement from Young and other U.S. captives.
Capt. Young's name appeared on the PRG's died-in- captivity
list, but his remains have not been repatriated.

Daniel Niehouse, a U.S. civilian captured on November 25, 1966
sent a letter to his family in Scotland by prisoners released
in 1967. Niehouse appeared on the PRG died-in- captivity
list, but his remains have not been repatriated.

W4 John W. Frederick (USMC) was captured in December of 1965.
He wrote letters to, and received letters from, his family
while in captivity. Frederick died in captivity and his
remains were repatriated to the U.S. in March, 1984.

Were Specialists Kept Behind?

Suspicions continued about whether some POWs with particular
military specialties may have been segregated into a separate
prison system and kept behind. The committee requested DoD to
advise it about whether any abnormal statistical patterns were
apparent based on military specialties; DoD's response included a
student research report, "Analysis of Academic and Military
Background of Released U.S. Prisoners of War and Those Unaccounted
For," which was completed in March 1981. In the study, "the
backgrounds of 478 USAF officer POWs/MIAs were statistically
analyzed to determine if there were any significant differences
between the backgrounds of those that returned and those that did
not return." The analysis revealed that men with the following
specialties returned in significantly lower numbers:

. Officers with intelligence-gathering or technically oriented
specialties (AFSCs);
. Officers with prior assignments at or above Major Command
level;

. Officers lost in 1968;

. Officers lost over water near or in the Southern regions of
North Vietnam;

. Officers on Special Operations or Armed Reconnaissance
missions; and

. Officers flying F-111As or multi-engine, propeller-type
aircraft without ejection capabilities.

In conclusion, the findings did indicated that there were some
military background and mission characteristics frequently
associated with non-returning POWs/MIAs, but the question of
whether any POWs/MIAs were held back because of these or other
characteristics remains an open one.

The accompanying memorandum noted that the study was requested by
the DIA and noted:

. . . .Various studies of the themes suggested in your
letter have been examined by individual analysts in that
office, but in general the informal assessments were
maintained by the analyst only. Their consistent
conclusion was, however, as the above analysis concludes,
that there is no factual basis for the inferences you
suggest, and it is in fact contradicted anecdotally by
several of the "specialized " returnees. This is
summarized in an overall briefing prepared by the Special
Officer and provided below.

A recurring theme in the mythology of the PW-MIA issues
is that U.S. personnel were exploited for their technical
knowledge and skills. This theme is carried to the point
of allegations that American personnel with certain
specialized skills or knowledge were taken to third
countries for exploitation, or were exploited by third-
county interrogators in Vietnam. Although the argument
is seductive, it simply is not correct. No evidence
exists to suggest that any American personnel were
singled out for exploitation because of their technical
skills, educational background, previous assignments, or
any other element of their background. The following
facts must be considered definitive.
. As indicated above, a review of the backgrounds of
returnees versus missing men as regards previous
assignments, technical skills, education level,
mission assignment and many other aspects reveals
no correlation to returned or non-returned status.
Simply stated, U.S. personnel with technical
backgrounds, previous assignments in technical
areas, or any other specialized skill or background
are not missing in any greater proportion than are
individuals without those backgrounds. In the case
of air crews, survival of a shootdown, capture, and
eventual return can only be described as a crap
shoot.

. A review of debriefings of returnees reveals that
prisoners were not interrogated to any extent on
their technical knowledge. While some
interrogations asked limited technical questions,
the overwhelming thrust of interrogations and
torture was to elicit political statements from the
prisoners. Technical information was a very low or
non-existent priority for questioning.

. U.S. personnel were not subjected to interrogation
by anyone other than Vietnamese, except:

. In one incident involving several prisoners and a
few cases where Americans were initially captured
by Chinese military units operating in North
Vietnam (these units did or did not conduct simple
interrogations before turning the Americans over to
the Vietnamese).

. The KGB interrogated at least one American of
Russian descent, who was on assignment to the Navy
from the CIA. KGB officer Oleg Nechiporenko also
prepared a questionnaire which may have been used
in the interrogation of American POWs.

. Some returned POWs report being interrogated by
Cubans.

