POW-MIAs and Medical Experimentation
by J. D. Douglass, Jr.
Missing American Servicemen
Sacrificed To Avoid Interfering With "Foreign Policy"?
American POWs were used as medical guinea pigs by Soviet, Czech, and North Korean doctors, just as the Japanese used American and Chinese POWs as living cadavers at Harbin during WWII.
The experiments were performed at a "Czech built hospital in North Korea." The experiments were conducted to "develop methods of modifying human behavior and destroying psychological resistance," to "study the effects of various drugs and environmental conditions on American soldiers and pilots," and to "train Czechoslovakian and Soviet doctors under wartime conditions."
"At the conclusion of the testing program a number of American POWs were executed... to preclude public exposure of the information." Up to "several dozen" unwilling participants may have been executed.
These are direct quotes from a shocking 1992 Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA) report and covering memo that was released on June 21, 1996, by Congressman Robert Dornan during hearings into the fate of US POW/MIAs from the Korean War. Since 1973 when only 586 out of 2,000 missing POWs were repatriated during Operation Homecoming at the end of the Vietnam War, the friends and families of the missing have asked, "Where are they; please, tell us the truth." Their ranks quickly swelled to include the families of the over 8,000 who never returned from Korea, and over 20,000 who never returned from WWII.
The information on experimental use of American POWs came to light, according to the DIA report, in September 1990 when Air Force Intelligence began questioning a United States Government (USG) source about Soviet POW interrogation techniques. DIA first learned about the information shortly after Desert Storm came to an end in February 1991. They launched an investigation that continued up until the date of the just-released report, April 27, 1992.
After DIA had completed their investigative effort, the source was polygraphed on the essential elements of the reported information and "no deception" was uncovered. Additionally, DIA stated that "the source has provided reliable information to the USG for over 20 years" and that he was "well placed in that he personally saw progress reports on the work in North Korea that were forwarded to top leadership in the Czech Central Committee and Ministry of Defense." In brief, he was an impeccable source.
The DIA covering memo further explains that he "remains a very sensitive source" who is "most reluctant to have his identity become known or to be tied to the information he provided." The source's concern is not without reason. Just on the basis of his information in the short DIA report, there is every reason to shift from a search for missing Americans to an investigation into war crimes of a nature not seen since the end of WWII. Accordingly, the report was "classified both to protect the source's identity and to ensure proper security is maintained during possible demarche and follow-up investigative activity."
Copies of the DIA report were furnished only to the Secretary and Deputy Secretary of Defense, the Under Secretary for Policy, and the Assistant Secretary General (Command, Control, Communications, and Intelligence). No copies were sent to the military departments, the intelligence agencies, the Department of State, the temporary Senate Select Committee on POW/MIA Affairs, or the House POW/MIA Task Force, all of whom are normally on the distribution of POW/MIA material. DIA was concerned that such distribution "could serious impact ongoing foreign policy activities of the United States Government."
Looking Beneath the Surface
On its surface, the report and covering memorandum present the impression that DIA was seriously concerned for the safety of the source and had mounted a detailed investigation, including an "intensive and extensive review of open source literature and archived intelligence materials." They even say they tasked CIA to do likewise and to query the Czechoslovakian Intelligence Services about the information Sejna provided.
But wait: why would anyone go to one of the organizations whose predecessor played a key role in these most heinous operations and ask for assistance? Would not the prudent approach be to first conduct a covert investigation right up to the objective of finding any survivors and verifying the guilt or innocence of those accused of the crimes? Unfortunately, without a tremendous amount of information that the DIA is not about to provide, the reader is at a loss of what to conclude.
However, those who have experienced the DIA/POW-MIA office in action, their memo and report are quickly seen to be a living example of the duplicity and mendacity that have characterized our government's efforts t0 "learn what happened" since the end of WWII. The report and memo are clearly designed to cover the DIA/POW-MIA's backside. The reason it was not sent to Congress had little to do with the safety of the source. Rather, it likely was not sent to Congress to avoid drawing any attention to the importance of the source, which the DIA and CIA were actively trying to discredit, and especially to the fact that the source had passed a polygraph. The last thing in the world DIA or CIA wanted was an "intensive and extensive" review of the evidence or an effort to track down valuable leads.
Admittedly, these are strong words. But, are they justified? To better judge what is happening, lets look at "the rest of the story," as Paul Harvey would say.
Who is the "very sensitive source"? While several sources have provided the same "essential elements," including two in-place agents, in this particular case the source is pretty well identified by other information in the memo that makes it quite clear that he defected over 20 years earlier, was from Czechoslovakia, and was "well places."
The source has to have been General Major Jan Sejna who had defected from Trieste to the United States in late February 1968. General Sejna was no ordinary army officer. Prior to his defection he was a member of the Czech Central Committee, which he had helped set up in 1956 and which is the top decision-making body, higher than the Politburo, in matters of defense, intelligence, counter-intelligence, deception, and internal security in the communist system. He was a member of the Main Political Administration that watches over the entire military establishment and of its governing Bureau. He was First Secretary of the Party at the Ministry of Defense MoD, Chief of Staff to the Minister of Defense and a member of the Minster's Kollegium. He was also a member of the military section of the Administrative Organs Department and was on a wide variety of government and Party committees.
Sejna was not just "well placed," as described in the DIA memo. He was one of the seven or eight most knowledgeable individuals at the top of the Czech nomenclatura. He was personally responsible for monitoring many of the most sensitive operations and for disseminating Defense Council decisions and operational instructions. He was also the primary MoD interface with the Soviet Union. And, his memory was excellent.
The DIA's description of the experiments that the military and medical intelligence doctors from Czechoslovakia and the Soviet Union conducted on American and other nationality POWs really does not do them justice. The DIA report leaves out nearly all the devastating details. For example, part of the training of the military doctors was amputations. American GIs were used as subjects, not much different from the horrors American POWs suffered in WWII at the hands of the Japanese. The Czechs had also built a crematorium in North Korea to dispose of the body parts and the soldiers themselves when all their parts were used up.
The soldiers were also used to test a wide variety of experimental mind control and behavior modification drugs, as indicated in the DIA report. The Korean War era propaganda films of American soldiers extolling the benefits of communism while decrying the evils of democracy were the product of exactly such mind control drugs. Another aspect the DIA left out was the use of American POWs to test biological and chemical warfare agents and their use to determine lethal and sublethal effects of atomic radiation, and to determine how much physical and psychological stress the American soldiers could endure, in contrast to the Asians, who were also among the guinea pigs.
How many POWs became guinea pigs? The DIA report refers to "several dozen" unwilling participants being executed. The only other reference to size is the DIA statement that the Czech built hospital was a "large hospital facility," with no indication of how large is large.
Just to place things in perspective, the issue is not a small handful of POWs. The hospital was designed for 200 "patients." It was often overcrowded and at one time held 600 patients. No patients were known ever to have left the hospital alive, except the roughly 100 who were still alive after the shooting stopped and still regarded as useful experimental subjects, and, hence, shipped back to the Soviet Union through Czechoslovakia for more testing, another small item the DIA report neglects to mention.
The DIA report also neglects to explain that the same things happened during the Vietnam War, with experiments conducted on American POWs in North Vietnam and Laos and with several hundred (probably over 300) American POWs shipped to the Soviet Union (this time through Czechoslovakia, North Korea, and Germany) to serve as guinea pigs for more secretive tests and experiments that could not be conducted in Vietnam. The DIA memo also neglects to explain that the Koreans and North Vietnamese also provided captured American POWs to China for similar research during the Korean and Vietnam Wars and that the Soviets also used prisoners as experimental subjects during WWII.
What Did They Know and What Did They Do?
The DIA memo creates the impression that the first anyone knew about the Czech hospital in North Korea and experimental use of US POWs was September, 1990, when Air Force Intelligence debriefed a "USG source" on Soviet POW interrogation techniques, and the DIA only found out about the lead after the conclusion of Desert Storm (presumably in February or March 1991). Without intending to dispute this story, one has to ask why, if they knew about the source in early 1991, did they wait until the summer of 1992 to question the source, who had been a DIA employee since about 1981 and who was in an office just around the corner from DIA headquarters at Bolling Air Force Base and nearly always readily available for questioning?
I know one DIA section knew about the Czech hospital in North Korea and its use during the Korean War no later than January 27, 1987, which was when I debriefed a group of ten DIA analysts and their group leader on Soviet narcotics trafficking strategy, whose origins are tied to autopsies conducted at the hospital. I described the role of the hospital and its use in experimenting on UP POWs in greater detail than is presented in the just-released 1992 DIA report.
Less than a month later I briefed one of the DIA deputy directors and several of his key staff, including his CBW specialists, on the same subject, including the hospital in North Korea and its use.
This essence of this material was also presented in an article published in Global Affairs in the fall of 1987. The article was jointly authored by Gen. Sejna and myself. The material was next published in the book Red Cocaine, which was a detailed accounting of the Soviet international narcotics trafficking intelligence operation, in January, 1990, and that book in manuscript form had been earlier submitted to the CIA for security review and approval, which was granted in September, 1989. Following that approval, the material was briefed to a wide variety of people in the Washington, D.C. area.
From my perspective, the potential significance of the material to the fight being waged by families of POW/MIAs to learn what happened to their loved ones emerged with a fury in April, 1992, which is when I first told a few Congressional Hill staffers, including one who was on the staff of the Senate Select Committee for POW/MIA Affairs, about the information and existence of a living, knowledgeable source with first-hand knowledge of what happened to thousands of American POW/MIAs. To bring the information to the attention of the Select Committee's Chairman and Vice Chairman, on July 21 I delivered a six-page memo to the offices of Senators John Kerry and Smith. This memo described Gen. Sejna and explained the origins of the experimental program and its operational use in Korea and Vietnam. It also urged caution to avoid jeopardizing the information.
