U.S. - Russia Joint Commission on POW/MIAs Joint Commission Support Directorate (JCSD)

Third Meeting of Principals, U.S.-Russia Joint Commission on POW/MIAs
Washington, D.C., 23-27 April 2001

The U.S.-Russia Joint Commission on POW/MIAs held its Third Meeting of Principals, 23-27 April 2001, in Washington, D.C. General Vladimir Zolotarev, the Commission's Russian Co-Chairman, led the Russian delegation and was accompanied on the visit by the four Russian working group Co-Chairmen and other representatives. The meetings focused on the Commission's four working groups and afforded each an opportunity to develop a unique itinerary designed to advance the specific objectives of the group. During the week prior to their arrival in Washington, a number of the Russian commissioners spent several days in Las Vegas, NV, as guests of the F-86 Sabre Pilots Association. This report covers the various meetings and briefings during the 11-day visit.

Co-Chairmen's Meeting

General Roland Lajoie and General Vladimir Zolotarev, Co-Chairmen of the U.S.-Russia Joint Commission on POW/MIAs, met on Monday, 23 April, 2001 within the framework of the Commission's Third Meeting of Principals.

General Lajoie began the session by inquiring about the results of the meetings held the previous week in Las Vegas, NV, between Russian Commission members and U.S. Korean-War veterans belonging to the F-86 Sabre Pilots Association. General Zolotarev noted that a positive rapport had been established and that the Russians looked forward to following up on the meetings with requests for specific information on certain of their loss incidents. General Lajoie reiterated that the Commission's US membership stood ready to facilitate Russian access to any information that may be available with respect to Soviet losses during the Korean War.

Discussion then turned to the recent expulsion order and its impact on the operations of the Commission's Moscow Office. General Lajoie invited General Zolotarev to provide his assessment of what the order meant for Commission operations in Moscow. General Zolotarev commented that he had been caught unawares by the order. He gave assurances that he would raise the issue with the Russian leadership upon his return to Moscow. General Lajoie underscored the importance of the Commission's work in Moscow and asked General Zolotarev to convey to the Russian leadership the value the U.S. places in the work of the Commission.

The U.S. Co-Chairman proceeded to discuss the issue of archival access ,and research by Commission researchers in the Russian Federation. In particular, he noted the centrality of written records to resolving a ,number of issues relevant to losses from the Cold War and the wars in Korea and Vietnam. Within this context, General Lajoie expressed his satisfaction with current arrangements that allow two U.S. staff researchers eight days of access each month to the Central Archives at Podolsk. Documents obtained through this effort, he pointed out, have led to the clarification of some 150 incidents involving unaccounted-for U.S. aviators from the Korean War.

General Lajoie stated that he was less satisfied with respect to improving access to other archival materials of interest to the U.S. side. Of particular importance in this regard, he noted, was the status ,of earlier agreements that Vietnam-era documents at the Podolsk Archives ,would be made available for review. Further, he requested that the ,Russian side respond to requests for specific archival holdings made during the Commission's 17th Plenum in November 2000.

General Zolotarev responded that the recent arrival of Colonel Vladimir Ovchinnikov as the General Staff officer responsible for the archival service marked a change for the better. Colonel Golumbovsky, General Zolotarev's deputy, observed that the archival review is proceeding as efficiently as possible given the fact that it is an additional duty levied upon the Russian Armed Forces, whose resources are already strained. General Lajoie expressed understanding but, nonetheless, urged General Zolotarev to accelerate the process of acquiring archival documents for the Commission's work.

The two Chairmen noted that planning for the summer 2001 recovery of the WWII U.S. Navy bomber which crashed on Kamchatka is well underway and pledged to ensure the mission is a success.

The bilateral report on the last five years of the Commission's work was briefly discussed. Several ideas on how formally to convey the completed report to the two presidents were raised. Continued communication on this point was pledged.

After each side reaffirmed its commitment to the goals and objectives of the Commission, the meeting was adjourned.

Vietnam War Working Group

U.S. side:

* Senator Bob Smith, U.S. Co-Chairman of the VWWG
* Mr. Russ Thomasson, Legislative Assistant to Senator Smith
* Mr. Roger Schumacher, Senior Analyst, VWWG
* Mr. Mike Gunshinan, Analyst, VWWG
* Major Woodman Page, Analyst, VWWG
* MSgt Jeffrey Farnquist, Analyst, VWWG
* TSgt Thomas Shipp, Analyst, VWWG

Russian Side: (Four of the eleven delegates from the Russian side of the Joint Commission participated in various activities of the VWWG during this week.)

* General-Major Nikolay Bezborodov, Russian Co-Chairman of the VWWG
* Colonel Valeriy Filippov of the Russian General Staff Military Memorial Center
* Colonel Vladimir Ovchinnikov, Chief of Archival Services of the General Staff, Ministry of Defense of the Russian Federation
* Colonel Sergey Ilyenkov, Chief of Research, Central Archives of the Ministry of Defense (Podolsk), Russian Federation

The U.S. Chairman of the Vietnam War Working Group (VWWG) had severalgeneral objectives for this visit:

* to hold substantive discussions on current issues before the Vietnam War Working Group;
* to impress upon the Russians the serious intent of the U.S. Government in its effort to provide the fullest possible accounting for missing personnel and the wide-spread support for this work among the public and high-level government officials;
* to develop a personal and working rapport with Russian counterparts, all of whom are new to the working group.

The itinerary for the Russians was crafted to maximize the chance that the American side would accomplish all three of the above general objectives.

Senator Smith and General Bezborodov met in two sessions to discuss issues of substance before the Vietnam War Working Group. During the discussions, Senator Smith asked General Bezborodov to try to reverse the decision of the Russian Government that resulted in an order to expel American analyst-researchers who work in Moscow for the Joint Commission. Bezborodov responded that he would do what he could to enable these American personnel to remain on duty in Russia for the Joint Commission.

