Examining the Myths of the
SESSION 14 (Transcript)
POW/MIA Issue -- Fact Fiction and Spin
Jay Veith: Good afternoon everybody. We are going to do the POW/MIA session little differently. We are not going to have a formal presentation and Bill and I thought about this a long time. What I want to do is to sort of introduce myself and introduce Bill and he has some remarks and then were going to throw it open to more Q&A. Of all the issues in the Vietnam War probably none are emotional, more charged than the POW/MIA issue and probably none have more mythology surrounding it and trying to cover all the different myths that pertain to the POW/MIA issue in the short time that we have would be virtually impossible. So, what we hope to do was sort of talk from Bills perspective as one of the senior US Government officials on the issue for many years and myself a sort of a scholar on the issue and talk about it and then hope to really throw it up on you guys and answer any questions you might have and hopefully will spark a discussion and learn from it from that way. As opposed to try and give you another powerpoint at in the afternoon when most of you are half asleep. So by way of introduction, my name is Jay Veith, I am the author of a book called Code-Name Bright Light which is a history of the US POW rescue efforts during the Vietnam War and this is Bill Bell who was the first Chief of the US POW/MIA office opened up in Hanoi in May of 1991. We have just recently published Bill's memoir which is in the back entitled Leave No Man Behind: Bill Bell and the Search for American POWs in the Vietnam War.
Let me give you a
quick background on Bill. Bill was a young infantryman in the
Central Highlands in 1966 and he learnt Vietnamese. He went to
Bill Bell: Before
we dispel the myths on POW/MIA, I think it is important that we
try to get the best historical perspective on the POW/MIA issue
in general and the turning point as far as I am concerned in the
handling of the POWs and the importance of the issue actually
came about at the end of World War II. Prior to that the general
policy was to capture enemy personnel and prevent them from
contributing to the war effort, to deny the number of personnel.
At the end of World War II, Communism began to become organized
as a pretty vast system throughout Europe and Soviet Union was
formed and the Independent Republics became part of the Soviet
Union as well as the some of the other countries like Poland,
East Germany and soforth and then we had the cooperation of the
Communist Party International which included cooperation between
the Soviet Union and Communist China, North Korea, North Vietnam
and that point is the start of the Cold War. The first
Cold War period where we had large numbers of POWs captured of
One popular myth
that goes around to the POW/MIA community is that there was a
concerted effort on the part of United States Government
to cover-up the POW/MIA issue in
Another myth [is that] large numbers of US POWs were left languishing in caves or in detention facilities when we pulled out of Vietnam. Most of those reports have been proved to be unfounded. The reports that are still under investigation are reports that may have had some merit, had to do with a small number where people were seen in caves or in detention facilities but not large numbers such as that myth would suggest.
Another myth was that the family members of the POW/MIAs try to keep the issue alive so they could continue draw benefits. They are certainly not true because a person who had someone become missing in the family, relative, a father, a son, they continue to draw benefits just like anyone else. If that person worked at Sears or J.C. Penny or Best Buy if he was disappeared or was killed or missing, they would continue to draw those same benefits. The only difference was if military personnel or civil service personnel had enough time in for retirement, their relatives would continue to draw survivors benefits if they were eligible but that is the same case today even in peace time.
Another myth is
that there was a secret returnee program similar to the witness
protection program in which large numbers or small numbers of
Americans were surreptitiously removed from
this particular myth pertains to a Presidential Candidate right
now, Senator John Kerry, and, according to what has been
published in the media as a result of his service on the Senate
Select Committee as Chairman, Senator Kerry resolved the POW/MIA
issue. This is definitely a myth because we still have over 1800
men missing in
Another myth is, and this is partially true and it is not a complete myth that US Veteran Service Organizations support the POW/MIA issue. In my opinion the American Legion has perhaps the strongest program on POW/MIA. Some of the other organizations have created foundations to provide aid and assistance to the Vietnamese but that aid and assistance goes only to the Communists. Some of the artificial limbs, prosthetic devices that are taken to Vietnam in the form of assistance from Vietnam Veterans of America Foundation and others goes only to Vietnamese Communist Veterans and the most of the veterans organizations that collect money to arrange to go on trips to Vietnam, dont even bothered to meet with our former allies, nor have they demanded the Hanoi government afford those people who fought on our side the status of veterans. They are not even considered as veterans. Their children are discriminated against in education, their relatives or wives are discriminated against in government employment and this myth will remain until the members in the Veterans Organizations demand that the leadership start showing some respect for our former allies.
