The Front Page
Korea-Cold War Families of the Missing
February 2005 Issue #6
2005 FAMILY UPDATE LOCATIONS 2005
City selections are based on past update schedules and demographic mapping of family members' home locations.
February 26, 2005 San Antonio , TX
March 19, 2005 Memphis , TN
May 13-14, 2005 Washington , DC*
July 30, 2005 Omaha , NE
August 27, 2005 Columbus , OH
September 24, 2005 San Diego , CA
September 26-28,2005 San Diego , CA
October 22, 2005 Raleigh , NC
November 19, 2005 Spokane , WA
* - The Korean and Cold War Annual Government Briefings
"Every person in harms way must know in his heart that if they should be killed, the government would do everything in its power to have the remains returned to the family."
"It is important that the whole world knows this is how the USA feels about its servicemen and women."
President George Bush
Secretary's Corner by Emma Skuybida:
IF YOU HAVE ATTENDED ANY FAMILY OUTREACH IN 2004 BESIDES THE Washington DC, PLEASE CONTACT IRENE MANDRA AT email@example.com OR WRITE TO Korea/Cold War Families, PO Box 454, Farmingdale NY 11735.
If you wish to write a story about your missing loved one for the HEROES column in our newsletter or on our web site, please do so & email to firstname.lastname@example.org If you have a picture, please include it.
Contact your Congressional Rep through the U.S. Capitol Switchboard - 1-202-224-3121 or House Cloak Room at 1-202-225-7350 (R) and 1-202-225-7330 (D).
Congressional Email Directory: http://www.webslingerz.com/jhoffman/congress-email.html
House of Representatives, 108th Congress:
IN MY OPINION
BY IRENE L. MANDRA
First of all, let me thank everyone who responded to my last In My Opinion regarding the poor performance and response of DPMO. We truly appreciate all your kind remarks.
At the time the article was written (November 2004), I also wrote an in-depth letter to DASD Jerry Jennings at DPMO. In the letter I outlined some of the problems we family members had been experiencing, our thoughts, concerns and suggestions. I requested that Mr. Jennings respond to these points.
As of this date, I have yet to receive a letter from Mr. Jennings or anything else for that matter. In my letter, I asked specificially that he reply and no one else and that he address some of the issues I brought up. We are tired of having everything passed on to be eventually 'gotten around to' by 'someone else.'
Previously, I have mentioned that I am quite disappointed that Mr. Jennings is always unavailable. Regardless of when you call or write, he is buffered by his staff and completely unapproachable.
Among the points I brought up are:
1. US-Russian Joint Commission. We need a Dedicated Chairman, period. It is most noble of DASD Jennings to take on yet more responsibility and head the Commission through his appointment by President Bush. BUT, we need a dedicated Chairman who is not wearing so many hats. Since General La Joie retired, like so many others, I feel that the White House can start to show compassion for the families and consideration for our POWs and MIAs by doing one small, tiny thing - Name a Dedicated Chairman. Are they not interested in finding our men or the truth as to what happened to them when they disappeared in Communist Countries? President Bush himself said, "Every person in harms way must know in his heart that if they should be killed, the government would do everything in its power to have the remains returned to the family." and "It is important that the whole world knows this is how the USA feels about its servicemen and women." Talking the talk is good, but WALKING the WALK is better. Stop giving us lip service and select a Chairman that is not burdened by his obligations to DPMO nor influenced by them.
2. Communication. For many years I have called and written DPMO on a variety of questions. I always found someone to speak with and answer those questions. Lately, I am startled that when calling 5 different individuals, I do not get them but their answering machines. Does no one at DPMO answer the phone anymore?
3. Proxies. Korea-Cold War family members are aging. We suffer a number of age and health related problems. Yet, we chug along and keep going. However, there are times when a family member is simply too ill to attend a Family Update. We need to know the policy for appointing a Proxy, and if there is not one, we need one, now.
4. Interest in Resolution. Just how interested is the US Government in securing answers we family members need in order to have closure? What will it take to raise the POW-MIA issue to a higher level where these officials will talk to North Korea, China and Russia? If the level of interest remains as it is at DoD, nothing is happening or will happen. We have seen this over the last 50 years.
Please believe me when I say I believe we live in the best country on this planet. But even the best can be improved, refined and made even better, to do better.