. The idea that U.S, technical specialists, such
as an "electronic warfare officer" or a radar
navigator, could provide valuable engineering,
design, and operational data to the Vietnamese
or to some third country is questionable, In
the first place, much technical information
about even sensitive systems is available
readily through exploitations of open sources.
A magazine such as "Aviation Week and Space
Technology" is a better source than an
injured, frightened, hungry B-52 radar
navigator. The Soviets provided to the
Vietnamese technical data about U.S, systems
which they had obtained through their normal
intelligence operations. Second, the
information which the Soviets sought on U.S.
systems simply could not be provided by the
tactical operators captured by the Vietnamese.
The Soviets sought design, research and
engineering data -- information available more
reliably and readily through penetrations of
the U.S. defense electronic industry.

Possibility of POWs Outside Returnees' Knowledge

Returning POWs could not fathom a parallel prison system in
Vietnam, the possibility that there was another captive world
outside their own. According to Stockdale, they first considered
the possibility when asked by then Defense Secretary Elliott
Richardson:

In February or March 1973, I and several senior prisoners
visited Secretary of Defense Elliott Richardson in his
office at the Pentagon. He said, did you leave anybody
over there? I answered as spokesman for the group and
said no, and told him the story I just told you . . .
.the farthest thing from my mind was anybody being left.
I thought it was impossible. . . .I told him how we
counted noses.

He said, what about a second prison, a secret enclave --
the first time I'd ever heard that. . . . I told the
Secretary I had spent the best part of seven years trying
to judge just what the North Vietnamese are thinking
about, what they were capable of, and what they could get
away with to our detriment. . . and the thought never
crossed my mind that they could have sort of a stash for
special prisoners that could be kept secret from the rest
of us for years.

Senator McCain: Admiral, from your very strong statement
it indicates to me that you do not believe that we
knowingly left any Americans alive in Southeast Asia. .
. Is that your view?
Admiral Stockdale: . . . I know there are some things I
don't know about Laos, but I'm positive there's nothing.
. . ..I have no evident of anybody that was left
intentionally alive in Laos or anywhere.

Even the threats of their captors did not raise a serious
possibility that there was anywhere else to be sent to:

Senator Grassley: . . . returnees independently
described . . . .instances in which Vietnamese
interrogators threatened to send POW's to something
referred to by the Vietnamese as survival camps if they
did not cooperate. . . .Do you have any knowledge of such
camps?

Admiral Stockdale: . . . .I never heard that expression
before, but it wasn't uncommon for them to make dire
threats of death. . . .

Senator Grassley: Admiral, as a prisoner and after your
release, did you ever consider the possibility that the
Vietnamese might have segregated prisoners soon after
capture into two separate prison camps?. . . .

Admiral Stockdale: . . . . . . I've always had the
feeling that he [Secretary Richardson] thought I was
right.

Nor has any returned POW has ever suggested to Stockdale that he
believed men were left behind, Stockdale testified.

Vice Chairman Smith: To your knowledge, and with all of
your contacts and communications with other POW's who
have returned, did any POW ever report to you seeing or
having seen, or knowing of a POW that they made direct
contact with, who did not return?

Admiral Stockdale: Never did that happen, in eight
years,. . . .Never did anybody say, "We've got a guy over
there." And if you find somebody that says, "I was in
the Hanoi prison and I saw a guy, and then he didn't come
home and I don't know what happened to him," he's not
telling the truth.

Vice Chairman Smith: Did any POW that you came back
with, ever indicate to you that there was any type of
segregation in the camp system, that you were a part of,
concerning military specialty, where people or specialty
in the military?
Admiral Stockdale: No, I don't know of any. . . .

At the Committee's request, Admiral Stockdale examined a list of
men last known alive.

Mulligan

Stockdale's first concern was about a POW named Mulligan:

Senator Reid: Admiral, it is my understanding that
yesterday you reviewed a list that Senator Smith gave you
of 324 names. . . .Did you review that list yesterday?

Admiral Stockdale:. . . ..I was alarmed about the fact
that eight of the entries were from the debrief of one
James Mulligan. There were names I'd never heard of. .
. .. So, I called Mulligan [a former POW in North
Vietnam]. . . .We went through all eight. . . .He said
not one of those was in my name [memory] bank.

