MIA Facts Site

Report of the
Senate Select Committee
POW-MIA Affairs:
Section 26

1992 : Administration and Committee Efforts to Encourage

The Select Committee has worked closely with the Executive Branch,
and especially with Vessey, to encourage greater cooperation from
Vietnam and the other countries of Southeast Asia. During 1992, a
series of high-level U.S. delegations traveled to the region for
the purpose of demonstrating American interest and conveying
specific U.S. requests. The continuing series of visits helped
greatly to maintain diplomatic pressure on the governments of the
area and to see that assurances given one month were followed up
the next.

In January 1992, General Vessey led a military delegation to Hanoi
for meetings with Foreign Minister Cam, and for the first time with
Defense Minister Doan Khue. Additional meetings were held with
vice ministers of the Interior and Defense ministries.

The mission's primary objectives were to achieve access to archival
information consistent with past Vietnamese assurances by securing
Vietnamese permission to field multiple U.S. teams of archival
researchers, and to establish a credible way to conduct live-
sighting investigations on short notice.

The results of the January mission were disappointing, with one
exception: the long-delayed release by Vietnam to the U.S. of the
remainder of the 84-page anti-aircraft battery record of Military
Region Four. However, the Vietnamese were unwilling to accede to
U.S. requests for a live-sighting investigation agreement and a
formalized structure for archival research.

According to senior members of the delegation, Vietnamese
negotiators all seemed to speak from the same list of talking
points. They agreed only to establish a point of contact to
coordinate with the U.S. on live-sighting investigations; to
strengthen existing measures for acquiring documentary information
about POW/MIAs; and to reconsider U.S. requests at a later meeting.

Shortly after the Vessey delegation returned, the U.S. began
considering a higher profile delegation to Hanoi as a means of
encouraging Vietnam to accept Vessey's proposals for live sighting
investigations and archival research. In March, a delegation
headed by Solomon traveled to Hanoi.

The Solomon delegation found a much different attitude prevailing
in Hanoi than that which Vessey had encountered in January. The
causes for Hanoi's change of heart are open to speculation; all
that can be said with certainty is that, with surprising ease, the
Solomon delegation was able to conclude agreements on the
aforementioned proposals. The U.S. now had a very specific
commitment on short-notice, live-sighting investigations, and a
detailed plan to provide the U.S. with access to Vietnam's war

One month later in April 1992, the Select Committee would test the
sincerity of Vietnam's commitments to Solomon, and, in some areas,
expand those commitments.

April 1992: Select Committee Delegation

On April 16, five members of the Select Committee -- Senators
Kerry, Smith, Robb, Brown and Grassley -- embarked on a ten-day
mission to Southeast Asia. Members of the delegation spent three
days in Vietnam. Their purpose was twofold: first, to obtain the
necessary assurances of cooperation from senior Vietnamese leaders;
and, second, to ensure that those guarantees of access would be
carried out.

The Senate delegation's stay in Vietnam demonstrated both the
significant progress that had been made on the POW/MIA issue as
well as the formidable obstacles which still remained to obtaining
the fullest possible accounting for the 1,655 servicemen lost in or
over Vietnam. The senators arrived in Hanoi on April 21, shortly
after 58 JTF-FA and CIL-HI crash-site and live-sighting
investigators had arrived for the nineteenth "joint iteration" and
had divided into five teams to conduct 30 days of excavations and
investigations in seven northern and central provinces in Vietnam.

Meetings in Hanoi. During meetings with numerous senior Vietnamese
officials in Hanoi, the Senate delegation received assurances of
continued cooperation on the POW/MIA issue. Initial meetings on
April 21 with Foreign Minister Cam and Defense Minister Khue, while
promising in tone, did not yield specific plans to advance
Vietnamese cooperation. Both ministers adamantly reasserted that
there were no American prisoners of war in captivity or living
freely in Vietnam.

The senators repeatedly emphasized the importance of immediate
access to areas of live-sighting reports, access to war-time
archives and officials, better logistical support for joint
investigative teams, and a resolution of the issue of warehousing

Senators also met with Interior Minister Bui Thien Ngo whose
Ministry controls the Vietnamese prison system. Ngo promised
cooperation in providing U.S. investigators access to prisons where
Americans were alleged to be held after the Operation Homecoming.