If the North Koreans are still holding upwards of 500 South Koreans as long-term POWs, it does not take a degree in Rocket Science to realize that Americans may still be held as well. Robert Jenkins lived for almost 4 decades in the Communist country... and he came home, eventually.
My letter to DASD follows:
Jerry D. Jennings
Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense
Dear Mr. Jennings:
I thought I would include a cover letter with our newsletter, so that there will be no he said - she said, I will put my thoughts in writing.
Years ago when Major General Loeffke and Colonel Harrington first communicated with the families, we started to trust and believe again in our government after being so ignored for so many years. That did not last long because before you knew it they were gone and DOD took over. Through the years the people at DPMO have worked with family members, and I stress 'work with'. Let me be clear when I say that they answered their phones, responded to questions - they were there. In the DPMO of today one gets voice mail more often than not. This is not one particular individual, but many at DPMO who should be there, but are not.
Busy I understand. On another call is fine. Simply away, as in not
there, is not. So, let me start by suggesting DPMO needs more personnel. There is an old saying - Shape Up or Ship Out. If personnel are on assignment more than they are at the office, we need someone to be at the office.
I have some questions that I would like you to respond to:
1. Captain Jimmy P. Robinson: This is a man, who participated as an aviator during Operation Ivy, 1952 Eniwetok, Pacific Proving Grounds. After the test, his craft encountered difficulties and he ditched, subsequently losing his life. I know, Captain Robinson's family knows, that this is not DPMO jurisdiction. However, for 52 years this family has written, called, and requested anything and everything they could to find a few answers. They need help. It's been over fifty years and with all the FOIAs and Congressional requests, the information they seek is still secret. They have been bounced between Casualty, the Air Force, Department of Energy, Marshall Islands, you name it, they have tried to speak with them. What is my government waiting for? What is the disposition of Captain Robinson's remains? That is all this family wants to know - what happened to his remains. They are not interested in Atomic secrets, or training exercise mumbo-jumbo. His widow still waits to put flowers on his grave. His daughter knows he is dead, she just wants to be told by someone, anyone, if his remains were recovered and whether or not they were cremated because they were contaminated. Why won't anyone in the government release information to this family on this loss?
2: Family representatives. Let's face it, our family members are growing older every day. Many are in advanced age and poor health. When one of these family members cannot make a Family Outreach and wishes to send a qualified, distinguished retired serviceman as a friend and proxy, what does DPMO do? Turn the representative away. This occurred at the Tennessee briefing and was terribly insulting to the representative and very distressing to the family member, who requested that this person attend in their place. Let's be frank. All that goes on at Family outreach is an open, general session whereby families are brought up-to-date on the government's accounting efforts. There are no classified briefings, no secrets. Nothing that is critical to National Security is discussed in this setting. So tell me why was this poor man turned away and the family left feeling abandoned and ignored? There was no reason for this to have happened. They sent a respectable, intelligent proxy because they were too ill to attend.
If this is the policy of DPMO, then we need a better policy. Age and illness are becoming more and more prevalent. Family members need to be able to send a proxy to family outreaches. Please advise a procedure for the family to follow to register a proxy for admittance on their behalf in the event that illness or age prevents attendance.
3. CIL-HI. Would you please tell me why there are only 5 teams working on Korea, yet there are 10 for Southeast Asia? Should we not have the same? I understand that Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia are 'open' while North Korea is closed and belligerent. The investment of resources into something that is not as fruitful may not be in the overall best interests of the mission. However, besides the remains in North Korea, we have numerous remains throughout the DMZ and China. Remember, considerable remains were carried from Camp 5 across the Yalu to be buried in China? What are we doing about that? What about American remains in Russia?
4. Punchbowl. Where are we on this? Not all the remains that passed through or were processed at Kokura were contaminated. What about the Kokura autopsy protocols and films in the National Archives? What have JPAC's researchers done with respect to that material? The Archives holds much material with respect to Kokura. We need DPMO to respond to that question and explain what the films and materials tell us. We need DPMO to explain just how many remains are believed to be contaminated. IS it DPMOs stance that ALL the Punchbowl remains have been treated, thus preventing or inhibiting identification?
5. DIA/OB Stony Beach. Why is there no similar group for the Korean War and Cold War? I understand their mission is Southeast Asia only and their personnel are specialists for the region and conflict. Can you tell me there are no people on this planet with equal talents and abilities for Korea-Cold War? If they cannot create a Korea-Cold War unit, can they create a group within Stony Beach to address Korea-Cold War with the same analytical and investigative agenda and abilities?