As it turned out, the Select Committee was no more interested in the information and safeguarding its use than the DIA. Almost the instant Sejna's knowledge began to surface within the Select Committee, a wide variety of CIA and DIA actions seemed to materialize, all designed to discredit Sejna, sabotage the leads for additional information, and kill proposed efforts to conduct a thorough debriefing and analysis of Gen. Sejna's information. This is when I first learned that DIA had asked CIA to contact the Czech Intelligence Service, which was the worst possible thing one could do. It was guaranteed to cause alarm bells to sound throughout the former communist intelligence services and at that time it was well known that the KBG had been finding sources and silencing them. So much for the DIA's classifying their memo and report to "protect the source's identity."
At no time since I first began surfacing Sejna's knowledge about what happened to American POWs have I observed any DIA or DIA/POW-MIA or CIA interest in learning what Sejna knows. This is still true today. The only serious interest was in trying to discredit him and bury his information without even knowing what was in the information.
Next, DIA/POW-MIA joined forces with the CIA to go through Gen. Sejna's original 1968 debriefings to learn what Sejna might have said in 1968. This material was subsequently falsified to cover CIA malfeasance, discredit Sejna, and discourage further inquiry, about which more will be said shortly.
Their third action was to place Sejna under hostile grilling for about 8 hours, call him a liar and intimidate him in what was obviously a witch hunt. Then they put him on the polygraph, four times in one day according to a memo written by one of the Select Committee staff, all of which he passed. They could find no indications of any deception. From then on, rather than debrief him to learn more, they avoided him like the plague - they would not even speak to him to say "good morning" when they passed him in the halls.
When I first identified the sabotage taking place in April, I wrote a letter to Bob Gates, who was then Director, CIA. After referencing a long conversation we had several years earlier, which included a discussion of the "reluctance" of certain elements within CIA to pursue investigations of certain strategic intelligence operations directed against the United States, I told him of my concern about the POW/MIA area, the accuracy and excellence of Gen. Sejna's information, his having passed a hostile polygraph, and the continued reluctance within CIA and DIA to debrief him. I then proposed an external project to debrief him as the only solution. On May 27 I received back a hand-written note, which said, among other things, "I have sent the package to others with a suggestion to pursue."
After waiting three months and hearing nothing, I dropped another letter to Bob to let him know that no one had follow-up on his suggestion. Again, I stressed the importance of debriefing Sejna. The POW problem was at the top of my very short list of topics. This time I received a typed reply that said, "our people believe that the historic developments in the former Soviet Union and Eastern Europe since the fall of the Berlin Wall have overtaken the need to pursue a program such as the one you have proposed. Please forgive me for not being able to go into detail; however, I am assured that the information to which General Sejna might have access has already been fully exploited."
Obviously, the fall of the Berlin Wall and disintegration of the Soviet Union had nothing to do with strategic intelligence operations of interest. All still represented major threats to US national security. It was not the KGB or GRU that disintegrated. They were as alive and well as ever. In the case of American POWs, the disintegration made debriefing Sejna even more important because of the increased possibility the disintegration created to collect additional information during the chaos and confusion. Even more obvious, there is no way that Sejna's information on any of the areas I was concerned about could have been exploited, let alone fully exploited, insofar as he had never been debriefed on any them. Obviously, who ever was doing the "assuring" was deliberately lying to Director Gates.
Because of the tremendous importance of the subjects, especially the POW/MIA problem, and because the lies were so evident, I wrote back to Gates. I got right to the point: "The question in my mind is, is it proper for me to tell you when you are being sandbagged by your own people?"
Next, I suggested he challenge the CIA to find anyone who had debriefed Sejna on Druzhba Narodov, one of the most effective strategic Soviet intelligence operations, still active, and the one that had been the main subject of our discussion several years earlier when he had welcomes my efforts because he thought Director Casey would be able to use them to knock some sense into the heads of the CIA analysts. Then I challenged him to find one person in the CIA who would dare claim to know what was in Sejna's memory regarding American POW/MIAs. I also mentioned the Select Committee, the efforts to sabotage critical information, and the fact that the Berlin Wall had nothing to do with learning what happened to those missing Americans. My objective was to state very clearly for the record that his letter of September 22 "did not reflect the true state of affairs." My guess is that he never was given the letter.
A week or so later I obtained a copy of a CIA memo that had been sent to the Select Committee earlier in the summer. While heavily censored, it still provides an excellent example of the CIA's efforts to assassinate Sejna's character. The subject of the memo is "Jan Sejna." Sejna is blandly described as "a military officer attached to Czechoslovak General Staff and a member of the Czech National Assembly. Sejna was a political officer (a carefully calculated slur) whose specialty was communist party matters." Compare this, if you will, to the abbreviated listing of positions Gen. Sejna held as presented above.
In paragraph 2 the CIA memo states: "He admitted from the beginning... that he had no hard information on intelligence matters." This is another artful misrepresentation. What Sejna actually said was that he was not involved in tactical matters like running agents (evidently what the CIA refers to as "hard intelligence") and did not know the names of agents in the United States. Rather, his knowledge of intelligence was generally restricted to the discussion of issues at the Defense Council level; that is, his primary knowledge was strategic level information.(In the eighteen years I have worked with Sejna and reviewed intelligence reports based on his information, the only instance where I observed efforts to debrief him on items of strategic importance was in the case of Soviet sponsorship of international terrorism, a debriefing by DIA analysts circa 1980 that the CIA mid-level officials tried to kill because they did not want to find the Soviets implicated in such a nefarious activity.)
In paragraph 5 they state that a review of their files shows that at no time did Sejna tell them about POWs, the hospital in North Korea, or medical experiments; and in paragraph 7 they provide what is purported to be a transcript of Sejna telling them in 1968 in Czech that he never heard anything about POWs in North Vietnam. This was one of the items that DIA confronted Sejna with at their "initial interview" and then called him a liar and accused him of inventing information.
Well now, they totally misjudged both Gen. Sejna's memory and the one primary rule he has lived by since his defection: stick to the truth, avoid speculation, and never compromise the truth. On several occasions he had been asked to "change his story so that it would be better accepted." He never did, and incurred the wrath of many. In this case, he told DIA/POW-MIA inquisitors that he never said what they accused him of saying, that he did not speak like that, and that he wanted to hear the tapes. First they said the tapes were destroyed. Later they said they would be brought around the next day. Neither DIA or CIA ever produced the tapes.
Unbeknownst to Gen. Sejna, I took a copy of the purported transcript to two Czech linguists, one an official simultaneous translator, and asked them what they could tell me about the response in question. Both independently told me it was strange because no one talked that way in Czechoslovakia. It was archaic diplomatic Czech, they both explained.
The only conclusion I could draw is that the CIA deliberately falsified the record and botched the job in the process! Why? Did they do it strictly to discredit Sejna, or did they find something in the record that bothered them? Congressman Dornan asked Sejna to visit with him and talk about the POW problem. He asked Sejna if he ever told the CIA about the experimental use of American POWs. Sejna relied: Yes, he had, He had told his CIA debriefers about the use of POWs during his debriefing in 1968 but they were not interested. Later, I called Sejna to make certain there was no misunderstanding the question. There was none. He simply told Dornan precisely what happened.
The significance of this is doubly devastating because within a year, a North Vietnamese Army doctor, Dr. Dang Tan, would have defected to the South. He told his American interrogators that:
American POWs were being treated as commodities.
In violation of the laws, POWs were being shipped to other communist countries, including China, the USSR, Cuba, and Czechoslovakia for further exploitation.
Drugs were being used on the POWs.
The treatment of American POWs was inhumane.
There is no indication that anyone really cared about what Dr. Dang Tan had to say, until it became politically expedient. This information was deliberately released during a press conference on 11 May, 1971, arranged by the CIA to put pressure on the North Vietnamese. The implications of what Dr. Dang Tan were so clearly explosive that the CIA Station Chief wired Director Helms, who in turn sent a high-priority memo to Henry Kissinger, with copies to Secretary of State Rogers, Secretary of Defense Laird, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Admiral Moorer, and Deputy Assistant Secretary Sullivan, alerting them in advance to what Dr. Dang Tan was about to say. Did any of these people or their staffs take any action in the interest of American POWs, or were they all too focused on the politics of foreign policy?
A Memorandum for the Record, dated October 30, 1992, by John F. McCreary who was a conscientious DIA analyst and lawyer on leave from DIA to work on the Select Committee staff provides additional insight into the reception Gen. Sejna and his information received over the summer of 1992. McCreary wrote the memo because he was concerned that leaks from the Committee's Staff Director to the DoD and other agencies were "endangering the lives and livelihood of two witnesses... Jan Sejna (and) Le Quang Khai."
McCreary reports on a meeting of the US-Russia Joint Commission at the State Department. "The discussion featured information provided by Sejna. LeGro (another member of the Select Committee Staff) stated that Ambassador Malcolm Toon called for his (Sejna's) dismissal. DIA personnel defended Sejna as to his expertise on Central Europe, but not as to his information on other areas, particularly POW-related." Obviously, the DIA folks did not like what Sejna had to say, nor evidently the fact that, as correctly stated in the just-released DIA memo, "the source has provided reliable information to the USG for over 20 years" and had been polygraphed after the "investigative effort" with "no deception indicated."
The Honorable Malcolm Toon later headed an entourage that went to Prague to talk to Czech authorities about Sejna's information. One of the members of the group told me a few days after they returned that the real purpose of the trip was to discredit Sejna. They were dismayed because none of the Czech authorities would say anything bad about Sejna. None of them could confirm anything Sejna said because none of them were in a position to know. However, one of the authorities explained their position very clearly: "Anything Sejna says should be taken with the greatest respect," he said with quiet deliberation, "Sejna was one of the few people who really knew what was happening."
In his memo, McCreary next referred to a letter from the CIA to the Select Committee "that discredits Sejna's information" evidently because his information was not confirmed by the Czech government! No mention of the fact that the hospital was confirmed and that the presence of the key Czech individual in charge of the operation in North Korea was confirmed, or that neither the CIA or DIA understood the system well enough to even know how to go about confirming the information.
McCreary's conclusion encapsulates the nature of the problem in a most insightful manner. He wrote: "As of this writing, we do not know what Sejna knows or will say under oath, yet his testimony has already been written off. This anticipatory discrediting of a Select Committee potential witness is tantamount to tampering with the evidence."
