Kiss the Truth Good-bye
Summary. The book Kiss the Boys Good-bye
by Monika Jensen-Stevenson is one of the "bibles" of the POW-MIA issue.
Sad. This book is seriously flawed. It is poorly researched, filled with
hearsay, rumor, and unverified "sources." In a word, it is nonsense.
Reproduced below are two items; I take no credit for
originating either of these.
- The first is an article posted to
the newsgroup alt.war.vietnam by Bob Destatte in which
he points out some of the more egregious errors in Kiss. When the book was
published, Bob, I, and several others in the DIA POW-MIA Office read it. We agreed
that to counter the book would require a publication twice as big as Kiss -- it is
filled with that much nonsense.
- The second is an article, also
posted to alt.war.vietnam, by Mr. Owen Lock, a senior
editor at Ballantine Books. His comments speak for themselves.
This article was
posted by Bob Destatte on the newsgroup alt.war.vietnam.
It is Bob's review of Kiss.
Some time ago, another contributor to this newsgroup
described this same
book as "The 'Bible' of the POW/MIA issue..."
Readers of this newsgroup might have noticed that those
who praise this
"bible" typically do not provide information
that will allow you to form
an independent about its content. In fact, Mr. Bylin
avoided giving you
even the full title and accurate publishing data so
that you might find
a copy and check for yourself.
The book in question is: "Kiss the Boys
Goodbye: How the United States
Betrayed Its Own POWs in Vietnam," By
Monika Jensen-Stevenson, William
Stevenson. Publisher: Dutton. Hardcover ($21.95). First
I reviewed the book. I offer the following comments
to help readers of
the newsgroup form independent judgments about the
The dust jacket describes the book as: "This
book is about a
devastating American scandal. In 'Kiss the Boys
award-winning journalists provide startling evidence
that the American
government, right up to its highest echelons, knows,
and has always
known, that American POWs were left behind at the end
of the war. More
amazingly, it has regularly obstructed the efforts of
to discover the truth." Ms. Jensen-Stevenson is a
former Emmy award
winning, "60 Minutes" producer. Her
husband, William Stevenson, is the
author of "A Man Called Intrepid" and
"Ninety Minutes At Entebbe."
Unfortunately, I found that "bible of the
POW/MIA issue" does not live
up to its advertising claims or the accolades of its
disciples. I found
so many errors of fact and false or unsubstantiated
claims that I
decided to just opened the book to a few random pages
and each time deal
with the first error of fact or false or
unsubstantiated claim that
appeared on the page. A few examples:
DID MS. JENSEN-STEVENSON CHECK OR VERIFY MATTERS
Page 5 offered this typical example of Ms.
Jensen-Stevenson's failure to
check basic, easily verified matters of fact. On page 5
QUOTE: Most astounding,
some prisoners were actually hidden
in the main prison compounds in Hanoi.
One such man, Air Force Colonel
Norman Gaddis, who was shot down on May
12, 1967, did appear on the 1973
list of returnees - UNEXPECTEDLY
[emphasis mine]. He had never been
accounted for by the Vietnamese. Yet
for almost four and a half years
he was kept in a section of the prison
known as 'Heartbreak Hotel'. In
all that time no other American
prisoner had seen him. If he had not
finally been spotted by other prisoners
after the Vietnamese moved POWs
and consolidated them in several key
locations because of the attempted
Son Tay raid to rescue prisoners on
November 21, 1970, Gaddis would
probably have ended up an MIA.
WHAT ARE THE REAL FACTS?
Colonel Gaddis was one of the most highly publicized
POWs in captivity.
Stories about his capture began appearing in news
public radio broadcasts in several countries (see
partial list in next
paragraph) the day after he was shot down in North
Vietnam. During the
war the U.S. Foreign Broadcast Information Service
public radio and television broadcasts in foreign
wartime North Vietnam). The U.S. Joint Publications
(JPRS) monitored newspapers and other publications
published in foreign
countries (including wartime North Vietnam). FBIS and
reports of selected news items in English. Every
journalist worthy of
being called a journalist is familiar with FBIS and
JPRS reports, which
are available through any full service library.