What help may I expect from you, Mr. Jennings? Who can I get in touch with on this? We need movement and we need movement now. Frankly Mr. Jennings, I am tired of Korea-Cold War being treated like a step-child of the POW-MIA issue.
6. PLENUM. What is the status of the next Plenary? It was my
understanding that it should have started by now.
7. Presidential Level. In 1992, many of my organization's family members attended the Senate Select Committee Hearings. Senator Kerry, and many others, didn't even have the decency to stay to hear the statements and testimony for Korea-Cold War. One witness, an Ex-POW, spoke of the POW experience in Korea and of the anguish of the families. Few had the courage or desire to even stay to hear this man. It was disgraceful, especially when this issue is stated to be of 'the Highest National Priority.'
The time is now for the President to assist the families. We want the findings and the facts of the US-Russia Commission brought to the White House. We want this President to be made aware that our men were taken to China and Russia and pressure must be put on North Korea and China to return our men or their remains. Let's not forget that there has been continued reporting of Caucasians, possibly, even probably Americans, alive in North Korea.
It is long overdue Mr. Jennings. WE NO LONGER WISH TO WAIT. WE WANT PRESIDENT BUSH BROUGHT UP-TO-DATE and THESE FOREIGN NATIONS, ALL OF WHICH ARE THE BENEFICIARIES OF AMERICA'S GREAT GENEROSITY, NOTIFIED THAT WE WANT OUR MEN HOME - NOW. ENOUGH IS ENOUGH.
We buy from these countries. We manufacture there, we provide billions in materials, goods, technology, training and humanitarian assistance. If they are unwilling to become true partners with the U.S. and respond to the simple request to release POWs or send their remains home, then why are we continuing to invest so heavily in them?
I know there are political, social and economic reasons that we do so, but after waiting over 50 years for answers and the truth, all of those reasons become nothing more than lame excuses for why the US and other nations have not done the job they were supposed to do.
These are just some of the many questions I have wanted to ask you. Unfortunately, I have not been able to see or speak with you. Perhaps now when you read my letter you might respond and give me some insight into why we are not seeing any meaningful progress and answer the questions I have put to you.
Please do me one favor though. Do not give my letter to some clerk to answer, I want your answers. I would like your office number so that on occasion we can talk from time to time.
Very Truly Yours,
Irene L. Mandra
Korea-Cold War Families of the Missing
NEWS - January 10,2005
Escaped S. Korean POW 'Held in China'
A former South Korean soldier captured by North Korea during the Korean War escaped to China and was arrested by Chinese police while seeking to enter South Korea, a Chinese source said Monday.
NEWS - 2005/01/11
S. Korean POWs Struggle to Return Home
SEOUL, Jan. 11 (Yonhap) -- The issue of former South Korean prisoners of war (POWs) has resurfaced following reports that a 72-year-old POW was recently arrested by Chinese police after escaping North Korea.
On The Web:
NEWS - January 17, 2005
MONROE, Mich. (AP) -- Pfc. Henry D. Mathus no longer is missing.
The remains of the Monroe resident, who was last seen Nov. 1, 1950 -- the day he was to have been sent home from Korea -- will be sent to the United States in March. The casket, along with a uniform and Mathus' posthumous medals, will be buried with full military honors in his hometown of Bowling Green, Ky.
The Monroe Evening News, http://www.monroenews.com
NEWS - January 18, 2005
KOREAN WAR CASUALTY
GI's remains found, ending lengthy wait for Monroe resident
By KIM BATES - BLADE STAFF WRITER
MONROE - Robert Mathus remembers watching television more than 50 years ago, praying his older brother's name would appear as one of the American prisoners released after the Korean War.
"Freedom Is Not Free."
These four words on the wall of the Korean War Veterans Memorial reflect the sentiments of men and women who served in the Korean War---as well as those who fought and sacrificed to preserve democracy throughout our Nation's history. (Quote taken from the National Park Service pamphlet)
Cape Cod 3 - 51 Years and Waiting
by Satch Beasley, son of USN LT Jesse Beasley
This narrative concerns the 1954 loss of an armed Navy P2V-5 Neptune call sign 3 Cape Cod and piloted by Lt. Jesse Beasley. The plane reportedly crashed and disappeared into the Yellow Sea while on a training mission . The information in this account has been gathered from various sources, but also includes theories postulated while trying to locate the missing aircraft and what remains of its crew.
