MIA Facts Site

 

Driving In Front of Their Headlights

For the past few weeks (this article is being written December 1, 1998), a couple of the newsgroups to which I subscribe are being  treated to a deluge of articles concerning an alleged blockbuster document discovered in the Soviet archives  that -- depending on who is writing --  either proves, hints at, indicates, or strongly suggests that US POWs from Vietnam were taken to the USSR for interrogation, exploitation, or worse. 

The "Evidence"


"Evidence" cited to support these claims includes one or more of the
following items:

bulletA quote from a memorandum written by the late General Dmitri Volkogonov, who was until his death joint-chair of the US - Russia Joint Commission.
bulletCitations to the claims made by the late Czech General Jan Sejna.
bulletReferences to the "research" done by one Pete Tsouras.
bulletCitation of the recent Russian "discovery" of several thousand pages of
documents.  This "discovery" is used as "proof" that they must be hiding
something.
bulletLong quotes from Washington Times writer Bill Gertz.


I suggest that the folks involved in posting these articles are getting well
out in front of their headlights.

Some Background

With the collapse of the Soviet Union, we approached the new Russian
government with a request that we establish a mechanism to search in various
Russian archives for evidence of the fates of missing US personnel from WW
II, the Cold War, Korea, and Vietnam.  Boris Yeltsin needed US support, both
political and economic and he knew an opening when he saw one.  Without
hesitation, Yeltsin moved to establish the US-Russia Joint Commission
(USRJC) and appointed Volkogonov, a respected researcher and military
historian, as the Russian co-chair.  Long-time State Department Soviet
affairs specialist Ambassador Malcolm Toon was the US co-chair.


TASK FORCE RUSSIA

The Army was given the task of establishing an analytic cell to support the
USRJC.  This was done by tasking various Army and Defense agencies to cough
up a few people to form the staff.  Thus was born Task Force Russia (TFR).

When I returned from an assignment in Japan in July 1993, TFR, the old DIA
Special Office for POW-MIA Affairs, the Central Documentation Office, and
the ASD/ISA POW-MIA policy cell was combined into the DPMO, headed by the
Deputy Assistant SECDEF for POW-MIA Affairs.   In my position as Deputy to the DASD, Jim Wold, I was asked to review the analytic operations of TFR.  As a result of my review, certain of the analysts were allowed to return to their parent units
because it was clear that they could not analyze their way across an empty
parking lot with a map and a guide.  What struck me about the TFR analysts
was their willingness to accept at face value stories that were, prima
facie, illogical and unsubstantiated.   In the last conversation I had with Pete Tsouras, one of the departing TFR analysts, he described to me his analytic approach: "We know they kept our guys, we just need to prove it."  Funny, I always thought that analysis consisted of poring over data, forming and testing hypotheses drawn from the data, then selecting the hypothesis that stands up to rigorous testing.


Bill Gertz

I had some experience with Gertz.  He interviewed me on a few issues
regarding US MIAs in SEAsia.  Mr. Gertz sees a Pulitzer prize winner every
morning in his mirror and he never met a conspiracy he did not love.



General Volkogonov's Memo


The memo in question is a translation into English of a memo written by
Volkogonov shortly before his death.  (He was suffering from terminal cancer
during his tenure with the USRJC.  He would go to Walter Reed for treatment
during his visits to the US on USRJC business.)  In that memo, Volkogonov
states that he found evidence of a KGB plan for QUOTE  "delivering informed
Americans to the USSR for intelligence gathering purposes." END QUOTE.  That's it. folks.  On that phrase is being built a huge conspiracy.  Assumedly, the "informed
Americans" are US POWs who are to be brought to the USSR for exploitation.
Volkogonov goes on in his memo to state that he questioned Russian
intelligence officials who investigated and stated that this plan had never
been put into effect.

I submit that this statement by Volkogonov  is hardly a smoking gun.  First,
why do we assume that "informed Americans" are US POWs?  We know that the
KGB had operations, as an example, that would put on scientific conferences
to which noted scientists would be invited.  Under the guise of scientific
exchange, these folks would be approached and solicited for information.  It
often worked.  How do we know that the plan to which Volkogonov referred is
not something of this nature?  And, why do we not believe that statement
that the plan was never put into effect?  After all, I know from experience
that the Pentagon, in fact, just about any military headquarters with a
planning function, develops plans that never see the light of day.  Why
can't we assume that the Russians do the same thing?

It's a mighty big stretch from "informed Americans" to 'US POWs."


General Sejna

See my article at http://www.miafacts.org/sejna.htm


5,000 Pages of Documents


In an "editorial" posted to AWPM and SHWV, the following statement is made:


QUOTE
What incredible timing! Such an ironic coincidence that only TWO DAYS after
the Washington Times broke the Volkogonov statement, the Russians would feel
so compelled to divest themselves of 5,000 pages of documents and some
archival film footage that they have kept secret for 45 years.