Further Indications of DIA/POW-MIA Intentions
Even the alleged purpose of the just-released DIA report - to provide information for a proposed diplomatic demarche to the Czechoslovakian Government - borders on the ludicrous. Why would you send a demarche to a government complaining about what a politically discredited government of twenty years earlier had done and even then one under Soviet control? But, give DIA credit. At least they did not propose sending demarches to Russia, or Vietnam, or North Korea, or China!
There was and still is only one action that ever made sense in this situation: to thoroughly debrief Gen. Sejna and proceed covertly to track down every leaf, and turn over every rock, to learn what happened to the thousands of servicemen left behind and, God willing, to rescue those still alive and held in captivity. The DIA/POW-MIA and their friends or co-conspirators at CIA and State have done just about everything they could do to deny those abandoned men who put their lives on the line for their country their freedom and to destroy the information that the families of those still missing have been begging for, some for over forty years.
But, how about the "DIA investigation" and their "intensive and extensive review of open source literature and archived intelligence material"? There is only one way to describe it: a BIG FAT LIE. As they state in their report, their investigative and analytical effort culminated with a report of investigation received from the Czechoslovakian Intelligence Service in March 1992, and that "Upon completion of the investigative effort the source was polygraphed..." which was in June or July as I recall. Only three problems.
First, they never debriefed Sejna. All they did was subject him to hostile questioning for roughly eight hours and polygraph him. They had no interest in learning what Sejna knew, which would require a several month intensive effort. I know because I have worked at debriefing him for many hundreds of hours over eighteen years and I know what the process entails and how arduous it is.
Second, they never made any effort to learn how to track down information. As indicated earlier, other than a short visit in October by two Select Committee staffers to talk about his information and ask what agencies to visit when they were in Czechoslovakia, no one has bothered to seek his advice, and the problem is certainly not one of asking which agencies to ask, would they please search their files!
Third, there is no indication that DIA/POW-MIA ever reviewed the most pertinent archival material that might help verify and extend Sejna's information. What they mainly looked for was information to discredit him; for example, by going back over his 1962 debriefing, a massive but useless exercise insofar as trying to learn what happened is concerned. Let them produce a list of what they did research and it will quickly become apparent how transparent their intentions were.
The Final Judgment
Am I making a mountain out of the proverbial mole hill? In the end, there is only one basis for judgment, and that is Sejna's knowledge. Why is there no one in a position of authority who wants to know what Sejna knows?
I do not know the full extent of that knowledge because my proposal to the OSD/POW-MIA office in August, 1992, to conduct a detailed debriefing of Sejna and devise a covert plan for finding additional information was spiked, as was my proposal to CIA. However, I did spend enough time debriefing Sejna on my own in 1992 and 1993 to reach the conclusion that the failure to debrief Sejna should be viewed as much more than mere tampering with the evidence. In my judgment it was closer to treason.
You be the judge. The material that follows is the results of my preliminary debriefing of Gen. Sejna. I say "preliminary" to emphasize that this is not "the rest of the story." It is only the beginning. This material was published in 1994 and 1995 by Conservative Review.
The material is only a sampling of what is available. I deliberately avoided including information I judged to be of greatest value in tracking down more information and possible survivors so that it could not be sabotaged. I also omitted many details that concerned inner workings of Soviet and Czech intelligence apparatus, associated decision-making processes, and their interplay. Many collateral aspects of the military medical intelligence experiments were omitted because there simply was not room.
Our motivation in publishing this information was the hope of finding someone in a position of authority who was interested in seeing the "rest of the story" developed. In this respect we failed. No inquiries were ever received from anyone in the government.
The pertinent portions of the original Conservative Review article follow.
Korea: The Operation Begins
Czechoslovakia's participation in the Soviet medical intelligence operation began early in the Korean War, when it was directed by the Soviets to build an experimental hospital in North Korea. The plans were drawn up by the Military Project Institute, which was part of the Construction Administration of the Czech Ministry of Defense (MoD). This Administration also contained a special department that was responsible for secret projects, especially those in foreign countries, and that managed the construction of the hospital.
Ostensibly, the hospital was built to test new medical procedures fro treating military casualties and for training young military doctors. That was the cover; but not its sole mission. It also served as a special, highly-secure medical intelligence facility in which captured American and South Korean servicemen were used as guinea pigs in the types of medical experiments previously enumerated. The Czechs also built a crematorium in North Korea to dispose of the remains of those GIs who did not survive the experiments.
What happened to the soldiers who did survive the experimental procedures for treating military wounds is not known. However, in light of the sensitive nature of the facility, it is doubtful that any were returned to the regular POW compounds, nor did Sejna recall any reports or discussion that suggested that any of those GI patients were ever returned to the North Koreans. When the existence of this hospital was brought to the attention of CIA and DIA, there were both surprised. Neither had heard of it before. This also suggests that no POWs returned from it because had they, they would have reported on the hospital in their routine debriefings by U.S. intelligence. The existence of the hospital has been confirmed by Czech authorities.
The overall operation in North Korea came under the authority of the Czech General Staff deputy director of military intelligence for strategic intelligence, Colonel Rudolf Babka. Babka was a hard-line Stalinist who had been brought in to replace a bourgeois general. Col. Babka was sent to North Korea under diplomatic cover as an official of the foreign ministry, which was only a deception. After the war, he was promoted to head of the General Staff Foreign Administration, which had both an overt and covert function. Overtly, the Foreign Administration negotiated foreign military assistance with various defense attaches. Covertly, it was a military intelligence front used to manage special clandestine overseas operations.
The experimental Czech hospital in North Korea was designed to handle two hundred "patients." In actuality, the hospital was often overcrowded. One year, six hundred patients were treated. At times the hospital was so crowded that two patients were required to share one bed. The individual who actually ran the hospital was Colonel Professor Dr. Dufek. Dr., Dufek, a former Soviet citizen who had emigrated to Czechoslovakia, was a heart specialist in charge of research at the Czech Central Military Hospital in Prague. Sejna discussed the operation with both Col. Babka and Dr. Dufek, and was present when they briefed the Minster of Defense's Kollegium on the hospital and its operation.
The Kollegium functioned as a preliminary Defense Council within the Ministry of Defense. Most issues were first discussed within the Kollegium before they went to the Defense Council. The Defense Council was the highest decision making body in intelligence, counter-intelligence, defense, and anything of national security or internal security nature. Its members were established by law and comprised the six most powerful strategic leaders in the nation. It was higher than the Politburo. Sejna acted as secretary for the Defense Council and head of its Secretariat from 1956 to 1964. He was a member of the Minister's Kollegium up until he left in 1968.
Roughly eighteen Czech doctors were involved in the North Korean operation, and over twenty Russian doctors. In preparation for their assignment, several Czech doctors were given special training in atomic radiation and its effects on the human body at the Institute for Nuclear Medicine in Moscow. There were the doctors who conducted the radiation experiments in North Korea. Each of them was required to sign a statement saying that they volunteered for this assignment. For these experiments, radio-isotopes were brought to North Korea from the Soviet Union for use in radiating the GIs.
Experiments Following the Korean War
In 1954, after the Korean War armistice was in effect, the Soviets decided to terminate the operation and turn the hospital over to the North Koreans. This decision was made by the Soviet Defense Council and then coordinated with the Czech Defense Council. As indicated earlier, the Defense Council was the critical organization where issues in matters of intelligence, counter-intelligence, defense and strategic aspects of foreign and economic policy matters were decided. This Council was composed of a very select collection of the six most powerful strategic leaders.
As part of this decision to terminate operations at the hospital in North Korea, the POWs who were of no further use - that is, those whose mental or physical impairment had significantly diminished their utility as good medical subjects - were killed and their remains cremated. Those who were being used in experiments that were not completed or who were still of experimental value - roughly one hundred GIs - were shipped to the Soviet Union where the experimental work was to continue. For example, one of the experiments to be continued would determine the long-term effects of sub-lethal doses of atomic radiation. To the Soviets, "long-term" usually meant several decades; fifty years was typical. In the case of sub-lethal radiation effects, the Soviet interest included effects of radiation on the soldiers' reproductive organs and on their subsequent children and grandchildren.
The POWs that were shipped to the Soviet Union through Czechoslovakia were transported by air in roughly four-equivalent plane loads. They first stopped in Prague, where the GIs were given medical exams before being sent on to various experimental medical test facilities in the Soviet Union. The stopover typically lasted about a week. Its purpose was security - to "break the trail," so that the Soviets could subsequently deny any claims that POWs were shipped to the U.S.S.R. from North Korea. That is also why the experimental hospital was a "Czech" hospital. These deceptions were all part of a carefully designed plan to mask the movement of GIs to the Soviet Union and to mislead people, including most of the Czech and Soviet participants, about what was really happening.
In May 1956, Sejna was appointed Chief of Staff fro the Minister of Defense. Shortly after he received this appointment, General Major Kalashnik from the Soviet Main Political Administration came to Prague to discuss the importance of non-military weapons. Sejna was present at the meeting when Kalashnik discussed five important examples of such weapons: ideological offensive, which meant good deception and propaganda; good foreign policy designed to split the West; isolating the United States; economic and social chaos; and a new view about drugs and other chemicals that can affect the minds and behavior of millions of people. Kalashnik's visit and lecture served as a precursor for a Soviet request for the Czechs to provide medical support for the experiments that were being run in the Soviet Union on American POWs. Kalashnik's mission was to explain the importance of this research and justify the need for Czech participation.
After General Kalashnik returned to Moscow, the formal request for medical assistance in the experiments came into the Czech ministry of Defense from the Soviet Defense Council. The Czech decision in response was prepared by Sejna, working with Minster of Defense General Major Bojkov. The medical aspects of the plan and preliminary staffing recommendations were prepared by five specially-cleared officers at the Health Administration of the MoD's Rear Services Administration.
In assembling the overall plan for presentation to the Czech Defense Council, Sejna personally reviewed the files and decision documents for the operation in North Korea, including the original Soviet Defense Council instructions that initiated the operation and those that terminated it. It was in the originating Soviet Defense Council order where the direction to conduct the operation so that "no one ever would know about it" was set forth. Sejna's review of this history was included as part of the plan.