Three Cape Cod departed Iwakuni Air Base in Japan at 2:26 on the afternoon of January 4, 1954. The crew consisted of ten, possible more; two bachelors and eight married. The Flight was categorized as COMBAT and its purpose was reconnaissance along the coastlines of North Korea and China .
Near the coast of china the plane encountered trouble resulting in one engine reported as disabled. Over the course of one and a half hours the plane signaled a distress call "WE NEED AID" to Iwakuni air base and requested co-ordinates for South Koreas air base at Kunsan. Initially the plane made a rapid decent and then gradually returned to stable flight. Throughout the flight there was interference with radio communications between the plane and its base. Locations and conditions were not shared in a timely, nor accurate manner. Three Cape Cod was tracked by radar at least part of the time during its fateful flight and descent. The plane gradually lost altitude until reporting 300 feet and it reported " PORT ENGINE ROUGH". The last communication received from 3 Cape Cod were a series of Vs which the base had requested and not, as the Navy has put forth, an indication that the radio key had been tied down to signal an imminent ditching or crash situation.
While before the enemy all Practical relief and assistance may not have been afforded 3 Cape Cod. For some unexplained reason search and rescue aircraft were not dispatched until after the crash and then may have been diverted to the wrong co-ordinates, causing some crew members, if any survived the crash, to lose their lives. Autopsy reports on the two recovered crewmen give the date of death as two days after the time of the crash.
The official Navy report is filled with inaccuracies and mistakes that have been proven wrong or logically impossible through contemporary documents. It is therefore believed that the official report was changed for some reason.
One reason postulated for the change is that 3 Cape Cod was on a secret 'Ferret' mission when it was subjected to a hostile attack, causing the breakdown of the first engine and eventually leading to the second engine becoming rough. The aircraft was improperly suffered to be hazarded in the presence of the enemy by the absence of essential onboard VHF radio equipment. Documents show that it was directed in 1953 that all deploying patrol aircraft be equipped with VHF as a dual installation with UHF because the majority of communications with South Korea's Search & Rescue as well as their Air Defense was done using VHF. The nearest friendly sanctuary was Paengnyong-Do (K-53) which offered only a frigid open water bail-out zone for pick up by their single H-19 helicopter.
This rescue task would require multiple trips in order to retrieve all aboard. Not an easy task in daylight but a night water rescue with possible wounded to be evacuated from an aircraft designed to sink in moments of ditching would guarantee loss of life.
As the crippled plane crossed South Korean's border it may have been mistaken as a hostile intruder and a second aerial attack on the plane may have occurred. As the plane began it's decent and not sure who had just attacked a third murderous attack came from within the Neptune------ for the Neptune was not designed to give up her secrets.
Due to known tension in the area and earlier incidences of attacks which were being arbitrated at the time of the loss, it is plausible to believe that the loss of a reconnaissance mission under such circumstances would have been disavowed and records changed to cover real activities.
It is further believed, however, that since the original document has been changed, more accurate co-ordinates for the planes final location are available. Currently those possible documents have been requested through the FOIA and are either denied or being withheld at this time. An effort should be made to find and return the missing crewmen. Our great nation should publicly acknowledge and honor these men as courageous Cold War heroes.
Please visit Satch Beasleys fabulous web site at:
COME TAKE US HOME
We did our jobs, and we did them well
and because of fate, were in this Hell!
Were POWs and MIAs
Still living with hope still counting the days.
Were out of sight, and out of mind
Almost forgotten by all mankind.
But there are those, who seek to find
those of us, still left behind.
For we still trust, that well be found
and then be freed, and homeward bound.
We dont know how, that will be done
But we believe, that day will come!
The war goes on, for us that wait
another day another date.
And those we love so far away
Are in our hearts, each passing day.
We pray to God for our release
So we can have some lasting peace.
Were POWs and MIAs
Come take us home why not today?
Copyright November 22, 2004 by Robert W. Beskar
Reprinted with the kind permission of the Author
NEWS - Korean War Soldier Finally Comes Home
12/30/2004 - Associated Press
HOUSTON Billy Donahoe's family shed tears of happiness as the Korean War veteran returned home to be buried.