A PARTIAL LIST OF FBIS AND JPRS REPORTS ABOUT
(1) Vietnam News Agency's (VNA) English language
service broadcasts on 13 and 14 May 1967 reported that
12 May 1967 the Vietnamese People's Air Force had shot
and captured a U.S. Air Force Colonel named Norman C.
born 30 September 1923, who was flying an F4C aircraft.
(2) On 14 and 16 May 1967, the official North
newspaper, "Nhan Dan," published articles
that reported Colonel
Gaddis was captured.
(3) On 14 May 1967, the official North Vietnamese
"Quan Doi Nhan Dan," published a photograph
of Colonel Gaddis'
military ID card and reported that he was captured
alive on 12 May
(4) On 26 May 1967, the newspaper "Trung
Lap," a Vietnamese
language daily published in Phnom Penh, Cambodia,
contained a front
page article that included a photocopy of Colonel
ID card with a caption that described him as the pilot
of a Phantom
F4C that the Vietnamese People's Air Force shot down on
12 May 1967.
(5) On 12 June 1967, the newspaper
"Akahata," published in Tokyo,
Japan, reported that Colonel Gaddis was captured on 12
(6) The 20 May 1967 issue of "Vietnam
Courier," an English
language magazine published in Hanoi and distributed in
countries, confirmed Colonel Gaddis was captured.
(7) A November 7, 1967 English language broadcast
American servicemen in South Vietnam reported that
(8) On 29 August 1969, the official army newspaper,
"Quan Doi Nhan
Dan," carried another article that confirmed
Colonel Gaddis was a
Ms. Jensen-Stevenson could have
obtained the FBIS and JPRS reports of
these news stories from any full
service public library.
INFORMATION AVAILABLE UNDER THE FREEDOM OF
American intelligence also obtained additional
information from other
sources during the war. Two Peoples Army of Vietnam
(PAVN, i.e., NVA)
soldiers that we captured provided information about
during interrogation in February 1970 and January 1971.
still-classified sources provided additional
confirmation that Colonel
Gaddis was a POW. Ms. Jensen-Stevenson could have
information (de-classified versions of the classified
reports) simply by
requesting them from the Defense Intelligence Agency
(DIA) under the
Freedom of Information Act (FOIA). Any journalist or
author worthy of
the titles is familiar with the procedures for
under the FOIA.
ARE MS. JENSEN-STEVENSON'S FACTS AND CONCLUSIONS
Contrary to Ms. Jensen-Stevenson's assertion, U.S.
officials were not the least bit surprised that Colonel
appeared on the 1973 list of returnees. They expected
his name to
appear on the list. The United States Government
undoubtedly would have
taken swift and decisive action if his name had not
appeared on the
And what about Ms. Jensen-Stevenson's implication
that Colonel Gaddis
was somehow kept hidden in the main prison until after
the Son Tay raid
in November 1970?
Like many POWs captured in North Vietnam before
1969, Colonel Gaddis
spent many months in solitary confinement. However, in
he attended Christmas church services with about 20
other POWs. He had
known some of these POWs before he was captured. From
until he was released on March 4, 1973, Colonel Gaddis
had POW roommates
and engaged in regular and frequent communication with
other POWs at Hoa
Lo Prison (The Hanoi Hilton) in Hanoi. Beginning in
1970, he was one of
four colonels who formed the command section of the POW
known as the 4th POW Wing. He was moved several times
while in prison.
By December 1970, as a result of the POWs'
communication network, he
knew the identity of, and was known to, more than 50
American POWs in
Hoa Lo Prison. By the time he was released, he knew and
was known to
many more American POWs.
One might ask, so what? How could Ms.
Jensen-Stevenson have known all
First, she could have obtained the
information via the FOIA (see above).
Second, throughout her book, Ms.