END QUOTE

I invite readers to visit this URL:
http://www.dtic.mil/dpmo/archival/highlights.htm

There you will find a report from the US Defense POW-Missing Persons Office
detailing archival research by our own people in our own archives for
several months in 1998.  Here are quotes from the DPMO release:

QUOTE

April 1998

Several researchers returned to the National Personnel Records Center in St.
Louis, MO to continue the review of Headquarters Far East Forces and
Headquarters Fifth Air Force Korean War records. They discovered valuable
information that will be used to expand and update the Korean War Aircraft
Loss Database. The data included: Fifth Air Force daily aircraft loss
reports from June 1951-53; 3rd Air Rescue and Recovery Squadron search and
rescue reports; and casualty records and aircraft loss records that will
permit DPMO to associate a specific tail number with the aircraft crash
location and individual crew members. To date, 374 boxes of records
containing some 3 million documents have been reviewed at NPRC.

January 1998:

DPMO SP/AR personnel reviewed Vietnam Era classified logbooks at NARA II.
They discovered that the logbooks contained the 1966 and 1967 records of the
3rd Aerospace Rescue and Recovery Group. After discussions with the JTF-FA,
it appears that the logbooks are the "missing" volumes of the aircraft
Search and Rescue records maintained at the JTF-FA office, which currently
cover the years from 1968 through the end of the Vietnam War. DPMO archival
personnel made photocopies of these logbooks (some 2,000 pages). A complete
photocopied set has been sent to JTF-FA and a second set will be retained at
DPMO for analytical reference and review.

A DPMO archivist visited the National Personnel Records Center in St. Louis
to review U.S. Air Force operational records related to servicemen missing
from the Korean War. During his search, the researcher discovered
approximately 500 boxes of individual casualty information and aircraft loss
data from the Headquarters of the Fifth Air Force and the Headquarters of
the Far East Air Forces. Analysts will use information from these records to
fill in missing details for Korean War casualty files and to cross-check the
data contained in the PMKOR, a comprehensive listing of Korean War
unaccounted-for servicemen.

END QUOTE

Isn't this amazing?  Here, right here in the good old USofA, we have
researchers discovering hundreds of boxes of records that were thought to
have been either destroyed or lost.  I know that, while I was still with
DPMO, we searched the world for the Fifth Air Force operational reports.
And now we find them.  If we can't find old records for years and years, why
should we not assume that the Russians have the same problems?  I suggest
that the documents and film recently discovered by the Russians are just
that -- recently discovered.


Interrogations


The same "editorial" contains this statement:


QUOTE
The news reports do not say. However they do say that the Soviets were not
permitted to directly interrogate US POWs in Hanoi, but had to pass along
questions to their captors.


Mule Muffins. We know from Korea that claim is a myth at best. During the
Korean War, the Soviets DID interrogate US POWs ... directly. We know from
the statements of Orlov, Cole, and others that the Soviets exploited
Mongoloid Soviet military personnel who were used to 'pass' as Chinese or
North Koreans to interrogate the POWs. We have 451 Soviet interrogation
protocols of men who NEVER RETURNED to prove it.
END QUOTE

In fact, the conclusion that "the Soviets were not permitted to directly
interrogate US POWs in Hanoi, but had to pass along questions to their
captors
," is supported by a substantial amount of war-time and post-war
intelligence.  It is a fact.

As to the interrogation of US POWs from Korea by Chinese and by ethnic
Russians (Mongols) posing as Chinese, so what.  Yes, we know it happened and
we know that some of the men who were interrogated did not return (I cannot
comment on the number 451 but it seems very high to me.).  Did anyone bother
to check the records on men who died in captivity?  Is it not possible that
some of the men who were interrogated by Chinese or Russians later died in
POW camps?  A lot of US POWs did just that, you know.

Turn On Your High Beams


Months ago, a message posted on AWV, AWPM, and SHWV, related Ockham's Razor, a philosophical construct by a 14th century monk (William of Ockham; 1300 -
1349 ??) who argued that, when faced with several explanations for a
phenomenon, the most simple explanation is usually correct.  The most simple
explanation is NOT some deep, dark plan whereby US POWs were secreted off to
the USSR, never to be heard from again.

The simplest, best way to approach this question is to start, not with musty
archives and faded memories, but with the facts of the individual loss
incidents.  If any US POWs from Vietnam were taken to the USSR, those men
had to be one or more of the 2,079 still missing.  But, when we strip from
that number the men who were lost at sea, who were determined to have been
KIA/BNR, and others who were determined to have died in their loss
incidents, then we are left with only a tiny number, under a hundred, who
even possibly could have survived their loss incident.  As US researchers
and excavation teams press their work in Vietnam, Laos, and Cambodia, more
and more questions are answered.  And, as each case is solved, one more man
is found to have died in his loss incident.  Not one has been found to have
survived to such an extent as to have been available for movement to the
USSR, or anywhere else for that matter.

Of course, what I have written here is not as exciting as the vast
conspiracies theories being promulgated by folks who insist on driving with their
low beams.