Commission Leadership and Composition
In January 1992, shortly after the dissolution of the Soviet Union, the President of the United States, George Bush, and the President of the Russian Federation, Boris Yeltsin, agreed to establish the United States-Russia Joint Commission on POW/MIAs. The creation of the Commission underscored each sides commitment to work together cooperatively in a new, post-Cold War environment in an attempt to resolve long-standing historical questions on the fate of missing servicemen. The Commission was led by U.S. Co-Chairman Ambassador Malcolm Toon and Russian Co-Chairman General Dmitrii Volkogonov. On the Russian side, President Yeltsin appointed General-Major Vladimir Zolotarev in January 1996 to succeed the late General Volkogonov as Russian Co-Chairman. In December 1998, President William Clinton appointed Major General (retired) Roland Lajoie to succeed Ambassador Malcolm Toon as U.S. Co-Chairman. The Commission has continued its efforts to acquire information on the fate of missing American and Russian servicemen.
The Commission's Co-Chairmen: General-Major Vladimir Zolotarev (L) and Major General (Ret.) Roland Lajoie
Senior government officials who comprise the U.S. side of the Commission are two members of the United States Senate: Bob Smith (R-New Hampshire) and John Kerry (D-Massachusetts); two members of the U.S. House of Representatives: Sam Johnson (R-Texas) and Lane Evans (D-Illinois); two senior executives from the Department of Defense: A. Denis Clift (President, Joint Military Intelligence College) and Robert L. Jones (Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for POW/Missing Personnel Affairs); a representative from the Department of State: Seth Winnick; and a representative from the U.S. National Archives: R. Michael McReynolds. The executive secretary of the U.S. side of the Commission is Norman Kass of the Defense POW/Missing Personnel Office (DPMO). Analytical resources, as well as logistical, administrative and other support are provided to the Commission by DPMO.
The Commission is a group of senior American and Russian executive- and legislative-branch officials
The Russian side of the Commission includes: Deputy Chairman, Colonel Konstantin Viktorovich Golumbovskiy, from the Administration of the Russian Federation Security Council; General-Major Nikolai Maksimovich Bezborodov, Deputy, Russian Federation State Duma and Vietnam War Working Group Co-Chairman; Colonel (retired) Aleksandr Semyonovich Orlov, Russian Ministry of Defense Institute of Military History, and Korean War Working Group Co-Chairman; Colonel Nikolai Ivanovich Nikiforov, Russian Ministry of Defense Institute of Military History, and World War II Working Group Co-Chairman; and Colonel Vladimir Konstantinovich Vinogradov, Deputy Chief, Federal Security Service Directorate of Archives and Registration, and Cold War Working Group Co-Chairman. Noteworthy contributions to the Commission's work also have been made by Vladimir Petrovich Kozlov, Chief Archivist of the Russian Federation; Colonel Sergei Ivanovich Chuvashin, Director of the Central Archives of the Ministry of Defense (Podolsk); Captain First Rank Sergei Petrovich Tarasov, Director of the Central Naval Archives (Gatchina); Rear Admiral (retired) Boris Gavrilovich Novyy; Colonel (retired) Viktor Viktorovich Mukhin, former official at the Military Memorial Center; Yuriy Ivanovich Kalinin, Deputy Minister of Justice; and Colonel (retired) Sergei Nikolaevich Osipov of the Ministry of Justice.
On October 6, 2000 President Putin signed an executive order constituting the membership of the Russian Federation Presidential Commission on Prisoners of War, Internees and Missing in Action. (See list at Annex 1.) Those nominated to serve on the commission include senior members of the Russian executive and legislative branches who will represent part of the larger, formal structure of the U.S.-Russia Joint Commission on POW/MIAs.
The Commission continues successfully to fulfill its role today, concentrating bilateral efforts on resolving questions related to the POW/MIA issue.
The Commission's leadership meets in Moscow in November 1999
During its existence, the Commission has met in plenary session a total of 17 times, 15 meetings were held in Moscow and two in Washington. In addition to the plenary sessions, three other high-level meetings between principal U.S. and Russian commissioners have taken place, as have numerous working-group consultations on specific issues. The U.S. side of the Commission has traveled to the capitals of each of the newly independent nations of the former Soviet Union, the Baltic states, and to a number of countries in Central Europe. In each capital the U.S. Co-Chairman met with and explained the Commissions mission to senior-level government officials and requested their assistance. Concurrently, appeals to the general public for information on POW/MIAs were conducted. Similar efforts were conducted by the Russian Co-Chairman during visits to the United States. Staff personnel continue to follow up on information generated by these initiatives.
After the initial plenary meeting, during which the Commission defined the scope of issues before it, permanent working groups on World War II, the Korean War, the Cold War, and the Vietnam War were formed. The Commission continues to organize its work around these four working groups. Issues chronologically or substantively outside the scope of the working groups are addressed in general plenary session.
General Zolotarev (L), Dr. James Connell, the Chief of the U.S. side's Moscow office and U.S. Ambassador James Collins (R) confer in Moscow
Moscow-Based Investigative Unit
To conduct and manage the Commissions wide-ranging and multi-faceted research and investigative programs, and to facilitate effective and timely coordination between the U.S. and Russian sides, an element of the U.S. sides staff is permanently based in Moscow. Members of this Moscow-based unit and their Russian counterparts have traversed the Russian Federation and other states of Eurasia in pursuit of relevant information. In addition to the archival research work and interviews which the group has conducted, site visits have been made to prisons, former prison camps and psychiatric hospitals in an effort to discern information on unaccounted-for American servicemen. The Moscow unit, led by retired Navy Captain James Connell, continues earnestly to pursue important information and remains the focal point of Commission efforts.
The Russian side does not have a permanent representative in Washington. During visits to the United States, however, the leadership of the Russian side conducts work in archives, the U.S. Library of Congress, and with other organizations related to the Commission's issues.
Dr. James Connell (L) discusses archival materials with Dr. Yevgenii Bazhanov, the Deputy Director of the Diplomatic Academy of the Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs
Sources of Information
Archival records and oral history are the two primary sources of information of significant value to the work of the Commission. Archival research relating to Commission objectives has been conducted in Russia, the United States and many other countries. More than sixteen thousand pages of documentation have been identified, acquired, analyzed, and translated, as required. An intensive archival research program continues. Likewise, more than three thousand interviews with veterans, current and former government officials, and other knowledgeable individuals have been conducted throughout Russia, the United States and many other countries. The Commission continues to identify potential witnesses through its active interview program.
Information collected by the Commission is analyzed to obtain pertinent details on missing servicemen and to provide follow-on leads for additional research. Once processed, information on American losses becomes part of DPMO's overarching repository of POW/MIA data and is used in conjunction with information from various sources worldwide to provide more complete analysis and follow-up.
Mr. Danz Blasser (R), a U.S. staff investigator interviews a Russian Korean War veteran
May 1995 Commission Report
In May 1995, on the eve of the fiftieth anniversary commemorating the end of World War II in Europe, the Commission issued a joint report describing the positive results achieved in the first three years of its work and outlining areas for further investigation. In the report, three priority objectives were identified for the Commissions work.
The first objective was to determine if any American POW/MIAs were still being held against their will in the former Soviet Union. The conclusion of a Russian investigation into this question was President Yeltsins definitive statement that no American citizens, either military or civilian, were being held against their will on the territory of Russia. The Commissions extensive research efforts, media appeals and numerous "live sighting" investigations conducted prior to the May 1995 report discovered no definitive information to dispute Russias official statements on this question. Since 1995, significantly more archival research has been conducted. Hundreds of additional interviews with veterans and other knowledgeable people have likewise been conducted. The large volume of additional information accumulated in the last five years of the Commissions work supports the earlier conclusion that no basis exists to dispute the assertion that no missing American service personnel are currently being held -- or, throughout the life of the Commission, have been held -- in Russia. Nevertheless, the investigation of alleged sightings of unaccounted-for American servicemen on the territory of the former Soviet Union remains the top priority in the Commissions work.
The second Commission objective as stated in the May 1995 report has been to determine the fate of unaccounted-for members of the U.S. Armed Forces who were located on the territory of the former Soviet Union during and after World War II, and to determine what information the Russian side possesses about missing American servicemen from conflicts since World War II. Significant information has been gained on Americans unaccounted for from World War II, the Korean War and the Cold War. The results of the last five years work to this end are reported below in the general section summarizing the Commissions recent work and in the appropriate Working Group reports. Continued pursuit of information on unaccounted-for American servicemen remains an important task in the Commissions work.
Mr. Norman Kass, U.S. Executive Secretary, presents the Commission's 1995 report to former Co-Chairmen Ambassador Malcolm Toon (L) and General-Colonel Dmitrii Volkogonov for signature
The third Commission objective has been to clarify, in those cases where information may exist on the American side, the facts pertaining to the loss of Soviet military personnel since World War II about whom no information has been available. Noteworthy in this context has been the Commissions work on Soviet MIAs from the Cold War period including the war in Afghanistan. Voluminous research has also been conducted in an effort to clarify the details and circumstances surrounding the thousands of Russian persons displaced during and immediately after World War II. Details of these facets of the Commissions work are provided in the working group reports.
SUMMARY OF WORK 1995-2000
In the five years since the publication of the Commissions first joint report, the continued commitment of countless individuals - Russians and Americans alike - has resulted in further progress in this important humanitarian issue. Several key issues in the Commission's work have been discussed at the highest levels of the U.S. and Russian governments. The Commission appreciates the support of the U.S. Vice-President, the Secretary of Defense and the Secretary of State, the Russian Prime Minister, Minister of Defense, Minister of Foreign Affairs and their staffs.
