Report of the
Senate Select Committee
Dissemination of Unreliable Information
A cottage industry specializing the creation and dissemination of
false POW/MIA information and "POW/MIA hunting" has emerged in
Southeast Asia, particularly in Thailand. Certain individuals
provide, for a fee, illegal cross-border transportation into Laos,
armed escort, mission coordination and related services. It
appears that these same individuals and others provide the
"intelligence" that prompts the mission in the first instance --
a textbook perfect industry because it creates the demand and fills
it, too. The market for this "intelligence" exists in part because
of Government failure to inspire credibility that it is working
honestly and effectively to provide a full accounting for POW/MIAs;
and in part because the information vacuum created when the
Government suspended the release of new POW/MIA information in
In the course of its investigation, the Committee was unable to
determine the identities of persons who create bogus POW/MIA
information. All involved say they got information that they
believed to be accurate, and that they were diligent in deciding
who to trust. However, the Committee did learn that over the years
certain individuals in the U.S. and abroad have, wittingly or
unwittingly, been involved in the dissemination of purported
POW/MIA information which subsequently was determined to be
unreliable, if not fabricated.
Col. Jack Bailey
Col. Jack Bailey (USAF-Ret.), a veteran of World War II, Korea and
Vietnam, and a highly decorated pilot, is the founder and chairman
of Operation Rescue, a nonprofit organization involved in the
Founded in 1981 to rescue Vietnamese refugees, according to its
filing for an exemption from taxes as a non-profit organization,
Operation Rescue turned its attention to the POW/MIA issue in the
mid-1980s. Its fundraising solicitations and press releases told
stories of how the Vietnamese "boat people" were often sources of
POW/MIA live sighting reports. Operation Rescue sought to rescue
these individuals from the high seas as they attempted to escape
Vietnam and debrief them about any information they might have on
missing American servicemen. To accomplish these high-seas
rescues, Operation Rescue used a rusting, World War II-era ship
called the Akuna; after a time, the Akuna was at anchor in Songkhla
Harbor for years at a time, never leaving to undertake rescue
Solicitations and other information put out by Operation Rescue
often contained statements to the effect that Bailey knew the
identities and locations of missing American servicemen being held
against their will in Southeast Asia. Bailey's information
supposedly obtained during intelligence-gathering missions. None
of the information has ever been corroborated or otherwise deemed
Bailey has been associated with the release of the photographs that
purport to depict U.S. Army Capt. Donald Carr, but were in fact
photographs of a German exotic bird smuggler, Guenther Dittrich.
An account of the dissemination of the bogus Carr photo appears
later in this chapter.
In 1987, Bailey claimed to have repatriated the remains of a
missing American serviceman, remains later determined to be those
of an Asian woman. Bailey used the remains, wrapped in an American
flag, as a prop when asking for donations to continue his search
Col. Albert Shinkle
Col. Albert Shinkle (USAF, Ret.) has resided in Bangkok, Thailand
since 1976 and is a major player in the POW/MIA issue. He has
received numerous awards and decorations including the
Distinguished Flying Cross, two Bronze Stars, 15 Air Medals, an
Airman's Medal, two USAF Commendation Medals, two Joint Service
Commendation Medals, and more than a dozen battle campaign stars.
Acting as an agent for POW/MIA groups, Shinkle provides field
reports that contain purported evidence of live POWs in Southeast
Asia. During the last nine years of his military career, Shinkle
was involved in military espionage and was stationed in Southeast
Asia where he developed a number of contacts with Lao people. One
of Shinkle's sources of information is Patrick Khamvongsa, a former
member of the Royal Lao Air Force with ties to Phoumi Nosavan and
other members of the Lao resistance.
Shinkle testified before the Committee and later failed to appear
for both a scheduled public hearing and a deposition. Copies of
some of the field reports that Shinkle used as the basis for
statements by Skyhook II and Veterans of the Vietnam War, Inc. in
fundraising appeals are misleading, as set forth below.
Khambang Sibounheuang is a Lao national who has become a
naturalized U.S. citizen. He is the source of a considerable
amount of information from Lao freedom fighters. According to
Khambang, he receives this information from people in Laos who he
has never met and who do not ask him for remuneration of any kind.