When the Czech plan was completed, it went to Moscow for review and approval. The head of the Soviet military Health Administration personally brought the plan back to Prague. The only problem he had with the plan was its timetable. He wanted the process of selecting and clearing the doctors accelerated. All the doctors had to be specially cleared by both Czech and Soviet military counter-intelligence. The Czechs had wanted to avoid drawing any undue attention to the process for security reasons and, thus avoided using emergency measures to speed up the process. The Soviet official came to Prague to help them accelerate the process without employing any observable emergency measures. He came personally because in very sensitive operations, such as was this one, telephone communications were not allowed.
After the plan had received the Soviet blessing, it was placed on the Defense Council's agenda, which Sejna prepared as working secretary, for discussion and decision. The Council reviewed the Soviet request that had initiated the action, the seven projects the Czech military doctors and scientists would be working on, the administrative and security measures, and then approved the plan and the money for the project.
Once the plan was approved, the personnel selection process - mainly to select the doctors and scientists who would be involved - commenced. The task was one principally of the Czech military Health Administration, assisted by the administrative Organs Department, which was the powerful Central Committee department that had authority over the Ministry of Defense (MoD) and Ministry of Interior (MoI). Both Soviet and Czech military intelligence and military counter-intelligence were involved. Military Intelligence had overall authority and military counter-intelligence, which was a component of the Interior Ministry, were responsible for security.
When the doctors and scientists had been selected and cleared, the list was submitted to the head of the Soviet military Health Administration, who was the individual personally responsible for the medical aspects of the plan. Following his approval, the list was sent to the Czech Defense Council for the final decision, which by this time was mainly a rubber-stamp approval. Roughly fifteen doctors and scientists were approved. The doctors came from the Central Military Hospital, the College for Military Doctors, and the Air Force Scientific Research Institute at Hradack Kralove where many of the experimental drugs had been developed. The scientists were from the Academy of Sciences.
The operation was top secret. Aside from the Defense Council and the doctors who were involved, very few people had access to the operation or knew what it was really about. Specifically, the only ones who knew were the Chief of the General Staff, Chief of Rear Services (Gen. Lt. Evzen Chlad), and the heads of the Health Administration (Gen. Maj. M. Cerny), Central Military Hospital, and Air Force Scientific Research Center. The doctors went as a group to the Institute for Nuclear Medicine in Moscow. The doctor in charge was the head of the Air Force Science Institute. They were accompanied by a military counter-intelligence officer. Once in Moscow, they split into three groups. One stayed in Moscow at the Institute and the other two groups went to different locations.
The Institute for Nuclear Medicine was the jumping-off point because of the political plan (that is , deception) that had been devised as a cover. The cover story maintained that the doctors had gone to Moscow as students to study the effects of nuclear war on soldiers. Everything was prepared for their courses - instructors, organization materials, schedules, and so forth. But it was all a fake, designed to mislead people about the real reason behind the doctor's mission, which was to investigate the effects of chemical warfare agents and drugs, biological organisms, and nuclear radiation on the captive GIs.
The results of the experiments performed on the captive GIs were presented during the annual review of the intelligence plan for the next year and in special, highly-classified reports. These reports discussed the improvements in chemical and biological warfare capabilities and knowledge of radiation casualties that had been achieved in the experiments. Sejna recalls one report on the tests that he read in 1959 or 1960. The tests were discussed in three categories: chemical warfare, biological warfare (including viruses), and radiation.
One of the discussions in the chemical warfare section was focused on the side effects of some of the drugs. In the drug research programs, for each drug under development, there was a parallel program to develop drugs that would reverse the effect (antidotes) and drugs that could defend people against the use of such drugs (prophylaxes). One of the more difficult problems in this search was caused by side-effects of the experimental drugs. The side-effects were often irreversible, and, in many cases, seriously debilitating, Where the prisoners were judged to be of no further value because of the side-effects, they were killed. Only a few were retained to see if ultimately the side-effects would disappear. Sejna suspects those few were placed in mental institutions for long-term (that is, twenty to fifty years) observation.
In the radiation section, casualty exposure levels were discussed along with the results of the search for drugs that would, in effects, enable soldiers to continue fighting even after having received lethal radiation exposures. With the captive GIs in the Soviet Union, these tests were not limited to the use of radio isotopes. The Soviets also used the atomic reactor at the Institute for Nuclear Medicine in Moscow to radiate the GIs.
Still further, the best and most relevant information was obtained by securing GIs at spaced intervals along the ground and then subjecting them to the full force and fury of actual atomic bomb explosions at Soviet atomic test ranges. In addition to their interest in radiation exposure, the Soviets also tested the effects of atomic bomb over pressure and thermal radiation on the GIs and the psychological effects of all three - over pressure, atomic, and thermal radiation - on the GIs. They also tested the effects of various drugs on exposed GIs to learn if some of the radiation effects could be temporarily countered, thus extending the useful life of soldiers, and to observe how long the soldiers who were exposed at higher levels could survive.
(As early as 1963, specialists within the U.S. Atomic Energy Community knew that the Soviet knowledge of the effects of high levels of radiation exposure on humans was greater than the U.S. knowledge. The unchallenged assumption was that the Soviets had gained this experience as a consequence of accidents and poor safety standards. While that may have been the case, it is now evident that there is another more reasonable explanation; to wit, their use of captive GIs in radiation dose experiments. Additionally, on March 20, 1994, 60 Minutes had a special segment on the Soviet use of civilian communities in radiation experiments in which the communities close to detonations were exposed to low level direct radiation and subsequent fallout to test the effects of nuclear war on civilian communities.)
Vietnam War: Setting the Stage
American POWs also were used for medical experiments by the Soviets and Czechs during the Vietnam War. The cornerstone for this activity was laid in 1960 when the North Vietnamese Chief of the General Staff (CoGS) and roughly ten senior officers visited Prague and Moscow in search of military assistance. The North Vietnamese believed that the only way to unify the country was through military action. They wanted military assistance to prepare them for a major offensive drive to capture South Vietnam. This was when the Soviets first agreed to supply the North Vietnamese with weapons. As head of the Defense Council Secretariat, Sejna was their host and focal point for scheduling meetings and discussions.
During this visit, there was one particularly sensitive meeting. The only participants were the Vietnamese CoGS; his Czech counterpart, General Otakar Rytir; Czech Minister of Defense General Lomsky; Soviet Advisor General Aleksandr Kuschev; and then-Colonel Jan Sejna. In this meeting, General Kuschev, explained to the Vietnamese general how American POWs had been used for medical research during the Korean War and how valuable this use had been. One of the items of cooperation the Soviets would like to receive in return for providing military technology, Kuschev continued, was more American POWs for medical experimentation. The Vietnamese CoGS agreed and used the opportunity to press for even more military assistance. Kuschev then stressed the need to begin organizing immediately to use the captured American servicemen to avoid types of delays encountered at the beginning of the Korean War.
The North Vietnamese general suggested that it would be a good idea to keep any Americans who were captured and selected to be sent to the Soviet Union separate from other POWs. General Kuschev agreed and the decision was made: Soviet, Czech, and Vietnamese military counter-intelligence officers would meet and draw up plans for the secure management of American POWs who were to be sent to the Soviet Union form the instant of their capture until they were deposited in the Soviet Union. Military counter-intelligence had the lead because it was responsible for security in the military. In the communist system, military counter-intelligence was generally a component of the Ministry of Interior, and as such was located outside the military system. In the Soviet Union, it was a component of the KGB. In Czechoslovakia, it was in the Ministry of Interior, which also was where civilian intelligence was located. As was typical in the communist system, everyone watched everyone else.
Work on the plan commenced immediately following the return of the Vietnamese CoGS to Hanoi. In Czechoslovakia, CoGS General Rytir was personally responsible for the effort. In the Soviet Union, that person was Marshal Matvey Z. Zakharov, the Soviet CoGS. In Czechoslovakia, the officials under the CoGS who were responsible for specific areas were the first deputy to the Minister of Interior (Josef Kudrna), the head of military counter-intelligence (Gen. Maj. Josef Stavinoha), the chief of military intelligence (Gen. Maj. Oldrich Burda), and his deputy for strategic intelligence (Gen. Maj. Vasil Lalo). Similar officials from North Vietnam participated in the project.
The plan was completed in approximately six months, at which time Czechoslovakia received that portion of the plan which pertained to the Czech part of the operation. As set forth in the plan, the overall operation was the responsibility of Soviet military intelligence, or GRU. The individual in charge was the special deputy to the Chief of the GRU in charge of strategic intelligence. Similarly, in Czechoslovakia the plan was organized under the deputy chief of military intelligence for strategic intelligence, just as it had been in the Korean War. Security was provided by military counter-intelligence, which actually came under civilian intelligence.
The security plan specified that the decision on which POWs were to be used for medical experimentation would be made as soon as they were captured. This process was initiated by a Soviet request in which they would identify the number of specimens desired. They also would specify race requirements and rank. In the latter case, the Soviets were interested in older officers as well as younger officers because they wanted to test the effects of the mind-control drugs on people from different age and rank categories. The older officers were generally regarded as the more "reactionary" and, as such, especially important subjects to test. Based on Soviet "requirements," the North Vietnamese military counter-intelligence would go into action and begin collecting appropriate new American POWs as candidates.
The potential candidates would be isolated from all other prisoners. As will be seen, at this point, the POW had received a one-way ticket to oblivion or death. The next action was a joint Soviet-North Vietnamese psychological debriefing of the potential candidate to determine whether the candidate was the type of individual who might make trouble. If the POW was considered psychologically dangerous, then he was immediately liquidated. He was not to be placed in normal POW compounds because they would risk security of the experimental program; better to simply kill him.
(One of the great surprises when 586 American POWs were repatriated in 1973 was the absence of any amputees. The question Why? has never been answered. The explanation might be that such operations were conducted in special military hospitals, the same ones in which various medical intelligence experiments were conducted. Any POW entering such a hospital logically would never have been permitted to leave because the risk that would pose to the operation. This also appears to have been the policy in the Korean War hospital from which no patients are known to have left alive, except those shipped to the Soviet Union for further experimental use.)