Another myth is
that the Vietnamese Communists have afforded the
Another myth is that the POW/MIA issue is a humanitarian issue. This is a myth created by the Vietnamese and it is a humanitarian issue for the Americans, for the American government and for the American people but its not for the Vietnamese Communists.
Another myth is
that the Communists, this was created by
Another myth is
that the Communists did not warehouse and store remains and this
myth has been dispelled by a mortician who defected to the
Another myth was
that US POWs were interrogated only by Vietnamese interrogators
and this is a myth because, as Mike Benge knows, Cubans were
brought into Hao Lo prison in
Another myth is
that Everett Alvarez was the longest-held American prisoner.
Actually the longest held American prisoner was Colonel, at that
time I think he was a Captain, Floyd Thompson. He was shot down
in an OV-1 aircraft in western Thua Thien province very near the
Another myth is that all of the US POWs were returned in Operation Homecoming. In fact, at Operation Homecoming, and I was there, February or March 1973, Mike Benge was there, we received 591 Americans out of almost 3000 that were unaccounted for at that point in time. A few days after Operation Homecoming concluded we received one additional prisoner that was captured in Mekong Delta, Captain Robert White and the Vietnamese used him as an elaborate ruse in order to get some of their key personnel out of Saigon, in order to get a US C-130 Aircraft to take General Tran Van Tra who later on came back to command the Final Offensive in 1975, but that was his ticket out of Camp Davis from Saigon and be able to go back to Hanoi was to take that American prisoner back on the 1st of April 1973.
Another myth in
the Vietnam War, Americans were captured through combat action
rather than terrorism. Actually the Communists had terrorists
units, but rather than call them terrorist units they referred to
them as special action units. We had cases where female doctors,
nurses, maintenance people, civilians working on volunteer
projects where Christian Missionary Alliance working to help
leprosy patients on medical missions and so forth were taken in
the middle of the night, abducted, murdered, executed, and buried
and we still have not recovered them to date. In addition, we
have some 20
Jay Veith: We are going to talk about Vietnamese Communist POW policy and how to it applies today and going into more detail about, I can make it two political lists session but Senator Kerry is current presidential advertising in which he claims to have solved the POW/MIA issue. Anything else Bill?
Bill Bell: No.
I just will give you a little bit of background. During the war
we captured dozens of their policy level documents and
interrogated dozens of prisoners on their specific POW policies
and they were quite clear in their intent on what they intended
to do. They wanted to capture American POWs for propaganda
purposes, to be able turn them. It was sort of an ideological
thing for them where they wanted to capture American POWs and
indoctrinate them into communist philosophy, release them back
out into the world where they could then back to the home country
and spread communist propaganda, become sort of a Fifth Column
for them. That was one of the ideological goals. In terms what
they wanted to do or what they were trying to achieve was they
had the two-fold policy, one was live POWs could be used for
diplomatic confessions. Being able to get American troops to
withdraw or whatever ever purpose they served but they also had
another part of the policy of less well known, that with use of
remains, personal effects and another materials like that, that
could actually answer the question as to what happened to
someone's son or brother or father and they could use those
remains or use of personal effects to gain economic concessions
or a host of other things. The POW/MIA issue had evolved into on
the Communist side is a moneymaking operation the Peoples Army of
Yeah, I just like to add that, I think it is important that we
understand that the manner in which the Vietnamese have addressed
the POW/MIA issue with us is nothing more than historical repeat
of their experience with the French. When the French pulled out
in 1954 they worked with the Vietnamese in places like Danang and
all the major cities throughout
Jay Veith: We wanted to sort of explain everyone on the surface the POW/MIA issue seems simple. People die in war. They go missing, you cannot recover them. Without going to great specifics here, we can only tell you from our position as having studied the issue for longtime that this issue is extraordinarily complex and when I have asked people often say were live Americans held back in 1973 or the live Americans today that while probably most important support issue is the only one among many. The intelligence on this is not black and white. It is multiple shades of gray. It is not something that is easily explained to somebody. It is not something that you can easily pickup. There is a lot of history to this and it is all wrapped up in not just, you know, as a prisoner held over here, get him, was release him out, bring him back, all wrapped up in the whole national security policy United States vis-à-vis Vietnam. It has a deep impact on the Paris Peasce Accords. It has a deep impact on the American Policy towards the Vietnam for 30 years and has a continuing impact today and what happens with the POW/MIA issue is not as I said not just, you know the simple fact that are there live Americans or you know what happens in war is the horrible things, lets move on. It goes deeper than that and it is intertwined within US policy because of the Vietnamese policy of using American live POWs or their remains and effects for propaganda purposes, as a moneymaker for them for using them as concessions in their negotiations. That is sort of a broad overview in a very simplistic one but I want you to understand the sort of overarching theme that is not just people dying or they go missing or are there live Americans. There is much more to it than that.