Other meetings with VNOSMP officials focused on the procedural and
administrative difficulties U.S. investigators encountered in
attempting to conduct thorough live-sighting and crash-site
investigations. The delegation also visited the Army war museum in
Hanoi where flight gear of downed American pilots is displayed.

General Secretary Do Muoi's "Breakthrough" Guarantees. Of great
significance was the delegation's meeting with Vietnamese Communist
Party General Secretary Do Muoi and Interior Vice Minister Le Minh
Huong, held on the morning of April 22. The senators received from
the General Secretary direct guarantees that the delegation and
JTF-FA personnel would have whatever access to places, persons and
records they determined essential to resolving the POW/MIA issue in
1992. In fact, Do Muoi asked the delegation on three separate
occasions to tell him exactly what the Select Committee expected
from Vietnam to resolve the issue.

Do Muoi also agreed to grant U.S. investigative teams access to
border sites in Laos through Vietnam if Lao officials agreed. And
he steadfastly maintained that no American prisoners were kept
after Operation Homecoming, and denied that Vietnam had ever
warehoused American remains.

The use of U.S. helicopters in POW/MIA investigations was one
concession which Do Muoi and other Vietnamese leaders were
unwilling to make, citing the probable negative reaction of the
Vietnamese people to the sight and sound of U.S. choppers as a
reason for their refusal.

Inspection of Thanh Liet Prison

On April 21, the Senate delegation informed Vietnamese
representatives that the senators wished to go to Thanh Liet prison
located about 20 kilometers south of Hanoi in the Thanh Liet
district. Thanh Liet had been the detention site for about 10
American POWs between 1968 and 1972, and had served as the location
of three first-hand live-sighting reports of alleged American POWs
since 1984. U.S. investigators had been denied permission to
inspect Thanh Liet several weeks earlier.

On April 22, when the senators arrived at Thanh Liet Prison, their
access initially was restricted by the camp commander to those
areas where Americans were held during the war. Calls to the
Foreign and Interior ministries by Vietnamese personnel
accompanying the delegation won the delegation unrestricted access
to all prison quarters.

Although the delegation found no evidence of Americans being held
at Thanh Liet in recent years, their inspection of the prison
established a precedent for the conduct of similar short-notice
inspections by JTF-FA personnel.

Ho Chi Minh City, Da Nang, and Mekong Delta Visits. On the morning
of April 23, Senators Kerry and Smith flew to the Mekong Delta;
Senator Brown flew to Da Nang; and Senator Grassley met with
Vietnamese officials in Ho Chi Minh City.

Senator Grassley and Select Committee staff talked extensively to
Bui Dac Cam, a Vietnamese official involved since 1975 in the
search for American MIA remains. Cam acknowledged that it is a
crime in Vietnam to file a false live-sighting report and
attributed many of those reports to the rumors of a two-million
dollar reward for a live American. The need for communication on
live-sighting reports between Vietnamese and American live-sighting
investigators was emphasized.

Grassley later met with former Vietnamese "re-education camp"
inmates, most of whom had been interned in North Vietnam for many
years after the fall of Saigon. Several of the men said they had
seen Marine Private Robert Garwood working in a re-education camp
in North Vietnam. None reported seeing or hearing of any other
Americans in detention camps after the war.

During his visit to Da Nang, Brown met with the KGB station chief
at the Russian Consulate in Da Nang. He had been in Vietnam since
1972, and despite hearsay reports he had received, he was convinced
that there were no Americans presently held prisoner in Vietnam.

Senators Kerry and Smith flew by helicopter to three sensitive
military areas in southern Vietnam to further test Vietnamese
commitment to short-notice live-sighting investigations. The
Senators touched down on Phu Quoc Island, an active naval base;
Dong Tam, former headquarters of the U.S. 9th Infantry Division,
and Can Tho, a former U.S. Cobra helicopter base.