To date, no information provided by Khambang has resulted in a
serious lead about the identification, location or repatriation of
an live American POW/MIA, and most of it has been determined to be
fraudulent. According to DoD:
Khambang Sibounheuang is a former Royal Lao Army
serviceman, now a naturalized U.S. citizen residing in
Memphis, Tennessee. He states he was a Captain in the
royal Lao Army. Our best information is that he was an
enlisted man in the Royal Lao Army. He is now bailiff
for Judge Hamilton Gayden, a self-described POW/MIA
activist. Khambang has been active in the POW/MIA issue
for a number of years. This paper will outline
Khambang's activities as known and documented by the
Department of Defense.
Khambang is a former member of the Neutralist faction of
the Lao resistance. He led the organization in the
United States for several years and at one point may have
been its elected leader. Khambang was removed from his
position with the Neutralist faction after the leader of
the Neutralists, former Lao General Kong Le learned that
Khambang had fabricated POW-related information and had
attempted to use the POW issue for personal gain.
In the past, Khambang was associated with Bo Gritz and he
was for a period Gritz' primary source of information for
POW's. Khambang later became associated with retired
Major Mark Smith, another POW/MIA activist. His current
relationship with Smith is unknown.
DoD's first involvement with Khambang occurred in 1985
when he approached DIA and offered to work the POW issue
in exchange for $4,000, which was to be used to support
the Neutralist faction of the Lao resistance. Khambang's
offer was rejected by DIA.
In November 1987, Life Magazine published an article
about POW/MIAs. A prominent portion of that article was
devoted to a photograph purported to depict an Air Force
Lieutenant Colonel Charles S. Rowley. The photograph was
provided by Khambang to Captain Eugene "Red" McDaniel,
USN (Ret.). Captain McDaniel provided the photo to DIA
in August 1987, and investigation was underway when the
photo was published by Life Magazine. Photo analysis
established that the individual pictured was not
Lieutenant Colonel Rowley. The Rowley family confirmed
the photo analysis.
In 1990, Khambang passed bogus dog-tag information to his
superiors in the Arlington (Virginia) Police Department
where he worked as a clerk. The information was
determined to be fabricated and DIA traced the
information back through the Arlington Police Department
to Khambang. The Department was informed that Khambang
was an established POW/MIA source of questionable
In the fall of 1990, Khambang passed a roll of film and
other information related to the purported Borah
photograph to Judge Hamilton Gayden, then his employer in
Tennessee. Khambang received the information from a
blood relative now residing in Thailand. Judge Gayden
provided the information to the family, who then
contacted Senator Bob Smith for assistance. The photos
had not been made available to DoD until July 1991, when
Senator Smith appeared on Today Show with Daniel Borah,
Sr. and the photographs. After receipt of the
information, a joint Lao-U.S. team interviewed,
photographed and finger-printed the individual identified
as Borah and photographed in Laos. The photo depicted
not Lt Daniel V. Borah, but rather a 77 year old Lao
highland tribesman, Mr. Ahroe. Khambang told Bill
Gadoury, a U.S. POW/MIA investigator in Bangkok, that the
individuals who passed him the roll of film did so for
the purpose of obtaining a reward.
Sometime during the summer of 1991, Khambang obtained
another photograph, this purported to depict Navy
Lieutenant Commander Larry Stevens, USN. (Stevens was
also said to be depicted in the photograph of three
individuals, positively identified by their families as
Colonel John L. Robertson, LCDR Stevens and Major Albro
Lundy. The Stevens photo was said to have been taken in
Vietnam and the individual identified as Stevens is
pictured with his arm around an Asian woman. At the
request of members of Congress, the staff of the Senate
Foreign Relations Committee was provided a DoD aircraft
to transport Khambang to Southeast Asia to locate his
sources of the "Stevens" photo. Khambang produced his
source and the individual was polygraphed. He failed the
polygraph and indicated deception in nearly all of his
responses. DoD is continuing to investigate the
To date, Khambang has provided information on a number of
occasions to POW/MIA activists and others interested in
the POW/MIA issue. The descriptions above are
illustrative, not exhaustive. Every dog-tag report,
every report of remains, every photograph and every other
report about POW/MIAs, with the exception of the as yet
unsolved "Stevens" photo, provided by Khambang has proven
to be false.
