Summary. In the summer of 1991, three photographs surfaced, each of which was alleged to be of US POWs alive, right now, in Southeast Asia. The photos were phony. Yet, in some MIA cult circles, these photos continue to be sacred relics.
First, A Little Background
|Stevens and Lundy were both married to ladies named "Sweet Mary."|
|Major Robertson's mother, who is named Phyllis, was listed with the name "Rpoesioner."|
|Stevens' mother, Gladys, had become "Russiver Lumerriper." (No, I am not making up any of this. This is what the guy had written down.)|
In fact, there had been a handbill circulating in SEAsia for several years that had various biographical data about all three of these men. At some point, someone started getting with families and providing artistically aged drawings of their missing man. That is, the family would provide an old photo of the missing man and some artist somewhere would age the photo, producing a drawing of what the man might look like today. The handbills that had circulated contained just such aged drawings.
DIA concluded that the story was a fraud and dropped the whole thing. Then came the photograph.
In November 1990, a photocopy of a grainy black-and-white photo was sent via fax to a Cambodian living in California. He photocopied the fax then, in summer 1991, sent the photocopies to the Robertson, Lundy, and Stevens families. The photo showed three Caucasian men, each with a mustache, each fairly well fed, standing together and holding a sign. On the sign were letters and numbers:
The Robertson, Lundy, and Stevens families declared that the photos were of their missing men. The photo appeared on the cover of Newsweek (July 1991), in several major newspapers, and even showed up on highway billboards. Never mind that a total of eight families claimed that the three men were their family member.
Later, more of the story would emerge. It seems that DIA had, before the photo appeared, concluded that the whole thing was bogus and filed it away. Army Colonel Mike Peck, who followed me as Chief of the DIA POW-MIA Office, gave a copy of the report to Robertson's daughter and told her how to get in touch with the Cambodian who made the report. (No, don't get me started on Peck. Suffice it to say that Mike's elevator does not run to the top floor. He is, however, a legend in his own mind.) With Billy Hendon's help, the daughter went to Cambodia, and tried to win her father's freedom.
Meanwhile, the Cambodian source got word to Red McDaniel (returned POW, source of many bogus reports; never has provided anything of value) that they would trade Robertson, Lundy, and Stevens for the $2.4 million that a group of Congressmen had offered a few years earlier. McDaniel went to Capitol Hill, telling folks there that they could see the photo for $500 a peep. No one showed any interest so McDaniel released the photo to the press and the fun began.
Eventually, DIA researchers working in a Soviet cultural library in Phnom Penh, uncovered a moldy stack of Soviet Life magazines. These were propaganda pieces, featuring articles about what great things the Communist revolution was producing in the Soviet Union. In one issue was an article about a huge grain harvest in the Ukraine in 1923 and there was the photo of the "Three Amigos." It was not a photo of US POWs, instead, it was of three farmers holding up a basket of wheat after the harvest. The photo had been doctored to produce the "sign" that the three men were holding. (A small point. MIA cultists who attack this story claim that the Khmer Rouge destroyed all printed material in Cambodia; how could a collection of magazines survive? The Khmer Rouge did no such thing. They did attack and destroy many libraries and museums, but they certainly did not destroy every library, museum, or written collection in the country.)
Believe it or not, this photo still shows up in MIA fund-raising appeals. Follow this link to see the phony photo and the real photo.
On October 28, 2001, the Associated Press reported: "Laos has returned the possible remains of an American aviator missing in action from the Vietnam War to U.S. officials. The remains were presented Tuesday to U.S. Ambassador Wendy Chamberlin by Soubanh Srinthirath, Laotian vice minister for foreign affairs.... The remains were the first returned under a new program in which Laotian teams unilaterally investigate leads on cases that joint U.S.-Laotian teams have been unable to resolve..."
On March 26, 2002 those remains were officially identified as Major Albro L. Lundy Jr. At that time, the family chose not to accept the identification, pending independent examination and testing.
That independent review is now complete. In a note dated January 2004, sent to family and friends, the Lundy family states: "We have independently confirmed through multiple DNA testing that the remains returned by the Laotian Government are his and we will inter them at Arlington National Cemetery on April 7th 2004 with a hero's farewell." The note continues: "We don't know exactly what happened to him between the time that he parachuted out of his plane on December 24, 1970 and the day his remains were returned. But we do know that we are finally able to lay him and our hopes to rest."