We have amassed a voluminous amount of data which has provided insights into a period of history when military conflict was unfortunately a recurrent theme and prisoners of war and personnel missing in action were regrettable consequences. This data has allowed us to resolve, in some cases, the fate of formerly unaccounted-for service members from both the United States and Russia. In numerous other cases, the data has allowed us to clarify the circumstances surrounding the loss of many of our service members.
Photograph of Korean War-era downed American plane located in Russian archives
Recognizing the paramount importance of the Commissions humanitarian role, we have worked to find accommodation in those instances where our respective approaches to issues or interpretations of events have not coincided. One such topic is that of the reported transfer of American servicemen into the former Soviet Union at various times during the Cold War period. At the Commissions 16th Plenary Session, held in Moscow in November 1999, General Lajoie officially passed to General Zolotarev excerpts from the "Memoirs" of a former Soviet citizen which provided information from a variety of sources stating that American POWs had been held in the Soviet Union. At the suggestion of the Commission's American Co-Chairman, the "Memoirs" were included as a discussion item on the agenda of the working groups. Since the 16th Plenary Session, both sides have analyzed in detail the contents of the "Memoirs." Discussions on how best to proceed with the continuing investigation are currently underway.
Former Soviet-era camp from the Gulag system
To investigate the many reports that U.S. servicemen were sighted in the Soviet Gulag, the U.S. side has compiled a lengthy study (hereinafter, the "Gulag Study") which organizes the detailed reports and has asked the Russian side to recommend a cooperative research plan to examine this information fully. Currently, both sides of the Commission are reviewing the Gulag Study and plan to formulate a cooperative research effort to investigate the many leads contained therein.
Guided by a mutual commitment to resolve the fate of missing and unaccounted-for servicemen, the U.S. side has provided important information on Soviet servicemen unaccounted for from Afghanistan and humanitarian assistance to aid the identification of Russian servicemen killed during the 1994-1996 war in Chechnya. Based on the Commissions recommendation, DPMO sponsored consultations between U.S. and Russian forensic identification specialists who met to exchange technical information on current DNA identification techniques. Subsequently, in 1997, the U.S. side provided 3,000 DNA blood identification kits to assist Russian efforts to identify, through DNA analysis, unknown soldiers who died in Chechnya. Humanitarian cooperation on the difficult issue of accounting for servicemen killed in action during the 1994-1996 war in Chechnya underscores the Commissions obligation and commitment to resolving the fate of unknown servicemen.
To accomplish its objectives, the Commission remains organized into four working groups, each representing a key area of investigation. These groups are: the World War II Working Group, the Korean War Working Group, the Cold War Working Group, and the Vietnam War Working Group. Each of the working groups reports some progress towards its objectives, though this progress has, at times, been uneven.
World War II Working Group
The World War II Working Group has conducted extensive historical research on the liberation and repatriation of American and Russian prisoners of war at the end of the war. Thousands of pages of archived historical documents have been exchanged and analyzed by the two sides of the Commission. This joint research has led to clarification of the fate of hundreds of former prisoners of war and displaced persons.
Research conducted by the working group confirms that some 28,000 U.S. prisoners of war were repatriated from German camps under extremely chaotic conditions through Soviet territory in the final months of World War II. Information collected by the working group indicates that American servicemen were not held against their will as a matter of Soviet policy. Nonetheless, there remain questions on the circumstances of many individual cases and in particular the approximately 40 U.S. POWs who apparently never returned home. The working group continues to attempt to resolve these cases.
A noteworthy recent example of the working groups success in resolving individual cases was the positive identification of a U.S. Navy PV-1 patrol bomber which had been missing since March 25, 1944 after taking off from the Aleutian Island of Attu on a reconnaissance and bombing mission of Japanese bases in the northern Kurile Islands. From August 7-9, 2000, a joint U.S. and Russian team, led by U.S. Chairman General Lajoie and Russian Deputy Chairman Colonel Golumbovskiy, traveled to Kamchatka where it positively identified the PV-1 wreckage, and investigators from the U.S. Army Central Identification Laboratory (Hawaii) (CILHI) surveyed, mapped and photographed the crash site near Mutnovskaya volcano. At the site, forensic specialists recovered bone fragments assumed to be those of crewmembers. The specialists believe additional remains are located at the site and have recommended a full-scale recovery operation be mounted next summer, when the absence of ice and snow make excavation possible.
Crash site of WWII-era U.S. PV-1 Ventura in Kamchatka, Russia
The problem of establishing the fate of Russian citizens missing during and after World War II is an important part of the working groups scope of activity. The Commission has established that approximately 450,000 Soviet citizens formerly counted as missing in WWII went to live in different countries abroad. As a result of the working groups painstaking research on this issue, the Russian side has been able to correct the figure of overall Soviet losses from the war. Nonetheless, more than a million citizens of the former Soviet Union are still registered as missing. Research on this issue continues.
Korean War Working Group
The Korean War Working Group has conducted a determined research program intended to resolve issues related to the fate of members of the U.S. Armed Forces who -- as the U.S. side has suggested and has been asserted by various sources-- may have been located on the territory of the former Soviet Union or about whom the Russian government may have information. Additionally, the working group has researched information on the fate of Soviet pilots lost during the air war in Korea. The working groups efforts have been channeled along two basic lines of inquiry. The first of these addresses the question of possible transfers of American POWs to the Soviet Union from Korea. The second focuses on clarifying the specific circumstances of loss in the cases of individual pilots and aircrew members.
Investigating reports that American POWs were transferred to or sighted in the Soviet gulag, the working group has interviewed more than 600 Russian veterans and others with knowledge of Korean War-era events. In addition, personnel from the Commissions Moscow-based investigative unit have visited a number of detention camps, prisons and psychiatric hospitals known to have contained foreigners, to follow-up research leads.
The substantial research effort focused on reports that American POWs were incarcerated in the Soviet gulag has not, to date, yielded first-hand, conclusive evidence of this fact. Nevertheless, the volume of reports on this issue, such as the Memoirs and Gulag Study mentioned earlier, dictates continued investigative efforts.
The working groups inquiry into specific circumstances of aircraft and pilot losses during the Korean War has proven to be extremely fruitful. The U.S. side has been recently granted expanded access to Russian military archives at Podolsk related to the air war in Korea. The material contains detailed information on air combat engagements between Soviet and United States aircraft. Included, in many cases, are pilots statements, eyewitness reports of plane crashes, maps, and other highly reliable documentation. The data gained through the Commissions work in Podolsk has led to clarification of the loss, and, indeed, in some cases, the fate, of 140 U.S. airmen shot down during the war. The circumstances of loss and the burial places of 54 Soviet military personnel who participated in the Korean War have also been clarified.
The large volume of documents remaining to be reviewed at Podolsk fosters optimism that considerably more Korean War loss incidents will be clarified as the Commission continues its work.
Port Arthur gravesite of Lieutenant Feodor Slabkin, Soviet Korean War casualty
Cold War Working Group
From the outset of the Cold War Working Groups deliberations, cooperation has resulted in information regarding American and Russian Cold War-era losses that was not available prior to the creation of the Commission. Since the Commissions May 1995 report, the working group has continued to press ahead resolutely with the humanitarian work of accounting for American crews missing from ten Cold War reconnaissance aircraft losses and from Soviet Cold War losses, including POW/MIAs from the conflict in Afghanistan.
Detailed case studies of the ten U.S. Cold War loss incidents were included in the Comprehensive Report of the U.S. Side of the U.S.-Russia Joint Commission on POW/MIAs published in 1996. Research on these incidents is continuing.
The working group has uncovered highly significant information regarding the fate of certain of the U.S. crews. Of particular importance, remains of crewmembers from two of the aircraft losses have been repatriated and honored in burial ceremonies at Arlington National Cemetery. The Commissions staff in Moscow has vigorously and thoroughly pursued each new lead relating to the Cold War crewmembers still unaccounted for. Beginning in 1999, the working group has gained important new access to the Central Naval Archives at Gatchina. This offers the hope of continuing to find significant new information on the fate of those servicemen still unaccounted for.
Through archival research and interviews, the U.S. side has provided information on the conflict in Afghanistan that has enabled the Russian side to confirm the fate of missing Soviet servicemen, reducing the number of those Soviet servicemen still unaccounted for from 350 to 287. The U.S. side continues to act on Russian requests for any information on individual servicemen still missing from the war in Afghanistan and other Cold War incidents.
Burial ceremony at Arlington National Cemetary, Washington, D.C.
Vietnam War Working Group
The Vietnam War Working Group has investigated a wide range of issues relating to missing American servicemen from the war in Southeast Asia whose fate is unknown. One of the most difficult and daunting of these issues has been the question of whether U.S. POWs were transferred to the former Soviet Union during the Vietnam War. The working group has not found conclusive evidence that a transfer of U.S. POWs from Southeast Asia to the USSR occurred during the Vietnam War. The Russian side maintains that American prisoners of war were not transferred to the Soviet Union. Nevertheless, information gathered to date does not allow us to rule out the possibility of such transfers, and the topic remains under active consideration.
For example, in 1998, Joint Commission Support Directorate researchers located a copy of the memoirs written by the Commissions former Russian Co-Chairman General Volkogonov which referred to a KGB plan in the late 1960s to "deliver knowledgeable Americans to the USSR for intelligence purposes." The Russian side maintains that no such plan existed or ever was implemented. Nevertheless, the U.S. side continues to seek contemporaneous documentation that would either validate this Russian assertion or provide further details about the possible implementation of the plan.