At each site there was initial local resistance to the visit which
in most cases was eventually overcome. The stops highlighted
several of the procedural and administrative obstacles to be dealt
with if U.S. investigations of live-sighting reports are to be
effective and credible.

The Senate delegation's activities in Vietnam were successful in a
number of respects. First, while Vietnamese leaders steadfastly
denied holding any Americans after the war, they gave specific
assurances that Lt. Col. John Donovan, Chief of JTF-FA for Vietnam,
and his investigators would be given access to all the places,
persons and records necessary to achieve the fullest possible
accounting. The delegation identified particular individuals which
the Vietnamese should make available, records they should produce
and places they must provide access to for the Select Committee to
report favorably on Vietnamese cooperation.

Second, Senators had put Vietnam's assurances to a vigorous test,
particularly the short-notice, live-sighting investigations -- more
than previous delegations had attempted.

Third, the delegation identified some of the logistical problems
which Vietnam must resolve to enable U.S. investigators to
investigate live-sighting reports, examine crash sites and
otherwise freely pursue evidence about the fate of our POW/MIAs.

Recent Developments

In April, following the Senate delegation's return the Bush
Administration took the next reciprocal steps on the Road Map by
allowing the commercial sale of certain products required to meet
basic human needs, by easing restrictions on American non-
governmental and non-profit groups working in Vietnam, and by
agreeing to the establishment of telecommunications links between
the U.S. and Vietnam. These steps were followed shortly by
permission for Vietnamese-Americans to make direct money transfers
to relatives in Vietnam.

In July, the Select Committee's staff director, Frances Zwenig,
traveled to Southeast Asia to meet with Vietnamese and Lao
officials. The purposes of Zwenig's trip to Vietnam were to
impress upon Vietnamese officials the urgency of completing all
current live-sighting investigations and to explore the possibility
of holding an informal U.S./Vietnam hearing to discuss the status
of unresolved discrepancy cases. Her visit to Vietnam coincided
with JTF-FA Commander Maj. Gen. Thomas Needham's trip to the area.

Zwenig's discussions with Vice Foreign Minister Le Mai yielded
Vietnam's agreement to an expedited schedule for investigations of
prisons and military facilities on a priority list at DIA's
detachment in Bangkok (Stony Beach). Further, Vietnam agreed to
add a second investigator to its live-sighting team.

During this period, the U.S. was beginning to receive significant
amounts of information from Vietnamese archives through the work of
an American, Mr. Ted Schweitzer, who had been granted access to
these records by the Government of Vietnam. Accordingly, on October
8, Acting Secretary of State Lawrence Eagleburger and Secretary of
Defense Richard Cheney met with Vietnam's Foreign Minister Nguyen
Man Cam, and the Director of the Americas Department, Le Bang, to
discuss the information which the U.S. had been receiving and to
work out an agreement to formalize U.S. access to this type of

Vietnam responded by inviting Vessey to Hanoi. Vessey departed for
Hanoi on October 15; included in his delegation, at the request of
President Bush, was Select Committee member Senator McCain.

McCain carried with him to Vietnam a letter from Chairman Kerry,
encouraging and authorizing McCain's participation in the Vessey

The delegation arrived in Hanoi on October 17. In the first formal
meeting on the following day, Vice Foreign Minister Le Mai led
Vietnam's negotiators. Shortly before the meeting began, Vessey
and McCain had an informal discussion with Mai, during which Mai
indicated that the U.S. would receive the agreements we sought.

Progress in achieving U.S. objectives in the meeting proceeded so
rapidly that the negotiations adjourned in considerably less time
than anticipated by the delegation. Mai explained that the
Government of Vietnam was currently collecting widely dispersed
documentary evidence showing the fates of American POW/MIAs into
Vietnam's military archives, where it would all be made available
to U.S. investigators, and that Vietnam would sign an agreement to
that effect before the delegation departed for the U.S.