Donahoe was a 26-year-old Army master sergeant when he was declared missing in action 54 years ago after the Battle of Chosin Reservoir
"I can almost hear the ticking of the second hand of destiny. We must act now or we will die. . . . We shall land at Inchon, and I shall crush them."
General Douglas MacArthur, USA, at a meeting with his commanders, Tokyo, August 23, 1950.
NEWS - Loved ones briefed on POWs/MIAs
Carla Roccapriore RENO GAZETTE-JOURNAL
For more information on military personnel missing in action :
Air Force: (800) 531-5501
Army: (800) 892-2490
Marine Corps: (800) 847-1597
Navy: (800) 443-9298
Source: Department of Defense
Barbara Novak had wondered for years what happened to her brother, Army Pfc. Nicholas Hansinger, who never returned home from the Korean War.
She learned Saturday that he was captured in July 1950 and died three months later.
I now know when he was captured, where he was captured and that he was taken to a prison camp where he died, said Novak, 63, of Livermore, Calif.
This is a true jewel, Novak said, holding newly obtained military documents summarizing what happened. Without this, a lot of us wouldnt know.
NEWS - Voice of America Press Releases and Documents
Saturday, January 8, 2005
EDITORIAL: AMERICANS MISSING IN ACTION
Anncr: Next, an editorial reflecting the views of the United States
Voice: Of all the fates that can befall a member of the armed forces, one of the most terrible is to be listed as missing in action. Americans killed in action die with the assurance that every possible effort will be made to recover their remains for proper burial, that their families will be notified of their deaths, and that their sacrifice will be remembered by a grateful American people. American prisoners of war knew that their countrymen would never rest until they were free. But the fate of America's missing in action imposes a special obligation on the United States.
ADVISORY SUBJECT: Postponement of the 19 th Plenum of the U.S.-Russia Joint Commission on POW/MIAs For the second time in the past six months, the American Chairman of the U.S.Russia Joint Commission on POW/MIAs (USRJC) has found it necessary to postpone the Commissions 19 th Plenum. Both postponements have been caused by disarray on the Russian side associated with post-election reorganization within the Russian Government.
BACKGROUND In March 2004, the Russian people elected Vladimir Putin to his second term as the President of the Russian Federation. Almost immediately following this election, the Russian Government began a detailed and thorough reorganization of the Presidential Administration and the ministries within the Russian executive branch of government. This has resulted in the elimination of numerous positions, staffs, and individuals from the governments lineup.
For months before the March Russian presidential election, the U.S. side was planning to host the 19 th Plenum of the USRJC in Garmisch-Partenkirchen, Germany. The U.S. side considered this plenum, scheduled for May 26-27, 2004, extraordinarily important, since the Joint Commission had not met in plenary session for 18 months, 1 and many issues had accumulated. Reorganization-associated disarray on the Russian side, however, made it impossible for the Russian delegation to receive permission from the Presidential Administration to travel to Germany, and the U.S. side reluctantly decided to postpone the 19 th Plenum, re-scheduling it for November 9-10, 2004, in Washington, D.C.
In May 2004, Mr. Jennings and Congressman Sam Johnson signed a joint letter to President Putin urging that the Russian Government retain the staff of the Joint Commission during its government reorganization. The American Ambassador in Moscow, Ambassador Alexander Vershbow, strongly endorsed this letter and the positions taken in support of retaining the Russian staff. In summer 2004, two developments - one positive, the other quite negative - affected Commission operations. In June, 2004, President Bush appointed the Honorable Jerry D. Jennings as American Chairman of the USRJC. This positive development, however, was countered on the Russian side by the elimination of the staff supporting the Russian side of the USRJC. This office, located in the Presidential Administration, was closed and its six staff members were dismissed by July 2004.
Though the Russian structure of commissioners (47 in all) remains in place, the staff through which the U.S. side works routinely to accomplish its mission in the Russian Federation has ceased to exist. On July 8, 2004, Mr. Jennings invited 20 Russian commissioners and technical experts to attend the re-scheduled 19 th Plenum in Washington from November 9-10. He secured the agreement of his Russian counterpart, General-Major Vladimir Zolotarev, to support this plenum, and the U.S. side completed all the complex administrative, logistical, and substantive arrangements for this plenum. Recognizing the increased time required to secure U.S. visas in the post-9/11 environment, the U.S. side established late September as the deadline for processing visa applications for Russian attendees at the November plenum.