The two Co-Chairmen engaged in a detailed discussion on VWWG access to information contained in the Central Archives of the Russian Ministry of Defense at Podolsk. The Russian side handed over a summary of information it had uncovered in the Podolsk archives pertaining to 142 purported incidents of American loss (i.e., aircraft shoot down events) in Southeast Asia during the Vietnam War. The Russian side said that this data was extracted from classified documents originally held in the archives of the Soviet Air Defense Forces (PVO). The data contains the dates, locations, types of aircraft and some crew information.

The American side will analyze this information to determine how it contributes to our knowledge about unaccounted-for U.S. servicemen from loss incidents in Southeast Asia. The Russian side proclaimed its willingness to respond quickly to American requests for amplifying data on incidents it judges to be of particular interest. The Russian side also indicated that the work in the Podolsk archives to locate POW/MIA-related information will continue until all Vietnam War-era files have been closely studied.

Senator Smith pressed the Russian side for a search of Russian Military Intelligence (GRU) archives for shoot down and POW interrogation reports. General Bezborodov responded that he considers it the obligation of the Russian side to establish whether such reporting exists in Russian archives. He pledged to seek the help of the Russian General Staff, the Federal Security Service (FSB, formerly known as the KGB), and other Russian agencies to locate and share such reporting.

General Bezborodov expressed his understanding that the American side has submitted numerous requests for assistance from the Russian side that have been rebuffed or have gone unanswered. He said that, "if the American side is not already too tired from this process," it should submit a "fresh" correspondence consolidating all its past requests for information on all topics. Bezborodov promised that, as a Deputy in the Russian State Duma, he will use his influence to seek responses to these requests from the appropriate Russian Government agencies. Senator Smith agreed to submit a new request, and he further pledged American help to the Russian side in trying to clarify the circumstances of Soviet and Russian losses, as well.

General Bezborodov expressed his conviction that the Russian side must facilitate greater access for the American side to Russian archives and to Russian citizens who served in any capacity during the war. Senator Smith responded that the American side has full confidence in the good faith of General Bezborodov and his staff, and we look forward to greater cooperation than has been the case in the past in this working group.

In an effort to demonstrate the commitment of the United States Government to accounting for its missing personnel, a number of activities were arranged for the Russian members of the VWWG. The Russians received detailed briefings on the work of the Central Identification Laboratory-Hawaii, the Department of Defense DNA Registry and Laboratory (this included a tour of the facility in Rockville, Maryland), the Joint Task Force-Full Accounting, and the Department of Defense Prisoner of War/Missing Personnel Office. They received a tour and briefing at the College Park, Maryland, facility of the National Archives and Records Administration, which included a meeting with the Archivist of the United States, Mr. John W. Carlin. The Russians visited the national monuments that memorialize American sacrifices in military conflicts - the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, the Vietnam War Memorial, and the Korean War Memorial. The Russians attended the memorial service at Ft. Myer, Virginia, honoring the sacrifice of seven Americans and nine Vietnamese who died in a helicopter crash in Vietnam on April 7, 2001, while working on America's POW/MIA accounting mission in Southeast Asia.

Strong support for America's accounting mission and the work of the U.S.-Russia Joint Commission was demonstrated to the Russian visitors by a series of meetings with high-level administration officials, Members of Congress, and the leadership of non-government organizations representing veterans and the families of missing American service members.

The Russian side met with Deputy Secretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz and Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage who both urged continued Russian support for the work of the Joint Commission and emphasized its importance in U.S.-Russia relations. Senator John Warner (R-VA) and Senator Richard Lugar (R-IN) echoed these sentiments in separate meetings with General Bezborodov. The Russians also attended a luncheon hosted by the National League of Families of American Prisoners of War and Missing in Southeast Asia and an evening reception hosted by General Lajoie. The exposure of the Russian side to these officials-government and leaders of private family and veterans' organizations-demonstrated the strong support for the Joint Commission's work.

The American side of the Vietnam War Working Group is heartened by the increased level of cooperation from the Russian side. We are particularly gratified that, after a lengthy "dry spell" during which Russian archival documents pertaining to the Vietnam War have not been shared, valuable materials have been conveyed to the American side from a significant Russian archive. We commend General Bezborodov and his staff for this important development, representing as it does a considerable amount of effort put forth by the Russian side in locating and conveying shoot down information from the period of the Vietnam conflict.

Korean War Working Group

U.S. side:

* Congressman Sam Johnson, U.S. Co-Chairman, KWWG
* Congressman Sam Johnson, U.S. Co-Chairman, KWWG
* Mr. Norman Kass, Executive Secretary, USRJC
* Lieutenant Colonel Maria Constantine, Senior Analyst, JCSD
* Major Tim Falkowski, Senior Analyst, KWWG
* Sergeant First Class Joya Gooden, Analyst, KWWG
* Sergeant First Class Michael Lunini, Analyst, KWWG

Russian Side:

* General-Major Vladimir Zolotarev, Russian Co-Chairman, USRJC
* General-Colonel Vladimir Korochkin, Chairman of the United Union of Veterans of War and Military Service of the Air Forces of Russia, and MiG-15 Pilot
* Colonel Konstantin Golumbovsky, Russian Deputy Chairman, USRJC
* Colonel Aleksandr Orlov, Russian Co-Chairman, KWWG

From 17 April until 25 April 2001, the Korean War Working Group (KWWG) hosted meetings with their Russian counterparts of the U.S.-Russia Joint Commission on POW/MIAs both at the F-86 Sabre Pilots reunion in Las Vegas and in the DPMO offices in Washington D.C. During the 17th USRJC Plenum in November 2000, Russian KWWG Co-Chairman, Colonel Aleksandr Orlov, presented the U.S. side a list of 23 Soviet MiG-15 pilots unaccounted for from the Korean War. The list included the names of the pilots and the dates on which they are presumed to have perished in combat. Colonel Orlov requested that the U.S. side identify the American pilots who shot down aircraft on those dates and who, therefore, might be able to provide the Russian side information about the missing Soviet pilots.