Vessey then suggested that the delegations divide into teams to
draft the formal agreement for access to this information and a
memorandum of understanding detailing the mechanisms for that
access.Deputy Assistant Secretary of State Ken Quinn led the team
drafting the formal agreement, and Needham led the team to draft
the memorandum of understanding. All U.S. personnel involved in
the initial negotiations, and in the subsequent drafting sessions
remarked on the relative ease with which the agreements were

The delegation departed Vietnam on October 19. Upon their return
to the United States, Vessey and McCain characterized the
agreements as a "breakthrough" that had established finally the
mechanism through which the United States could receive the fullest
possible accounting for our POW/MIAs. In a Rose Garden ceremony a
few days later, President Bush also hailed the agreements as a

A Senate delegation returned to Vietnam in November 1992 to follow
up on Vessey's accomplishments of the month before and to push for
further cooperation. The delegation's primary objectives were:

. To accelerate the pace of joint American-Vietnamese
investigations of live sighting reports;

. To press for specific answers to questions raised by the most
troubling of the remaining discrepancy cases;

. To expand research capabilities within the archives of
Vietnam's military museums;

. To obtain access to Vietnamese veterans of the war, for the
purpose of taking oral histories; and

. To push for the repatriation of remains held by private
individuals throughout Vietnam.

Senators Kerry, Daschle and Brown held three days of meetings in
Hanoi with President Le Duc Anh, Foreign Minister Nguyen Manh Cam
and other officials of the Defense and Foreign Ministries,
including working-level officials of the VNOSMP. Kerry delivered
a letter from President Bush to President Anh encouraging Vietnam
to continue to increase its level of cooperation on the POW/MIA

The delegation made great progress in the area of live- sighting
investigations. As discussed in greater detail in Chapter 4, the
members of the delegation personally conducted investigations of
six high-priority live-sighting reports and won assurances that
American officials stationed in Vietnam would be permitted to
conduct investigations of all of the remaining priority live-
sighting reports by Dec. 10, 1992.

The members of the delegation also asked the Vietnamese hard
questions about specific discrepancy cases in which it appeared
most likely that the Vietnamese could provide information. In two
meetings with officials of VNOSMP, the Senators discussed the
factual details of several discrepancy cases and learned of
archival, anecdotal and other information known by the Vietnamese
about the fate of unaccounted-for Americans. Similar meetings at
the working level are to continue.

The delegation stressed the great importance that the United States
places upon access to Vietnam's war archives. Photographs,
documents, artifacts and other materials already have provided
answers to questions which have lingered for more than 20 years in
a small number of discrepancy cases, and the Committee expects that
more answers will be forthcoming as U.S. officials gain access to
the wealth of information that exists within Vietnam's archives.
In response to delegation requests, the Vietnamese promised to open
new archival research offices in Da Nang and Ho Chi Minh City, in
addition to the office already open in Hanoi.

The delegation also sought and obtained a promise from the
Vietnamese Government to make Vietnamese veterans of the war
available to American investigators for the taking of oral
histories. Both sides recognized that Vietnamese soldiers have an
enormous amount of information about individual battles and other
incidents which will complement archival information as it is
uncovered. The Committee expects that oral histories obtained from
Vietnamese veterans will answer many outstanding questions about
what happened to unaccounted-for servicemen.

Finally, the delegation pressed the Vietnamese on the subject of
remains. The Vietnamese assured the Senators that the Government
was not holding any American remains and promised to take actions
to encourage private citizens who might be holding remains to turn
them in for repatriation to the U.S.

Committee Hearings

During its final public hearing, on Dec. 4, 1992, the Select
Committee reviewed the status of progress in securing cooperation
from Vietnam. Vessey testified that:

That long-sought agreement to get at the Vietnamese war-
time archival material puts in place what I believe to be
the last piece of procedural machinery that we needed to
get to the fullest possible accounting. . .

I believe we now have in place the necessary agreements
with the Vietnamese Government. We have correctly
organized within our own Government. We have competent
people working on the matter. But again I say there is a
lot of work ahead. And a lot of cooperation will be
required on both sides if we're to get the answers we

Needham, head of the JTF-FA, told the Committee that:

In the last year, the cooperation in Vietnam has been
steadily improving. . .