Vice Chairman Smith: I just want to say, Admiral, that
I respect your answer. . . .But, I want to have the
opportunity to enter into the record. . . the document
which does mention those names in regard to Mulligan.

The Mulligan extracts were provided to DoD for rechecking the
names against the debriefs. JSSA's response of December 11, 1992
noted that:

Col. Brown and his deputy, Mr. Dussault, personally went
over each page of the lengthy transcript and list of POWs
memorized by Capt. Mulligan. They found no reference to
the MIA Collamore. However they did locate Homecoming
debriefing reports that corrected "Collarmore" to "Col.
Lamar." Due to the misinterpretation of the taped
pronunciation the name Cullamore was in fact determined
to have been Col. Lamar, who has been returned to U.S.
control.

A second response stated:

1. We have reviewed Capt. Mulligan's debriefing file
and the following names of MIA personnel were
apparently reported by Capt. Mulligan:
Beene, James A.
Collins, Richard F.
Davies, Joseph E.
Lawrence, Bruce E.
Raymond, Paul D.
Pierson, W. C. III

2. Capt. Mulligan also related knowledge of James Q.
Collins (Capt. USAF) and William P. Lawrence (Cdr,
USN) who were repatriated during Operation
Homecoming."

Committee staff telephoned Capt. James A. Mulligan on December 15,
1992. He stated that copies of the returnee debriefing report had
been faxed to him by Admiral Stockdale and that the information
listing him as the source is in error.

Sponeyberger and Wilson

Admiral Stockdale also discussed the fate of Captain Robert D.
Sponeyberger and Lieutenant William Wilson.

Admiral Stockdale:. . . We had two people in..well now,
Sponeyberger was never in our camp system so..I mean he.
. . he came home but he didn't come home via my prison.
. . .Sponeyberger. . . .returned ..in March 73 and he's
shown as a pilot of an F-111 and I don't know where he
was held. . . . . . And Wilson. . . .He was not in our
prison system but he was returned. . . .I never had
anybody in my prison that had flown an F-111, so I don't
know.

DoD provided a response to the committee's request to determine
where Captain Sponeyberger and Lt Wilson were held captive, if this
was outside the normal prison system, and where the remaining F111
POWS were imprisoned. This stated:

. . . . Captain Sponeyberger was captured on 22 December
1972 and held in Hoa lo prison from 25 December 1972
through 3 January 1973. He was then held at Cu Loc
prison from 3 January 1973 through 29 March 1973.
Lieutenant Wilson was captured with Captain Sponeyberger
and held in Hoa Lo from 29 December 1972 through 3
January 1973 and at Cu Loc from 3 January 1973 through 29
March 1973.

VADM Stockdale was in Hoa Lo prison from 25 January 1969
until his release on 12 February 1973. The three were
inmates at Hoa Lo prison at the same time from 29
December 1972 through 3 January 1973. Thus, in fact,
Captain Sponeyberger and Lieutenant Wilson were held in
facilities in the normal prison system.

Wilson and Sponeyberger were imprisoned quite late in the
war, and their incarceration in Hoa Lo overlapped that of
VADM Stockdale for only a few days. Because they were in
the prison system for such a short time, it is possible
that VADM Stockdale may not have remembered them or may
never have know about them.

DIA has found no credible intelligence to suggest that
any prison system existed other than the "normal" North
Vietnamese prison system. None of the other F-111
aviators lost are known to have survived their loss
incidents.

Col. Donald "Digger" Odell

More recently, Col. Donald "Digger" Odell , a former POW, was also
reported in the press as stating that two American POWs were taken
away prior to Homecoming and not released. The Committee requested
a DIA analysis of the news article, and DIA's response stated that
Col. Odell mentioned the names of two individuals he speculated
might have remained behind alive: Capt. Earl Cobell (USAF) and Lt.
J. J. Connell (USN). DIA further noted:

The record seems to indicate that both men died prior to
Operation Homecoming. Their names appeared on the DRV died-
in-captivity list, passed to the U.S. Government on 27 January

1973. . . . Both individuals' remains were repatriated in
March 1974. . . .Other returnees reported that Captain Cobell,
a particularly recalcitrant prisoner, had been beaten almost
to the point of insanity, possibly by a Cuban, in August or
September 1969 and had to be force-fed by his roommate. Lt.
Connell reportedly tried to deceive the Vietnamese into
believing that torture had crippled his hands and had caused
him to be mentally deranged.

