MIA Facts Site

The Case of SGT James Ray,

Died in Captivity


The case of SGT Ray is used by the MIA cult as another bit of "proof" that the US government has abandoned men in captivity, that we knew they were there, and that there is a giant coverup. The facts refute these allegations.

Facts of the Ray Case

SGT Ray was captured on 13 March 1968 along with CAPT John Dunn, who survived captivity and returned. The facts in the Ray case that are so often misrepresented have to do with the events leading up to his death and with an award citation prepared for him posthumously. Ray was ill and not eating well. He was moved to a camp with some other US POWs who did not know him. By the time he was moved, he was so ill that he was not moving, not eating, not bathing. For this reason, the other POWs in the camp to which he was moved had no direct contact with him and did not learn his name.

Shortly after he was moved, the other US POWs observed a flurry of activity by the guards around the hammock where the new guy (Ray) was. A couple of the other US POWs saw the guards carrying a large object away from the area where Ray was held, they saw some guards heading in the same direction with shovels, and saw them returning later, carrying nothing but dirty shovels. The guards were then observed carrying the new guy's hammock, rice bowl, and other things away.

Later, these POWs ended up in the company of others who knew Ray and, by comparing stories, they all surmised that Ray was the sick POW who had been brought to the camp and who had died. During their debriefings during Operation Homecoming, the US POWs who had observed the guard's activity, shovels, etc., reported what they had seen.

Died-In-Captivity Lists

The Vietnamese passed to our side, at the time of Operation Homecoming, two lists of Americans who had died in captivity (DIC); one list for the north (24 names), one for the south (I believe that list was 41 names).

The men who were DIC in the north had been buried in a Vietnamese cemetery in Hanoi. Their remains were exhumed and returned. Those who died in captivity in the south were buried in various places. Some were buried by the fellow POWs, others by the Vietnamese, others may not have been buried at all, just thrown into a ditch or canal or hole.

SGT James Ray's name was on the DIC-South list with a date of death of 6 November 1969. The other POWs who apparently observed the burial of the "new guy" by guards reported that this incident occurred in November 1969.

A Clerical Error Becomes a Conspiracy

Now, the Army knew nothing of any of this until the returnees were debriefed after Homecoming. The Army decided to set his date of death at 30 November 1969 and, to honor SGT Ray's service, he was posthumously awarded a Bronze Star for Valor and a Purple Heart. (Why set a date of death? Because the service needs to pay off SGLI, determine date for survivor eligibility for benefits, etc., etc.) This was done in 1974.

While preparing the award citation, a clerk mistakenly typed 1974 into one of the blocks where 1969 should have been. This error exists in the files today. The MIA activists have seized upon this clerical error as proof that Ray was alive in 1974, the Army knew it, and is trying to cover it up. Let's follow this reasoning:   Homecoming was in early 1973. According to the cover-up-and-conspiracy theory, the Army and the rest of DoD knew that Ray was alive and abandoned so they decided to give him a Bronze Star and a Purple Heart and date it 1974, because, of course, he was still alive then. That's the story that is told on the activist networks. It ain't so. The 1974 is a simple clerical error.

A Similar Case

There is a similar story concerning an Air Force officer. As the services were preparing for Operation Homecoming, some men who were known to be captives, some were known to be dead, and there were others whose fates were not known. There is a form -- actually, several forms -- to be filled out for returning POWs. To get a jump on the process, the USAF filled out the forms in advance and put them into the files of the men who were known to be POWs and in the files of men whose fates were uncertain.

Then, after Homecoming, the fates of lots of men were learned through debriefing the returnees and through other analysis. In the cases where returnee forms had been filled out but the man did not return, the AF pulled the forms from the files. But, they missed one. In the personnel file of one USAF MIA is the old copy of his returnee form that someone overlooked and never pulled -- the form has on it the notation "Returned POW." This case is cited by the MIA activists as proof that (1) we knew some men were alive and abandoned them, and (2) there is a secret program to return live Americans to the US and give them a new identity and hide them from their families.

Secret Returnees

No, gang, I did not make up that last statement. There really is a story that persists to this day among the activists that US POWs have been secretly returned from Southeast Asia by the USG, they have been given new identities, placed in something akin to the Witness Protection Program, and they are living right here at home but can never contact their families. The returnee form that was not pulled from this one guy's file is cited as proof of the existence of this program. In fact, the last time I was at a National Alliance meeting, a blow-up of this form was on display with the accompanying material describing the secret returnee program. The most exotic of the secret returnee stories deals with the saga of USMC Privates Robert Greer and Fred Schreckengost.

The Rest of the Story

There is more to the James Ray story that needs to be told.  Anyone who is around the MIA activists community for a while encounters SGT Ray's father, "mother," and "sisters."  Let me explain.

SGT Ray was born in Connecticut.  Let's call his parents Father Ray and Mother Ray.  When SGT Ray was only a few months old, Father Ray deserted the family.   Mother Ray later sued him for divorce on grounds of desertion.

After a series of girl friends, Father Ray ended up in California.   There, he married a lady with two daughters.  These two daughters knew nothing of Father Ray's family back in Connecticut.  They knew nothing of SGT Ray -- who was not related to them in any way at all.

Then, in the mid-1980s,  these two women discovered their missing "brother."  These two women -- who never knew SGT Ray, who are not related to him in any real way -- suddenly became "activists" for their "brother."  One of them married Bobby Garwood (she died of cancer in 2000).

In fact, Father Ray had had no contact whatsoever with SGT Ray from the minute that he (the father) abandoned the family.  In the late 1980s, SGT  Ray's mother exercised her option as Primary Next-Of-Kin (PNOK) and directed the Army  not provide to Father Ray any information on SGT Ray.  You can imagine the howls that this move engendered -- Father Ray and the two "sisters," along with Father Ray's current wife (mother to the two "sisters") complain to anyone who will listen that the "government" refuses to give them any information about their "son" and "brother."     It's a sad story, but, in the world of the MIA cult, it's about normal.