Earlier in this report it was noted that progress in the Commissions working groups has been uneven. This is most evident in the case of the Vietnam War Working Group where many questions remain unanswered. In the course of the working groups ambitious interview program, Commission representatives have interviewed hundreds of former Soviet citizens and Soviet military personnel who either served or were deemed to be potentially knowledgeable about Soviet involvement in Vietnam and American losses. A small number of Russian citizens have declined requests for interviews, and the Commission respects their rights as private citizens. Less understandable, for the U.S. side, has been the reluctance on the part of certain Russian officials associated with the work of the Commission to discuss issues from the Vietnam War era. The Commission assures all of the strictly humanitarian objectives of our work and urges persons potentially knowledgeable about missing American servicemen from the Vietnam War to share their knowledge with our representatives.
Mr. Robert Bishop (R), a U.S. staff investigator, interviews a Russian Vietnam War veteran
Access to archival materials relevant to the Commissions investigative efforts on Vietnam War-era issues has also lagged behind the levels of access enjoyed by other working groups. The working group will continue to push for access to Vietnam War-era documents in Russian archives and is encouraged by the words of support regarding Commission access to Russian Military Archives from Minister of Defense Igor Sergeyev to Secretary of Defense William Cohen during a June 2000 meeting.
We are hopeful that through the continued dedicated efforts of Commission members and staff and the further passage of time, more information on questions related to U.S. servicemen missing in action from Vietnam will be forthcoming.
FUTURE DIRECTIONS FOR THE COMMISSION
After eight years of service in honor of our missing, the Commission remains an important humanitarian, political and public channel of interaction between the United States and Russia on POW/MIA issues. It serves as a dedicated, full-time focal point between Washington and Moscow for direct discussions and coordination of U.S.-Russia bilateral efforts on the POW/MIA issue. We look forward to continuing the Commission's work in a spirit of cooperation and mutual respect.
As we look ahead to chart the Commissions course into the future, we note the many issues from the past yet to be resolved. A certain sense of urgency enters the Commissions work as we attempt to learn the facts about our missing servicemen. Recommitment to the humanitarian goals whose pursuit has been the Commissions primary purpose, will succeed only to the extent that we demonstrate the resolve and ingenuity required to support it. We will need to build upon the considerable cooperation established over the past eight years or so to explore new approaches and hitherto untapped sources of information if the Commissions work is to achieve the breakthroughs that the American and Russian people expect.
We will need to build upon the considerable cooperation established over the past eight years or so to explore new approaches and hitherto untapped sources of information. . .
From the American perspective, much potential lies in exploring comprehensively the historical records of the security and intelligence services for information about those still missing. Indeed, a careful review of such documentation is the only way we believe we shall be able to establish once and for all the facts about American servicemen reportedly held in Soviet prisons and labor camps during the Cold-War period. Sharing such information - which could and should be done with full respect for Russian security concerns - would be a major step forward in advancing the Commissions noble objectives and would complement the Commissions ongoing research program at the Ministry of Defenses archives in Podolsk and the Central Naval Archives at Gatchina.
Likewise, the Commission's interview program must be reenergized and expanded to complement archival work. A thoughtful interview program benefits from research of military records and, conversely, provides valuable leads to be pursued by archivists on both sides. The aging population of participants in the conflicts being studied makes this a priority goal.
Recognizing the many changes that have occurred since the Commissions creation in March 1992, both the American and Russian sides acknowledge the need to adapt the Commissions scope of activity to include current and future initiatives on behalf of missing servicemen and their families. In that regard, each side, within its own government, will actively facilitate the process of accounting for military personnel of the other side who may become missing in action or unaccounted for in the future. We believe this to be a tangible commitment to, and reaffirmation of, the goals that led to the founding of our Commission in March 1992.
WORLD WAR II WORKING GROUP
The Commissions World War II Working Group is chaired by R. Michael McReynolds, a senior official at the U.S. National Archives and Records Administration, and Colonel Nikolai Ivanovich Nikiforov, a military historian at the Institute of Military History in Moscow. Since the Commissions 1995 report, considerable historical research on issues related to American and Soviet-era servicemen unaccounted for from World War II has been conducted. The U.S. and Russian sides of the working group have met during the Commissions plenary and technical meetings and exchanged significant documents and information related to the fate of American and Russian MIAs.
Mr. R. Michael McReynolds,
Colonel Nikolai Nikiforov,
In 1996, the U.S. side of the Commission issued a comprehensive report which stated, "There is no documentary evidence that could lead to a conclusion that significant numbers of American prisoners of war disappeared into Soviet prisons after World War II." Neither was there evidence of any Americans being held in Russia against their will at the time of the reports release. Since that report, information collected by the working group indicates that American servicemen were not held against their will as a matter of Soviet policy. Nonetheless, there remain questions on the circumstances of many individual cases. The working group continues its research program to resolve these cases.
The 1996 Comprehensive Report of the U.S. Side also stated that American investigators, working from a 1946 U.S. War Department list of 207 Americans unaccounted for but known to have been held at some point by the German government, reduced the number of discrepancy cases to 87 through extensive research in U.S. military records. Further research in those records over the last five years has allowed the working group to reduce the number of discrepancy cases to 39 American World War II POWs who were held in German prison camps, liberated by Soviet troops, but never returned home. The working group has continued over the last five years to locate and exchange new information and documentation on this issue.
Conducting the research required to resolve satisfactorily the fate of Soviet-era citizens missing from World War II is very complicated. Records on Soviet-era citizens during World War II were often destroyed. Political exigencies in the former Soviet Union and Europe during and after the war obliged many people to change or destroy their previous identities. Further, there is little doubt that some records were lost or destroyed during the 40 years of the Cold War. Still, some fifty-five years after the end of World War II, unresolved questions about missing relatives and loved ones have been on the minds of many Russian citizens, who have demanded and taken action to search for answers.
In response to this demand and similar wishes among the American population and undeterred by countless obstacles, the U.S. and Russian sides cooperatively have sought new means to facilitate World War II-era research. The primary source used in the working groups efforts has been the International Tracing Service of the Red Cross. Additionally, military archives in both countries have yielded some answers. One potential source of information on Russian persons displaced after World War II --U.S. immigration records-- were reviewed but proved of no particular value because they are not organized by nationality. Further, the problems of name changes and irregular transliteration from one alphabet to another make research in those records exceedingly difficult. Despite these difficulties, some notable successes have been achieved. The remainder of this report documents the research and exchange of documentation on World War II POWs and MIAs which has occurred in the last five years.
At the 13th Plenary Session of the Commission in September 1996, the American side provided the Russian side copies of the death certificates for four Russian airmen who had died in a training accident in the State of North Carolina during World War II. The Russian side was especially grateful to receive copies of these death certificates, which allowed them to report definitively the airmens fate to their loved ones. During the 1996 meeting, the U.S. side also presented the Russian side a report on Finnish cemeteries where Soviet servicemen who had fallen during the 1940 Russo-Finnish War and World War II had been laid to rest.
Death certificate of Soviet pilot who perished while training in the United States
It is typical at plenary meetings for each side to request information on specific cases for which it may already have some information yet seeks to document more fully the fate of the persons involved in those incidents. Often, the other side undertakes a broad search but is unable to find information on the specific cases. For example, in 1996 the U.S. side asked about two aviators, Oliver Rom and Lippy Blake, thought to have been in Soviet custody in Karelia after World War II. The U.S. side had limited and inconclusive information about the two men. The Russian side expressed doubt that Americans would have been incarcerated in Karelia. Still, a search was conducted, though it ultimately uncovered no archival records about the men. The "fog of war" and incomplete archival records make such specific issues formidable to resolve. Undaunted, the working group has continued to seek new information on these two men.
During plenary meetings held in 1997, the two sides of the working group continued their work in a spirit of cooperation. New and important information and documents on the fate of unaccounted-for servicemen from the World War II era were exchanged. The Russian side provided the U.S. side with a list of U.S. citizens who had been captured by the Soviet Union during World War II and were believed to have fought for the German or other enemy armies. The Russian side also reported they had been unable to find new information on the Rom/Blake cases and agreed to the U.S. request to do additional archival research on the list of 39 missing Americans which was noted above.
The U.S. side provided the Russian side copies of three death certificates of Russians who died while at Fort Dix, New Jersey in June 1945. At the 14th Plenary Session in June 1997, the U.S. side presented the Russian side copies of 22 death certificates of Russians held by the Germans in the Buchenwald death camp which only recently had been located in U.S. military records. Specifically, the certificates were found in the records of the U.S. World War II War Crimes Trials exhibit files at the National Archives in College Park, Maryland, and gave the name, birth date, nationality, cause of death, and other information about each decedent.
After the June 1997 meeting, four sets of Buchenwald death certificates were thoroughly reviewed to locate all those applicable to Russian citizens. Eighty-seven certificates were found that identified Russian citizens who had died in Buchenwald during the month of April 1945. At the 15th Plenary Session in November 1998, the U.S. side presented copies of the entire set of 87 Russian death certificates to the Russian side. Russian Commission Co-Chairman, General Vladimir Zolotarev, and World War II Working Group Co-Chair, Colonel Nikolai Nikiforov, both expressed deep gratitude on behalf of the Russian government and people to the U.S. side for finding, copying, and presenting the death certificates to the Russian side of the Joint Commission. The discovery and presentation of these documents to the Russian side illustrate how the search for records about World War II POWs and MIAs can still yield important information for the citizens of both countries.
Death certificate of Russian POW at Buchenwald Concentration Camp
At the same 1998 meeting the Russian side presented information about two of the Americans on the list of 39 still unaccounted for: Rudolf Frisch and Glenn E. Byers. The information came from the Center for the Storage and Protection of Historical Documents. Colonel Nikiforov reported that Frisch had been convicted on July 24, 1946 by the 19th Garrison Division military tribunal for fighting for Germany and shot on September 9, 1946. Byers was reported to have been put on the British ship Borton Bay in Brandenburg, April 7, 1945. The U.S. side has thus far been unable to corroborate this information with what was previously known about the two men.