The plan also set forth the security measures for storage and transportation of the approved POWs, specified the clearances that were required for all personnel who would be working on the project (for example, guards, drivers, pilots, doctors, and so forth), described in detail the procedures for medical exams for prisoners en route to the Soviet Union (these were performed in Prague), and listed the names and ranks of all military intelligence and counter-intelligence officers who were cleared to work on the project.
One of the initial products of the plan by decision of the Defense Council was the establishment of a special MoD-MoI commission. Its purpose was to coordinate the various questions that different agencies wanted directed to POWs and to issue integrated directions to military intelligence and counter-intelligence interrogators. The CoGS General Rytir headed the commission, which was composed of the first deputy Minister of Interior, the chief of military intelligence, chief of military counter-intelligence, and chief of the 2nd Administration of the Ministry of Interior, which was the Czech counterpart to the Soviet KGB intelligence. The interrogation instructions were split into two different components - one for normal POWs and one for those POWs who had been selected for medical experimentation. Other countries, such as East Germany, were also involved in interrogations. This coordination was handled by the Soviets.
The pilot plan was placed in operation in 1961. The first Soviet request was for specimens of any age or race. The Soviets had run out of test specimens and wanted new ones so that they could resume their experiments as soon as possible. The first shipment of American POWs occurred in August. Gen. Sejna does not recall whether this initial shipment was composed or soldiers or civilians, which would not have been, strictly speaking, POWs.
This shipment created an emergency situation because there was almost no advanced notice. The Czechs did not learn about the shipment until the plane carrying the POWs was in the air and headed toward Prague. At about 1:00 in the afternoon, the Soviet Advisor General Kuschev brought a cable to Minister Lomsky, who immediately summoned Sejna to his office. As soon as Sejna arrived, Lomsky called President Novotny and told him that Sejna was headed over with an important cable. Sejna delivered the cable to Novotny and then proceeded to organize the quarters for the POWs and the North Vietnamese and Soviets who were accompanying the shipment. The POWs arrived at 3:00 p.m. the following day.
Included in the shipment were, as Sejna recalls about four or five South Vietnamese, who were housed in the villa close to the castle, six or seven Americans, who were housed in the military intelligence villa on Sluna street, and one American, about 42 or 43 years old who was isolated from the other Americans and housed in the villa at Rusveltova #1 and who Sejna personally observed.
This was a quick in and out operation that lasted only two days. The plane waited at the military airbase until the POWs had been examined and then flew them to the Soviet Union. This shipment was different from subsequent respects because of the South Vietnamese and the relatively large number of older Americans. This was the only time that Sejna recalls when South Vietnamese POWs were sent through Czechoslovakia to the Soviet Union. With respect to the American POWs, the Soviets were somewhat displeased with the shipment because there were too many older men. Their preference at that time was for the younger men.
(According to the U.S. government, the first American POW was not captured until August 1964. This is more word games by U.S. officials, because this official position on the first POW deliberately ignores the civilians, CIA agents, and military involved in so-called black programs in Southeast Asia who were lost. The U.S. government policy is clearly revealed in the book President Kennedy: Profiles in Power by Richard Reeves. Military pilots were being recruited for service in Southeast Asia in 1961. They were asked to read and sign a statement whereby they acknowledged that they would be wearing civilian clothes and that their "government would disclaim any knowledge" of them if they were captured.)
This first shipment of POWs was accompanied by the Vietnamese deputy chief of the General Staff for military intelligence, General Major Quong. (The name could have been Kwang, Kuang, or Quang. Sejna did not know the spelling, but believes he would recognize the individual's photo. There is good reason to believe this is the individual identified in the highly publicized GRU document that was found in 1993.) Quong was accompanied by two staff officers and KGB (military counter-intelligence) escorts. This group went along with the POWs to make certain the operation was secure, and to quickly resolve any problems that might emerge on this maiden voyage. Sejna hosted the entourage.
The North Vietnamese were housed at a special villa that was maintained for use of foreign dignitaries by the Defense Council secretariat that was under Sejna at that time. The Soviet escorts stayed with their plane, evidently standing guard over other sensitive cargo that was being transported from North Vietnam to the Soviet Union. As soon as the POWs were processed, about two days, they were put back on the plane and whisked away to Russia. As Sejna recalls, the North Vietnamese stayed for five working days. He attended one meeting with Minister Lomsky that was held in Lomsky's office. Lomsky welcomed the North Vietnamese and instructed them to work directly with the Czech CoGS and chief of military intelligence to correct any problems. General Quong said he was pleased with the arrangements that had been made and, especially, with the manner in which the operation had been organized so that participation by the normal bureaucracies had been eliminated.
The discussion then focused on the U.S. pilots and their importance. One of the points Minister Lomsky made was that the pilots were different from ground forces in their ability to handle stress. Because of this type of difference, U.S. pilots were priority POWs for their research program. As an illustration of the problem the Soviets were about to have with the North Vietnamese, General Quong responded that if you do not think the U.S. pilots are nervous, just wait until we finish with them. General Lomsky countered with an explanation that what he was referring to was the ability to handle natural stress, not unnatural stress.
The people who were present at the meeting, in addition to Minister Lomsky, Colonel Sejna, Soviet MoD advisor General Kuschev, and General Quong, were the Soviet advisor to the Czech military intelligence, the head of Czech military intelligence (Gen. Oldrich Burda), and the Czech CoGS, Gen. Otakar Rytir. At that time, most of the Czech strategic leadership was on vacation at a special resort at Orlik on the Vltava River. A special meeting of the Defense Council was held at the resort, at which time Minister Lomsky informed the Council that the operation had begun and then described the preparations that had been taken.
Over the next two years, the operation was run as a low-level program in which the procedures and plans that had been developed were tested and improved. The immediate objective was to get all the "bugs" worked out so that full-scale secure operations could be commenced quickly when the war expanded. the second shipment, which was even smaller than the first, came in the spring of 1962, and the third, Sejna believes, came in November or December 1962. The first large shipment of twenty to twenty-five captives occurred in 1963. This 1963 shipment was the first time the POWs were housed in the military counter-intelligence barracks, as will be subsequently described, rather than in the villas.
During this trial period it became clear to Sejna that Czechoslovakia was not the only Soviet surrogate staging area for the movement of POWs from North Vietnam to the Soviet Union. In the spring of 1962, Sejna attended a meeting of the Warsaw Pact military leaders, which would later be known as the Military Council of the Warsaw Pact, in Moscow where he learned that Vietnam War POWs were shipped from North Vietnam to North Korea, and thence directly to the Soviet Union. The Chief of Staff from North Korea was attending the meeting as an observer. During the discussion the North Korean general suggested to the Soviets that the experiments be performed on the American POWs while they were in North Korea and avoid having to fly them from North Korea to the Soviet Union. Soviet General A. I. Antonov, who was deputy chief of the Soviet General Staff, declined the invitation, saying that such a practice would constitute an unnecessary security risk. If the experiments were run in North Korea, he explained, the Chinese were likely to learn about the tests and this was unacceptable to the Soviets. This meeting took place shortly before General Antonov's death in June 1962. It indicates that the plan for moving American POWs through North Korea likely was worked out at the same time that the operation for moving POWs through Czechoslovakia was planned and that it started at about the same time as the Czech-Soviet operation began; that is, in 1961.
Sejna suspects that East Germany may also have been involved in using American POWs in chemical agent experiments, although he had no direct knowledge. The reasons for his suspicions are clear. He knew the East Germans were involved in interrogations of American POWs using experimental drugs. They also were heavily involved in the development of mind-control drugs and chemical warfare agents, which he knew because of data sharing agreements the Czechs had negotiated with the Germans. East German security was even better than Czech security, including that of German military medical facilities. Finally, The German Minister of Defense, General Hoffmann had discussed some of their experimental results with Sejna as early as 1964, indicating the Germans were involved well before 1964, and, when the Soviets presented drug experiment results, East German results were usually included.
The importance of drug development programs was also raised by the Soviets at the 192 spring meeting of the Warsaw Pact Political Conservative Commission (PCC). Alexei Kosygin, the Soviet President, gave a speech in which he emphasized the importance of new developments in drug technology and the possibility of testing these developments. He emphasized the need to increase funding in these projects and directed every country to take a careful look at their scientific capacities to identify additional scientists who could be put on the projects. He did not mention at this open meeting the of POWs as the way in which developments would be tested.
As their response, the Czechs conducted a thorough examination of their own drug efforts in preparation for the five-year plan which was being organized for approval in the fall of 1962. The Soviet guidance to them was quite specific. They were directed to expand their efforts. It was essential, the Soviets stressed, to be ready to exploit the supplies of American POWs that would accompany the growing war in Southeast Asia. There was no knowing how long the war would last. Hence, it was doubly important to make maximum use of the opportunity right from the start.
The Czechs examined the number and types of scientists and doctors who were available, how much money would be needed to expand their effort, what drugs were in development and the extent to which the development process could be accelerated, how long it would take to develop new drugs, and what possibilities were available to steal related technology through espionage. They then undertook a comprehensive assessment of what would be required to speed the process. In discussing the possibilities with Czech President Antonin Novotny, the head of the Academy of Sciences complained bitterly. The Czechs could not do much more, he said, because the Soviets themselves caused most of the delays. It took forever for the Czech scientists to obtain feedback from the Soviets on the effects the drugs had when tested on the POWs. Second, and even more serious, the Czech doctors and scientists did not have direct access to the POWs. All they received were the Soviet reports on the tests, and they considered those reports inadequate. They needed to be able to monitor the tests directly.
Novotny took these complaints and presented them in a letter to Khrushchev. The letter was prepared under Sejna's direction by his secretariat. The letter expressed the need to get results back quickly and allowed as how the Czechs would like to be more involved, but were constrained because they did not know the details of how the Soviets were using the POWs. We recognize, Novotny's letter continued, that Czechoslovakia is too small a country in which to do testing on the POWs, because they simply could not hide such work forever. However, for Czechoslovakia to do more, the Czech scientists and doctors would need better access to the testing of drugs on POWs.