Bill Bell: One of the key areas in this issue to me is the 305 last known alive Americans who were in most cases in the physical custody of Communist forces and in order to understand the frame of mind of some of the people who are missing loved ones if we use an example a Member of Congress in Washington DC, like a Member of the House or Member of the Senate, if they had a child arrested by the Washington DC Metropolis taken to a detention facility and then after several days of not hearing anything about the status of their child and if they went there and asked to see the child and were told I am sorry we do not have him but will find out and then after several more days of waiting still no information and asking for records and we are told that we had a fire and the records were destroyed or termites ate the records and if they received that kind of response they would not tolerate it and the families of our missing men they feel the same way but the Vietnamese had custody of these people and we have absolute proof that they were in their custody. We have photographs in some cases where they were in custody and now they were telling us that we lost this individual or he died and we lost his remains or the termites ate the record, this is just not adequate information.
[Unintelligible] ___________________ on the US Government
confronts them and they severely confront them sometimes. They
still put up the point that if they press them too hard the
government is going to shut down if they found anything and there
is a real concern there. As an example, it does not contradict
what I just said, is this year in June the members from the
US-Russian Joint Directors spoke before the National League and
National Alliance of Families stated that a previous report that
the US Government outright denied is that POWs were taken to
I am sure the Russians have the same problem with their national
security concerns. You know the transfer that you are referring
to there from POWs from
[Unintelligible] ___________________ the two witnesses that
were in Czechoslovakia that these POWs, these were Americans, the
three groups of Americans of about 30 each totalling
approximately a 100 were transferred from Vietnam to
Czechoslovakia and on to Russia and this was in the early 60s,
[Unintelligible] ___________________ had defected to this
country. He was a high-ranking member of the Polit Bureau, member
of their military intelligence. He was not only an eyewitness to
this, he was the administrator of the program and he had done the
same type of program in Korea with American POWs there that was
later confirmed because I found the sites of the hospital where
they were interrogated and tortured. So when the government of
Bill Bell: The first question that comes to my mind is how long are we going to have to wait before the Russians give us some answers you know I mean.
Roger Hall: Well, we have a problem. To negotiate with the Communists is difficult at best. They do not live up their ends. They have their objectives in minds, they do not match with us, but we have never made them an acceptable deal because we send military people over there that are not really capable or competent negotiators, I am not the putting a person down because they are in the military but the Vietnamese look at the Americans across the table and the head of their policy office, I forgot the guys name, I asked him outside the Alliance meeting and he looked at me when his eyes opened up. He said these people yell at us, when we ask for live POWs, it was a reaction when he spoke to me, so they are severe when they deal with them. We need a good negotiator, you cannot take a major who does not whole lot of experience or colonel, I am not putting them down, because a general would not have any better experience, you need a trained negotiator to deal with that personality type or that political type. How to deal with them, I cannot really offer a suggestion except that if we can put a man in the moon in order to be able to deal with a few Communists, hopefully.
Audience: [Unintelligible] ___________________
The number of bodies is probably up around 400 to 500. The amount
of money, I think the budget at one time was like 50 million
dollars a year. All of that was not going to the communist
government, much of that was being spent on airline transportation,
flying people back and forth from the
If you could clarify one thing, there is no unilateral turn over
of remains by
Steve Sherman: Please use the microphone I think we are losing a lot of good conversation. Mike, why dont you go and finish your question while he walks over to you.