To explore this matter in detail, the F-86 Sabre veterans graciously invited a number of Russian commissioners to their reunion in Las Vegas from 17-20 April. The Russian delegation consisted of General Zolotarev, General-Colonel Korochkin, a Soviet veteran pilot and ace from the Korean War, Colonel Golumbovsky and Colonel Orlov. Over three days of briefings and discussions, the Russian guests had a chance to gather first-hand information that may be helpful in resolving their loss incidents.

The visit to Las Vegas included a tour of Nellis AFB including a visit to the 547th Intelligence Squadron Threat Training Facility where various Soviet and Russian weapons were on display. Of special interest to Colonel Orlov and General Korochkin were the fighter aircraft such as the MiG-21, MiG-23 and of course, the MiG-15. While at Nellis AFB, the USRJC representatives made an office call to the Commander of the 57th Air Wing, Brigadier General David Moody. General Zolotarev presented a letter to General Moody from the former Russian Air Force Chief of Staff, General Deneykin. General Moody remarked that while he served as a fighter pilot in West Germany, General Korochkin was in command of all Soviet Air Forces in East Germany. BG Moody was pleased to meet his old adversary and greet him now as a friend.

Later, the USRJC representatives visited the Red Flag facility, where an F-16 instructor-pilot provided a briefing on the overall training mission of the Red Aggressor Squadron. The tour finished with a trip to the flight line where General Korochkin was allowed to sit in an operational F-16 fighter. The goodwill that Nellis AFB personnel showed to our Russian guests demonstrated their support for the work of the USRJC in accounting for our missing-in-action and will undoubtedly be a positive factor in promoting U.S. research efforts in the Russian Federation.

On 19 April, the Russians met with the Sabre pilots for informal day-long discussions with such famous U.S. Korean War Aces as Colonels Hal Fischer, Walker Mahurin, Ralph Parr, and Hoot Gibson. Information from U.S. aviators was able to clarify the fates of two of the missing Soviet MiG-15 pilots on the Russian list. First, Colonel Parr recalled that, on 7 June 1953, at the close of the Korean War, he shot down a MiG-15 and watched as it crashed to the ground, exploding in a ball of fire. The Russian pilot, identified as Captain Stepan Dorekhov, never made it out of the cockpit, as then-Captain Parr never saw a parachute. Next, Colonel Mahurin recounted events of 6 January 1952, when he witnessed the shoot down of Captain Vasiliy Stepanov by a fellow Sabre pilot. During a fierce air battle, Stepanov’s MiG-15 was hit with cannon fire, fell to the ground and exploded. Colonel Mahurin never saw the Soviet pilot eject from the cockpit. The gathering of veterans also provided a chance for General Zolotarev to speak with many of the Sabre pilots and share his perspectives on the Commission's efforts to account for missing aviators from the Korean War. This generated considerable interest, with many of the Sabre pilots asking him to provide the titles of Korean-war books written by Soviet aviators.

The rapport developed between the Russian guests and the Korean War Veterans extended beyond formal gatherings. For example, Colonel Fischer, Korean War Ace and former POW, invited the Russians to his house for an old-fashion American barbecue. Discussion topics during the evening ranged from aerial dog-fighting tactics to the many experiences shared by Russian and American pilots. The party was a great success and contributed to the camaraderie between the Russian guests and our Korean War veterans.

A pamphlet describing the work of the USRJC's Korean War Working Group was prepared for the meetings in Las Vegas. It included a letter of greeting from the KWWG's U.S. Co-Chairman, Congressman Sam Johnson (R-TX), biographies of the Russian guests, and a brief description of the work of the KWWG. (A copy of this pamphlet is posted on the DPMO web site.) The success of the trip was evident in the fact that many of the Sabre pilots asked the Russians to autograph their copies of the pamphlet as a memento of their visit.

The Russian guests arrived in Washington D.C. on Sunday the 22nd of April. On Monday morning, DPMO analysts met with the Russians to discuss POW camps in North Korea and possible transport of U.S. POWs to the Soviet Union. During the meeting General Korochkin commented that an F-86 aircraft was sent to Moscow for technical exploitation but that he knew of no pilots or other POWs who were transferred to the former Soviet Union. Although he generally only prepared questions for North Korean interrogators, Colonel Orlov mentioned that he personally interrogated LTC Vance Black at the Pak’s Palace POW camp in North Korea and had further contact with another U.N. pilot whose name he was unable to provide. Colonel Orlov also furnished detailed information on anti-aircraft artillery emplacement sites throughout China and North Korea. DPMO analysts were pleased with the success of the interview, which provided additional information on Soviet contact with U.S. POWs during the Korean War.

Monday afternoon our Russian guests visited Arlington Cemetery. After paying their respects at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, they watched a U.S. Army wreath-laying ceremony. This was followed by a visit to the Russian Embassy in Washington where we discussed the USRJC's work with the Russian Air Attaché. The Russian guests were then given a personal tour of the Pentagon.

After a brief tour of the U.S. Capitol building on Tuesday morning, Congressman Sam Johnson hosted the Russians for a working lunch on Capitol Hill. This provided an excellent forum to discuss the overall work of the Commission. All parties reaffirmed the Commission's positive role and pledged their continued support to clarify the fate of missing servicemen from both countries. General Zolotarev and his colleagues were given a tour of the Vietnam and Korean War memorials. Tuesday closed with an evening reception at which representatives of family groups and veterans' service organizations had a chance to meet and exchange information with U.S. and Russian Commission members and staff.

Wednesday morning General Lajoie escorted the Russian guests to the memorial ceremony at the Fort Myer Chapel for the seven American servicemen and nine Vietnamese who perished in Vietnam while on a joint mission to locate missing U.S. service members. General Zolotarev expressed his sorrow for the loss of life, adding that these men were truly heroes. After the ceremony, the Russian guests were escorted to National Airport for their flight home.