Jensen-Stevenson cited Lieutenant
Colonel Robinson Risner as one of the principle sources
contained in her book. Colonel Gaddis and LTC Risner
with each other while in Hoa Lo. Even if Ms.
the information available in public libraries, and
failed to seek
information under the FOIA, she certainly must have
information about Colonel Gaddis from LTC Risner.
How could Ms. Jensen-Stevenson present such an
inaccurate description of
Colonel Gaddis' prison experience? Should she have
verified the basic
facts? Could she have verified the facts? If she didn't
facts, why? If she did, and still published such an
You be the judge.
On pages 85-86, Ms. Jensen-Stevenson introduced a
source who is typical
of many sources she relied on for information in her
book. On these two
pages she introduced her readers to a person named
She devoted much of her book to Scott Barnes' claim
that in late 1981 he
was sent on what she described as "a multi-purpose
mission sanctioned by
the CIA, the Drug Enforcement Agency [sic] (DEA), and
one of the
Pentagon's secret intelligence units, when he saw
Americans in a
Communist part of Indochina." She appears to place
in the truth of Barnes' claims, particularly his claim
to have been an
intelligence operative, and his claim that American
him to kill the prisoners.
Barnes' is a well-known public figure. He is the guy
that passed the
bogus information to Mr. Ross Perot that caused him to
pull out of the
Presidential race a few years ago. He has been the
subject of several
magazine and newspaper articles and has written a book
on the POW/MIA
issue. My favorite article about him is one titled,
"Scott Barnes: My
Favorite Flake," by Allen Dawson, that appeared on
pages 32-36 of
Soldier of Fortune magazine's Spring 1983
special issue on the POW/MIA
Scott Barnes never served in any intelligence
position with any branch
of the armed services, the Department of Defense, the
community, or the DEA - or any other agency of the
He served a brief hitch in the U.S. Army, but was
discharged early and
barred from re-enlistment.
Scott Barnes attempted several times to pass bogus
to various U.S. agencies. For example, one time in 1981
he came to the
American Embassy and reported that he had personally
photographed American POWs in Cambodia in June 1981.
Asked to describe
the circumstances, he described how he swam across the
Mekong river that
forms the border between Thailand and Cambodia.
Well, what about this claim? First, as a
quick look at a map of the
region will confirm, the Mekong does not form the
Thai-Cambodia border -
not anywhere. In fact, the Thai-Cambodia border is a
Second, Scott was never able or willing to
provide copies of the alleged
photos, as he promised to do. Third, a check of the
log and inquiries with Embassy employees revealed that
Scott was eating
in the Embassy cafeteria at the time he was allegedly
the alleged river to photograph the alleged POWs. As
you might imagine,
DoD analysts found it hard to place much confidence in
One of Scott's favorite tricks was to visit a
government building, for
example the American Embassy in Bangkok, identify
himself as an American
citizen, and claim that he had just received some
(e.g., POWs, yellow rain) that he wanted to report to a
official. Usually, an unsuspecting official would
invite him in, listen
to his story, take a few notes, give a copy of his
business card to
Scott, thank him for the information, and, after Scott
left, send a
brief report through appropriate channels.
Now the visitors log confirmed the fact that the
visit took place, and
confirmed the name of the person that met with Scott.
Scott had the person's card. After that, Scott could,
and sometimes did
describe the content of their conversation much
differently than the
officer he met had reported or recall. But so what -
after all, it was
the word of this stalwart defender of POWs and mom's
apple pie against
the word of some faceless "bureaucrat." I
still shake my head in
wonderment whenever I recall the large amounts of time
DoD analysts were
forced to waste responding to Scott's antics.
Any journalist or writer worthy of the titles,
certainly an Emmy Award
winning journalist, should have the knowledge and
skills needed to
verify a potential source's credentials.
How could Ms. Jensen-Stevenson ask her readers to
put faith in Scott
Barnes' stories? Should she have verified his
credentials and the
information he supplied? Could she have verified his
claims? If she didn't, why. If she did and still
introduced his story
as credible, why?
You be the judge.
WOULD YOU CALL THIS EVIDENCE?
On pages 121-123 and other pages, Ms.