The problem was the Soviet KGB penchant for secrecy. They did not want anyone to know where the POWs were being held. Following Novotny's letter, the process did improve, but the Czech doctors still were not allowed to go to the locations were the POWs were being held. Rather, the POWs were brought to the Czech doctors so that they could observe the effects of the drugs first hand. Another problem that delayed the program, but which was not raised by Novotny in his letter, was the Soviet expropriation of the Czech ideas, and Soviet deception in reporting test results, particularly when they did not want the Czechs to know which drugs, or combinations, were the most effective - perhaps because the Soviets intended the drugs for use against all potential opponents, including their own allies, a practice the Czechs would see pursued in the emerging Vietnam War.
Vietnam War: Transition From Pilot Program to Full Scale Operations
Preparations for expanding the war effort formally began toward the end of 1963 when the formal Soviet-North Vietnamese agreement for Warsaw Pact assistance was signed.
This Soviet-North Vietnamese agreement was presented to the Warsaw Pact officials who attended a meeting of the Warsaw Pact Political Consultative Committee in late 1963 or early 1964. Sejna was present at the meeting. The Soviet General Secretary, Nikita Khrushchev, personally attended the meeting and gave a talk during which he explained to the Committee officials that an agreement had been reached with North Vietnam. A top secret part of the agreement specified that all Warsaw Pact countries would negotiate separate bilateral agreements with North Vietnam.
Following this meeting, the Soviets individually instructed each of the Warsaw Pact countries as to what the nature of their assistance to, and agreement with, North Vietnam would be. The Soviet official in charge of coordinating these agreements was Leonid Brezhnev. In the case of Czechoslovakia, the formal notification came in the form of a letter from Khrushchev to Czechoslovakia's President, Antonin Novotny, as Sejna recalls, with the specific details contained in a separate lengthy communication to the Czech Ministry of Defense. In his letter, and in parallel discussions, Khrushchev stated that the American soldiers had been most useful in the past and that there were many new drugs and chemical and biological warfare agents under development that needed testing. It was in these communications that the Czechs were directed to negotiate arrangements with the North Vietnamese so that the medical experiments using American POWs could be continued.
The negotiations between Hanoi and Prague for Czech military assistance were completed in early 1964. The primary Czech official in the negotiations was Vladimir Koucky, who was the Czech Central Committee secretary in charge of foreign policy. While the negotiations on the surface were conducted by the North Vietnamese and Czech officials, behind the scenes the Soviet advisors in Hanoi and Prague directed the Czech negotiators.
The use of POWs was a special part of the agreement, which was negotiated by the Czech CoGS, General Rytir. It included provisions for using American POWs for "medical research" in North Vietnam and the field-tested plan for exporting selected POWs to the Soviet Union via Czechoslovakia for research and intelligence cooperation. The intelligence cooperation portion of the agreement referred to captured officers who could be persuaded to defect and to assist the Soviets in their analyses of U.S. military capabilities, technology, and war plans.
The agreement specified that the selection of POWs would be a joint Soviet-North Vietnamese effort. The North Vietnamese agreed to provide captured South Vietnamese as well as American soldiers for medical research in North Vietnam. This was done to enable the Soviet studies on ethnic differences and vulnerabilities unique to Asians to be continued. However, the agreement stipulated that experiments on South Vietnamese would be performed only in North Vietnam; that is, South Vietnamese POWs would not be exported to the Soviet Union through Czechoslovakia. (It became clear to Sejna from various reports that the Soviets did have an ample supply of South Vietnamese POWs that they used in experiments, and, thus, probably shipped them through another country en route to the Soviet Union.) The Czechs and Soviets agreed to provide medical equipment, experimental drugs, biological organisms and viruses, and, naturally, doctors and medical support personnel.
The conditions in North Vietnam were quite different from those in North Korea because the North Koreans were surrogates controlled by the Soviets while, in contrast, the North Vietnamese were determined to remain in control themselves and not become either Soviet or Chinese puppets. When the Czech-Soviet military assistance programs expanded in North Vietnam in 1964, numerous disagreements arose. Problems were encountered, largely because the Soviets pushed hard to expand their participation and exert controlling influences, while the North Vietnamese worked to block Soviet efforts to expand their presence. This was true in the POW medical research programs as well as in the more traditional types of military assistance. As an example of one problem in the medical research area, the North Vietnamese wanted final approval on the specific doctors who would participate, while the Soviets did not want the North Vietnamese to have any background data on the doctors that might reveal which ones were from military intelligence. As regards traditional military assistance, the Soviets and Czechs wanted to deploy "volunteer" officers, such as pilots, to the war effort so that they could gain combat experience. Additionally, where the Soviets provided military equipment, such as air defense missiles, they wanted to place technicians at those bases. The North Vietnamese strongly opposed these efforts. They wanted to limit the Soviet presence because they were secretly sharing Soviet technology with the Chinese. Also, they wanted the defeat of the Americans to be a clear North Vietnamese victory.
The principal problem in the medical experiment program, from the Soviet perspective, was one of forcing the Vietnamese to accept a scientific approach to the experiments. The Vietnamese did not have the medical or scientific understanding needed to run valid and useful tests. The Vietnamese were, in the Soviet eyes, simply too crude. They were more interested in extracting vengeance than in conducting scientific tests. Furthermore, the Vietnamese were inadequately trained in psychology. While they understood the psychology of Asians very well, they did not have a good knowledge of the psychology of Westerners. This knowledge was crucial to the tests because many of the experiments were designed to test the effect of experimental; drugs on the American psyche. Moreover, they did not understand the importance of stress and its relation to the testing process. That is, understanding the effects of drugs on soldiers under extreme stress - designed to simulate the stress levels expected in all-out nuclear war - was one of the Soviet objectives. This was one of the reasons behind the psychological and physiological stress experiments; namely, to enable testing the effects of experimental drugs on soldiers under extremely stressful conditions.
Another example was illustrated by a visit General Quong paid to Prague and Moscow in late 1964. Quong visited Prague and Moscow several times to deliver reports on the POW operations and to conduct planning sessions with the Soviets. On his visit in late 1964, he met with Minister Lomsky specifically to complain that the operation discriminated against the North Vietnamese. He believed more of the medical research should be done in North Vietnam and that the North Vietnamese should have the results of the research conducted in the Soviet Union. He also wanted to press for the opportunity to use POWs for strategic intelligence; that is, he wanted to hold POWs, turn them, and then return them as spies. The Russians opposed the idea because they would be unable to control the North Vietnamese operation, and, besides, they already had their own plan in operation, which was focused on recruiting American military personnel in South Vietnam and in Australia, where Americans often went for rest and recreation. They felt those were better places to recruit agents because the POW route was too obvious and too easy for the Americans to detect.
Regarding the Vietnamese interest in the experiments conducted by the Soviet Union, the Soviets were very careful not to let the North Vietnamese (or other allies) have access to much of their research, especially the research on mind-control drugs, which utilized POWs. The reason was simple: the Soviets planned to use the drugs against the North Vietnamese (and other allies) to help keep them under control. They also planned to use the confusion-producing drugs on the Chinese technicians who were in North Vietnam to steal Warsaw Pact technology that was on loan to the North Vietnamese.
To resolve the many problems, a second agreement was negotiated in 1965. These were difficult negotiations and required the personnel participation in Hanoi of several high-level Czech officials. Specifically, even Josef Lenart, the Czech Prime Minister, and General Vaclav Prchlik, the chief of the Main Political Administration, went to Hanoi to conduct the negotiations, with the sensitive intelligence aspects handled by General Prchlik.
The agreement that Lenart and Prchlik reached with the North Vietnamese dealt with many aspects of military assistance. Elaborations on the POW experiments were, as before, a secret part of this agreement negotiated by Prchlik. Under the "medical research" portion of the agreement, procedures for selecting the doctors were established. Additionally, the agreement stated that the experiments in North Vietnam would be run by the North Vietnamese doctors in their hospitals. Czech and Soviet doctors would participate by providing guidance (supervision) and all experimental data would be available to them for their use in monitoring the various tests.
Experiments on POWs in Laos and China
As soon as experiments on U.S. POWs had commenced in North Vietnam, negotiations were held with the Laotians to gain their participation as well. Sejna personally worked with General Sin Ka-po, who headed the communist forces, and General Kong-le, who headed the "neutralist" forces, on matters respecting the Czech operations in Laos. The Czech/Soviet agreement for the use of POWs for medical experiments was negotiated with General Sin Ka-po. Laos was generally more complicated than North Vietnam because of the government instabilities. Thus, most arrangements were run through the Party system than through the government. Again, military intelligence was in charge. Two liaison officers from Laos were stationed in Prague to handle coordination. Laotian security was very good, Sejna recalls. The Laotian approach to security was quite simple. If there was concern that someone was a security risk, that individual was killed.
In Laos, both Soviet and Czech doctors worked directly on patients. There were two "hospital" facilities where experiments were performed in Laos. The Czech doctors described the conditions at these facilities as "primitive." This was not bad, reasoned the Soviets, because combat was often conducted in primitive conditions and, thus, operating under such conditions was good experience.
Generally, there were Czech military doctors in Laos, five to seven in North Vietnam, and a larger number of Soviet doctors in both locations. The usual tour of duty for the Czech doctors was six months. All doctors who worked on this program first had to pass detailed special background investigations, involving both Czech and Soviet military counter-intelligence, before their participation was approved.
In addition to their use as medical guinea pigs, American POWs were also used for testing the effectiveness of "interrogation" drugs. Interrogations of captive GIs were conducted in Laos, North Vietnam and North Korea. Czech interrogations were run by military counter-intelligence, which was then under General Josef Stavinoha. The interrogations, like all other activities, were supervised and controlled by Soviet officers. Experimental drugs were use in interrogations. The East Germans were similarly involved. The East German Minster of Defense, General Heinz Hoffmann, once remarked to Sejna while the two were off on a fishing trip in 1964 that the new drugs tested on the Americans were "one thousand percent more effective than physical means of persuasion."