In his sworn deposition, Khambang was asked about his motives and
Q. What I'm struggling with and what a lot of people are
struggling with is if the freedom fighters have the
capability to apparently go out and find and locate these
POW's, why don't they have the ability to physically
rescue them? Why hasn't that happened?
A. I'm not in Laos with the freedom fighters. I think
that's a good question. It's not easy to rescue
Americans in the captive by freedom fighters. To me that
I know that freedom fighters also explain to me, they say
day-by-day in Laos they try to avoid conflicts with the
Laotian Government, with the Vietnamese soldier. They
are not trying to fight with those people, but they try
to stay in Laos and keep on struggle for their country.
Q. [W]hy haven't American POW's been rescued by freedom
A. I don't know. I don't know why the freedom fighters --
you asked me why -- if the prisoners of war still alive
over there, why the freedom fighter cannot rescue them.
A. I cannot answer. I don't know why. Because I just can
tell you like I told you before, the freedom fighters,
it's the less amount of the military struggle with the
Vietnamese. The Vietnamese now are 125,000 soldiers in
control of Laos. The freedom fighter is a small amount
of the living in the individual section in Laos. So I
think they don't have any capability to launching the
operation to rescue American from 10,000 of Vietnamese
control. I don't think they can do that. That's all I
can answer you.
Some of the most compelling "evidence" of Americans alive in
Southeast Asia are photographs of persons alleged to be POWs. In
July 1991, three photographs purported to be American POWs, were
made public. The photos became known as the Borah photo, the Carr
photo, and the Robertson-Lundy-Stevens photo. Analysts of the DIA
POW/MIA section, the Stony Beach Team in Bangkok and the JTF-FA
conducted extensive investigations into each photo and determined
they were not photos of American POWs. The Committee reviewed
DIA's reports of its investigation of these photographs and
Committee staff interviewed and deposed some of the people involved
in the transmission and investigation of the photographs, including
Khambang, Carr family members, Bailey, and McDaniel.
The Committee also learned there are numerous copies of the "blue
book," a book of precapture photos compiled by DoD for use in
debriefing returned POWs. Hundreds of copies of the book of
photographs were printed and circulated within the Armed Services,
many of which were believed to have been lost at the fall of Saigon
in 1975. The book, with corresponding names redacted, has been
The Rowley Photo
In 1987, a Lao freedom fighter and member of Kabounkanh Kousat, a
Lao resistance group stationed near the border of Thailand and
Laos, mailed photographs of a Caucasian identified as "Roly" to
Khambang in Tennessee. The letter accompanying the photographs
indicated that the Lao man had obtained the photos by bribing a
Pathet Lao guard of American POWs. Khambang had never met this man
prior to receiving the photos. He delivered the photographs to a
friend, Dr. Frank Lockhart, who is an electronics salesman with a
Ph.D. in psychology. After reviewing of a list of MIAs, Lockhart
concluded that the name "Roly" could be correlated to Lt. Col.
Charles S. Rowley, an MIA since April 1970 when his aircraft was
shot down over Laos.
Photo analysts at the FBI, CIA and DIA compared the photo with a
photo of Rowley and concluded that it was not him.
The Borah Photos
In the summer of 1991, Khambang received additional photographs
from unknown members of the Lao resistance who claimed that they
depicted MIA Daniel V. Borah. Khambang provided these photographs
to Judge Gayden, who publicized them. Members of the Borah family
remain convinced that the pictures depicted Borah.
Judge Gayden and Khambang are in the process of writing a book
about their involvement with these and other photos. Khambang
provided the Committee with synopsis of the book, titled Sit Down
and Shut Up, which contains the following passage about the Borah
The "Borah" photographs actually consist of 23
photographs of a man Judge Gayden identifies as "Dan
Borah." The photographs were developed here in America.
The individual who took the photographs in Laos in July
1990 immediately threw the camera into a river near the
site where the photos were snapped. He is presently
living in another country and is partially supported by
Khambang and Judge Gayden. The man who took the
photographs knew the subject only as "Ahmee," Laotian for
"American." After months of research Gayden recognized
a 1987 Life Magazine photo of Borah, and we believe it is
the correct identity.