In response to a Russian request for information on aerial clashes between the U.S. and Soviet Union at the end of World War II, the U.S. side was able to find 111 pages of documentation on U.S.-Soviet incidents, which it provided to the Russian side at the 16th Plenary Session in 1999. The Russian side expressed appreciation for the work, and Colonel Nikiforov, Russian Co-Chairman, requested information about a clash between U.S. and Soviet planes over Vienna on April 2, 1945 that had not been included in the package of 111 documents. The U.S. side is currently researching this request. Continuing discussions on possible support to Russian citizens searching for family members possibly lost in the West during World War II were also held.
At the 1999 meeting, the U.S. side presented information about a reported crash site of a WW II-era U.S. Navy patrol bomber near the city of Petropavlovsk-Kamchatskiy on the far eastern peninsula of Kamchatka. The Russian side agreed to facilitate a summer 2000 trip to the site, if the preliminary information could be confirmed. Additional interviews, archival and historical research, and a Russian reconnaissance trip in July 2000 did, in fact, confirm that the plane wreckage was that of a U.S. Navy PV-1 patrol bomber that took off from Attu, in the Aleutian Islands, with a crew of seven, on a reconnaissance and bombing mission over Japanese bases on the northern Kuril Islands.
Wreckage of U.S. PV-1 Ventura, Kamchatka Peninsula, Russia
On August 6, 2000 a joint mission led by U.S. Co-Chairman General Roland Lajoie and Deputy Russian Co-Chairman Colonel Konstantin Golumbovskiy, and including forensic specialists from the U.S. Army Central Identification Laboratory in Hawaii (CILHI), traveled to Kamchatka to survey, map and photograph the crash site near Mutnovskaya Volcano. The combined U.S.-Russian team positively identified the wreckage and completed a detailed survey of the site, during which bone fragments believed to be those of crew members were recovered. Specialists believe additional remains are located at the site and have recommended a full-scale recovery operation be mounted. Preparations for such an operation, tentatively scheduled for Summer 2001, have been initiated.
As noted above, the World War II Working Group reports consistently positive results over the last five years of its work. In addition to the expedition to Kamchatka planned for the summer of 2001, the group will continue methodically and thoroughly to research specific cases of U.S. and Russian servicemen who remain unaccounted for from the war. With a sense of pride in what has been accomplished and renewed dedication to what remains to be done, the working group looks forward to continuing its work.
COLD WAR WORKING GROUP
The Commissions Cold War Working Group is chaired by A. Denis Clift, President of the Joint Military Intelligence College, and Colonel Vladimir Konstantinovich Vinogradov of the Russian Federal Security Service, who succeeded General-Lieutenant Anatoliy Krayushkin as Russian Co-chairman in 1996.
Since the release of the Commission's l995 report, the Cold War Working Group has continued to press ahead resolutely with the humanitarian work of accounting for:
American crews missing from Cold War reconnaissance aircraft losses;
Crewmembers of Soviet aircraft, helicopters, and submarines; Soviet Cold War losses, including POW/MIAs from conflicts in Afghanistan and other countries.
Mr. A. Denis Clift,
Colonel Vladimir Vinogradov,
American Losses During the Cold War Era
The working group has uncovered highly significant information regarding the fate of certain of the U.S. crews. Of particular importance, remains of crewmembers from two of the aircraft losses have been repatriated and honored in burial ceremonies at Arlington National Cemetery. Commission staff members in Moscow have vigorously and thoroughly pursued each new lead relating to the Cold War crewmembers still unaccounted for. Beginning in 1999, members of the U.S. side of the Commission have gained important new access to the Central Naval Archives at Gatchina. The working group has added retired Russian Rear Admiral Boris Gavrilovich Novyy as a participant and field researcher, an individual fully dedicated in both word and action to the Commissions humanitarian cause. Taken together, these steps offer the hope of continued progress in uncovering significant new information on the fate of those servicemen still unaccounted for.
Work has proceeded in parallel on Soviet losses and on ten specific U.S. losses involving U.S. aircraft with 89 crewmembers unaccounted for. The U.S. losses include:
* 8 April 1950, PB4Y2 Privateer shot down over the Baltic Sea, 10 unaccounted for;
* 6 November 1951, P2V Neptune shot down over the Sea of Japan, 10 unaccounted for;
* 13 June 1952, RB-29 shot down over the Sea of Japan, 12 unaccounted for;
* 7 October 1952, RB-29 short down over the Sea of Japan, seven unaccounted for;
* 29 July 1953, RB-50 shot down over the Sea of Japan, 14 unaccounted for;
* 17 April 1955, RB-47 shot down over the Bearing Sea, three unaccounted for;
* 10 September 1956, RB-50 lost over the Sea of Japan, 16 unaccounted for;
* 2 September 1958, C-130 shot down over Soviet Armenia, 12 unaccounted for;
* 1 July 1960, RB-47 shot down over the Barents Sea, three unaccounted for; and
* 14 December 1965, RB-57 lost over the Black Sea, two unaccounted for.
From the outset of the Cold War Working Group's deliberations, cooperation has resulted in information regarding these losses that was not available prior to the creation of the Commission. Archival documents, to include photography, interviews, and field investigations, have shed important light on certain of these incidents. All such information has been documented by the U.S. side and shared with the families of those still missing. At the same time, important questions remain unanswered. New avenues of inquiry must be pursued. Additional archival research must be undertaken at a number of sites, to include the Central Naval Archives at Gatchina, the Central Military Archives at Podolsk, and the Central Archives of the Border Guards. Documents from other sources are being sought. Additional interviews are being sought with any and all individuals who may have knowledge about the specifics of the U.S. aircraft losses and the fate of the crews.
While near-conclusive information has been developed on a few of the U.S. losses and almost no information has yet been developed on other of the losses, the Cold War Working Group treats each of the U.S. reconnaissance aircraft losses mentioned above as an open case, an active file. The working group's goal is to provide the fullest possible accounting of all servicemen still missing from Cold War incidents as part of the work of the U.S.-Russia Joint Commission on Prisoners of War/Missing in Action.
The 1996 Comprehensive Report of the U.S. Side provided detailed background on each of the ten U.S. aircraft losses, the names of the crewmembers and the Cold War Working Group's results in terms of live-sighting reports, eyewitness accounts, field investigations and archival records -- to include both U.S. and Russian holdings. The following paragraphs summarize the history and review the current status of work on each of the losses.
U.S. Air Force C-130 - 2 September 1958 - Soviet Armenia
On 2 September 1958, an Air Force C-130 assigned to the 7406th Support Squadron in Wiesbaden, Germany, flying out of Incirlik Air Base, Turkey, on a reconnaissance mission, was shot down by Soviet fighter aircraft in Soviet airspace. The aircraft, with a crew of 17 aboard, crashed and burned near the village of Sasnashen, Armenia. On 24 September 1958, six sets of remains were handed over to U.S. representatives by the Soviets. Eleven members of the crew remained unaccounted for. Due to the lack of identification for one set of remains, 12 names were listed as unaccounted for. A presumptive finding of death for the unaccounted for was issued by the Air Force on 9 November 1961.
In August 1993, the U.S. Side of the Joint Commission conducted an on-site investigation of the crash site in Armenia, with excavation of the site carried out by a team from the Army's Central Identification Laboratory, Hawaii (CILHI). The team recovered bone and tooth fragments, life-support equipment, personal effects and aircraft wreckage. As a result of the expert analysis of this meticulous work, a group-remains identification was made for the entire crew. On 2 September 1998, the remains were buried with honors in a service at Arlington National Cemetery.
Interment ceremony, Arlington National Cemetery
Central Archives of the Ministry of Defense (Podolsk)
Very early in the existence of the Commission, the U.S. side asked that a search be conducted for information on Cold War shoot down incidents at the Central Archives of the Ministry of Defense at Podolsk, near Moscow. Documents provided by the Podolsk Archives greatly facilitated the Commissions investigation of the 2 September 1958 shoot down of a C-130A over Soviet Armenia. These documents consisted of Air Defense records with reports from the MiG pilots involved in the intercept and shoot down as well as actual gun camera photography.
Documents from the Podolsk Archives also contributed to a better understanding of the circumstances surrounding the shoot down of a Navy PB4Y2 over the Baltic Sea on 8 April 1950, but stopped short of clarifying the fates of the ten crewmembers. Unfortunately, documentation on other Cold War incidents has been rather scanty, [contrary to earlier expectations]. The Russian side of the Commission pointed out that most Cold War shoot downs we investigate occurred over water, and suggested the Central Naval Archives might be a more abundant source of materials on these incidents.
U.S. Air Force RB-29 - 7 October 1952 - Northern Pacific
On 7 October 1952, an RB-29 aircraft stationed at Yokota Air Force Base, Japan assigned to the 91st Strategic Reconnaissance Squadron, carrying a crew of eight, was shot down by Soviet fighter planes over water, north of the island of Hokkaido. Japanese fishermen witnessed the shootdown. American search and rescue missions continued through 12 October with no recovery of survivors or remains. A presumptive finding of death for the crew was issued by the Air Force on 15 November 1955.
During the 1993 work of the Cold War Working Group, the Russians provided a document reporting the at-sea recovery of an American aviators body at the crash site. In December 1993, retired KGB Maritime Border Guards sailor Vasilii Saiko came forward and told the working group that he had recovered the body and taken a ring from the dead aviators hand. He stated that the aircraft had already gone beneath the surface and that there were no signs of any other members of the U.S. crew during this Soviet recovery effort. He passed the ring to Commission members, a 1950 U.S. Naval Academy class ring engraved with the name of John Robertson Dunham, a member of the RB-29 crew.
