MIA Facts Site

  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.

bulletThe 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.
bulletThe 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 printing
September 1990.

I reviewed the book. I offer the following comments to help readers of
the newsgroup form independent judgments about the book.

The dust jacket describes the book as: "This book is about a
devastating American scandal. In 'Kiss the Boys Goodbye,' two
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 private citizens
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."
Impressive credentials.

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 OF FACT?

Page 5 offered this typical example of Ms. Jensen-Stevenson's failure to
check basic, easily verified matters of fact. On page 5 she wrote:
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. END QUOTE.

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 publications and
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 (FBIS) monitored
public radio and television broadcasts in foreign countries (including
wartime North Vietnam). The U.S. Joint Publications Research Service
(JPRS) monitored newspapers and other publications published in foreign
countries (including wartime North Vietnam). FBIS and JPRS published
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 COL. GADDIS.

(1) Vietnam News Agency's (VNA) English language international
service broadcasts on 13 and 14 May 1967 reported that on
12 May 1967 the Vietnamese People's Air Force had shot down
and captured a U.S. Air Force Colonel named Norman C. Gaddis,
born 30 September 1923, who was flying an F4C aircraft.

(2) On 14 and 16 May 1967, the official North Vietnamese daily
newspaper, "Nhan Dan," published articles that reported Colonel
Gaddis was captured.

(3) On 14 May 1967, the official North Vietnamese Army newspaper,
"Quan Doi Nhan Dan," published a photograph of Colonel Gaddis'
military ID card and reported that he was captured alive on 12 May
1967.

(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 Gaddis' military
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 May 1967.

(6) The 20 May 1967 issue of "Vietnam Courier," an English
language magazine published in Hanoi and distributed in English-speaking
countries, confirmed Colonel Gaddis was captured.

(7) A November 7, 1967 English language broadcast aimed at
American servicemen in South Vietnam reported that Colonel Gaddis
was captured.

(8) On 29 August 1969, the official army newspaper, "Quan Doi Nhan
Dan," carried another article that confirmed Colonel Gaddis was a
POW.

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 INFORMATION ACT.

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 Colonel Gaddis
during interrogation in February 1970 and January 1971. Also, two
still-classified sources provided additional confirmation that Colonel
Gaddis was a POW. Ms. Jensen-Stevenson could have obtained this
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 obtaining information
under the FOIA.

ARE MS. JENSEN-STEVENSON'S FACTS AND CONCLUSIONS ACCURATE?

Contrary to Ms. Jensen-Stevenson's assertion, U.S. intelligence
officials were not the least bit surprised that Colonel Gaddis' name
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
list.

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 December 1969,
he attended Christmas church services with about 20 other POWs. He had
known some of these POWs before he was captured. From February 1970,
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 organization
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
this?

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 of information
contained in her book. Colonel Gaddis and LTC Risner had communicated
with each other while in Hoa Lo. Even if Ms. Jensen-Stevenson ignored
the information available in public libraries, and failed to seek
information under the FOIA, she certainly must have received accurate
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 verify the
facts, why? If she did, and still published such an inaccurate account,
why?

You be the judge.

RELIABLE SOURCES?

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 Scott Barnes.
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 considerable faith
in the truth of Barnes' claims, particularly his claim to have been an
intelligence operative, and his claim that American officials ordered
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
issue.

Scott Barnes never served in any intelligence position with any branch
of the armed services, the Department of Defense, the intelligence
community, or the DEA - or any other agency of the Federal Government.
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 POW/MIA information
to various U.S. agencies. For example, one time in 1981 he came to the
American Embassy and reported that he had personally observed and
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 land border.

Second, Scott was never able or willing to provide copies of the alleged
photos, as he promised to do. Third, a check of the Embassy's visitors
log and inquiries with Embassy employees revealed that Scott was eating
in the Embassy cafeteria at the time he was allegedly swimming across
the alleged river to photograph the alleged POWs. As you might imagine,
DoD analysts found it hard to place much confidence in Scott's story.

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 important information
(e.g., POWs, yellow rain) that he wanted to report to a responsible
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. What's more,
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 credentials and
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 Barnes telling
his POW story while allegedly under the influence of the barbiturate
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
the facts?

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 have quickly
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
the truth.

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 "sucker" an
audience, if the audience believes the drug assures the subject is
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. Jensen-Stevenson,
Major Smith claims to have developed a network of informants that
supplied him with proof that American prisoners were left in Indochina
after 1975.

Ms. Jensen-Stevenson apparently also assigns considerable credibility
Major Smith's charges that U.S. officials suppressed his information.
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 and strong
support to efforts to account for Americans who did not return from the
Vietnam war. From time-to-time, when an apparently credible person
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 the information
was valid that body would ensure that the intelligence community or the
POW/MIA office took swift and decisive action. Such an event occurred
in 1986.

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 Major Smith's
information since January 1986, issued a subpoena compelling his
appearance. (Washington Times article titled, "Ex-Green Berets irk
Senate panel," by Jennifer Spevacek, July 17, 1986.)

Major Smith's "evidence" of live prisoners proved to be transparently
not true. The USA Today newspaper reported the session in the following
words:

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
17, 1986).

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
QUOTE.

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 article, other
testimony painted a picture of a shadowy professional con-man.
When one incredulous member of the Committee took issue with Major
Smith's information, Major Smith invited the Senator to the parking lot.
Perhaps Major Smith felt the parking lot offered an atmosphere that
would be more conducive than the Committee hearing room to calm,
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 gave her?
Should she have verified the credibility of his sources and information
before publishing her account? Could she have verified these things?
If she didn't, why? If she did, and published anyway, why?

You be the judge.

DISPUTE WITH HER PUBLISHER

How is this for a contrast? The cover-up-and-conspiracy cultists
describe Ms. Jensen-Stevenson's book as the "bible of the POW/MIA
issue." In contrast, the first publisher rejected the original
manuscript, claiming it was editorially and legally unacceptable. She
countered with a lawsuit, insisting the publisher was bowing to
government pressure. (Article by Geraldine Baum, staff writer,
Washington Times, ca. November 1990.)

Was the first publisher correct? You be the judge.

In my judgment, Ms. Jensen-Stevenson's book is not serious history.
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. Unfortunately,
unsubstantiated or untrue stories told by a person with her credentials
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. Certainly, there
is very little money to be made from a book.

But consider for a moment her more recent book, Spite House, which
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
Boys Goodbye.

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 least one
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 GPO pub

From: "Owen Lock" <olock@worldnet.att.net>

Date: 30/04/98 22:00 Eastern Daylight Time

Message-id: <6ib0ut$3rg@bgtnsc01.worldnet.att.net>

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 work.
In the 70s I was involved, as a very junior editor, in an unsuccessful
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 stories (for
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 it did.

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 British journalism.

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.