Following publication of the Borah photo in July 1991, the
Government requested the Lao Government's assistance in searching
a region in southern Laos from which Khambang had previously
obtained photos. Shortly thereafter, the Lao Government found the
individual shown in the alleged Borah photos and determined that he
is a Lao hill tribesman from southern Laos named Ahroe.
Representatives of the Government interviewed, finger-printed and
photographed the Lao man; concluded that the individual shown in
the photo had been found and that he was not Daniel V. Borah; and
made a public statement to that effect.
The DIA's investigation determined that the photo was taken by a
Lao national in cooperation with Lao refugees in the Na Pho Camp,
northeastern Thailand. One of the refugees, Khambang's cousin,
asked a Lao national to take the pictures after the Lao claimed
that he had observed Americans in Laos. When the Gayden and Borah
family members challenged the DIA's work, alleging it was
fabricated, arrangements were made to introduce two family members
to Ahroe in Laos. It was the first time the Government of Laos had
permitted POW/MIA families to travel outside of Vientiane, the
The Carr Photo
In July 1991, Bailey (USAF Ret.) publicized a photo of a Caucasian
male Bailey claimed was Captain Donald G. Carr (USA). Bailey had
obtained the photograph through an intermediary and had no first-
hand interaction with the man depicted in the photograph who,
Bailey said, was being held prisoner in Laos by Vietnamese forces.
He was wearing a short-sleeved blue polo shirt and watch that
Bailey claimed he had provided the photographer, with instructions
that the subject be instructed to wear them in order to help
authenticate the picture. The intermediary told Bailey that the
man in the photo was named "Garr."
In 1992, following an intensive investigation by DIA and the media,
it was determined that the individual in the photo was Guenther
Dittrich, a German national then in jail on charges of smuggling
exotic birds. Dittrich admitted that he was the individual in the
alleged Carr photo and said that the photo had been taken by a
tourist in Bangkok. After Lt. Col. Norman Turner (USAF, Ret.), an
associate of Bailey's, suggested Dittrich was a "Pentagon twin"
created to end publicity about the Carr case, Carr's ex-wife
travelled to Germany to meet with Dittrich and testified that she
was satisfied that he was not Carr.
The "Carr" photograph incident clearly illustrates the ability of
those persons intent on disseminating bogus POW/MIA information to
create convincing evidence that POW/MIAs remain alive in Southeast
Asia. Some is so convincing that it has fooled the experts into
concluding that these photos depicted MIAs. For example, Dr.
Michael Charney, a forensic anthropologist and Director of the
Forensic Science Laboratory at Colorado State University reported
that the man in the subject photo was in fact Donald Gene Carr, and
stated scientific bases for his conclusion. In fact, the subject
was much shorter, and of a much slighter build, according to Carr's
The Robertson-Stevens-Lundy Photo
In August, 1990, DIA obtained a blurry black-and-white photograph
of three mustachioed men holding a white sign containing the
numbers "25-5-1990." In November, 1990, POW/MIA families obtained
copies of the photograph. In July, 1991, the photograph was widely
publicized, including on the cover of Newsweek and on billboards in
several cities. The three men shown in the photo were reported to
be Col. John Leighton Robertson (USAF), missing in North Vietnam;
Maj. Albro Lundy (USAF), missing in central Laos, and Lt. Cdr.
Larry J. Stevens (USN), missing in southern Laos.
Capt. Eugene "Red" McDaniel (USN Retired) was also involved in the
dissemination of this photograph. McDaniel, founder of the
American Defense Institute, has been a major player in the POW/MIA
issue for more than a decade. He is a retired Navy Captain who was
held as a POW in North Vietnam from 1967 to 1973 and was brutally
tortured. He was twice awarded the Legion of Merit Award, the Navy
Cross, two Silver Stars, a Distinguished Flying Cross, three Bronze
Stars with combat "V," and two Purple Hearts for wounds resulting
from the torture he endured as a POW.
As part of his efforts, McDaniel has disseminated information he
and others (including many family members) believed to be evidence
of live POWs in Southeast Asia. This evidence includes photographs
of purported POWs and statements from purported eyewitnesses. None
of this information has been corroborated, but it has been used in
ADI solicitations and public statements for many years.