Cold War Working Group

The Cold War Working Group (CWWG) met on 24-25 April 2001 at the office of Mr. Denis Clift, President of the Joint Military Intelligence College, Defense Intelligence Agency, Washington, D.C. In attendance were:

U.S. side:

* Mr. A. Denis Clift, U.S. Co-Chairman of the CWWG
* Dr. James Connell, Chief, JCSD-Moscow
* Ms. Carol Dockham, Senior Analyst, CWWG, JCSD

Russian Side:

* Colonel Vladimir Vinogradov, Federal Security Service of the Russian Federation, Russian Co-Chairman of the CWWG
* Rear Admiral (retired) Boris Novyy, Russian Naval Forces, expert researcher

First Cold War Working Group Session, Tuesday, 24 April 2001:

Mr. Clift welcomed the visitors and made opening remarks about the CWWG’s progress since the 17th Plenum in November 2000. He emphasized the importance of our work to family members of missing servicemen. He stated that these meetings would allow the CWWG to review the current status of research and to plan its next steps. He then turned the floor over to Colonel Vinogradov.

Colonel Vinogradov said the search for witnesses should take priority over archival research at this stage because witnesses were getting old and memories were fading. The work of RADM Novyy is particularly useful to the CWWG, he believed, because he is able to cross-reference information from the archives with information from witnesses. Witnesses might provide important information that is not in the archives.

At this point, RADM Novyy was called upon to present reports on current research into two U.S. Cold War cases, the 1 July 1960 shoot-down of a U.S. Air Force RB-47 over the Barents Sea, and the 8 April 1950 shoot-down of a U.S. Navy PB4Y2 over the Baltic.

Concerning the 1 July 1960 shoot-down, RADM Novyy said he had identified and spoken to a Soviet-era officer whom he had been seeking for several months. He was Major M.A. Ponomarev, chief of the General Department of the Northern Fleet Staff in 1960. Ponomarev met the ship that was carrying the body of Major Eugene Posa, a crewmember from the RB-47, at a dock in Severomorsk. Ponomarev and his work party had just off-loaded the body onto their truck when, quite unexpectedly, another vehicle, a "Black Maria," drove up, and the driver demanded that the body be reloaded onto it. The driver told Ponomarev that the body was to be taken to Moscow. Ponomarev figured this was the KGB, so he did not argue. RADM Novyy said he is currently trying to determine the identity of the driver of the "Black Maria" so he can find out whether the body was in fact taken to Moscow. RADM Novyy emphasized that this was only one of several leads that are being pursued; the possibility that the body remained in the Severomorsk area and was buried there is still being investigated.

RADM Novyy then described his work on the 8 April 1950 shoot-down. He had spoken with several retired Soviet servicemen who had participated in the massive, two-month search operation mounted by the Soviets in the Baltic after the shoot-down. RADM Novyy plans to seek and interview additional personnel from the 75th Emergency Rescue Detachment and the torpedo boats that were involved in the search. He also suggested searching for documents from the 8th Border Guards Detachment at the Border Guards Archives; the purpose here would be to identify former Border Guards personnel who might have additional information about the search operation.

Meeting with Family Members on Wednesday, 25 April 2001:

On Wednesday morning, 25 April 2001, the CWWG welcomed Mrs. Charlotte Mitnik and Mr. Greg Skavinski, who represent crewmembers from the 13 June 1952 shoot-down of a U.S. Air Force RB-29 over the Sea of Japan. The two family members asked the CWWG questions about its investigation of this case.

Colonel Vinogradov spoke briefly about the methodology used by the CWWG to investigate the fates of crewmembers from this and other U.S. aircraft that were shot down over or near Soviet territory during the Cold War era. Mr. Clift told the family members that the CWWG proceeded on the assumption that we had still not accounted for the fates of American aircrews that had been shot down and that more work needed to be done. We had agreed with the Russian side to take steps to resolve the fates of these men. We had help from RADM Novyy, who was going through the Central Naval Archives to look for new information. As an additional step, the CWWG planned to expand research in the Federal Border Guards Archives. Although progress is slow, the CWWG is moving forward, Mr. Clift said.

Second Cold War Working Group Session, Wednesday, 25 April 2001:

Following the meeting with the family members, the CWWG held its second formal session. Dr. Connell spoke about plans by the CWWG to expand access at the Federal Border Guards Archives.

U.S. representatives of the Joint Commission had first visited the Border Guards Archives at Pushkino, a suburb of Moscow, in 1992, Dr. Connell explained. Documents from these Archives had been the key to the discovery of the body of Captain John Dunham, who was a crewmember on the U.S. Air Force RB-29 that was shot down on 7 October 1952. The U.S. side had long felt that since most of the Cold War incidents the Commission investigates took place over water, the maritime Border Guards must have taken part in search operations for at least some of those incidents. The 29 July 1953 incident was a good example: A Soviet map of the search area indicated the presence of a Border Guards patrol boat during the search operation.

Dr. Connell told how RADM Novyy and Captain Abrosimov, another Russian naval officer who has assisted the Commission, had met with Colonel Sukhov at the Federal Border Guards Archives the previous week (19 April). Colonel Sukhov warned RADM Novyy and Captain Abrosimov that some of the documents in the Archives were still classified. A second, more detailed meeting between RADM Novyy and Colonel Sukhov would be scheduled after the May holidays in Russia to continue discussions about future work.

Mr. Clift thanked Dr. Connell for the information on the preliminary meeting with Colonel Sukhov and stressed the importance of this research. He said he was willing to meet with Border Guards officials before the next Plenum to thank them for work that had already been done. With respect to the classified character of the documents, he would be willing to cite to Border Guards officials the precedent of how the Joint Commission had dealt with this issue previously: In searching for information on Soviet MIAs from Afghanistan to the Russian side, the U.S. side had reviewed CIA, Defense Department and State Department reports, extracted the necessary humanitarian information, and provided it to the Russian side. The Russian side had used this information to clarify and resolve fates of some of their MIAs.

Colonel Vinogradov agreed that this was a useful precedent. He added that in the future, it would be best if the U.S. side not make explicit requests for specific documents that are still likely to be classified; rather, it should make specific requests for any information relating to a Cold War loss. Information pertaining to American POW/MIAs could be extracted from classified documents and given to the U.S. side.