Subsequently, a document reporting that the body had been buried on Yurii Island was discovered in Russian archives. On the second of two Commission expeditions, in September 1994, remains were discovered and recovered from Yurii Island and identified at CILHI as the remains of Captain Dunham. On 1 August 1995, Captain Dunhams remains were buried with honors in a service at Arlington National Cemetery. Later in 1995, the families of the RB-29s crew gathered at Arlington National Cemetery for the unveiling of a memorial stone in honor of the crew. The Commission continues to seek information that would shed even more light on the fate of the remaining seven men.
Excavation and exhumation operation, Yurii Island in the Kurile Islands
U.S. Air Force RB-47 - 1 July 1960 - Barents Sea
On 1 July 1960, an RB-47 aircraft stationed at Brize-Norton Air Base, England, assigned to the 55th Strategic Reconnaissance Wing, carrying a crew of six, was shot down by a Soviet fighter over the Barents Sea while conducting a reconnaissance mission. U.S. search and rescue missions recovered no survivors or remains. A Soviet trawler recovered two members of the crew, Captains John McKone and Freeman B. Olmstead. They were imprisoned in the Soviet Union until January 1961 when they were repatriated. A Soviet search and rescue crew recovered the body of Captain Willard G. Palm, and the body was returned to U.S. authorities on 25 July 1960. An official report of death was issued by the Air Force for the three unaccounted-for members of the crew on 30 June 1961.
Early in the work of the Cold War Working Group, the Russian side provided a document reporting that three months after the RB-47 shootdown, the partial remains of Major Eugene Posa, a member of the crew, had been recovered by a Soviet fishing trawler in the Barents in October 1960. As the result of painstaking work by the Commissions staff, the Russians reported in 1996 that Major Posas remains had been taken to Severomorsk at the time of recovery. However, no precise information about where he was buried has been received at the present time. An excavation of one burial site at the city cemetery of Severomorsk was unsuccessful. In recent months, Rear Admiral Novyy, working with U.S. staff members, has conducted extensive research on the location of Major Posas burial site. As this research continues, it is the hope of the working group that the burial site will be identified and the remains recovered and repatriated in the near future.
U.S. Navy PB4Y2 Privateer - 8 April 1950 - Baltic Sea
On 8 April 1950, a Navy PB4Y2 Privateer aircraft stationed at Port Lyautey, Morocco, and serving on temporary duty in Wiesbaden, Germany, carrying a crew of ten, was shot down by Soviet fighter aircraft during a reconnaissance mission over the Baltic Sea. U.S. search and rescue missions continued until 16 April, recovering no survivors or remains. A presumptive finding of death was issued by the Navy for the entire crew on 11 April 1951.
Archival data, eyewitness accounts, and testimony of one of the Soviet pilots who shot down the aircraft have contributed to the working groups research on this loss. None of the official Soviet documents uncovered thus far include mention of recovery of either survivors or remains. Since 1997, the U.S. side has focused its efforts on interviews of more than 30 former Soviet servicemen in Latvia, Baltiisk, and Kaliningrad. The interviews have revealed discrepancies in the dates of the Soviet search and recovery effort. The interviews have indicated the possibility that bodies of members of the crew and portions of the aircraft may have been recovered, but there has been no confirmation, thus far, of such information. A report addressed to Joseph Stalin about the results of the search for the American aircraft makes no mention of finding any traces of the aircraft or the crewmembers. Contemporary appeals made by the Baltic Fleet Command over radio, television, and in the newspapers for information about the shoot down of the American aircraft have not been successful. On 8 April 2000, the government of Latvia unveiled a plaque in Liepaja honoring the crew.
Work on this loss will continue to focus on interviews and related archival research.
Russian veterans meet with U.S. Co-Chairman, Mr. A. Denis Clift and staff, Kaliningrad, Russia
Central Naval Archives of the Russian Federation (Gatchina)
The Central Naval Archives of the Russian Federation are located at Gatchina, near St. Petersburg. During visits to the Central Naval Archives at Gatchina in September 1992, Task Force Russia representatives received documents on a number of the Cold War shoot down incidents the U.S. side had previously identified to the Russian side during plenary sessions of the Joint Commission.
It should be understood that U.S. representatives have never been permitted to perform actual research at the Central Naval Archives, because many naval records from the Soviet era are still considered highly secret. Nonetheless, the U.S. side has deemed that on-going access to archival materials is essential for furthering investigations of Cold War shoot down incidents, and has continually pressed the Russian side for such access. In recognition of the U.S. sides requirement, the Russian side has permitted a retired Russian naval officer, Rear Admiral Boris Novyy to perform research on behalf of the Cold War Working Group. RADM Novyy has been accredited by both sides of the Commission to do this research. RADM Novyys efforts at Gatchina have invigorated the investigations of several Cold War cases, in particular the 1 July 1960 shootdown over the Barents Sea. We hope his efforts will also facilitate our investigations of the more difficult cases that were described in the previous section.
U.S. Navy P2V - 6 November 1951 - Sea of Japan
On 6 November 1951, a P2V Neptune stationed at Atsugi Airfield, Japan, assigned to Fleet Air Wing Six, carrying a crew of ten, and was shot down by Soviet fighter aircraft during a reconnaissance mission over the Sea of Japan. U.S. search and rescue missions continued through 9 November but recovered no survivors or remains. A presumptive finding of death was issued by the Navy for the entire crew on 7 November 1952.
Russian archival documents made available to the working group establish that the shootdown was photographed by the fighter pilots; neither the pilots nor the photography have yet been located. In 1995, a retired Soviet serviceman told the working group that he had seen four injured Americans in the far eastern town of Novosysoyevka where he was being treated in 1951, and that he had been shown a gravesite where a fifth American had been buried. A field investigation by CILHI was conducted, but no American remains were discovered. The working group is focusing its current work on the Central Naval Archives in Gatchina. Additionally, the working group is seeking to renew work at the Central Archives of the Border Guards, given the probability that Soviet Border Guards had some involvement in the incident.
U.S. Air Force RB-29 - 13 June 1952 - Sea of Japan
On 13 June 1952, an RB-29 aircraft stationed at Yokota Air Force Base, Japan, assigned to the 91st Strategic Reconnaissance Squadron, carrying a crew of 12, was shot down by Soviet fighter aircraft during a reconnaissance mission over the Sea of Japan. During 14-17 June, U.S. search and rescue flights spotted one, possibly two, empty life rafts. No survivors or remains were recovered. A presumptive finding of death was issued by the Air Force for the crew on 14 November 1955.
Russian archival documents reviewed thus far by the working group indicate no recovery of wreckage, survivors, or remains by Soviet units. They indicate that the shootdown was photographed, but the photographs have not yet been found. In 1995, U.S. participants in the U.S. search flights stated that they had seen the RB-29 afloat, but this has not been confirmed by other sources.
In July 1952, crew members of an RB-29 shot down over North Korea state that during their interrogations they were asked about a Major Busch, pilot of the 13 June RB-29 aircraft. The Russian side has thus far been unable to explain the reasons why such a question would have been asked. In 1999, a former Soviet citizen told the U.S. side that during his years in exile in the Soviet Far East he had been told on more than one occasion that ten American aviators had been captured in June 1952-to include specific mention of two members of the crew, Major Busch and MSGT Moore, that they had been imprisoned in Svobodnii, in the Russian Far East, and had died in captivity. According to information reviewed by the Russian side in the archives and card files of the Ministry of the Interior and Federal Security Service of Russia, to include those in the Khabarovsk territory and the Amur region, there is no mention of American aircrew members.
The working group continues to pursue each of these issues, seeking witnesses and planning fresh research in both security and central naval archives.
U.S. Air Force RB-50 - 29 July 1953 - Sea of Japan
On 29 July 1953, an RB-50 aircraft stationed at Yokota Air Force Base, Japan, with a crew of 17, was shot down by Soviet fighter aircraft during the conduct of a reconnaissance mission over the Sea of Japan. The mission's co-pilot, Captain John E. Roche, was rescued by the destroyer USS Picking during U.S. search and rescue operations on 29-31 July. U.S. search and rescue crewmembers observed several Soviet ships searching the area. At the time, the U.S. government repeatedly questioned the Soviet government about the loss in the belief that the USSR had recovered U.S. survivors. The remains of two crewmembers, Captain Stanley OKelley and MSGT Francis Brown, were later recovered along the coast of Japan. A presumptive finding of death was issued by the Air Force on 14 November 1955 for the remaining crewmembers still unaccounted for.
A preliminary review by the working group of charts and documents at the Gatchina archives indicated that the Soviets had mounted a substantial search operation. Thus far, however, no Soviet documents have indicated any recovery of U.S. survivors or remains. In 1993, a retired Soviet serviceman told the U.S. side that he had witnessed the shootdown and had seen seven parachutes descending with the burning aircraft. In 1993, retired Soviet Colonel Gavril Ivanovich Korotkov, who had been serving as a military intelligence officer/interrogator near Khabarovsk, said that he had heard of the shootdown, of parachutes, of recovery of Americans by Soviet forces. He had expected to interrogate the Americans but had been told that, with the Korean War just over, they would be treated as spies, not as POWs, and would be handled by the security services.
The working group continues to seek witnesses and individuals with information about the loss. The working group is also intensifying its review of archival documents, to include those in the Central Archives of the Border Guards.
U.S. Air Force RB-47 - 18 April 1955 - Northern Pacific
On 18 April 1955, an RB-47E assigned to the 4th Strategic Reconnaissance Squadron based at Eielson Air Base, Alaska, was shot down with a crew of three over the northern Pacific Ocean off the Kamchatka Peninsula by Soviet MiG fighters. U.S. search and rescue missions were unsuccessful. A presumptive finding of death was issued by the Air Force for the three crew members on 17 April 1956.