Jensen-Stevenson appears to place
considerable faith in a video-taped interview of Scott
his POW story while allegedly under the influence of
sodium amytal, which Ms. Jensen-Stevenson refers to as
a "truth drug."
We are all familiar with the concept of so-called
"truth serums" from
popular fiction, prime-time TV dramas, and the movies.
But, what are
Medical literature concerning the use of sodium
amytal as an adjunct to
interviews dates back to 1930. A visit to the reference
section of any
major library should yield a long list of published
information and a
list of medical experts on the subject. A review of the
literature or a
consult with any certified expert on the subject would
dispelled the notion that the barbiturate sodium
amytal, or any other
drug, can function as a "truth drug."
The literature does not support a belief that
"the truth" automatically
emerges when a person is questioned after receiving
such a drug. While
sodium amytal can facilitate interviews of some
psychiatric patients in
certain settings, it has no facility to insure that a
person will tell
One medical professional experienced in the use of
sodium amytal told me
that such a drug can actually assist a person who is
under its influence
to deceive an audience. As he put it, it is easier to
audience, if the audience believes the drug assures the
telling the truth.
Also, the medical professional observed, the
sedative or intoxicating
effect of the drug may relieve most, if not all,
anxiety that most
persons normally experience when telling a lie; which
could make it
easier for a deceitful person to appear truthful.
If a humble analyst at DIA can easily and quickly
learn the facts about
so-called "truth drugs," it seems certain
that an Emmy Award winning
journalist should be able to dig up the facts.
Again, how could Ms. Jensen-Stevenson ask her
readers to put faith in
Scott Barnes' stories?
You be the judge.
ANOTHER FAMILIAR SOURCE
Ms. Jensen-Stevenson cites retired U.S. Army Major
Mark Smith as one of
her key sources throughout the book. According to Ms.
Major Smith claims to have developed a network of
supplied him with proof that American prisoners were
left in Indochina
Ms. Jensen-Stevenson apparently also assigns
Major Smith's charges that U.S. officials suppressed
But, do the facts support Ms. Jensen-Stevenson's faith
in Major Smith?
Various Committees, Sub-Committees, Select
Committees, and Task Forces
in the House and Senate have always given very serious
support to efforts to account for Americans who did not
return from the
Vietnam war. From time-to-time, when an apparently
claimed to have important information but was unwilling
to turn the
information over to intelligence professionals or to
the POW/MIA office,
one of the House or Senate bodies would invite the
person to give the
information to that body, and assure the person that if
was valid that body would ensure that the intelligence
community or the
POW/MIA office took swift and decisive action. Such an
In 1986, the Senate Veterans' Affairs Committee
invited Major Smith and
his colleagues to present their evidence. Major Smith
failed to honor
his commitment to appear before the Committee's hearing
in June 1986.
Major Smith finally appeared before the committee on
July 16, 1986; but
only after the Committee, which had been waiting for
information since January 1986, issued a subpoena
appearance. (Washington Times article titled,
"Ex-Green Berets irk
Senate panel," by Jennifer Spevacek, July 17,
Major Smith's "evidence" of live prisoners
proved to be transparently
not true. The USA Today newspaper reported the session
in the following
QUOTE: POW EVIDENCE
POOR: Retired Green Berets Mark
Smith and Melvin McIntire flopped
during their appearances Wednesday at
a Senate committee investigating their
claims of U.S. servicemen being
held prisoner in Southeast Asia.
Senator Alan Simpson, R-Wyo., called
the three blurry photographs and other
documents "lightweight stuff."
Sen. Jeremiah Denton, R-Ala., a former
POW, said there's no "tangible
evidence" of remaining POWs.
END QUOTE. (p. 4A, USA Today, Thurs., July
The three-column article in the Washington Times
(cited above), provided
more details. For example, the Washington Times provided
a longer quote
of Senator Simpson's remark:
QUOTE: "As we say
in the West in a poker game, put up
or shut up. ... I've never seen
such lightweight stuff in my life." END
The Washington Times article also provided
details about one of Major
Smith's key sources, a man named Robin Gregson, who
used the pseudonym
John Obassy. While Major Smith maintained that Mr.