Set forth below is a portion of DIA's report on its investigation
of the Robertson-Stevens-Lundy photo:
Although the photo was made public in July 1991, it
actually came to DIA's attention in August 1990, however,
there were no names associated with it. In early
November 1991, the photo was forwarded by a Cambodian
national in the United Stated by fax machine to State
Department and to DIA/POW-MIA. The names Robertson and
Sievens (a variation of Stevens) were reported as being
two of the three individuals shown. According to the
Cambodian, the individuals were alive in Cambodia and
could be released for a reward.
In December, 1990, the photo surfaced in Site 2, a
Cambodian refugee camp in Thailand. A Cambodian refugee
reported that two of the individuals shown were Robertson
and Stevens. In early 1991 the name Lundy was also
associated with the photo.
The investigation into the photo took State Department
and DIA personnel to Hanoi, Vietnam; Vientiane, Laos and
Phnom Penh, Cambodia, as well as throughout Thailand.
The DIA Stony Beach team determined that a Cambodian
fisherman/refugee in Thailand received the photo, along
with four others, from a Cambodian national in Kampong
Som, Cambodia around May or June, 1991, and that the
fisherman took the photos to the American Embassy in
Bangkok. Other than the several names scribbled on some
of the photos, there were no names associated with the
individuals shown in the photos, especially the photo of
In July 1992, a DIA team travelled to Phnom Penh and with
the cooperation of the SOC Government interviewed several
sources relative to the origin of the photographs. In
the Soviet Cultural Center in Phnom Penh the team found
a Soviet magazine which included three of the original
five photos which surfaced in Thailand; the photo of the
three was not found. In August 1992, the fourth photo
was found by DIA in Washington, DC in a Soviet journal.
The DIA Stony Beach team in Bangkok continued its
investigation into the photo of the three and in early
1992, with the cooperation of researchers from the SOC
Government, found the fifth and final photo, the photo
alleged to be Robertson, Lundy and Stevens, in a [1923
edition of] Soviet Life magazine in the National Library
in Phnom Penh.
Thousands of man hours were expended by DIA personnel in
pursuit of the origin of the photo of the three. Without
the cooperation of the SOC Government this case might
well still be unresolved. In the meantime, the families
of Robertson, Lundy and Stevens have been informed that
the photo of the three was nothing more than a cruel hoax
perpetrated by Cambodian nationals.
The Committee reviewed DIA's analyses of several thousand "dog tag"
reports and hundreds of live sighting reports which purported to be
associated with POW/MIAs. In addition, the Committee has reviewed
DIA analyses of several prominent photographs which were
represented by their sponsors to depict POWs in a captive
environment after Operation Homecoming. Following analysis, DIA
determined that none of these photographs and none of the "dog tag"
reports provided any credible evidence of the existence of POWs
following Operation Homecoming. Similarly, with the exception of
live sighting reports correlated to Robert Garwood, none of the
live sighting reports are currently believed, by DIA, to relate to
any POW after Operation Homecoming.
Set forth below is a July 1, 1991 statement from DIA's Special
Office of POW/MIAs concerning "dog tag" reports.
Over the past decade one type of report has been received
most often by the Defense Intelligence Agency's Special
Office for POW/MIAs. These accounts are referred to as
"dog tag" reports. Since mid-1982, over 6,300 of these
reports have been received and more arrive daily.
In most dog tag reports a person or persons--many of them
residents of Vietnam--claim to possess the remains of one
or more Americans. As proof they offer data copied from
military identification tags (dog tags), tracings or
photographs of dog tags, authentic dog tags or other
identification documents. More than 5,100 U.S. military
men have been named in these reports. Of these, 91
percent served in the United States armed forces, but
were not casualties of the Vietnam War. Another 6
percent were killed, but their bodies were recovered,
identified and returned to the U.S. for burial. Thus, it
is impossible that their remains are held by the people
claiming to have them. Only three percent of the dog-tag
reports name a man who is missing, suggesting that his
remains or personal effects have been recovered from
battlefields or crash sites. However, the evidence
indicates it is unlikely that these items were recovered
by private citizens.