In addition to serving as guinea pigs for the Soviet medical intelligence program, the American GIs were also used by the Chinese. The Chinese had an experimental program as early as the Korean War. The North Koreans provided American POWs to the Chinese as well as to the Soviets. The Chinese and Soviets shared data on the various experiments and their results. The Soviets criticized the Chinese program as being too extreme. That is, the Soviet interest was more focused on the use of weapons of mass destruction. In contrast, the Soviet interest was more focused on the development of new drugs and their use to triumph over the enemy without a war.
Czech military intelligence was also aware of the continuation of the Chinese medical research using American POWs during the Vietnam War. Czech military intelligence had identified the movement of American POWs in Chinese trucks or buses headed toward the Chinese boarder. Additionally, a senior Czech military intelligence officer who was undercover in China as a military attache reported on a Chinese request to share information on continued medical test programs. The Chinese officials complained to the Czech "attache" that even if there were developing antagonisms between their two countries, some cooperative activities should continue, for example, he suggested, the joint research on American POWs. We are continuing the research, he said, and asked, why don't we continue to share the results of this research? There is no reason to keep your program secret. We know the American POWs are being sent to the Soviet Union for research. Information exchange on these research program would be of use to both out countries.
Movement of American POWs to Russia
To complement the experiments run in Laos and North Vietnam, each year during the Vietnam War scores of selected GIs - those who were the most healthy - were shipped back to the Soviet Union for use in more highly, sophisticated, and long-term experiments, again through Czechoslovakia ( and other countries such as North Korea and East Germany) to break the trail. Up until his defection in 1968, General Sejna was knowledgeable about the shipments and personally supervised portions of the operation. There were generally two or three shipments of POWs each year. always by air. While the airplanes were manned by the Soviet military, for security and deception purposes the planes always bore the insignia of some country other than the U.S.S.R.; for example, Bulgaria, or Rumania, or Hungary.
The flights used the secure Czech military airbase at Zatek, which was roughly forty kilometers from Prague. Special security measures were in effect when POWs were on the base. Military counter-intelligence took over base security, all unnecessary personnel were excluded from the base. Transportation to Prague was provided by the Ministry of Defense special transportation battalion. Special buses whose windows had been painted over were driven to the planes. The POWs were unloaded directly onto the bus(es). Once loaded, the bus(es) left the air base by a special entrance manned exclusively by specially cleared military counter-intelligence guards.
From the airbase, the POWs were driven directly to highly secret military counter-intelligence barracks at Pohorelc in Prague. Normally, twenty to twenty-five POWs constituted a "shipment"; although on one occasion, in the fall of 1966, there was a large shipment of about sixty POWs.
As a cover story, the POWs were referred to as students or foreign soldiers who were visiting Czechoslovakia for specialized training. The barracks areas, which was where foreign soldiers often stayed when in Czechoslovakia for training, was considered a very safe place to hide the POWs because they could be tightly secured yet their presence could be easily explained as just some foreign students temporarily in Czechoslovakia for training.
Often, a small portion of a shipment, say three or four POWs, would be separated from the main group and housed at the Defense Council secretariat villas on Rusveltova street and Korejska street. The military intelligence villa on Sluna street was also used when needed. Once, there was a special shipment of only two or three POWs who were also housed in these villas rather than the barracks and during the large shipment of 60 POWs in 1966, there were six or seven "special" POWs. These select POWs were usually ones who had decided to cooperate with the Soviets or who were sick and needed to be isolated. The cooperating GIs were selected from the POWs who were regarded as "progressive." In all cases, great care was exercised to isolate these people, not only from the main group, but from each other as well. In the case of the 1966 shipment, Sejna recalls the problem they had finding enough villas to house these special POWs and keep them separated.
From his position as first secretary at the MoD, Sejna was present several times when the vans unloaded the POWs at the military counter-intelligence barracks and personally visited the POWs there and at the various secret villas to ensure that the operation was going according to plan. While most of the POWs were American, there were exceptions. Sejna recalls that, prior to his departure, two Australians were processed along with the American POWs and sent to the Soviet Union.
As was the case following the Korean War, Czech doctors participated in the medical experiments using Vietnam Was POWs in the Soviet Union. The most important experiments were those dealing with the development of mind-control and behavior-modification drugs, the testing of biological warfare organisms, and tests of the effects of nuclear radiation. Mind-control drug experiments were designed to examine the effectiveness of a wide variety of drugs that would influence human behavior and mental capabilities. The effect of such drugs under different stress conditions were also examined, as previously noted. The Soviets also conducted tests to determine how the effects varied according to age, race, and intellectual background. In the latter case, they wanted to know if the drug effectiveness when given to officers was different from what it was when given to soldiers. One of the more important findings that Sejna recalls was that the drugs that were used to influence beliefs were found to be more effective when used on men with higher educational achievements. That is, it was easier to mold the minds of the intellectuals than the minds of the "primitive," to use the Soviet expression. Special substances (drugs and well as biological organisms) designed for use as assassination weapons were also tested. One of the objects of the tests were to develop substances that would result in the appearance of death from natural causes.
One of the highest priority biological warfare test programs was the testing of unique diseases for which there were no known cures and accompanying tests of experimental treatments. Efforts were also underway at that time to develop new strains of viruses that acted quickly and could disable groups of people within twenty-four hours of exposure. Off-site laboratory support for the various Soviet research projects, such as blood and tissue sample analysis, was provided by a variety of hospitals, including the Czech Central Military Hospital.
Experiments involving the physiological effects of electro-magnetic radiation - low frequency to microwaves - on the human specimens also were run during the Vietnam War era. In the late spring of 1967, the Soviets stressed the importance of this electro-magnetic research to the chief of the Science Administration of the Czech Ministry of Defense. The subject was so important that, upon his return, he gave a talk on the subject to a high-level group of Czech officials, which included some of the minister's Kollegium.
(It is interesting to recall that ten years later, U.S. news media began carrying reports that the Soviets had been deliberately bombarding the U.S. embassy in Moscow with low-level microwave radiation, and that this had been going on since the 1960s. What they did not report was that the U.S. had conducted research into the effect of low-power microwaves in the mid-1970s. This research was motivated by the Soviet radiation. The tests that were run on laboratory animals, including primates, showed that such radiation could be used to impair short-term memory, totally erase task-oriented training, and induce a wide variety of physical effects such as heart fibrillations and cellular disorders.)
One of the reports that Sejna recalls reading in late 1966 was based on the POW experiments. Its subject was "the effects and improvements in special destructive weapons for use in preparation for war (that is, during peacetime) and during war." This report covered the results achieved roughly between 1959 and 1966. One of the principal topics was the analysis of autopsy results. The focus was on the physical destruction of organs such as the heart, brain, nervous system, and so forth. The data base included two hundred to two hundred and fifty examples. How many cadavers this referred to Sejna could not recall. The effects of both chemical and biological agents on the destruction of organs were considered. and recommendations for further research were formulated. The principal recommendations were directed to the development of drugs and biological organisms that would destroy specific organs at a faster rate.
The most important findings were directed to the nervous system. There, the critical concern was to "gently degrade" an individual's ability to function, but not to destroy it. The idea was to sabotage an individual's ability, but not so much that the individual was taken out of his job, placed in a hospital, and the replaced by a new, fully-capable person. The report also discussed the problem of delivery of chemical warfare drugs. There were two different targets: individuals and groups, which roughly meant officers and soldiers. Those whose performance they wanted to degrade, but not so much that they were removed from their jobs, were the officers. The problem was how to separate the delivery of different agents. It was all right if drugs intended for officers were delivered to soldiers, but the reverse was to be avoided. What was especially curious in this analysis was the presence of experimental data that had been collected in operations run against U.S. military forces based in Germany and Okinawa.
The American POWs were also used by the Soviets for testing new narcotic drugs. As indicated earlier, one of the most important Soviet and East European strategic intelligence operations was international drug trafficking. Czechoslovakia was one of the lead Soviet surrogates in this operation, as described in detail in the book Red Cocaine: The Drugging of America (Clarion House, 1990). The development of better drugs was part of the Czech chemical warfare program, where by "better" was meant drugs that produced better and longer lasting highs, drugs that were cheaper and easier to produce, and drugs that were more rapidly addictive. The experimental drugs developed by Czechoslovakia were first tested on prisoners, and then covertly field tested on university students, particularly those in West Germany. They were also tested on American POWs in the Soviet Union, which Czech intelligence preferred because it was operationally much easier than the university student approach.
As an indication of size, in the late 1960s roughly fifteen Czech doctors and about eight scientists from the Czech Academy of Sciences were involved in POW research projects from the Soviet Union. The experiments that involved Czech doctors and scientists were carried out at roughly twenty different institutions in the Soviet Union. The medical experiments also involved a variety of East European doctors and scientists who, along with the Czechs and their Soviet counterparts, were formed into project teams. This was common practice for scientific research in priority areas. To better focus their efforts and to improve security, the Soviets built a special institute in the Moscow area where the scientists involved in drug, chemical, and biological warfare research could be concentrated. There was a special department at the institute for POW research.
Planning for Security In Anticipation of War Termination
There was yet another agreement with the north Vietnamese that was of special significance and that is particularly important in estimating what likely happened after Sejna left Czechoslovakia in 1968. In roughly 1967, the Soviets encouraged the North Vietnamese to open a second front; that is, a diplomatic front. At that time, the Soviets knew the war had to end sometime. They also recognized the political climate in the United States was growing opposed to the war. As part of their planning, the Soviets decided that if a cease fire were negotiated, all evidence of the experimental medical programs, and that included the POW subjects themselves, had to be either destroyed or removed to the Soviet Union. Most of all, they wanted to make certain that any evidence that showed either the Soviet or Czech involvement in medical experiments was removed to the Soviet Union; for example, medical records and equipment such as that associated with the testing of biological organisms and viruses.