Recently, with the visits of General Vessey and Senator
McCain, and your Committee, there's been some dramatic

I think the Vietnamese could still do more, but right now
we see cooperation getting better and better every day at
the central level. In the field level, cooperation is
mixed. In some provinces, its better than others. In some
areas, it depends on the central government team leader
or the local officials as to whether it's up or down. We
are still, across the board, seeing better improvement.
. .

A long-standing issue in U.S.-Vietnamese relations concerns the
possibility that the Government of Vietnam has stockpiled the
remains of American servicemen to be doled out at politically
convenient times and, if so, whether that stockpile has by now been
depleted. On this point, Vessey testified:

. . . the number of remains that some people expect to be
in storage is too high. It doesn't stand the sensibility
check. . . we don't know whether they hold remains or

Needham testified:

I just don't know the answer on remains. I do know that
there are many remains being held by private citizens and
I've addressed that with the Vietnamese, because it's
against their law. They tell me that they are trying to
find a way to solve that problem. . .

I also believe that there are some remains being held by
the local district and village officials, all of this in
hopes that there will be some monetary reward at some

Mr. Garnett Bell, JTF-FA's negotiations assistance officer,

There certainly was a warehouse in the Hanoi area at one
time. The "mortician," I think, after he defected in
1979, he testified here in Congress that he processed
some 452 remains. The Vietnamese were confronted with
that information. They denied it. They indicated that
they thought the mortician was fabricating.

He (the mortician) actually provided about seven
different items of information. I think six of those have
been verified. . .

The Vietnamese, I believe, came to the conclusion that we
were confident that the man was telling the truth. Since
the mortician gave his testimony, they have returned to
us approximately 450 remains.

Approximately 260-269 remains have now been identified,
and that indicates to me (that). . . they're telling us
that we have given you those remains back and the
warehouse here in Hanoi is empty.

An important perspective on the issue of cooperation and
accountability was presented to the Committee by Schweitzer, an
individual who is now employed by the DoD and who played a major
role in gaining U.S. access to Vietnam's military archives, where
he had been working for more than a year first as a private
researcher, compiling information for a book and then as a DoD
consultant. Schweitzer said that a great deal of evidence and
information concerning lost Americans is in the hands of private
Vietnamese citizens, but that those citizens have lacked a strong
incentive to come forward. In Schweitzer's opinion, Vietnamese
citizens will be more likely to respond to appeals for information
from the central government in Hanoi and from the U.S. if they see
the U.S. beginning to act more favorably towards Vietnam.

Schweitzer also questioned the degree to which the central
Government of Vietnam knows more than it has told the U.S. about
the fate of missing Americans:

There were orders from Hanoi throughout the war that any
American who was captured or any American who was killed,
there was to be a complete report made and sent to Hanoi.
But in the heat of battle in the war. . . a lot of times
these reports just didn't get made. Sometimes they did
get made and they didn't arrive in Hanoi. . . one
specific case I was told about a report was made and then
before the group taking the report back to Hanoi could
get there, they were all killed in a bombing attack. So
that report never made it.
Another case, a Navy flyer who was shot down, his
airplane crashed in the sea. The Vietnamese went out with
a boat and they actually pulled up the airplane, got it,
got the pilot and buried him on the beach. The very next
day, a bomb struck right on top of that pilot's grave
where they buried him and absolutely nothing is left.
Even though they had remains and pictures the remains are
now completely unrecoverable. . .

Schweitzer also had some provocative observations about the
slowness in getting answers from Vietnam about some of our missing

The methods employed by the U.S. side in searching for
MIAs were basically unsound. The U.S. would provide the
Vietnamese leadership with a list of names of missing
Americans and expect the Vietnamese to come up with
information on them. The Vietnamese leadership had no
idea how to approach this problem. . .

The Vietnamese archive system, such as it is, is not
arranged by name, but rather by date and location of
incident. Thus, if the U.S. side had requested a search
of the Vietnamese archives by date and location of
shootdown, many pilots would have been found, whereas a
search by name would yield nothing. . .

Another factor delaying the process is the U.S. side's
failure to show any interest whatsoever in Vietnam's own
300,000 MIAs. . .