Research by the working group has revealed that Soviet fishermen aboard the fishing boat Komandor noted an explosion at the time of the shootdown. Archival work thus far has indicated that the Soviet Border Guard recovered parts of the aircraft, a life vest, topographic maps of Chukhotka and Alaska, diagrams and a written description of the plane, and that these items were turned over to Soviet military intelligence (GRU). There is no reference to either survivors or remains in any document. The working group is focusing its research efforts on witnesses and individuals with information on the loss. The working group is also planning to research the military archives at Podolsk, and to seek improved access to GRU and Border Guard archives for information on the incident.
U.S. Air Force RB-50 - 10 September 1956 - Sea of Japan
On 10 September 1956, an RB-50 assigned to the 41st Air Division, 5th Air Force, based at Yokota Air Base, Japan, was lost over the Sea of Japan with a crew of 16 during a reconnaissance mission. Typhoon Emma was in the area at the time. On 13 November 1956, in response to a U.S. request, the Soviet government stated that it had no information about the aircraft or the crew. A presumptive finding of death for the crew was issued by the Air Force on 31 December 1956.
When this case was presented to the Russians by the U.S. side of the Commission, the U.S. had no information to indicate that the aircrafts loss had resulted from an attack by Soviet fighters. Following a review of archives, the Russian side reported that it had no information on either the aircraft or the crew and that it did not consider the case one of the Cold War incidents.
Central Archives of the Border Guards
The Soviet Border Guards are another potentially important source of information on Cold War incidents. Information from Vasilii Saiko, a retired Soviet Maritime Border Guard, provided a breakthrough that enabled Commission investigators to locate Captain John Dunhams remains on Yurii Island in the Kurile islands (7 October 1952 incident). In addition, the U.S. side of the Commission has received documents from the Central Archives of the Border Guards related to the 18 April 1955 shoot down in the Northern Pacific as well as materials on border violations that did not result in U.S. casualties. There is good reason to believe there is probably more information in these archives on other shoot down incidents.
The U.S. side of the Commission considers that access to the Border Guards Archives is crucial to the success of investigations of Cold War incidents, and has requested such access, either direct or indirect, since the Commissions inception in 1992. Unfortunately, except for the few documents mentioned above, this request has gone unfulfilled.
During the Commission's 11th Plenary session, the Russian Co-Chairman of the working group told a U.S. family member that his side would continue to search for information. At the April 1995 working group session, the Russian side reported that no information had been found. At this point, new leads for further inquiry have not been developed by the working group.
U.S. Air Force RB-57 - 14 December 1965 - Black Sea
On 14 December 1965, an RB-57 was lost over the Black Sea. The aircraft was assigned to the 7407th Support Squadron at Wiesbaden, Germany, and was on temporary duty at Incirlik Air Base, Turkey. The U.S. had no information at the time of the loss to indicate that it had involved an attack by Soviet fighters. A joint U.S.-Turkish search began on 15 December 1965. Parts of the aircraft were found, but the two-man crew remained missing. Presumptive findings of death for the crewmembers were issued by the Air Force on 6 and 9 June 1966.
When the U.S. raised this loss as part of the work of the Commission, the Russian side stated that it did not consider it a Cold War incident, that there had been no Soviet involvement. The Russian side subsequently did provide two documents establishing that there had been a Soviet search effort resulting in recovery of parts of the RB-57 but neither of the crewmembers. At this point, new leads for further inquiry have not been developed by the working group.
Soviet Losses During the Cold War and
in Conflicts in Afghanistan and Other Places
Through the work of the working group, the U.S. side has provided a significant amount of information on Soviet losses in Afghanistan, which has assisted the Russian Federation in reducing the number of those unaccounted for from 350 to 287.
With great care for the rights and privacy of the individuals involved, the U.S.-side has asked former Soviet servicemen now residing in the United States for information that might help Russia to account for servicemen still unaccounted for from the conflict in Afghanistan. The working group continues to follow up where possible on requests from Russian veterans organizations for such information.
The Russian side of the Commission has asked the U.S. side for information on 28 Cold War incidents. The U.S. side has conducted a broad search of U.S. Government archives in responding to these requests. The U.S. side has informed the Russian side about possible sources of information at the U.S. National Archives, the archives of the State Department and the Joint Chiefs of Staff, as well as the operational archives of the U.S. Navy Historical Center and the U.S. Air Force Historical Research Center, in which searches for significant information about the fates of servicemen of the USSR and Russian Federation have been conducted and will continue to be conducted. The Russian side of the Commission has received information about the losses of submarine crews, helicopters and aircraft from the 1950s-1990s (15 incidents); information concerning 44 servicemen who disappeared in Budapest, Hungary, during the events of October-November 1956; and information about Lieutenant Colonel Udalov, who vanished in June 1978 in Ethiopia.
The U.S. side has provided videotape, artifacts, and a formal report by the U.S. Co-Chairman of the Commission in plenary session on the loss of the Soviet Golf-class submarine which sank in 1968. The U.S. has also provided information, deck logs and videotape on the 25 May 1968 crash of the Soviet Tu-16 Badger in the Norwegian Sea; deck logs of U.S. naval units in the vicinity of a 15 July 1964 Soviet Tu-16 Badger crash in the Sea of Japan; documents and photograph relating to the loss of a Soviet twin-engine bomber on 4 September 1950 off the coast of Korea; and information on Soviet advisers captured in the Ogaden in 1978.
The U.S. side provided information on Russian TU-16 Badgers which crashed during the Cold War
At the latest plenary session, official representatives from the Russian side expressed gratitude to the Americans for their assistance in freeing Russian aircrew members from captivity in Angola.
Thus far in the life of the U.S.-Russia Joint Commission on POW/MIAs, the work of the Cold War Working Group has been conducted in a positive spirit of professionalism and cooperation. As reflected in the specific work program outlined above, both sides are dedicated to the goal of accounting for all those servicemen still missing from the Cold War era. The inclusion of new technical experts as well as witnesses in the Commissions work, as well as agreement on a detailed examination of all relevant national archives, mark important steps by the U.S. and Russian sides to support and facilitate future work. Extremely important questions about those still unaccounted for must be answered if the working group is fully to serve the goal of the Commission, and if the working group is fully to be worthy of the hope and trust placed in it by the families of those still missing. The Cold War Working Group will proceed in a manner worthy of both the Commission's humanitarian goal and the families trust.
KOREAN WAR WORKING GROUP
The Commissions 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 objectives of the KWWG remain to determine whether any American POW/MIAs are still being held against their will in the former Soviet Union; to determine the fate of members of the U.S. Armed Forces who were located on the territory of the former Soviet Union or about whom the Russian government may have information, and to ascertain the circumstances of loss with respect to unaccounted-for Soviet servicemen from the Korean War. This effort has proceeded along two basic lines of inquiry - the transfer of American POWs to the Soviet Union and the clarification of circumstances of loss.
Congressman Sam Johnson,
Colonel Aleksandr Orlov,
The first line of inquiry, to determine the facts concerning the reported transfer of U.S. POWs from the Korean Theater of Operations to the former Soviet Union, continues to be the working group's principal objective. The investigative process consists primarily of conducting interviews with former Soviet Korean War veterans, Soviet gulag survivors from both the former Soviet Union and Eastern Europe, current and former government officials, and historians. Researchers representing the Commission have interviewed over 600 individuals in the former Soviet Union, some of whom reported having seen, met, or heard of American POWs at Soviet military bases or elsewhere on Soviet territory. Interviews with gulag survivors who have had, or have heard of, chance encounters with American servicemen in the gulag serve as an additional source of information. One significant report of Americans in the Soviet gulag has surfaced recently in excerpts of the memoirs of a former Soviet gulag inmate. These memoirs list numerous names that correlate to unaccounted-for Americans and present a continuing challenge for the working group and the Commission to investigate.
Memory sketch of prison camp drawn by gulag survivor
The investigative process has also included research in both U.S. and former Soviet archives for information concerning reports of Americans having been transferred to the gulag or seen in the gulag in the 1950s. Researchers have combed U.S. diplomatic and military archives to collect as many contemporaneous reports of American servicemen in the gulag as possible. These include numerous accounts of POWs reportedly shipped into the former Soviet Union as well as reported sightings of missing servicemen observed at specific prison camps and other detention facilities.
Relevant data from the memoirs and other first-hand as well as indirect reporting sources has been consolidated to build an extensive database for further investigation into the transfer issue. From the American sides perspective, the sheer volume of this information suggests there is validity 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.
The second line of inquiry, to clarify the circumstances surrounding specific loss incidents, has also included both archival work and interviews with veterans. The Korean War Working Group has pursued access to Russian military archives throughout this period. Although some documents from Russian archives had been provided previously, the U.S. side has not had access to the archives to conduct independent research. Despite repeated requests, the Russian government has for years maintained that it has provided all the information pertinent to missing Americans that could be found in its archives. Dedicated pursuit of archival material by U.S. Commissioners and American researchers has kept the issue active. Limited American access to the records of the 64th Fighter Aviation Corps began in 1998.
After the U.S.-Russian Joint Commission was formed, the Russian Ministry of Defense released approximately 30 pages of material from a photo album in the Central Archives of the Ministry of Defense, Podolsk, Russia. The material pertained to U.S. personnel missing during the Korean War and was accompanied by a letter from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs stating that the Podolsk Archives held no further information of interest to us.