In 1957, the North Vietnamese ended up signing the Geneva
Convention on the treatment of prisoners of war. There was a lot
of noise being made up in congress by Senator Biden and all, that
unless we abide by the Geneva Agreement, that the Geneva
Agreement is the only thing that is going to end up protecting
our POWs from being tortured. We know that is a lie because of
the amount of torture that went on in
Bill Bell: At least 85%
Mike Benge: And
yet if you look at the figures of how many of the guys went
missing in other parts of the
I know when we went to
Those are the missing in
While they are counted against what we call the last known alive
discrepancy case list as it pertains to all three countries. Yes
the 305 includes
R J. Del Vecchio: Basically, what I was asking you to do is to give me as best you can a rough estimate from 1991 to now we are talking 23 years.
Bill Bell: We are talking 1982 now.
R. J. Del Vecchio: Okay.
Bill Bell: I think the start off point back there was $150,000.00 cash that they got a B52 aircraft and not one piece of wreckage was recovered. Not a screw, a nut, a bolt, a zipper, a button, absolutely zero -- zip -- was recovered from the expedition, but we were charged $150,000.00 cash.
R. J. Del Vecchio: Best cash over all these years, these are at this point 29 years, have the North Vietnamese profited by several million dollars a year out of this thing?
Bill Bell: At least.
R. J. Del Vecchio: So for 29 years there is probably 30-40 million dollars head on this whole business?
Bill Bell: I say more than that. I say at least half of the 50 million per year.
R. J. Del Vecchio: So in terms of their foreign exchange that is a serious chunk of their income.
Bill Bell: You know, back in 1982 if you consider that the Chinese invaded them in 1979 and destroyed their economy and by 1980-1981 they were completely broke. And if it had not been for this program they probably would have far more problems than they experienced.
R. J. Del Vecchio: Do you foresee any end to this or just going to go on for ever?
Bill Bell: It is political decision. A political decision, I do not know who the politician would have enough guts to say enough is enough but you know at some point in time, we have to consider the sacrifice that our fellow service man made over there is being degraded by continuing this course and I hate to dispel anyone's hopes of getting their son back but we are down to the point that we are looking for bone fragments and paying out taxpayer dollars and allowing these missing men to be manipulated. At some point down we need to create a monument to the MIAs and call it quits and go home.
Jay Veith: Let me just clarify your point. If you were the Vietnamese and one of the major sources of what has become unofficial foreign aid from the United States Government to you was this issue, would you be in any hurry to close the door on that?
R. J. Del Vecchio: No I would not, but then again I actually believe in humanitarian things as a person so I might consider something besides this squeezing money out of people's agony.
Humanitarian systems in
Lee Lanning: From your figure of 400 remains that the mortician claims were there, you say 60% of those have been returned to 160.
Bill Bell: Number of remains equating to approximately say 60% has been returned with the scientific evidence of warehousing and storage and preservation.
Lee Lanning: Between that number and 300 and something known live sightings what do you think has happened to those remains?
Bill Bell: I
think they are still being held and I think what happened was the
mortician defected and managed to escape from
Lee Lanning: And probably 1200-1400 remains are in fact just lost, lot of us are here aware of people that were lost in combat that probably nobody in rivers etc., etc. right?
Bill Bell: Right. The 305 figure was actually, this figure was arrived at by analysts going through the cases and finding the cases that the Vietnamese did most reasonably be expected to resolve and at the same time whether Vietnamese government would have knowledge of the case and it was set aside, these 305 cases, and it was described at that time as a yardstick to measure progress but the idea was to take a reasonable figure and present this to the Vietnamese and do not go at them with the entire 2500 and expect them to do a miracle because it will be asking too much. Let us be reasonable. They got 305 which we know and they know that and then we will base our evaluation and we give them on their amount of cooperation and progress, we will base that on how they handle this particular field of candidates and out of that 305 thus far we have received less than 50 remains which have been identified.
Lee Lanning: Are the half dozen or so that have been identified Garwood types that in fact did go over to the other side and have been cited living or am I factual. I understand there has been at least a half dozen.