The DIA's analysis was read to Col. Odell by phone. He
acknowledged the press report accurately depicted his statement,
said he had no knowledge of the reported deaths, and offered no
challenge to the DIA statement of death.

Defense Intelligence Agency Assessment

Testimony by the DIA's Bob Sheetz included an undated paper
entitled "Defense Intelligence Agency Commentary on Names Appearing
in Returnee Debriefs," which makes the following points:

The DoD position is that all Americans known to have been
in prison system in North Vietnam are accounted for.

In the prison communications system such as tap codes,
using various signalling systems, clarity and
completeness of communications sometimes suffered.
Partial names, nicknames and names were arrived at
phonetically.

The fact that a name was mentioned by a returnee does not
mean the individual was in the prison system, it could
merely mean that someone was asking about him,
introducing his name into the system.

The objective of the debriefings was to get a listing of
every name the returnee knew. DoD believed they could
construct a "fairly tidy" list of names of men who did
not return. The result, however, was not usable.

The lists had full names, partial names, nicknames,
garbled names, names of men seen alive and names with no
explanation. It was clear detailed analysis was needed.
This initial listing is the "pink pages." This is the
list which the committee has now. That list, is a list
of raw, unevaluated names from the debriefs at Clark AFB.

Detailed briefings sorted out the names initially
provided. Analysis sorted the names. Cross-checking took
four years, the last published list was September 1977.

The resulting list called "white pages" was published in
1977. In the final list of names these are no concrete
indications that any of the men in the prison system and
remains of some men on the 1977 list have been
returned.

On Dec. 23, 1992, DoD provided an additional response from the
Defense Intelligence Agency. The substance is quoted in full:

1. In response to the Committee letter of 10 December
1992 on information found in the returnees' debriefs, the
Defense Intelligence Agency wishes to clarify the facts
at issue. In June 1992, at the request of the Committee,
we re-analyzed a list of 51 names in debriefs which were
presented as potential priority discrepancy cases, and
found that they were, in fact, all references to
accounted-for servicemen. We stated at that time
informally, and again in our September letter, that we
would be happy to provide specific analytic support on
specific name questions, but would not provide analysis
on the total set (that is, a reworking of the whole),
requested once then, and now again in your 10 December
letter. We are unaware of outstanding questions on the
May 1978 computer listing. This complete listing was
thoroughly analyzed in the 1973-77 time frame. We offer
the following generic description of that process.

2. The Committee should be aware of the details of analysis
devoted to names provided by returnees during Operation
Homecoming and subsequent debriefings. When returning
American prisoners arrived at Clark Air Base in Spring
1973, they were debriefed immediately and asked to provide the
names of other Americans they had seen or heard of in the
prison system. At this point, maximum effort was placed on
collecting names; little attention was paid to accuracy,
spelling, or circumstances under which the name was heard. An
additional problem, here and later, was that many of the names
were mistakenly identified from the actual tapes of the
interviews and had not actually been stated by the debriefees.

The names provided at this time were submitted by message to
the military service casualty offices and to the Defense
Intelligence Agency. On 24 April, 1973, this list of
initially-reported names was printed on pink paper and became
known as the "pink pages." Analysis of these names at the
time showed a large number of duplications, names of
returnees, names of men still missing, partial names, and
phonetic names for which the correct spelling was not
available.

3. The military services and DIA began analyzing these names.

Their objective was to remove from the list names of men who
had returned or names which were determined to be invalid.
Throughout this process, each agency cross-checked its work
with the other agencies and inter-agency agreement was reached
on names which should be removed from the listing. As a
result, on 9 May and 5 June 1973, a second list of names was
published. Names in the "pink pages" which pertained to
returnees or in other ways did not pertain to missing men were
not on this May-June 1973 list.