Further, there is almost a religious resistance among the
official and unofficial POW/MIA community and the U.S.
against any serious scholarly research on dead MIAs. . .
I personally spent tens of thousands of dollars, and
nearly three years of my life, trying to get someone,
anyone, to believe me that there was a mountain of
information on dead Americans in Hanoi. . .

December 1992: Kerry-Smith Trip

Senators Kerry and Smith returned to Hanoi on Dec. 17-18, 1992 for
a final series of meetings with Vietnamese officials. The visit
followed closely an announcement by President Bush that authorized
American companies to open offices in Vietnam and to sign
conditional contracts there; contracts could become effective upon
the lifting of the economic embargo.

The delegation met in Hanoi with President Le Duc Anh, General
Secretary Do Muoi, Foreign Minister Cam and several high-ranking
officials of the general Political directorate of the Ministry of
Defense. The purpose of the delegation's visit was to press the
Vietnamese officials one final time to cooperate fully with U.S.
efforts to resolve the POW/MIA issue by providing access to every
source of POW/MIA-related information in Vietnam. The Vietnamese
officials responded with promises of full cooperation and openness.

In a written memorandum presented to Senators Kerry and Smith at
the conclusion of the visit, the Vietnamese officials described six
new or expanded areas of cooperation, promising to:

. Make available to U.S. investigators all POW/MIA-related
documents, files and other information, including documents in
the custody of the General Political Directorate of the
Ministry of Defense, the successor to the Enemy Proselytizing
Division and reputed to be Vietnam's most hard-line Communist
bastion: its war-time archives include debriefing records of
U.S. POWs and other documents which the Select Committee
expects will shed light on the fates of many unaccounted-for
servicemen. The Vietnamese also promised to U.S.
investigators all POW/MIA-related information received from
the possession of private citizens.

. Search their files for information relating to the capture or
loss of U.S. personnel along the Ho Chi Minh Trail and
elsewhere in Laos and to coordinate this research with their
Lao counterparts.

. Strengthen the operations of the VNOSMP by adding senior
personnel from other ministries of the government.

. Grant amnesty for private citizens who turn in remains of U.S.
servicemen. It is illegal in Vietnam for private citizens to
hold remains, and Vietnamese officials believe that many
private citizens who are holding remains have been reluctant
to turn them in for fear of prosecution. The amnesty program
is expected to result in the repatriation of many sets of

. Permit American "MIA families" and veterans to visit Vietnam
to participate in the process of obtaining the fullest
possible accounting.

The Vietnamese also reaffirmed their on-going efforts to assist
U.S. investigators in following up on all remaining unresolved
live-sighting reports. By the end of December 1992, Vietnamese
officials will have assisted in 65 live-sighting investigations in

Kerry and Smith both expressed satisfaction with the progress made
on this final trip. All of these promises will require the
cooperation of numerous officials at all levels of the Vietnamese
Government, and many initiatives will take time to complete. If
Vietnam's Government follows through on its assurances and provides
access to all of the information and materials it has promised,
there will be little more Vietnam could be asked to do to assist in
accounting for missing Americans.


U.S. efforts to obtain information from Lao authorities have been
complicated by the facts that Laos was not a party to the Paris
Peace Accords and the United States was not a party to the 1973
Laos cease-fire agreement that pledged all sides to return captive
personnel. In addition, the DoD estimates that at least 75 percent
of the Americans missing in Laos were lost in areas controlled at
the time by North Vietnamese armed forces, generally in eastern
Laos along the border with Vietnam and near the Ho Chi Minh Trail.
Although the quality of information and record-keeping in Laos is
low, there is reason to believe that North Vietnamese military were
instructed to recover and record all they could about downed U.S.
aircraft. Thus, efforts to account for these Americans require a
tri-lateral effort, involving not only the U.S. and Laos, but
Vietnam, as well.

The current leaders of Laos, who are successors to the Pathet Lao
guerrillas who contended for power during the war, may have some
information concerning missing Americans that they have not yet
shared. In general, Lao leaders have been far more reluctant than
the Vietnamese to grant U.S. access to their territory to conduct
live-sighting investigations and inspect crash sights. The
atmosphere has improved in recent months, however, and negotiations
are on-going for the establishment of a permanent POW/MIA
investigation office in Vientiane, the capital.