There were quite a few people who went over to the other side who
voluntarily stayed in the
Well, in terms of actual number of people who defected, the
Jay Veith: We hope to turn this into a Q&A session. We have plenty of time. I hope we have explained a little about our background and our knowledge that of the issue but to give us a brief overview of the current situation with Senator Kerry but from overall perspective what is happening in the issue. Please if you have any questions?
Max Friedman: I want to go back a little bit on the POW/MIA issue because I testified about this in 1971 but I was dealing with the US peace groups using extortion to get families of POWs/MIAs to cooperate with antiwar movement and I probably know more about that than most people because I had known the people in the antiwar movement. I know who they are, and how they operated because I have never seen the government come out with this other than what the Congressmen were asking me in the hearings. Have you found any information during the source of all your research and investigations, questioning of anyone who knew how the North Vietnamese were operating this backdoor extortion program through Cora Weiss Committee of Liaison, the prisoner release, the mail that had been hidden and then trickled out everytime there is something coming up the letters would end up with Senator Kennedy. There is a lot of covert operations and subversive operations that had never been explored fully in the congressional hearings other than what a few of us, Mr. Schuman, Dale Doss and couple of the others talked about 1970, 1971 and 1972 and then issue died because by exploring this I suspect we are going to find a lot of other communist operations concerning the POW/MIA issue as a propaganda operation or an operation against the morality of United States and that would may not bring anyone back. I think it may help some of the families understand what was being done to them by the loss of their loved ones over there.
We have two organizations primarily dealing with POW, one is
called the Dich Van or the enemy proselytizing element and the
other one is the Binh Van which is the Military Proselytizing
Element and it is kind of misnomer because as it turns out to
Binh Van is actually oriented more towards deserters, are people
who would sway to join the revolution as the communists call it
and on the other hand you have the Dich Van which is enemy
proselytizing which is the exploitation of prisoners of war for
military information and detention, processing, evacuating, and
so forth. The enemy proselytizing organization is run strictly by
the Politboro. We have had cases to give you an example, a young
soldier by the name of Edward Reilly and he was the member of the
First Division in
_____ request on the two women of
Jay Veith: While there is little documents released in Edward Reilly's case. The problem with the Reilly case is that the only known, I do not think we know this because his wife was smart enough to report this immediately to the police. There was investigation done at Fort Knox about what happened and they can never find these two women but we just find it amazing that a very short time like a month or two months after his capture and execution information relating to him was transmitted to United States to these few people to his hometown who went to his wife's house and tried to enlist in her antiwar cause. There is no information as to how that transpired.
Max Friedman: Let me give you an idea. What year did they do this?
Jay Veith: 1967.
Okay. At that time the antiwar movement as I talked about
yesterday was basically controlled by the Communist Party. The Troskyites
had done something in 1965, the smaller workers of all party,
socialist workers party was just gearing up. It would not be hard
at that time to find out which Vietnamese women, some of them may
have been wives of Americans who were in this country and who
were in the antiwar movement or in the perifery. They just did
not go running around. I had a Vietnamese co-student at
Jay Veith: The problem is that his wife just said two oriental females, we do not know if in fact they are Vietnamese.
Bill Bell: _____ they may have Japanese.
No he was from
Max Friedman: Okay. I can talk to you about that later.
Jay Veith: The other thing, there is a well-known case that is James Rowe. Now Rowe had told his captors (Nguyen Chi Cong the head of the MR9 camp) down every year that he was a simple engineer at the camp and he was not Green Beret and he had nothing to do with all the stuff and therefore you know and that he managed to convince them for a while, then in 1967, they came to him and said we have learned through our friends in United States that in fact you are not a simple engineer but you are in fact a Special Forces lieutenant. Now no one has ever determined as precisely who uncovered Rowes secret but the suspicion would have been Tom Hayden because Hayden had been in Cambodia great deal and actually had been received three other guys who came out of Rowes camp, Johnson, Jackson, and Pitzer but no one ever has ever investigated to my knowledge as precisely how that knowledge got uncovered, transmitted to the Vietnamese and all way gone to the Mekong Delta Camp.