Despite repeated American appeals, by mid-September the Russian Presidential Administration still had not given its permission for a Russian delegation to travel to the United States for the 19 th Plenum. During his visit to Moscow from September 19-23, 2004, Mr. Jennings raised this problem with senior Russian officials, calling for an early decision on this question. He sought support from a number of influential Russian officials, including his Russian counterpart (General Zolotarev), senior Ministry of Foreign Affairs officers, several Deputies of the Russian State Duma (the lower house of the Russian legislature), and well-connected leaders of two large Russian veterans organizations. Most importantly, he met with a senior official of the Russian Security Council and received from him an assurance that a decision on dispatching a Russian delegation to the 19 th Plenum would be forthcoming quickly. With these assurances in hand, the U.S. side finalized its plans for the plenum.
NO DECISION On October 8, less than one month before the Russian delegation was scheduled to depart Moscow to travel to the 19 th Plenum, the U.S. side still had not received notification that a Russian delegation would be permitted to travel. Even if a decision had been forthcoming immediately, 2 the U.S. side judged that the time remaining to process visa applications was not sufficient to guarantee the receipt of U.S. visas for Russian attendees in time. Good stewardship of the U.S. Government funds required postponement to avoid committing the government to a sizeable expenditure in forfeited reservations. Mr. Jennings decided on October 8, 2004, to postpone the 19 th Plenum a second time. He dispatched a letter to General Zolotarev, including copies to all officials with whom he met in Moscow in mid-September, advising the Russian side about the postponement. Mr. Jennings has proposed convening the 19 th Plenum in Moscow in May 2005. This timeframe and venue offer two advantages. First, holding the plenum in Moscow will preclude the need to arrange travel by the Russian side of the Commission. Secondly, the Russian Federation will be celebrating the 60 th anniversary of victory in World War II in May next year. This would be a favorable time for the Commission to convene in conjunction with this celebration, and it will position the U.S. side of the USRJC to facilitate participation by American veterans groups in these World War II celebrations. The U.S. side hopes to benefit from favorable publicity for the work of the Joint Commission among the Russian public during this timeframe, and it also hopes to advance a number of issues that have accumulated since the 18 th Plenum. Planning already is underway on the U.S. side for the May 2005 convocation of the 19 th Plenum in Moscow.
1 The 18th Plenum was held on November 18, 2002, in Moscow.
2 As of the date of this advisory, the Presidential Administration still has not authorized travel by the Russian delegation.
We Welcome Your Questions, Comments and Submissions:
Korea-Cold War Families of the Missing
PO Box 454, Farmingdale
New York 11735 USA
Irene Mandra - email@example.com
NEWS - Korean Veteran Searches for the Missing
30 December, 2004
Voice of America Press Releases and Documents
Korean Veteran Searches for Missing Friends
INTRO: The Korean War is often referred to in the United States as the Forgotten War, coming as it did between World War II and the highly controversial Vietnam War. But not everyone has forgotten Korea. More than 54,000 American soldiers died during that war, and some 8,000 still remain listed as missing in action. As we hear from Jason Margolis, even after five decades, a California veteran is still fighting to locate and bring home the remains of his buddies.
On the web:
NEWS - In foreign relations, remember human rights
The Prague Post
The Czech Foreign Ministry has taken steps toward reopening the country's diplomatic mission in Pyongyang, North Korea. Ostensibly the move is a means of constructively engaging North Korea and playing a larger diplomatic role in one of the world's hot spots. Given what the world knows of North Korea, the notion of this country engaging Kim Jong Il's government at all is extremely troubling.
NEWS - War Remains Sought - 28 November, 2004
An isle-based group plans a new recovery effort in North Korea
By Grant Peck Associated Press
BANGKOK, Thailand U.S. and North Korean officials have agreed to conduct recovery missions for remains of American servicemen missing from the Korean War for a 10th consecutive year.
News and Views - by Joe McNulty, Vice-Chair
DoD Personnel Accounting Conference
Convening of this conference and the invitation to attend offer a welcomed opportunity to address some noteworthy problems and respond to issues that continue to haunt us. Since I became actively involved in the early 90s with a family association seeking a full accounting of Korean War POW/MIAs, I have seen a steady growth of DPMOs efforts and the participation of many more families in the search for the missing. Increased appropriations now mean that not only would the search for the missing include Korea, the Cold War, and Vietnam but also World War II. The intensity of the recent effort has led to recovery of remains from a World War II crash site in Tibet and on the Kamchatka peninsula. The size of forensic teams has grown and the scope of their activity has expanded to the far corners of the globe.