4. The list which the Committee notes is dated May 1978 is,
in fact, a reproduction of the April 1973 "pink pages." That
is, the list of the initial, unevaluated listing of names
provided by the returnees during their debriefings at Clark.
This list contains names of men in the prison system as well
as names of men who never appeared in the system but whose
fates were the subject of discussion through the prison
communication system. The appearance of a name on this list
is no way offers definitive evidence that the man named was in
the prison system.

5. By this time, the returnees had been dispersed from Clark
to bases and homes in the United States and detailed
debriefings were begun. During these debriefings, every
effort was made to obtain from the returnees details of names
they had provided during the initial debriefs at Clark.
Especially important was the necessity to differentiate
between the name of an individual who was actually in the
prison system as opposed to the name of an individual who had
been lost and whose name was being passed through the system
in an attempt to locate him, though he was never in the prison
system.

6. After this, the names provided by the returnees were
subjected to exhaustive analysis over a four-year period. from
April 1973 until September 1977. They were then checked,
cross-checked, and analyzed by the services and by DIA. The
objective still was to develop a list of men who did not
return. When this process was completed, the resulting
document, known as the "white pages." was published on 2
September 1977. This document is the definitive compilation
of information on missing men provided by the returnees. In
virtually every case, the information which the returnees
furnished dealt with the missing man's loss incident of his
death in captivity. Four years of analysis of information
provided by the returnees led DOD to the following
determination: all of the men who were known to be in the
prison system either came home during Operations Homecoming or
were accounted-for at that time. DoD stands by that
conclusion.

7. To reiterate, the Department stands ready to assist the
committee with specific , bounded requests for analytic
assistance. We cannot honor the request to do all of this
work over again especially since the initial work has been
shown to be valid.

Committee Review of Debriefing Reports

To examine inconsistencies in the record and the hearings, the
Committee requested Operation Homecoming records and information
from DoD. The responses indicated that no final analysis had
been completed of the debriefings other than the Air Force computer
listing. The Committee advised DoD that records provided by DoD
showed that the Army had been tasked to provide an historical
record and the committee requested a copy, but none was received by
publication of this report.

The Secretary of Defense declined to allow Committee staff access
to the actual debriefings, citing confidentiality commitments made
to the POWs at the time of their debriefings. "The former POWs were
assured that under no circumstances would these recorded
debriefings be released to anyone. The Department of Defense has
and will continue to honor that pledge." The DOD agreed to
make transcripts of the debriefings available to the Chairman and
Vice Chairman, however, although it retained control of the
transcripts. Both the Chairman and the Vice Chairman reviewed
several summaries and debriefing transcripts, but did not have time
to conduct more than a limited review.

The Committee also sought permission to review returnees'
debriefings. DoD was unable to provide the addresses of the former
POWs, but Nam-POW, Inc. gave the Committee an updated list and
permission to use its mailing list. A survey was sent to the
483 former POWs with known addresses in October 1992.

The Chairman and Vice Chairman directed that the mailing assure
each former POW that the Select Committee's sole interest was
information on non-returnees to provide casualty resolution. It
was not a general screen of debriefing reports, but a specific
search for names of those in captivity who did not return. Senator
McCain, a former POW, approved the questionnaire before it was
sent.

At publication time, the committee had received 368 responses: 19
letters were returned, 285 returnees agreed to the review and 19
declined. Another 27 acknowledged the Committee's request, but had
no information. In all, 18 had additional information or requested
a committee interview; however, this information could not be
followed up without access to the debriefing reports.

Based on these returns, which included a formal release granting
the Committee permission to review that portion of their debriefing
that related to (1) the returnee's knowledge of any individual in
the prison system or (2) to his knowledge of any individual who may
have survived capture, the Committee on November 13, 1992 requested
that the Secretary of Defense make available the debriefings of
those returnees who had granted permission for review. Cheney
declined the committee request.