I made a statement now. I do not have all the documentation but
the antiwar movement at that point in time where Hayden was just
beginning to operate, they are still operating within the
Communist party aspects, because he is with _____ he went to
Jay Veith: ___ 100% as a matter of fact it is one of the great mysteries of issue and hence sort of our questioning about the true nature and purpose of the Cuba interrogators because Mike has also talked about the Cubans a great deal in congressional testimony but we have believed for sometime without any great proof, it served as a speculation at our point that that the Cubans where there for more than just, you know, it is English Language Training program, it is not more than just how much can Americans can take in terms of torture, there was a propaganda flow going back from Hanoi to Havana and into United States and a deliberate process of gaining information on American POWs about how we take to society so they could use to develop propaganda themes. Now this is Mike may have more details than I do but has there been a detailed study on this, I am not aware, one of you?
Mike Benge: No.
Jay Veith: And its something you and I have talked about over years and Mike has talked about in congressional testimony.
No, well actually the guy who I identified as the camp commander
of the camp I was in where the Cuban program was, was called
The Lump because he had a fatty tumor right in the
middle of his forehead. He also showed up quite often down in
Jay Veith: I just want to emphasize that we are beginning to see a glimmer of the complexity of the issue, this is not the fun fantasy of JFK conspirators up here. This is not like you know where there is a third gunmen on the grassy knoll, there are wide open analytical questions that remain unsolved today and the place that was in the context of the known Vietnamese policies of exploring American POWs and all of a sudden simple case of a guy going missing is not so simple anymore. It becomes suddenly a wide open analytical question of the fact that what happened to this guy and you start tying in sighting reports and all of a sudden then things become much more cloudy. It is not just as simple as a guy die in war and go missing. There is a purpose behind the Vietnamese efforts and that purpose is designed during the wartime anyways for propaganda, exploit these guys and then afterwards exploit their remains for money is my concern.
Mike Benge: No, no, ____
Bill Bell: We have researchers who have found documentation in the archives in the party of the former Soviet Union indicating that the Russians and the Chinese both were with the Vietnamese for exploitation of technology on weapon systems, avionics, and high performance aircraft and there was in fact quite a bit of competition between the Chinese and the Russians to get to these crash sites and to do reverse engineering on our aircraft which saved them actually saved them billions of dollars in research and technology and that is a very key area and I guess you can imagine if you have a sophisticated aircraft system like an F-111 as an example, if you have the pilot, then you can accomplish a great deal with the pilot and the aircraft and we have cases where they actually went out in the ocean with huge cranes and hoists and lifted up entire aircraft and put them on to Lo-Boys and hauled them all the way to North Vietnam up to the missile base in Haiphong.
There was also in
Cubans and Vietnamese cooperated fairly closely on intelligence
and security matters because now they perceived the other as a
regional threat. They could, you know, share information and have
confidence in their relationship due to the proximity and due to
the fact that they have similar backgrounds. The Cubans were in
And also on the Ho Chi Minh trail and they had an ambassador
Bill Bell: We have plenty of indications of prisoner swaps during the Vietnam War between the Vietnamese, the Americans, the South Vietnamese, the North Vietnamese, and the Americans and most of these particular swaps are close-hold type information, very little has been revealed. We do know that for example, General Ben Bac Dang, his wife was captured back in 1969 and she was exchanged as a Vietnamese Communist prisoner for South Vietnamese prisoner and I think in one case an American was released in exchange for Vietnamese Communist prisoner, but you know what was called as tiger cages off the coast of Vietnam there was a large number of people there and in Chi Hoa prison in Saigon perhaps 200 people who were not released by the South Vietnamese at the time of the Operation Homecoming and the reason that those people were not released according to the GVN Government is because these were intelligence and security personnel and they were not soldiers, so they did not release them.