With agreement reached on research at the Federal Border Guards Archives, Mr. Clift thanked everyone, and said that a good foundation had been laid for future work. The CWWG adjourned.

CWWG visit to U.S. Naval Historical Center, Washington, D.C., 26 April 2001

On Thursday, 26 April 2001, the CWWG visited the Naval Historical Center at the Navy Yard in Washington, D.C. Dr. Gary Weir, Chief of the Contemporary History Office, and Ms. Kathleen Lloyd, Chief Archivist, welcomed the visitors. Documents on four incidents involving Soviet losses during the Cold War were provided to the Russian side. Ms. Dockham explained that the Naval Historical Center was one possible source of information on Soviet losses; the U.S. side was prepared to conduct additional research at the Center and other facilities and provide information that would assist the Russian side in resolving its losses from the Cold War and other eras.

WWII Working Group (WWII WG)

U.S. side:

* Dr. Timothy Nenninger, U.S. Co-Chairman of the WWII WG
* Mr. Albert Graham, Senior analyst, WWII WG
* Lieutenant Colonel MariaConstantine, Senior Analyst, JCSD
* SMSgt Bernard Brown, Administrative NCO, JCSD

Russian Side:

* Colonel Nikolay Nikiforov, Russian Co-Chairman of the WWII WG
* Colonel Vladimir Ovchinnikov, Chief, Archival Service of the General Staff, Ministry of Defense of the Russian Federation
* Colonel Sergey Ilyenkov, Chief of Research, Central Archives of the Ministry of Defense (Podolsk), Russian Federation

On Tuesday morning, April 24 the Russian Co-Chairman of the WWII WG, Colonel Nikolay Ivanovich Nikiforov, attended the general briefing on the work of DPMO , CILHI and JTF-FA. In the afternoon, he was escorted to the National Archives (NARA) in College Park, where he met with his recently appointed American counterpart, Dr. Timothy Nenninger. As an opening gesture of American cooperation, Dr. Nenninger presented Colonel Nikiforov nine reels of microfilm records and finding aids from NARA dealing with Russian soldiers captured by the Germans during World War II.

During subsequent discussions of the WWII WG Co-Chairmen, Dr. Nenninger raised several on-going WWII issues. Chief among them was the full-scale excavation operation to recover the U.S. PV-1 Ventura on Kamchatka. The operation is scheduled to begin on or about July 21, 2001. Colonel Nikiforov commented that there is much to be done and that Russia stands ready to support this mission.

Dr. Nenninger apprised his Russian counterpart of the details surrounding WWII B-24 pilot, 2nd Lt. Richard S. Brevik, whose plane was shot down on June 16, 1945 off the coast of Paramushiro in the Kurile Islands. According to a survivor of this crash, Brevik died the following day in a life raft they shared, was picked up 3 days later by the Japanese, and his remains allegedly were buried somewhere near the former Kataoka Japanese Naval Base on Shimushu Island in the Kurile Islands. Colonel Nikiforov promised to look into this matter and to check with the Russian authorities in the Kurile Islands.

Dr. Nenninger raised once again the issue of the Kogan ring, which had been discussed at previous plenums. Colonel Nikiforov said that his research indicated that the Soviet 96th Guard Bomber Regiment was located near Poznan, Poland in April 1945 and did not reach Finow, Germany until 18 August 1945, so the mechanic from that unit could not have buried the remains of an American pilot at that time. Dr. Nenninger added that he examined over 200 missing aircrew reports and found only one that matches the description of this loss. He also pledged to research this issue more thoroughly and present his findings to the Russian side.

A detailed discussion was held on a list of 39 U.S. POWs who were under Soviet control at the end of WWII and subsequently were unaccounted for. Colonel Nikiforov stated that the Russian Side is continuing to work on this issue. He related that, prior to leaving for the States, he met with Mr. Korotayev, the Deputy Director of the Center for the Storage and Preservation of Historical Document Collections and they both reviewed the list again. The Russian Co-Chairman of the WWII Working Group indicated that he met with the Director of the FSB [former KGB] archives concerning the card file in their holdings of PFC Rudolf Frisch, one of the 39 U.S. POWs from the list. Colonel Nikiforov said the Director promised to look into the matter again in a more careful and detailed manner. He said he hopes to obtain more information in a month or two. The Russian Co-Chairman promised to expand the search for the Americans mentioned on the list of 39 in the near future and, in this regard, noted that he asked Mr. Korotayev to look through the documentary records of the Soviet Convoy Troops. According to the Russian Co-Chairman, however, this archive is understaffed, and should the research request be approved, it may mean that either Korotayev’s staff or personnel from the Institute of Military History will do the research.

Colonel Nikiforov requested and received permission from the U.S. side to send the "list of 39" to Viktor Konosov in Kazakhstan who, he claims, wrote his dissertation on the Gulag and could be very helpful in researching the American servicemen on the list.

The Russian Co-Chairman related that, for the past year or so, Colonel Vladimir Ovchinnikov has been in charge of the newly-created Archival Service of the MOD which oversees some 21 military archives. This service, he said, is subordinate to the First Deputy Minister of Defense, Colonel General Manilov.

Colonel Nikiforov noted that all the documents in Stalin’s personal ,archives are being reviewed for release to the public and that staffers from the Institute of Military History are being charged with declassifying these documents. What realistically gets released to the public, according to the Russian Co-Chairman, depends on the nature of the document. For instance, he said, anything dealing with the country’s mobilization will never be declassified.

After the discussions, Dr. Nenninger gave Colonel Nikiforov a tour of the National Archives. He took him into the stacks and reading rooms and stressed the policy of open access to readers.

On Wednesday, 25 April, Colonels Nikiforov and Ilyenkov had a special Pentagon tour in the morning and spent the afternoon with their Russian colleagues at the Armed Forces DNA Identification Laboratory (AFDIL) in Rockville, Maryland.