In many cases several different people claim to have the
remains and/or personal effects of each of the named men.
Frequently, sources profess to have recovered the same
items on a different date or at a different location.
This indicates that the people did not obtain their data
by recovering items from battlefields or crash sites.
For instance, two of the men whose remains and dog tags
several persons claim to have found, are in fact former
POWs who returned alive--their dog tags had been kept by
Further, throughout the war the communists enforced a
policy to find and bury Americans killed in action and to
send to central authorities a report of the burial site
along with the personal effects and identification taken
from the body. They continually stressed that this was
important to the "political struggle.." Thus, the
governments of Vietnam and Laos should have knowledge of
the missing men whose names have appeared in dog tag
Often there are tragic aspects to the dog tag reports.
Many of the sources have been led to believe that
possession of American remains will assist in their
resettlement to the U.S. This has prompted some people
to pay for the dog tag data. In fact, the U.S. provides
no rewards or assistance for POW/MIA information.
Considering the policy and practices of the Indochinese
governments to collect material on U.S. war dead, coupled
with the patterns in the dog tag reporting, the evidence
indicates that the majority of reports reflect
information and personal effects recovered by Vietnamese
forces, not private citizens. Years of investigation and
analysis have shown that the dog tag reports have been
instigated by elements of Vietnam's government in an
effort to influence and exploit the POW/MIA issue.
Nevertheless, each report is carefully analyzed to
determine its validity.
It is a relatively easy task to assemble identifying information
about MIAs and then use that information to support a bogus POW/MIA
report. In addition to the hundreds of copies of the classified
"blue book," which contained the names and precapture photographs
of unaccounted-for personnel, both the Government and private
groups published numerous lists of POW/MIAs with the kind of
information typically included in bogus POW/MIA reports. In once
case, flyers advertising a reward for the return of a missing
serviceman contained his parents' zip-code; a response that
included that information was considered credible because of it. It
is not surprising therefore, that bogus dog-tag reports and
photographs usually contain some evidence which can be correlated
As part of its investigation, the Committee sought to determine why
bogus reports of POWs continue to surface in view of the
Government's longstanding and publicly stated policy of not paying
for POW/MIA information. One possibility is that some are being
disseminated as part of a conspiracy to discredit or otherwise
destabilize the Lao Government. It has been suggested that various
factions of the Lao resistance movement have been selectively
"planting" information through Khambang and others, to obtain
support for their cause and to continue the enmity between the
Government and the communist Lao government.
Gritz advanced another theory. The case of the "Carr" photo
incident was "too sophisticated an operation for the Thais or the
Lao living in Thailand, the Phoumi's [of the world], to pull
off." Gritz further speculated that Bailey:
would have been a perfect set-up for [the "Carr" photo].
Jack would have jumped on that photograph, and he did,
just like a robin on a June bug. . . . But it's too
sophisticated. I still don't believe that the Thais did
that. I believe that our own folks [Government] did that
and set old Jack up. It was just too slick to have
whoever it was, ABC or somebody, right there. So I think
Jack was stung and I think it hurt him. You know, hurt
him personally. He got real mad about it, I understand,
and it may have curbed his operation.
Other theories are:
that these bogus reports are the work of organizations
hostile to the Government which are seeking to "tie up"
its resources by forcing it to track down the bogus
reports; that these reports are a predictable response to
leaflets, flyers and other announcements, circulated in
Southeast Asia, which promise rewards by private groups
for POW/MIA information; that dissemination and
publication of any POW/MIA information, bogus or not,
keeps the POW/MIA issue, and million-dollar fundraising
It has become apparent that in both Southeast Asia and the United
States, information that purports to demonstrate that POWs are
alive POWs is eagerly consumed by those who are eager to believe.
Despite the fact that none of the information has ever resulted in
the return of a live American, the demand for and hope resulting
from such information appears to be as strong as ever.
Unscrupulous individuals throughout Southeast Asia are aware of
this, and the volume of false POW/MIA information continues to
rise. To one committed, but frustrated, activist, it seemed
that "every cab-driver, vagrant and baggage handler in Thailand
runs a POW scam."