Do you have any information on those reported in
Jay Veith: I can talk about this. I covered this pretty extensively in my book Code-Name Bright Light. The people we are talking about, there is an East German Lawyer named Wolfgang Volgo who had approached the Americans in Berlin in late 1966 and offered to exchange American POWs for two of their spies in the Kroger an husband and wife team that the Brits had captured and the Brits refused to give them up because they had really done some pretty bad damage to him. Now the reports that Volgo gave the American State Department people was that there was a handful of American POWs, flier types, in East German Hospitals that they were ill in East German Hospitals. When the Americans continued to press Volgo for exchange of these guys slowly he began to back away from that. Now I talked about a great deal in my book Code-Name Bright Light but eventually it fell apart. I think the Brits did eventually give the Krogers up in exchange for their own people, but they refused the Americans the Krogers in exchange for these guys. Now a year later another East German lawyer named Stangel also approached the Americans with a trade for American POWs but there was never any names put to it, the numbers were just sort of vague and there was never any real definition to it now. I always been very curious myself internally whether that was a sort of Vietnamese sting operation, how this whole things has been progressed but Volgo himself had been involved in some very high level exchanges and was known as the guy or person that they could exchange spies with the East Germans, he has done it on several occasions and he was sort of a man and he came forward with lot of excitement and government around this but eventually dragged it over 6 or 7 months and eventually we were nowhere but the whole Volgo-Kroger thing to me has been one of the great unknown questions though, exactly what precise that was behind his offer to the Americans.
Bill Bell: Prisoner swaps are very nature of the activity and very complex and if you take as an example Captain Gary Powers who was shot down in a U2, what you have there is a situation where an Embassy in Washington DC is dealing with the State Department and the US Government through a very open and above board channel where communications are readily available and as indications of Captain Powers he was traded for Soviet Colonel who was arrested in the Washington DC conducting activities incompatible with his status which means that he was spying and that was a simple trade, one man for one man. In the case of Vietnam, the people involved in these swaps would have to put messages in the daily newspaper because there was no routine communication because you are dealing with people out in a jungle camp in the middle of nowhere and the Communists would put an ad in the papers saying I would like to meet with John or I would like to meet with whoever on Wednesday and that was a signal for our CIA personnel to meet with the other side and that is how some of the swaps were arranged but some did not materialize. There were other swaps that military units attempted to do and received permission, authority to do up in the Central Highlands for example but they never came about.
Steve Sherman: Slightly off the immediate subject, one thing came up to during this conference, Admiral Dentons talk mentioned that his captors questioned him about the Mekong River Development Plan. That is the first time I have heard those words used in this connection something that I have really argued for a very long time because I probably have the only civilian copy of that Joint Development Task Force Plan Program. The dollar amount suggested in there converted into the dollars of those years really indicates that Nixons promise for North Vietnamese called reparations was specifically the Lillienthal Plan implementation, not reparations, not anything else, but a plan solely designed to function as long as the level of warfare went down to the point where you would not build a dam and get it blown up the next day and Admiral Denton, mentioning those words to me, gladdened my heart because I do not think Henry Kissinger would ever tell me.
I believe that is one of the myths of the Vietnam war because as
far as what I know the promise was if they did that they would
have Mekong Development, like a giant TVA program. It was not aid
Steve Sherman: It was a very, very specific program. I would spell that in great detail over large number of volumes and I got the summaries of those and the dollar figure and Nixons promise come right together. The second thing is, if anybody really wants a project to do, one time I was trying to get a translation of Cubans on the Ho Chi Minh Trail which after I finally got some kind of translation that turned out to be really boring but the title was good but a Cuban contact suggested that I find somebody who could speak Spanish which I cannot, who would go into the University of Texas in Austin or any other place that has a good library that would have copies all of their, the Cuban Military Magazine and look at the awards that are listed in the Cuban military magazine for the period of time of the Vietnam war and you would be able to build up as I have for Special Forces, you would be able to build up the Cuban order of battle both in Vietnam and/or Angola. Now may be somebody in the Federal Government did that but they are not sharing with me so if anybody wants to do it on their own, I give it freely to you as a project to do.
Also to add to that when we hit and captured
Steve Sherman: The service ribbons and the awards given are listed apparently in this Olive Verte and you can go down through the list and you see the references and it becomes apparent who is where and doing what to whom.
Jay Veith: Does anybody else have any questions?
Steve Sherman: Let me add one more thing to close out. Jay is leaving tonight and we still have copies of his book. Theyre signed and if anybody wants them and any special love notes from Jay, you better standup and move to the back of the room and grab them away, you have an opportunity. Dolf has already got his.
Jay Veith: Thank you very much.
Steve Sherman: Before you all run off here I want to try and make a little bribe to you guys. let me ________