During the Senate delegation's trip to Southeast Asia in November
1992, Senators Kerry and Daschle flew to Vientiane for meetings
with Foreign Minister Phoun Sipaseuth and Vice Foreign Minister
Soubanh Srithirath. The Senators reported to the Lao officials on
the agreements that had been made in Vietnam and pressed the Lao
officials to show a similar level of cooperation. Specifically,
they asked Laos:

. To permit the U.S. to have a full-time, live-sighting
investigator stationed in Laos,

. To permit U.S. crash and grave-site investigation teams to use
Lao-Americans as translators during their investigations,

. To open the Laos Government's archives to U.S. investigators,

. To loosen restrictions imposed on U.S. investigative teams
operating in Laos.

During the Committee's public hearing Dec. 4, 1992, Vessey

Personally, I think more answers are deserved from the present
Laotian Government than we are getting. I think that they need
to be continually pressured for more answers.

Secondly, there's another good reason that the accounting will
not be as good from Laos as it was or as it is likely to be
from Vietnam. You've flown over the area. It's very rugged
terrain, but the other thing is it is very sparsely populated.
Compared to Vietnam, which is quite heavily populated, Laos is
very sparsely populated. The second thing is that Laos is not
as homogeneous a nation as is Vietnam. It's tribal ethnic
groups that are split up in various places, the communication
during war-time was miserable, and I doubt that it's much
better today.

All that contributes to it, but I think more answers are

Later, Bill Gadoury, a casualty officer working at Stony Beach,

. . . starting in 1985, I personally have seen a dramatic
change in the level of cooperation that we get in the field.
. . certainly it's not anywhere near where we'd like to have
it in terms of being able to field multiple teams and things
of that nature, but just recalling back to my first field
operations in Laos, just to show the contrast of where we were
then and where we are now. . .

In February of 1986, we went on our first excavation in
Savannakhet Province. And our team went into Savannakhet. . .
and we had to spend the night because the landing site wasn't
prepared. We were put up in a hotel. They put armed guards
outside the door and they advised us not to go walking around.

More recently, on the operation I came back from a few weeks
ago, we were given pretty much unlimited access in the area.
. . to address the cases that we had agreed upon before going
out to the field. The Lao were very cooperative. . .

The Committee believes that, in general, cooperation from Laos has
been disappointing over the years. Moreover, the Committee notes
that the Laos Government has permitted only a handful of live-
sighting investigations in the field and to date, U.S.
investigators have not visited any detention camps in Laos. The
Committee concurs with Gen. Vessey that more answers are deserved.


Cambodia was not a party to the Paris Peace Accords and no separate
agreement on repatriation was reached in the aftermath of the war.
The recovery of American POWs or remains in Cambodia was made
virtually impossible after 1975, when the Khmer Rouge seized power
and embarked on a bloody reign of terror directed at Cambodians and
foreigners alike that left a million people -- out of a total
population of seven million -- dead. Throughout much of the past 20
years, the U.S. has had either difficult or non-existent diplomatic
contacts with the Cambodian Government. The years of struggle and
chaos leave little hope that documents or records have survived
that would reveal additional information about U.S. personnel.

As in Laos, however, most of the Americans unaccounted for in
Cambodia were lost near the border with Vietnam in areas where
North Vietnamese forces dominated. Thus, the best potential sources
of documentary information concerning those lost in Cambodia may be
in Hanoi, not in Phnom Penh.

The present government of war-ravaged Cambodia cannot be expected
to possess documentary information relevant to the fate of missing
American servicemen. Although the government has expressed its
willingness to cooperate fully with the U.S. in efforts to resolve
discrepancy cases, and has taken nearly every step requested by
U.S. investigators -- including granting permission to fly U.S.
helicopters around the country -- the Government is unable to
guarantee security in areas controlled by Khmer Rouge guerrillas.

Return to SSC Report Table of Contents
Go to next section