On Thursday, 26 April, Colonels Nikiforov, Ilyenkov and Ovchinnikov toured the Holocaust Museum, after which they had a meeting with Dr. Radu Ionid, Director of International Archival Programs Division, Holocaust Memorial Museum. Dr. Ionid requested a formal agreement be signed with the Russian military archives to permit the Holocaust Museum better access to these archives in the future. Rather than a formal agreement Colonel Ovchinnikov suggested that the Museum provide them with a list of required items and then they could determine what can be released. Ovchinnikov stated that "access" is too broad and difficult a term for the Russian side. There are issues of declassification he said which would have to be reviewed by a committee on a document-by-document basis.

On Friday, 27 April, Colonels Nikiforov and Vinogradov toured the Library of Congress and met with personnel from the European Division. The former U.S. Co-Chairman of the WWII Working Group, R. Michael McReynolds, joined the two Russian colonels for lunch.

On Saturday, 28 April, the Russian delegation departed for Moscow.

U.S. - Russia Joint Commission on POW/MIAs
Joint Commission Support Directorate (JCSD)

Vietnam War Working Group

Senator Bob Smith presents General-Major Nikolay Maksimovich Bezborodov with commemorative POW/MIA flag during third meeting of principals

The Vietnam War Working Group (VWWG) was established in 1993. The U.S. Chairman is Senator Bob Smith (R-NH), former Vice Chairman of the Senate Select Committee on POW/MIA Affairs (1991-1993) and currently a senior member of the Senate Armed Services Committee. The Russian Chairman is General-Major Nikolay Maksimovich Bezborodov, an active duty Russian Air Force officer and three-term member of the Duma. Senator Smith has been a member of the Commission since its inception in 1992 and has co-chaired the working group since January 1997; General Bezborodov assumed his position as a member of the Commission and VWWG co-chairman in February 2000.

The American side of the Vietnam War Working Group seeks further information from Russian archives and Russian veterans of the Vietnam War about America's missing service members from that conflict. It is pursuing leads and information in a variety of areas.

Access to the Podolsk Archives

The Central Archives of the Russian Ministry of Defense in Podolsk may contain information of value to the American accounting effort, including reports of the shoot down of American aircraft; POW interrogation reports; and the activities of the Soviet "special group" that acquired several thousand pieces of captured American combat equipment for eventual technical exploitation in the former USSR. Senator Smith has asked General-Major Bezborodov to facilitate U.S. access to Vietnam War era documents in the archive. Should this request be denied, the U.S. side has urged the Russian side to broaden its own search for such information.

The Russian side recently provided a list of 142 incident reports extracted from the Podolsk archives. The VWWG has completed a preliminary analysis and will ask the Russian side for more detailed information about the shoot-down reports. The U.S. side will request access to original reports correlating to cases of missing Americans.

Volkogonov Memoirs

In early February 1998, researchers on the staff of the U.S.-Russia Joint Commission on POW/MIAs (USRJC) working in the personal papers of the late General-Colonel Dmitri A. Volkogonov found a six-page, Russian language, autobiographical sketch entitled, "A Little More About Myself." This brief memoir, written by Volkogonov in August 1994, reveals his discovery in Russian archives of a document from the late 1960s that assigned to the KGB the task of "delivering knowledgeable Americans to the USSR for intelligence purposes."

Nowhere in Volkogonov's memoir is the purported KGB plan linked explicitly to American prisoners of war. Joint Commission analysts have concluded, however, that Volkogonov's discussion of the KGB plan in the context of his work with the Joint Commission on POW/MIAs strongly suggests that Volkogonov thought the plan targeted American POWs. Moreover, the date of the plan (late 1960s) suggests that American POWs from Southeast Asia may have been the targets of the KGB plan.

With the active support of Senator Smith, the VWWG immediately launched an inquiry into Volkogonov's memoir. The purpose of the inquiry was to gather as much information as possible about Volkogonov's revelation before requesting an official explanation from the Russian Government.

The response from the Russians to date has not been encouraging. In the government and on the Joint Commission, Russian officials have said that their archives contain no evidence that a KGB plan as described by Volkogonov ever existed. They claim that Volkogonov "later rechecked his information and arrived at the conclusion that such a plan did not exist as a separate entity," but they offer no evidence to support this claim.

Meanwhile, the issue of Volkogonov's memoir became public knowledge with the first revelation in the U.S. press on November 9, 1998. U.S. and Russian media outlets have covered this issue, and members of Congress, American POW/MIA family groups, POW activists, and veteran organizations have expressed an interest.

The American side of the VWWG is determined to pursue a complete explanation from the Russian Government on the Volkogonov issue.

Soviet advisors in Vietnam

During the Vietnam War, the Soviet Union provided technical and material assistance to North Vietnam. Air defense systems and personnel were sent, both to equip and train the North Vietnamese.

About two years ago, the U.S. side began to gather evidence that Soviet officials interrogated American POWs in Southeast Asia during the Vietnam War. This project examined information from three primary sources: the testimony of former American POWs; the testimony of Russian veterans of the Vietnam War who had knowledge of direct Soviet participation in POW interrogation; and U.S. Intelligence Community reports that suggest the Soviets sought or obtained direct access to American POWs for interrogation. If, in fact, Soviet officials participated in interrogation of American POWs, or received interrogation reports from Vietnam, it would be reasonable to assume that these reports were generated in Vietnam and forwarded to Moscow for processing. Such interrogation reports should be available today in Russian archives (probably GRU and KGB archives), and these reports might contribute to clarifying the fates of unaccounted-for Americans.

