MIA Facts Site

Yen Bai Rail Crossing: The Boxcar Sighting

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Background

As described on the Garwood sightings front page , Garwood worked for some time in the Yen Bai camp system where ARVN officers were held for several years after the Communist takeover of South Vietnam in 1975.

ARVN officers who were moved to the Yen Bai camp system followed generally the same route.  They were moved by truck or on foot from various places in south Vietnam to the coast where they loaded onto boats -- military craft, fishing boats, whatever would float.  They were then taken to Haiphong port where they boarded either trucks or trains for their trip to the prisons around Yen Bai.  Many of these ARVN tell of being loaded onto crowded boxcars then hauled to the Yen Bai camp system like cattle.  They tell of a non-stop train trip from the Haiphong area to near Yen Bai where they would get out of the cars, form up at a rail siding, then be marched or trucked to the prison camps.

Garwood's Claim

Garwood claims that one night in 1977 ( the month varies with each telling of the story ) he was driving in the Yen Bai area when he stopped at a rail crossing for a train that was stopped on the crossing.  Garwood claims that the train was made up of boxcars and that they were filled with ARVN prisoners on their way to the Yen Bai camps.  The ARVN were getting off the train and standing around along the tracks.  In one of his versions of this story, Garwood claims that dead ARVN were being pulled off some boxcars and laid out along the tracks.  Garwood claims that he saw thirty to forty US POWs get out of a boxcar, and stand around at the crossing.  Garwood claims to have observed these US POWs and overheard them talking before he drove on.

Garwood has not been able to keep the details of this sighting straight.  He has made these claims about the sighting.
 

bulletHe claims that the boxcar carrying the US POWs was located ( 100 yards from him; 200 yards from him; fairly close to him ) while he sat in the cab of his truck, stopped at the sighting.
bulletHe claims that the siding was lighted with bright overhead lights.  He claims that the siding was very dim, with limited lighting.
bulletHe claims that the guards along the siding had dogs on leashes and the dogs were barking and snapping at the ARVN and US prisoners.  He claims that there were only a few guards and they had no dogs.
bulletHe claims that dead ARVN were unloaded from some of the cars and laid out along the tracks.  He has claimed that he saw no dead ARVN being taken out of the boxcars.

Analysis

The fact that Garwood cannot keep the story straight does not help his credibility.  He probably had experience at rail crossing near Yen Bai and it is possible that he had encountered trains carrying ARVN officers to the Yen Bai camps.

Remember way back on the front page where I discussed the fact that events in one re-ed camp were known all over the camp system because of the frequent moving of inmates?  Remember Garwood's claim that there were ARVN on the train where the alleged US POWs were?  If there had been a boxcar load of US POWs mixed with a train of ARVN, that story would have spread through the Yen Bai camp system at the speed of light.  The ARVN on the train would have seen the US POWs and told other ARVN who would have re-told the story every time they moved around the camp system.  While many ARVN tell of the train ride from Haiphong to Yen Bai, not a single one has told of seeing or of hearing about any Americans on any train, anytime, anywhere. And, we have never heard stories -- either first hand or hearsay -- of dead being unloaded from boxcars from all the hundreds of ARVN who were held at Yen Bai and whom we interviewed

US intelligence has extensive holdings on the Yen Bai area, much of the information comes from residents and from NVA personnel stationed there.  While many of these people report having seen trainloads of ARVN moving into the area, not a single person had heard of or has seen Americans on any train in the area.

On-site investigations by US investigators and a study of satellite imagery of the area during the period 1973 to 1979 reveal that there are only a few small rail crossing in the Yen Bai area, nothing of the size or complexity described by Garwood.

Garwood's story is refuted by:  his inconsistent accounts of this sighting, the fact that a crossing such as that he described does not exist, the fact that numerous other sources report that there were no foreigners in the area other than Garwood, and the consistent testimony of ARVN who were moved to Yen Bai by train..

Conclusions

Garwood may have seen ARVN prisoners moving into the Yen Bai area in boxcars, or, he may have heard about the ARVN being brought in on trains.  He did not see any US POWs at a rail crossing in Yen Bai.
 

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