While it has been clear for years that the "Three Amigos" photo is a doctored version of a real photo, and that Major Lundy is not depicted in this photo, the photo remains a matter of faith in the 'MIA activist" community who still flash this photo as "proof" of Americans still being held alive in SEAsia.
Just a few days after the "Three Amigos" photo appeared in public, a photo surfaced of a balding, dark complexioned man sitting in a wooded area. MIA parents Dan and Betty Borah claimed that the man was their son, USN Lieutenant Daniel Borah, shot down over Vietnam in 1972.
Before anyone had time to catch their breath, former USAF LTC Jack Bailey, the source of a vast mountain of nonsense, announced that he had found a live US POW in Laos and that he had dispatched an agent to photograph the man. Bailey claimed that he had provided the agent with a blue polo shirt, a watch, and sandals. The agent was to have the US POW don these items, then photograph the POW wearing the shirt, watch, and sandals.
Bailey then produced a photo. Are you at all surprised that the guy in the photo was wearing a blue polo shirt, a watch, and sandals? BAiley claimed that the man in the photo was missing US Army Captain Donald Carr, lost in an OV-10 in Laos, 1971. To make things even better, forensic anthropologist Dr. Michael Charney stated that he had examined photos of Carr and the photo surfaced by Bailey and, yes, this was, without a doubt, a photo of Donald Carr.
The summer of 1991 was a tough one for the Defense Intelligence Agency. POWs were all the rage in the news, what with the unveiling of these three photos. Gradually, though, the truth began to emerge.
The Borah photograph was found to be a picture of a seventy-year-old man from a Laotian hill tribe; his name was Ahroe, he lived in Muang Nong, Laos, and he was French-Laotian. He had been photographed by a Laotian refugee who gave some copies of his photographs to a friend who gave them to Khambang Sibounheuang, a Laotian emigre living in Nashville, TN.
Khambang had shown the photos to his boss, a Tennessee judge named Hamilton Gayden. Gayden looked through a Life magazine article on POWs until he found a "match" and declared that this was a photo of Borah. Gayden withheld the photos from DIA and contacted the Borah family who "positively identified" the photo. The family called Senator Bob Smith for guidance. DIA contacted Smith and asked for copies of the photo. Smith refused. Then, Smith and Mr. Borah appeared on the Today show where Smith -- get this -- accused DIA of trying to suppress the photo!! (How does DIA suppress what they do not even have?)
Later , the Borah family went to Laos and met Ahroe who confirmed that he was the man in the photo. Ahroe was fingerprinted and photographed to prove that he was not a brainwashed Borah. Still, the "Borah" photo is an article of faith among the MIA faithful. Follow this link to see the phony photo.
Remember Jack Bailey's blue polo shirt, watch, and sandals? What more proof do you need? But, a couple of ABC reporters, Jimmy Walker and another whose name I do not remember but I visited him on his houseboat in the Washington yacht basin, were a bit skeptical. They went to Thailand, flashed the photo around, and soon were led to a tropical bird exporting company in the suburbs of Bangkok. There they were put onto a German national, Gunther Dietrich. Dietrich had worked in Thailand but was, in 1991, in prison in Germany on smuggling charges.
They tracked Dietrich to Germany and interviewed him. Dietrich confirmed that he was the man in the photo, that the shirt, watch, and sandals were his and that no one had given them to him. Carr's wife later met Dietrich and confirmed that he was the man in the photo and he was not Donald Carr. Follow this link to see the phony photo and a photo of Dietrich.
One footnote to all this. Jimmy Walker and an ABC camera crew tracked Bailey down to his girlfriend's house in Thailand and confronted him with the proof that his photo was bogus. Bailey jumped up and punched Jimmy; it was all on video and was shown on national TV.
These three photos were part of events in early 1991 that stampeded the Senate into forming the Senate Select Committee on POW-MIA Affairs. For a description of the circus of 1991, follow this link.
So, what else is there to say? These photos were fake. They had nothing to do with US POWs. All the energy spent on them could have been spent with more results elsewhere. And, the families will never recover from having their wounds ripped open again. Meanwhile, Jack Bailey, Khambang, Senator Smith, Hendon, and a few other heroes continue to rave.