At the December 1, 1992 Hearing on DoD Oversight, Carl Ford,
Assistant Secretary of Defense for International Security
Affairs in an exchange with Senator Kerry and Senator Smith agreed
to work with the committee to seek a compromise on staff access to
the returnee debriefings. In response to committee
letters, Andrews noted on Dec. 28, 1992:

We continue to allow the Chairman and Vice Chairman of
the Select Committee access to the POW debriefings. We
are aware that a number of returnees have consented to a
review by staff of the Committee on POW/MIA Affairs of
that portion of their debriefings which relates to their
knowledge of the presence of other POWs in the prison
system or of their knowledge of any individuals who may
have survived their incident of capture.

These former prisoners were asked to grant access to
Department of Defense records that they do not control.
If we were to permit staff access to those records where
the Select Committee has obtained a release it would be
unfair to the others who might feel pressured concerning
their decisions to maintain the confidentiality of their
experiences and would set an unacceptable precedent for
returnees in future conflicts.

If the Select Committee determines that the very
significant cost is warranted, the Department could one
again review all these debriefs and extract the text
containing the names of the unaccounted for Americans.
This effort would take several months to complete.

We have a high degree of confidence that the effort to
glean names of unaccounted for Americans from our
returnees during Operation Homecoming was thorough and
that those names are accurately reflected in the 1978
list referenced by Senator Smith on December 3, 1992,
during the open hearings of the Committee. In the
context of Senator Smith's concern that the 1978 list
might be based on flawed analysis, the Joint Services
SERE Agency (JSSA) conducted an extensive analysis of the
Mulligan-Collamore example cited by Senator Smith. The
original analysis was reconfirmed by the JSSA review
which is summarized in enclosure 1. We believe that the
accuracy of the remainder of the 1978 list wold be
substantiated under similar scrutiny.

JSSA has examined the four debriefs reviewed by Senator Smith
for any name anomalies and none were found. The JSSA is
willing to conduct a similar review of a limited number of
Committee-selected debriefs of special concern, in order to
satisfy any specific questions the Committee may have
regarding the 1978 list. However, the transcript analysis
process is lengthy and the analytical resources available to
the JSSA necessarily limit the cases that can be reviewed
prior to issuance of the Select Committee's final report.

Your letter also asks whether returnees may review their own
debriefs. We have a long standing policy that returnees may
have visual access to the transcript of their debriefing but
may not retain copies of the debriefing records. The debrief
remains classified SECRET.

Finally, Mr. Codinha's letter requests the source of
information for the HOMECOMING computer listings and an
unclassified copy of the final list of the names of missing
men about whom the returnees offered information. The
original sources for this database were principally the Phase
I,II and III Egress Recap debriefer report messages. these
reports were prepared by the officials who conducted the
debriefings and were transmitted to Headquarters United States
Air Force for entry into a database. As additional
information was gained concerning the fate of missing
Americans this database was updated. For example, names of
individuals the returnees mentioned but who had returned to
U.S.control, or whose remains were recovered, were not
retained in this database. The Joint Services SERE Agency has
researched its files for documentation relating to other
possible sources for entry into this database, but has so far
found none. The unclassified copy of the final list is at
Enclosure 2.

The committee request was in furtherance of a complete record, the
suspicions surrounding the debriefing process, the DIA commentary
on names appearing in returnee debriefs, and because the
committee was denied access for a detailed review of the
debriefings, the Committee again requested that DoD combine the
work previously done on 51 of the approximated 350 names on the
United States Air Force computer listing of the HOMECOMING
debriefings, the work done on Senator Smith's list of 324 with
those not completed to provide a comprehensive analysis of all the
lists of names from the Homecoming debriefs.

Discussion

The Committee repeatedly requested that DoD again conduct a full
review of returnee debriefings. DoD declined to do so. The
Committee Chairman and Vice Chairman were allowed access to the
debriefings, but the volume precluded more than a sampling.

The Committee then requested access by staff to conduct this
review. DoD declined. Therefore, the Committee has placed into the
Archives the computer listings of the debriefing results and
encourages the public to review these comments and draw their own
conclusions.

The Committee urges DoD to conduct a full, independent review to
clarify this issue for the public. The review should be undertaken
by DoD staff and not assigned to the DIA, and the results should be
provided to the appropriate oversight committees of Congress and
made public.

 

Return to SSC Report Table of Contents
Go to next section