After a lengthy negotiation process, the Russians granted U.S. researchers limited access to the archives. The initial agreement was to allow access for a total of four days, but this has expanded to our current arrangement. Presently, the Korean War Working Group sends two researchers to the archives in Podolsk eight days per month where they are able to study documents produced by the Soviet 64th Fighter Aviation Corps during its involvement in the Korean War.
An example of a page from the 64th FAC archives. Shown are the pilot, gun-camera print of the shootdown, a brief description of the air battle, statements verifying the shootdown, and a map of the shootdown area
Transfer to the U.S. side of documents identified at the Podolsk archives was erratic at first, requiring high-level Russian government input and complex arrangements. Complicating matters, the Russian government halted all work in the archives as well as the release of copied material during the bombing operations in Kosovo in the spring of 1999. Continued efforts on the part of the Commissions Moscow-based unit have now brought this work to a routine state in which U.S. researchers work in the archives regularly each month and are able to receive copies of requested documents.
Since that time, the U.S. side has been able to review declassified documents in the archives and obtain copies of pertinent material. Access remains limited to the declassified operational files of the Soviet Unions 64th FAC, which flew the majority of the combat sorties flown by communist forces during the Korean War. The material contains descriptions of air battles between Soviet and United Nations air forces. Pilots personal files were developed to document shootdowns and substantiate the payment of cash awards. These records often describe where aircraft crashed, provide hand-drawn maps with statements from local citizens, and note whether parachutes were seen or remains were found. In a few cases, there are photographs of aircraft wreckage.
Soviet pilot's sketch of U.S. B-29 downed on January 10, 1951.
Upon receipt, the documents are catalogued, scanned, reviewed, and analyzed for correlation to specific U.S. missing servicemen. The material is compared to U.S. archival information on specific losses. Key elements such as the date, time, and location of the incident, type of aircraft, and description of the air battle are compared with U.S. loss records to determine if the incident described is one from which an American serviceman is still unaccounted for. The information that can be thus correlated is then further analyzed, translated, and sent to the primary next of kin through the appropriate Service Casualty Offices.
Access to the Podolsk archives has also given impetus to the working groups Korean War oral interview program. Unit records generally cite the names of individuals who took part in searches for downed aircraft and documented wreckage locations and sometimes the fate of the crew, as well as pilots and intelligence officers who may have encountered or interrogated live American POWs in North Korea. Moscow-based personnel have located and interviewed hundreds of these Soviet veterans of the Korean War, building on information received prior to 1995 and seeking further information on missing American servicemen and possible transfers of POWs to the former Soviet Union.
The working group has also located and provided to the Russian side archival information pertaining to Soviet losses in the Korean War. At the 14th Plenum in 1997, the U.S. side provided information they had collected in Russia indicating that 43 of the 45 Soviet Airmen missing form the Korean War were accounted for and buried at Port Arthur, Dalnii, or Voroshilov-Ussurijskii. Additional information on these cases was provided in January 1998. At that time, the U.S. side also provided a 32-page report correlating all Soviet aircraft losses with American shoot-down reports. In August of that year, the U.S. side provided archival reports of the U.S. recovery of a MiG-15. At the Second Meeting of Principals in September 1998, the U.S. side gave the Russian side microfilmed copies of the USAF 4th, 35th, and 51st Fighter Wings' records and 2 videotapes with gun camera footage from the Korean War. Then, at the 15th Plenum, the U.S. side provided a copy of the official "USAF Credits for the Destruction of Enemy Aircraft-Korean War", copies of the General Orders from the Far East Air Force detailing U.S. shoot-downs of enemy aircraft; copies of the FEAF after-action reports on aircraft shoot downs, and a copy of the "List of Navy and Marine Corps shoot Downs Since 1950." U.S. researchers have also passed to the Russian side information they compiled on Soviet losses that they found while conducting their research at Podolsk. This extensive research in both U.S. and Russian archives has provided the Russian side with a significant amount of information on missing Soviet airmen from the Korean War.
The Korean War Working Group also organized a meeting between American Korean War fighter pilots and Russian members of the Commission in September 1998. This unprecedented meeting was aimed at bringing U.S. and Soviet veterans together to help both sides clarify the fate of their unaccounted-for from the Korean War. Five American veterans, among whom were famous fliers such as Lieutenant General William "Earl" Brown (USAF, Retired), and Brigadier General Paul Kauttu (USAF, Retired), described air battles that took place nearly fifty years ago. One veteran provided gun camera footage showing the destruction of a MIG-15. The American veterans offered to help the Russians contact other American Korean War fighter pilots who might be able to shed light on the fate of unaccounted-for Soviet pilots. The Commission's efforts to locate and interview Russian and American Korean War veterans served as a model for the Defense Prisoner of War/Missing in Action Office's oral history program with Chinese Korean War veterans.
American Korean War fighter pilots meet with Russian Commission members
Since its formation, the Korean War Working Group has engaged in a concerted effort to achieve its objectives and obtain information on the fate of missing servicemen from the Korean War. In the course of their work, Russian and American researchers have interviewed more than 600 people and have obtained tens of thousands of pages of documentation from Russian and American archives. In addition, investigators have visited numerous camps, prisons and psychiatric hospitals in the former Soviet Union in pursuit of investigative leads and concrete evidence of POW transfer.
Since the Commission's 1995 report, the Korean War Working Group's major achievement concerned access to the Russian Ministry of Defense Archives at Podolsk. Access to this material was the result of years of Commission negotiations with the Russian government to allow U.S. researchers to work in the archives in Podolsk.
The 15th Plenary Session saw a major breakthrough when the Russian government finally released to the U.S. side the first large batch of documents found by U.S. researchers. This long-requested collection consisted of 6,000 pages of photocopies of documents and approximately 300 copies of photographs from the Podolsk archives that were relevant to U.S. losses during the Korean War.
More than 16,000 pages of archival documents have been received to date. This data has proved helpful in clarifying the circumstances of loss and in some cases the fate of the crew in some 140 cases. It is also expected to assist future U.S.-North Korean Joint Recovery Teams in their efforts to locate the remains of missing American airmen.
Location sketch of downed F-84 drawn by Soviet search group member
The work of the Korean War Working Group to investigate the reported transfer of POWs to the former Soviet Union and clarify the circumstances related to specific loss incidents continues today. In particular, the Gulag Study provides the basis for continued investigation of the presence of American POWs in the gulag. Research experience to date suggests that the archives of the Committee for State Security (KGB) and Ministry of Internal Affairs (MVD) are the most likely repositories for further inquiry into this topic. The cooperation of these elements of the former Soviet government is critical to any rigorous investigation into the transfer of American POWs to the former Soviet Union because they are the elements that would have organized, conducted, and recorded such activities. The MVD and KGB archives, as well as those of individual camps and regions, need to be accessed to find the details behind many of the gulag sighting reports. Moreover, the interview program should be expanded to include KGB and MVD personnel who staffed these facilities as well as former inmates and staff personnel living in adjacent villages who may recall the American prisoners reported there.
In addition, it is believed that the archives at Podolsk contain much more information that can help clarify the fate of missing Americans. Research will continue in the operational records of the 64th FAC and be expanded to include the intelligence and personnel records of the 64th FAC, the records of the Operations Group in China, and the records of the Soviet Air Force Headquarters for the years of the Korean War.
VIETNAM WAR WORKING GROUP
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 Nikolai Maksimovich Bezborodov, an active duty Russian Army officer and three-term member of the Duma, serving as Deputy Chairman of the Committee on Defense. 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.
Senator Bob Smith,
The VWWG is focused on two primary objectives: to determine what information is available in the former Soviet Union that might help to clarify the fate of unaccounted-for American service members from the Vietnam War and, in particular, to determine whether any American service members were transferred from Southeast Asia (North and South Vietnam, Laos, and Cambodia) to the former Soviet Union during the Vietnam War period (1964-75).
In support of these objectives, the VWWG seeks to obtain broader, and in many cases, first-ever access to Russian archives, particularly the Central Archives of the Russian Ministry of Defense, the Central Archives of the Main Intelligence Directorate (GRU), the Central Archives of the Federal Security Service (FSB) and the Foreign Intelligence Service (SVR), and the Presidential Archives. The U.S. side also continues to collect and analyze as much information as possible through an intensive interview program with former Soviet officials, military veterans, and others who are potentially knowledgeable about Soviet involvement in the Vietnam War.
In this particular working group, there are few unresolved Russian issues to be examined, since the Russian side reports that it has no unaccounted-for service members from the Vietnam War. Therefore, since most Vietnam War-related issues before the working group are of concern primarily to the American side, Senator Smith has actively pursued information possibly in possession of the United States Government that could help account for missing Russian service members from a range of past and current conflicts.
Research and Investigative Process
The U.S. side of the VWWG seeks comprehensive answers from its Russian interlocutors to the following areas of inquiry:
* What information is available that provides names of American POWs, identifying data, shoot down records, interrogation reports, and any other information relating directly or indirectly to American POW/MIAs who were not repatriated from Southeast Asia at the conclusion of hostilities in 1973?
* Is there information available indicating whether any American POWs were held back by Communist forces in Southeast Asia after April 1, 1973? If so, where were they held, by whom, and for what purpose?
* According to Russian-held data, in which specific locations were American POWs held captive in Southeast Asia?
* According to Russian-held data, how many American POWs were held captive in Southeast Asia? What was their fate?
* What additional information is available about the origin and authenticity of the so-called "735" and "1205" documents?
Senator Smith and Rear Admiral Boris Popov discuss POW/MIA issues at Frunze Naval Academy in St. Petersburg
In pursuit of answers to these questions, the VWWG approaches its work from two directions. The first is to conduct detailed interviews with a wide range of former Soviet officials and veterans who served in Southeast Asia or are otherwise potentially knowledgeable about Soviet involvement in or policies toward that region during the Vietnam War. The second is to examine which Russian archives may hold more useful information than has so far been obtained for review by the Joint Commission.