Commencing as early as the 1960's the U.S. Government provided its
servicemen in Vietnam with "blood chits" which were documents
promising a reward for the safe return of the serviceman to U.S.
authorities. The "blood chits", which were written in local
languages, were to be used by American servicemen to secure their
release in the event they were captured. In addition, in the
1970's the National League of Families endorsed the use of rewards
to encourage the release of POWs.
Since the mid-1980's several highly-publicized reward initiatives
have been undertaken. Some believed that the most effective way to
return a live POW would be to offer a financial incentive to those
who might be able to help an American escape. To date, nobody has
collected publicized rewards by producing a live POW. DIA and
others have suggested that these reward offers have fostered the
dissemination of false POW information by those who believe they
will eventually be rewarded.
In 1987, out of frustration, 21 members of Congress, including Sen.
Bob Smith, the Committee's Vice Chairman, and Committee member Sen.
Hank Brown joined with McDaniel's American Defense Institute (ADI)
in pledging a reward totalling $2.4 million for the release of an
American POW from Southeast Asia. The reward was to be for the
release of a POW to U.S. authorities, and not for information about
POWs, or for rescue/reconnaissance missions. Under its terms, the
reward could only be paid to persons indigenous to Southeast Asia.
On January 23, 1988, the ADI launched "HOME FREE!/The Committee of
40 Million," a campaign to raise $1 billion, that would be enough
rewards for more than 400 POWs, through pledges of $25 each from 40
million Americans to serve as a reward for the release of American
POWs from Southeast Asia.
Also in 1987, Hendon, who worked for ADI, signed a solicitation
letter which sought to raise $500,000 in order to publicize a $1
million reward (in gold) in Southeast Asia. The fundraising letter
stated in part:
I can clearly picture some impoverished prison guard in
tattered fatigues, enticed by the offer of a huge reward,
escaping with his family and one of our men. Can't you
just picture that too?
We're ready to buy time on Vietnamese language radio
stations in the Philippines and elsewhere in Southeast
Asia to broadcast news of the reward. We'll be placing
full-page ads in every Vietnamese language paper and
magazine we can get our hands on.
We plan to purchase 10,000 copies--in the Vietnamese
language--of hit movies like Rocky, Indiana Jones, and
Kung Fu, and intersperse our reward offer into the
videotapes. . .
In August 1988, Hendon announced that the ADI would open an office
in Thailand to spread the news of the reward, due to the difficulty
they had encountered in securing advertising time. "You just can't
buy any news ads in the Hanoi daily. . . ,"Hendon explained.
In 1989, Hendon, through the POW Publicity Fund, sought to
publicize the $2.4 million reward by launching helium balloons from
a boat in the South China Sea. Each balloon was to carry a message
in Lao and Vietnamese, sealed in a Zip-Loc bag. The POW Publicity
Fund ran a series of advertisements to raise money for this
Hendon also planned to launch balloons into Laos and Thailand,
across the Mekong River. When Thai officials refused to permit
this on the grounds that it might damage Thai-Lao relations, Hendon
and his group obtained permission to float the rewards offers down
the Mekong River instead. Several POW/MIA family members travelled
to Southeast Asia to assist in the distribution of the reward
offer. DIA, however, opposed the reward offer, claiming that it
fostered bad information.
Others also have criticized the ineffectiveness and negative impact
of reward offers. Gritz testified that:
Very frankly, the Lao people would not know what to do
with a million dollars. They're living in a land of
communism. They can't have it. They wouldn't even
conceive what a million dollars would be. That's 26
million baht. They're happy to have 20 baht
[approximately one dollar]. So those kind of figures
don't translate over there. . . .
. . . high rewards are not the name of the game. It
doesn't work. It doesn't compute to real terms. And so
that one, and then Hendon's $2 million where the
Congressmen all got together -- it could be $2 billion.
It wouldn't -- well, as a matter of fact, maybe $2
billion, the Vietnamese Government might decide or the
Lao may decide hey, now we're talking turkey here, and
they would be willing to exchange prisoners for that
amount of money. But those kind of things, as far as I'm
concerned, never helped over there. They only hurt the
The Committee notes, however, that Gritz' is not the only opinion
on the issue. Family members who travelled to Southeast Asia with
Hendon to assist in the distribution of the reward offer hold