Again, they encountered strong North Vietnamese resistance. The North Vietnamese were not concerned about ending the war. They saw the war as a mechanism for destroying American imperialism and, thus, wanted the war to continue. Tough negotiations were required to bring the North Vietnamese around to the Soviet view. The argument that won the North Vietnamese over was the problem of "stay-behind" agents. The United States could decide to end the war by pulling out at any time. When they did, the Soviets argued, there would be a large number of sty-behind agents that would be able to migrate to the North, and those agents might find out what had been happening. The North Vietnamese agreed and the Soviets and North Vietnamese signed an agreement to begin planning for the evacuation of records, equipment, and specimens that remained at the end of the war. When the war would end was a North Vietnamese decision. Hence, the plan was keyed to the North Vietnamese decision to terminate the war. Until then, the experiments and related activities would continue.
This is when the planning for the eventual termination of the experimental programs in North Vietnam began. It involved very few people, but all the critical agencies were represented; the Ministry of Defense, General Staff, Military Intelligence Administration, Air Force, Health Administration, Central Military Hospital, Administrative Organs Department, and military counter-intelligence. The Czechs were involved in these negotiations because the movements of material and people to the Soviet Union at the war's end was to be through Czechoslovakia.
As before, the critical aspect of the planning was security. All measures were employed to assure the secrecy of the operation. As originally stated by the Soviet Defense Council when the operation began in 1951, no one was ever to know about this operation. That was the guiding philosophy, from beginning to end, and that is why simply asking the Czech or Russian intelligence services, "Please search your files," goes well beyond naive.
Where Do We Go From Here?
The conclusion implicit in the above material is simple: There is a great deal of information available on what happened to missing American servicemen. That presented above appears to be extensive, which may be why it tends to frighten people, yet it is less than half of what I learned from Gen. Sejna, and my debriefings were only preliminary. The problem is how to track down information such as that contained in Sejna's mind and what to do with it and when.
At first glance, the heart of the problem would appear to be DIA/POW-MIA. As will be seen, however, DIA/POW-MIA is only part of the problem, the lowest ranking part.
On February 20, 1986, an interagency Task Force was formed to review operations of DIA's POW/MIA division. Their review revealed "Serious shortcomings in every important area: attitudes, management, procedure, organization, and leadership."
Unhealthy attitudes are evident in the deeply defensive mindset which promotes a rigid inflexibility toward criticism and an adversarial approach to those with strong dissenting views. There also tends to be a strong moralistic bias at work which manifests as a preoccupation with everybody's motives and unrealistic expectations with regard to source accuracy. This could also be termed the "Mindset to debunk." Additionally, an attitude of resignation toward outside events seems prevalent at all levels and contributes to a noticeable lack of persistence in problem-solving and initiative generation. Management, by and large, is preoccupied with minutia and preservation of the status quo and forward thinking is a rarity.
Five years later, on 12 February, 1991, Col. Millard A. Peck, Chief of DIA's Special Office fro POW-MIA resigned. In his letter of resignation, he explained his motivation for accepting the posting as head of an organization with a bad reputation: the political challenge inherent in the contentious POW/MIA arena, his own concern as a Vietnam War veteran, and what he saw as an opportunity to help clear the Government's good name. His plan was to be "totally honest and forthcoming on the entire issue and aggressively pursue innovative actions and concepts to clear up the live sighting business."
The buzz saw he quickly encountered shattered his faith in the system. Consider the following extracts from Peck's letter of resignation:
I became painfully aware... that I was not really in charge of my own office, but was merely a figurehead or whipping boy for a larger and totally Machiavellian group of players outside of DIA.
That National leaders continue to address the prisoner of war and missing in action issue as the "highest national priority" is a travesty. From my vantage point, I observed that the principal government players were interested primarily in conducting a "damage limitation exercise", and appeared to knowingly and deliberately generate an endless succession manufactured crises and "busy work".
The mindset to "debunk" is alive and well. It is held at all levels, and continues to pervade the POW-MIA Office, which is not necessarily the fault of DIA.
It appears that the entire issue is being manipulated by unscrupulous people in the Government, or associated with the Government. Some are using the issue for personal or political advantage and others use it as a forum to perform and feel important, or worse. The sad fact, however, is that this issue is being controlled and a cover-up may be in progress. The entire charade does not appear to be an honest effort, and may never have been.
The policy people manipulating the affair have maintained their distance and remained hidden in the shadows, while using the Office as a "toxic waste dump" to bury the whole "mess" out of sight and mind to a facility with the limited access to public scrutiny.
I have seen firsthand how ready and willing the policy people are to sacrifice or "abandon" anyone who might be perceived as a political liability. It is quick and facile, and can be easily covered.
I feel strongly that this issue is being manipulated and controlled at a higher level, not with the goal of resolving it, but more to obfuscate the question of live prisoners, and give the illusion of progress through hyperactivity.
From what I have witnessed, it appears that any soldier left in Vietnam, even inadvertently, was, in fact, abandoned years ago, and that the farce that is being played is nor more than political legerdemain done with "smoke and mirrors", to stall the issue until it does a natural death.
Without question, between 1986 and 1991, the situation did not improve, it only became worse. This is the same system I encountered in 1992. There is only one reason this situation is allowed to persist: The people in charge want it to persist.
One would like to think the situation today is different. Certainly, there are some conscientious people who are trying to learn what happened. But, they are a very small minority. Most of the effort seems to be wheel-spinning (at a cost of roughly $100 million per year) and designed with self-serving publicity in mind. The Joint Russia-US Task Force is exactly the type of travesty Peck spoke about, as are all the efforts to dig through the remains of crashed airplanes. As Peck explained, they keep people busy, out of harm's way, and through hyperactivity create the illusion of progress.
There still has been no effort by DIA to debrief Sejna on his complete knowledge of what happened to American POW/MIAs. Proposals to conduct such a debriefing have been spiked. It should be clear that once the "essential elements" of his knowledge surfaced, the only serious interest was to discredit Sejna and to avoid questioning him further, presumably out of fear of the unknown consequences.
Or, consider the DIA efforts to declassify POW/MIA information in response to President Clinton's order that all material be declassified by Veteran's Day 1993. Why is the DIA report on the use of American guinea pigs just now surface in 1996? Why did the DIA not release the material in a press conference and distribute with it all other related material they say they reviewed in their "intensive and extensive" investigation? Even the just-released report is incomplete. The report states that "More detailed information... is listed in the enclosure below." But, no "enclosure below" was released along with the report and its covering memorandum, a good example of DIA arrogance and contempt for the American people.
Probably the best guidance on where to go from here is contained in Peck's honest and revealing letter of resignation. Those who are sincerely interested in solving the POW/MIA problem might well begin by reading over and over Peck's insightful letter and contemplate the possible consequences of each sentence. His letter is reproduced in full in An Examination of US Policy Toward POW/MIAs by the United States Senate Committee on Foreign Relations, Republican Staff, May 23, 1991.
The most important conclusion that jumps out of Peck's letter is that the approach that has been taken by most of the public POW/MIA organizations is wrong and has almost no prospects for success. The approach taken is mainly one of trying to exert pressure on the government, on Congress, and on various government officials to do a better job. But, the clear message in Peck's memo is that the government's POW/MIA search efforts have failed because they were designed to fail. The whole process is a scam and that is exactly what the government officials and bureaucrats want. All the public POW/MIA organization efforts to lobby the government to do better are not only a waste of time and energy, they are counterproductive.
The most effective action the public POW/MIA organizations could take is, first, to lobby Congress to stop funding these efforts, put the various agencies such as the one in DIA out of business and simply box up all the files and ship them to the archives.
It is essential to accept the truth as honest;y presented by Col. Millard Peck. The government, government officials, former government officials, and those associated with government ARE THE ENEMY. Until that is thoroughly understood, there is little hope for progress because all the contacts, requests, etc. only present those in government with information that enables them to better sabotage information and feign progress.
Several years ago I had the privilege of addressing a meeting sponsored by one of the public POW/MIA organizations. The head of the DIA Task Force, Maj. Gen. Bernard Loeffke, was another of the speakers. He explained the joint efforts with Russian counterparts to tack down information in Russia. I was well aware of prior testimony by Al Graham describing the Russian efforts to silence witnesses and destroy evidence. As Gen. Loeffke and I were walking off the stage, I said to him, "Tell me General, why would anyone with information of value give it to your task force?" His answer was short and frank. "I wouldn't." he quietly replied.
The best approach for all the public POW/MIA organizations is to assume all national security government officials, associates, and former officials are the enemy or potential enemy collaborators and tell them nothing and ask them for nothing. Do not seek their assistance because that will only tell them what you are up to.
It is essential to recognize the pressures against learning what happened and against finding any live POWs. The reputations of many high-level officials, from the President on down, are at risk. Business arrangements are at risk. Hundreds of officials in a wide variety of countries suddenly become guilty of war crimes. The worst possible publicity about the communist and socialist regimes our government and "responsible" international institutions have been lending money and catering to will suddenly surface, much to the dismay of all the involved officials. As the saying goes, it does not take a rocket scientist to understand these pressures and their negative impact on efforts to learn what happened. Moreover, I would like to add with serious deliberation, there are some even stronger reasons that are tied to very sensitive intelligence capabilities and linkages.
Thus, rather than pressure the government to do more, which only induces confusing hyperactivity, as Peck explains, the better approach is to put the government out of the POW/MIA search business and initiate a private covert intelligence action to dig up information. Enlist the help of former servicemen with foreign language capabilities - GIs, not officers - and secretaries and file clerks. Develop this network and send them exploring all the relevant countries and US agencies that have information. There is already an excellent model for what needs to be done, and that is the effort mounted by a few dedicated jews to track down all Nazis involved, however small a way, in the Holocaust. To the extent people want to learn what happened to missing American servicemen, this is the approach to take.
It is also clear in Peck's letter than one has to be alert to penetrations and turncoats. His concern over the motivations of the director of one of the leading national POW/MIA organizations should be considered with the same care and due diligence worthy of everything else he says. Compromise, both internal and external, is one of the principal stumbling blocks that those involved in the search will encounter.
The hardest task for anyone interested in solving the POW/MIA problem is coming to terms with the above, which is why I Say, read and re-read Peck's letter many times. It is a rare example of honesty and frankness. It deserves everyone's attention. The conclusions may not be pleasant, but they are there and they are unmistakable. What more is there to say?
Reprinted with permission ©1996 Josepgh D. Douglass