F-111 Crew Capsule

During the war, a Soviet trophy group, or "spetsgruppa," composed of GRU officers, was deployed to Vietnam to acquire captured American combat equipment and arrange for shipment to the Soviet Union for exploitation. Although the U.S. has no interest in the classified aspects of the program, members and technicians who were assigned to these groups may be able to provide new details about shoot down incidents in Vietnam. For instance, in 1992, representatives of Task Force Russia (the predecessor of JCSD) discovered an F-111 crew capsule at the Moscow Aviation Institute. With assistance from FBI experts, Task Force Russia analysts correlated the capsule to a specific shoot down incident. The U.S. side has raised this issue several times continues to press for more information on the "spetsgruppa" and its members. In addition, the Russian side has agreed to try to locate museums and technical institutes where U.S. equipment might be displayed or stored, and, where possible, arrange meetings with technicians who might know how the equipment was acquired and how it was transported to the USSR.

Interview Program

The Vietnam War Working Group maintains a vigorous program to locate and interview former Soviet military personnel who served in Vietnam or who have knowledge of events during that period. Since 1992, the VWWG has conducted over a thousand interviews in Russia, Ukraine, Belarus, and other former Soviet republics. The majority of interviews have been with PVO (Air Defense Forces) veterans who served as military advisors in North Vietnam during the war. VWWG personnel have also interviewed aviators, journalists, KGB and GRU officers, and former Soviet (now Russian) Government and Communist Party officials.

U.S. - Russia Joint Commission on POW/MIAs
Joint Commission Support Directorate (JCSD)

Korean War Working Group

The Commission’s Korean War Working Group is chaired by U.S. Representative Sam Johnson of Texas and Colonel (retired) Aleksandr Semenovich Orlov of the Institute of Military History in Moscow. The Korean War Working Group’s (KWWG) goals are to determine whether Soviets transferred American POWs from Korea to the Soviet Union during the Korean War; and, if so, determine their subsequent fates; and to clarify the circumstances of loss of American servicemen. To meet these goals, the KWWG focuses on three major research areas.

Ministry of Defense Archives at Podolsk - Since the USRJC was formed, one of the main goals of the U.S. side has been to gain access to the Russian Ministry of Defense Archives at Podolsk. It was clear to U.S. analysts for some time that Russian documents held at Podolsk could help us clarify a number of MIA cases and possibly even locate and repatriate remains. Very few foreigners, however, have ever had access to these archives.

After several years of negotiations, the Russian government agreed to allow limited access to the declassified, operational records of the 64th Fighter Aviation Corps. Currently, two American researchers are allowed into Podolsk eight days each month to review these records for information pertaining to unaccounted-for American servicemen. Copies of pertinent material are requested directly from the archives, and are received once a month. The copies are processed and transferred to the U.S. for further analysis.

KWWG researchers have enjoyed limited access to Podolsk since 1998, and have discovered information clarifying the circumstances of loss and, in some cases the fates, of over 140 unaccounted-for American flyers.

SFC Michael Lunini (l), SFC Joya Colucci Gooden, Major Tim Falkowski, and Mr. Norman Kass (r) discuss Korean War issues during working group sessions of 17th Plenum.

Interview program - The KWWG’s extensive interview program has resulted in over 600 interviews with Soviet Korean War veterans in Russia and the former Soviet Union. The Soviet veterans have been cooperative and forthright, and continue to be a profitable source of information. Many have allowed us to copy journals, address books, and photos from their private papers.

The interview program has generated previously unknown details on the fates of several American servicemen, and has provided numerous pieces of information regarding the possible transfer of American POWs to the Soviet Union.

Gulag Analysis Program - Since the end of WWII, many refugees, defectors, and others have reported sighting American servicemen in the Soviet Gulag, or internal network of camps and other detention facilities. One significant report has surfaced recently in the memoirs of a former Soviet Gulag inmate, who lists a number of names that correlate to unaccounted-for American service personnel.

Relevant data from the memoirs; recent interviews with refugees, defectors, and others; U.S. diplomatic and military archival material; and other first-hand and indirect reporting sources have been consolidated to build an extensive data base to further investigate the issue of American POWs held in the Gulag. The sheer volume of this information indicates that there is a basis for further research to the notion of POW transfers, regardless of the credibility that either side of the Commission may choose to ascribe to any single source of information. Compiled and then substantially expanded immediately after the 16th Plenum, the database (which has come to be known as the Gulag Study) was provided to the Russian side in the spring of 2000 as the basis for developing further a bilateral investigative inquiry under the auspices of the Joint Commission.

U.S. - Russia Joint Commission on POW/MIAs
Joint Commission Support Directorate (JCSD)

Cold War Working Group

The Cold War Working Group (CWWG) was established within the structure of the U.S.-Russia Joint Commission on POW/MIAs in 1993, and is chaired by A. Denis Clift and Colonel Vladimir Konstantinovich Vinogradov.

The Cold War Working Group’s research focuses on ten specific cases involving U.S. military reconnaissance aircraft lost over or near Soviet territory. As a result of those losses, 89 aircrew members remain unaccounted for. The working group’s efforts have led to the recovery of the remains of 18 aircrew members from two separate losses on the territory of the former Soviet Union. These remains were repatriated and buried at Arlington Cemetery with full military honors.

The CWWG continues to investigate aircraft losses in the former Soviet Union. Because most of the Cold War losses took place over water, much of the research has been concentrated in the Central Archives of the Naval Forces of the Russian Federation at Gatchina, near St. Petersburg. In addition to its program of archival research, U.S. and Russian representatives of the Joint Commission also conduct a vigorous interview program with witnesses throughout the former Soviet Union.

The CWWG has also assisted the Russian side in clarifying its Cold War aircraft losses and a submarine loss. In addition, information from U.S. government sources helped to shed light on the fates of dozens of Soviet POW/MIAs from the Afghanistan War.

U.S. - Russia Joint Commission on POW/MIAs
Joint Commission Support Directorate (JCSD)

World War II Working Group

Chaired by Mr. Timothy K. Nenninger and Colonel Nikolay Ivanovich Nikiforov, the Commission’s World War II Working Group has exchanged and examined thousands of documents dealing with the fates of American and Soviet POWs during and after the war.

Through its investigative efforts, the World War II Working Group has confirmed that there were about 28,000 American Prisoners of War held by the German Nazis and their allies in camps on the Eastern Front. These prisoners came under Soviet control in the war’s final days. U.S. records show that about 25,000 of these POWs returned directly across the lines to U.S. military control. More than 2800 others were returned to U.S. military control through the Soviet Black Sea port of Odessa.