Gregson is a
reliable source, according to the Washington Times
testimony painted a picture of a shadowy professional
When one incredulous member of the Committee took issue
Smith's information, Major Smith invited the Senator to
the parking lot.
Perhaps Major Smith felt the parking lot offered an
would be more conducive than the Committee hearing room
impersonal, rational discourse. Some observers,
however, thought it
possible that Major Smith might want to duke it out
with the Senator.
Is it possible that Ms. Jensen-Stevenson was so
impressed with Major
Smith's status as a retired Green Beret officer and
former POW that she
felt it unnecessary to try to verify the information he
Should she have verified the credibility of his sources
before publishing her account? Could she have verified
If she didn't, why? If she did, and published anyway,
You be the judge.
DISPUTE WITH HER PUBLISHER
How is this for a contrast? The
describe Ms. Jensen-Stevenson's book as the "bible
of the POW/MIA
issue." In contrast, the first publisher rejected
manuscript, claiming it was editorially and legally
countered with a lawsuit, insisting the publisher was
government pressure. (Article by Geraldine Baum, staff
Washington Times, ca. November 1990.)
Was the first publisher correct? You be the judge.
In my judgment, Ms. Jensen-Stevenson's book is not
Many of the stories she recounted are either inaccurate
or not true.
Nevertheless, they could be entertaining and even
harmless - - if they
were clearly labled as entertainment or fiction.
unsubstantiated or untrue stories told by a person with
undermines public confidence in our institutions and
causes great grief
to the families of some of our missing servicemen.
Why would she peddle such nonsense? Only she knows.
is very little money to be made from a book.
But consider for a moment her more recent book, Spite
portrays a convicted collaborator as a misunderstood
hero, and the US
Marine Corps as an organization that condones
assassination - based on
the same type of shoddy research and unsubstantiated
claims as Kiss the
A few months ago I read a news item that announced
she was negotiating
to sell the movie rights to Spite House for a
seven figure amount.
For those who are not quick with figures, that means at
million dollars. Hmmm?
You be the judge.
The material above was quoted from a message by Bob Destatte, posted on the newsgroup alt.war.vietnam..
The following material is also from a post on alt.war.vietnam.
Subject: Kiss the Boys Good-bye and
From: "Owen Lock"
Date: 30/04/98 22:00 Eastern
Kiss the Boys Good-bye: I knew the authors in
the early eighties, and
that is bound to color any evaluation I make of their
In the 70s I was involved, as a very junior editor, in
attempt within Ballantine Books to prevent our original
publication of the
paperback of Bill Stevenson's bestselling A Man
Called Intrepid -- because
it was a ludicrously badly written, ill-researched
piece of trash the
publication of which could only diminish the reputation
of its subject, Sir
William Stephenson (I may have confused the spellings
of the last names of
"Author Bill" and "Sir William", as
we used to call them).
I mention the above at some length because, in my
later dealings, as a more
senior editor, with Bill and Monica in the eighties, I
understood that they
would never let the truth stand between them and the
best story they could
invent. I finally recommended against publishing any
book by Bill (Monica
was then still in TV, I believe) because he made up his
ostensible nonfiction books!) then twisted the
available data to fit them.
And I'm not basing this on my feelings; he and I
discussed his methodology
at some length, and I had the good fortune to encounter
a production editor
from Harcourt Brace Jovanovich who could fill me in on
why Harcourt allowed
Intrepid into print -- in hardcover -- in the condition
Bill's desire to make a buck at the expense of what
most of us would regard
as the truth was a terrible thing because Bill was
(probably still is) a
really sweet guy in almost every other way. I've always
felt that he let
himself be influenced overmuch by his experience in
So, you don't want to know what I think of Kiss
the Boys Good-bye.
As to the GPO report: the government
publishes many things; some it
shouldn't. This was one. Schlatter's account resounds
with the truth; your
dependence on the report rings hollow.
End of quote from Owen Lock's post on alt.war.vietnam.