As a family member, I cannot but appreciate the dedication of the military and civilian personnel who often risk life and limb to achieve their goals. One only has to listen to presentations at DPMOs annual family briefings to recognize their level of expertise.
I know all do not share these attitudes and I know why. Over the years the government has been less than candid about accounting for the missing from Korea and Vietnam. A legacy of this policy restricts family access to vital information and engenders the distrust many feel. The failure to declassify documents that have lost their unique status and the lack of cooperation of organizations like the CIA encourage this attitude. National security is often cited for maintaining the restrictive classifications. While the volume of paper is a factor, the availability of documents - even when required by law - is deliberately inhibited, and FOIA is needed for access. In other instances the protection of individuals responsible for policy is offered as a reason. Yet the feeling persists that much of the information could be released and no one would be harmed. It seems that the phrase the highest priority doesnt always ring true.
When family members and veterans express a strong belief in the survival of live Americans in North Korea, China, and Russia, the argument is hard to ignore. As we know the Gulag Papers acknowledged the presence of American POWs in Russian prison camps. Speculation suggests some could still be alive. My dilemma is I want to believe these arguments but also want to see concrete evidence.
The difficulty of reconciling the conflicting opinions increases when the full accounting initiative is examined. Why isnt greater leverage being applied to China to open its archives and supply documentation needed to track the missing. Are economic and political considerations still given greater weight in the dialogue about the men who were held back? Does the desire for better relations prevent us from giving top priority to the POW/MIA issue? Is certification of proposed treaties withheld from those countries that dont cooperate?
Other areas of exploration include the names given to the Chinese for which they have yet to respond. What did we learn from the interview of four Chinese veterans of the Korean War who helped to run the prison camps?
The debriefs of South Korean POWs who escaped from the North in recent years should be fertile ground for information. Yet insight into the scope of interviews with these men is denied. Surely they would have seen American POWs if they were alive or could identify those who died. Are we pursuing KIA/BNR cases in the DMZ with South Korea? Is it possible to access the North Korean archives?
In its work in Russia, the USRJC has sought the files of the KGB and GRU that relate to American POWs taken to the Soviet Union. Disclosure of findings in psychiatric, penal and other facilities held by these intelligence agencies would be of value.
Recognizing the frustration commission members must feel in attempts to get data, we must support their continued requests. Little has been said about the Russian Memoirs since the early revelations. The USRJC extended its reach to the archives in the Ukraine, Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia. The release of Dr. Paul Coles research in these areas is also needed.
Consideration should be given to family members who could volunteer time and effort to support DPMOs many activities. The extraordinary workload generated by tons of records at the National Archives, presidential libraries and resources in Europe suggests additional personnel could be used.
If lay persons can work at the White House and Walter Reed Army Medical Center, why not at DPMO or the National Archives. Assuming clearance is given, a schedule could be devised that would lessen the burden of others. Under the guidance of professionals, and individual could research designated areas. Records could be identified and prepared for review. Instead of a family member taking a stab at a set of documents and hoping to find something, a logical sequence of needed work could be assigned.
Although communication between families and DPMO is cordial, improvement might include a more generous release of news not found in the media or from e-mail. The DPMO website contains a page for the latest news and reports, yet the last entry for Newsupdates is 2001, Past Significant Events 2002, and Past Special Reports 2002. The listing of individuals assigned to DPMO and their responsibilities would also help.
The publication of names of POW/MIAs in newspapers in the search for family members by Project Outreach is invaluable. The veterans column in my state newspaper listed such a release, and I immediately recognized a Cold War loss. A brother was notified of the need to call DPMO and provide a blood sample.
Finally it is time to reconsider membership for family members on the USRJC. A request was made in recent years and rejected. A compromise at that time provided for representatives of family organizations to attend periodic meetings. Is it still possible? Such an appointment would not only include the families but supply the input and motivation that comes from a loss in war. In recent years DPMO teams for the recovery of remains in North Korea have included veterans and representatives of family associations. Would DPMO consider assigning a member of the Korea-Cold War Families of the Missing to a future visit?