The World War II Working Group is investigating the possibility that some American POWs who remain unaccounted for from the Eastern camps may have been transferred to Soviet labor camps.

The working group has also helped the Russians clarify the fates of more than 300,000 former Soviet POWs and displaced persons.

Wreckage of a U.S. Navy PV1 bomber found on Kamchatka, in the Russian Far East.

In August 2000, a joint mission led by General Roland Lajoie, U.S. Commission Chairman, and Russian Colonel Konstantin Golumbovskiy traveled to the Kamchatka Peninsula, in Russia’s Far East, to investigate a crash site that was reported to our Moscow office by a Russian historian from Kamchatka.

The wreckage they found was identified as that of a U.S. Navy PV1 bomber that crashed on Kamchatka in March 1944 with seven men on board. The crewmembers have been identified, and DPMO has been able to locate most of the families to report what we have learned concerning the fates of their loved ones.

Plans for a full recovery operation during July and August 2001 are currently being made. The site is accessible only during July and August because of the harsh climate and difficult terrain of this remote location.

U.S. - Russia Joint Commission on POW/MIAs
Joint Commission Support Directorate (JCSD)

The Gulag Study

The Gulag Study is a compilation of reports asserting that U.S. servicemen were held in Soviet camps and prisons. The study draws upon accounts from varied sources, many of whom claim to have been incarcerated in the Soviet Gulag system. The memoirs of a former Soviet Gulag inmate who lists several names that correlate to missing U.S. servicemen comprise a significant contribution to this study, which was originally prepared as a working document by the U.S. side of the U.S.-Russia Joint Commission on POW/MIAs. The Gulag Study was released to the public in February 2001, and is accessible through the DPMO and JCSD web pages.

Recent interviews with refugees, defectors, and others; U.S. diplomatic and military archival material; and other first-hand and indirect reporting sources have contributed to an extensive database for managing information regarding alleged sightings of Americans, particularly members of the armed forces, detained in Russia and the former Soviet Union. This database also includes the names of individuals who have been repatriated, including foreigners erroneously identified as Americans. The sheer volume of this information lends credence to the fact that U.S. servicemen were detained in the Soviet prison camp system following World War II, and during the Korean, Vietnam, and Cold Wars. The U.S. side of the Commission compiled and substantially expanded the database immediately after the 16th Plenum for delivery to the Russian side in April 2000.

JCSD personnel have conducted preliminary investigative trips to the major locations of prisons and camps in the former Soviet Union. These trips provided an initial logistics review, familiarization with the area, sampling of prisoner cards for known names, and personal interviews to determine potential leads and sources for further investigation. In October 2000, JCSD personnel traveled to Vorkuta in the Komi Republic in order to establish a research agreement with the Russian Memorial society. A team of ten Russians will review both prisoner index cards in the Vorkuta Archives and prisoner memoirs in the Vorkuta museum in an effort to determine whether U.S. POWs were detained in the Komi Republic.

In May 2001, JCSD personnel traveled to Perm to meet with government officials from the Perm Oblast. During the visit they also took the initial steps toward establishing a research agreement with the Perm chapter of the Memorial society, similar to the one with Vorkuta. In addition to archival research, this contract will include interview expeditions to the sites of former camps in Perm Oblast.

Perm-36 Special Camp, located in Perm, Russia. This site is now a museum.

Additionally, JCSD has conducted interviews with former inmates of the Gulag, camp guards, workers and administrators, academicians and veterans in Russia and other states of the former Soviet Union. These interviews have unearthed valuable leads for further investigation. In addition, JCSD’s contemporary interviews correspond well to those conducted under contract by the Polish Karta Center’s research project. Karta searches for American citizens missing since World War II on the territory of the former Soviet Union. Finally, JCSD analysts conduct analysis of historical reports obtained through archival research at the National Archives and Records Administration, the Library of Congress and other archives and libraries in the United States. These documents range from State Department cables to U.S. military debriefings of German and Japanese POWs repatriated from the Soviet Union during the 1950s.

Regardless of the credibility that either side of the Commission ascribes to any single source of information, existing evidence supports further investigation into the issue of possible American POWs in the former Soviet Union.

U.S. - Russia Joint Commission on POW/MIAs
Joint Commission Support Directorate (JCSD)

The U.S.-Russia Joint Commission on POW/MIAs was established in March 1992 by direction of the Presidents of the United States and of the Russian Federation. The Commission serves as a forum through which both nations seek to determine the fate of their missing servicemen.

The Commission’s objectives are: to determine whether American servicemen are being held against their will on the territory of the former Soviet Union and, if so, to secure their immediate release and repatriation; to locate and return to the United States the remains of any deceased American servicemen interred in the former Soviet Union, and to ascertain the facts regarding American servicemen who were not repatriated and whose fate remains unresolved.

The Commission is organized into four working groups, each representing a key area of investigation. These groups encompass World War II; the Korean War; the Vietnam War, and the Cold War.  The last of these has focused on American aircraft lost during the Cold War period as well as Soviet military personnel unaccounted for from Afghanistan and other areas of conflict.

The Commission meets in plenary session at least once a year. To date, 17 such sessions have been held, 15 in Moscow and two in Washington, DC. The Commission’s most recent Plenum was held in Moscow in November 2000. The plenary schedule has been augmented by a series of working group sessions held to define agenda topics and advance likely areas of inquiry. In April 2001, a third meeting of principals was held in Washington, DC.

Recognizing the value of increased cooperation with East European countries, the Commission has initiated a number of contacts with officials of Eastern Europe over the past several years. Commission members and/or support staff have visited Warsaw, Prague, Budapest, Bucharest, and Sofia. These efforts have resulted in productive discussions with governmental officials as well as private citizens sympathetic to the commission’s goals and objectives. The dialogue already begun has generated a number of archival research and interview programs.