The Interview Program
Several thousand members of the Soviet Armed Forces served in Southeast Asia during the Vietnam conflict. 1 The U.S. side of the working group has a program that seeks to interview key former Soviet officials whose positions during the Vietnam War likely would have provided them access to information about American POW/MIAs and their loss incidents. In order to identify such individuals, the VWWG performs detailed research in U.S. intelligence and archival holdings and reviews open-source reporting in the Russian and English languages. In addition, interview candidates are identified from diplomatic listings, referrals from interviews, and through appeals for support to various Russian veterans' groups and associations and through the mass media in the former USSR.
The interview program prioritizes candidates for interviews based on their assessed knowledgeability. Individuals with an expected high degree of access to POW/MIA-related information are considered first-priority interview candidates. The current interview program contains the names of 63 first-priority interview candidates: 11 former GRU (Soviet Military Intelligence) officers; 16 former KGB officers; and 36 former Soviet military and government officials. Among the highest-priority interviews sought from this group are: General Petr Ivashutin, the chief of the GRU during the Vietnam War; Yevgeniy Primakov, former Russian Prime Minister, who, according to General Volkogonov, in 1994 as chief of the Foreign Intelligence Service, showed General Volkogonov a Soviet KGB plan to "deliver knowledgeable Americans to the USSR for intelligence purposes" (see box on the Volkogonov memoirs); General Vladimir Chukhrov, an official of the SVR.
The Volkogonov Memoirs
In early February 1998, Senator Bob Smith arranged for Joint Commission researchers to work in the personal papers of the late General-Colonel Dmitrii A. Volkogonov, located at the Library of Congress. The Commission staff members found in this collection 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 the KGB the task of "delivering knowledgeable Americans to the USSR for intelligence purposes." Volkogonov wrote that he was shown a copy of the actual KGB plan in the early 1990s by then Chief of the Russian Foreign Intelligence Service, Ye.M. Primakov, who claimed that the plan had never been implemented. In his memoir, Volkogonov expressed skepticism about Primakov's claim, stating that it remained "a secret I was unable to penetrate." (See text for more information on the investigative and diplomatic efforts and developments on this case.)
General-Colonel Dmitrii Volkogonov, noted Russian military historian, author, and first Russian Co-Chairman of the Commission
Second-priority interview candidates are less likely to possess first-hand, POW/MIA related information, but their positions during the Vietnam War offer some expectation that their information might prove insightful. The current interview program contains the names of 55 second-priority interview candidates.
Besides the research-based formal interview program, the VWWG routinely attempts to interview as many former Soviet veterans who served in Southeast Asia during the Vietnam conflict as possible. For example, the government of Belarus provided a list of all veterans residing in that country with credited service in Southeast Asia during the Vietnam War, and VWWG analysts have interviewed many of these veterans. Although the working group continues to seek a similar comprehensive listing of Russian Vietnam War veterans, only partial lists have been generated.
VWWG analysts travel extensively throughout the former Soviet Union, routinely visiting Russian cities and former Soviet republics, such as Kazakhstan, Ukraine, Belarus, Georgia, and the Baltic states, in search of interview opportunities with former Soviet veterans of the Vietnam War. These interviews are a prime source of information for the Vietnam War Working Group, especially in view of the current low level of access by the working group to Russian archival holdings.
Access to the Archives of the Russian Federation
The VWWG seeks far broader access to Russian archival materials than it has obtained to date. The working group's research, including information from knowledgeable Russian officials and Joint Commission representatives, strongly suggests that Russian archives contain potentially valuable materials that might greatly contribute to American efforts to provide the fullest possible accounting for missing service members. This research has led to some preliminary conclusions, outlined below, about which materials and archives hold the greatest promise for future Joint Commission efforts.
The Central Archives of the Defense Ministry of the Russian Federation at Podolsk contain the unit records of all Soviet and Russian Armed Forces except the Navy, archival documents for which are sent to the Central Naval Archives in Gatchina, Russia. Elements of one Soviet air defense regiment deployed to North Vietnam from 3 March to 3 November 1966, during which time the unit claims to have downed several dozen American aircraft. American and Russian representatives of the Joint Commission visited the headquarters of this regiment in March 1994, and they determined that the records of this unit's service in North Vietnam, most likely including the records of the shoot-down of American combat aircraft, are held in the Podolsk archives. Since 1994, the American side has worked closely with the Russian side to gain access to these and other important materials located in the Podolsk archives. The working group has made limited progress on this issue, but it is encouraged that a recent dialogue at Senator Smith's request between the U.S. Secretary of Defense and the Russian Minister of Defense on access by Joint Commission researchers to Defense Ministry archives will help facilitate this process.
A second repository in which Vietnam War-related materials are held is the archives of the GRU (Russian Military Intelligence). The American side believes that these archives contain information of potential value to the accounting mission of the Joint Commission. This includes the records of a "special group" (spetsgruppa) of GRU officers whose mission during the Vietnam War was to receive captured American combat equipment for transshipment to the former USSR and technical exploitation. The U.S. side learned about the activities of the "special group" from documents passed by the Russian side early in the life of the Joint Commission. The GRU "special group" operated in North Vietnam throughout the war and is believed to have acquired several thousand pieces of American combat equipment, ranging in significance from small arms to entire aircraft and major components. The U.S. side believes the records of this "special group" would contain data, including the serial numbers of components, that might be traced to incidents of U.S. loss and, perhaps, correlated to open MIA cases, potentially helping to clarify the circumstances of loss. (See box entitled "F-111 Cockpit in Moscow")
F-111 Cockpit in Moscow
In 1992, Joint Commission researchers working in Moscow discovered the largely intact crew capsule of a U.S. F-111 fighter-bomber that was shot down over North Vietnam in 1972. The cockpit was found at the Moscow Aviation Institute, where it was being used as a training mockup for Russian students. The condition of the capsule suggested that the crew might have survived. Moreover, the serial number of the aircraft initially suggested that the loss incident could potentially correlate to either one of two loss incidents, one in November 1972 involving two MIAs and one in December 1972 from which two POWs were repatriated. An FBI team of technical specialists was subsequently dispatched to examine the capsule, and their work enabled the U.S. Government to correlate the capsule to the two repatriated American POWs.
The U.S. side of the Joint Commission believes the F-111 crew capsule was one of several thousand pieces of captured American combat equipment that was acquired in North Vietnam by a GRU (Soviet Military Intelligence) "special group." The F-111 capsule demonstrates the potential that equipment brought to the USSR for technical exploitation might be correlated to an actual incident of U.S. loss in Southeast Asia. In this case, the crew survived its loss incident and returned home after a period of captivity. The U.S. side is interested in other equipment acquired by the "special group" in the hope that documents describing equipment might provide data that would help clarify incidents of U.S. loss or the fate of Americans who did not return home.
Crew capsule of the F-111 shot down over North Vietnam on 22 December 1972
Fragments of an American B-52 aircraft shot down over Hanoi in December 1972, displayed at the museum of the Air Defense Forces, Balashikha, Russia
The GRU archives may also contain Vietnamese-originated interrogation records of American POWs in Southeast Asia that were shared with Soviet military officials. In the early 1990s, the Russian side of the Commission uncovered a document showing that a bilateral agreement existed between North Vietnam and the former USSR obligating the Vietnamese to share reports of their interrogation of American POWs with the Soviets. Based on its research to date, the U.S. side of the working group believes these reports were passed from the Vietnamese to the Soviets through GRU channels, and that copies of these reports likely reside today in the GRU archives. The potential exists that these materials might help to clarify the fate of unaccounted-for American service members.
A third example of valuable materials that likely are held in Russian archives are the reports of Soviet officials who participated directly in the interrogation of American POWs held in Southeast Asia. The American side of the VWWG has uncovered at least five such instances from the testimony of former American POWs. Interviews with several Russian veterans and certain U.S. intelligence reports tend to buttress the argument that the Soviets, on occasion, were granted direct access to American POWs for the purpose of interrogation. The U.S. side believes that Russian archives should contain the reports of the five known encounters, and possibly other such encounters, between American POWs and Soviet officials during interrogation. Such reports might contribute to American efforts to account for missing service members. The U.S. presented its evidence to the Russian side during the 16th Plenum (November 1999) and asked the Russian side to research this topic. The Russian side agreed to this effort and is currently reviewing the U.S. research on this important issue.
These are major examples of materials believed to be held in Russian archives that warrant a comprehensive review by the Joint Commission. Other examples could be offered. This subject has been discussed routinely at each meeting of the Joint Commission and has resulted in dozens of formal correspondences between the two sides. Senator Smith and other U.S. Commissioners have pressed the case for increased access to Russian archives in search of POW/MIA-related materials from the Vietnam War era. As mentioned, Secretary of Defense Cohen and Minister of Defense Sergeyev discussed the issue of archival access during their meetings in September 1999 and June 2000. It is hoped that these discussions will finally lead to an arrangement that permits the review of potentially helpful Russian records from the Vietnam War era.
As noted earlier, Joint Commission access to Russian archives for POW/MIA-related materials from the Vietnam War era has been sharply limited. This is demonstrated by the comparatively small number of Vietnam War archival materials reviewed by the Joint Commission. In the first three years of the Joint Commission's work (1992-95), the American side of the VWWG received 74 documents comprising 322 pages. Compared with the number of pages received by the Commission's other working groups in the same time frame, this is by far the smallest contribution. For example, the Korean War Working Group (KWWG) received in the same time frame 410 documents comprising over 12,000 pages. In the past five years (1996-2000), the VWWG has received only 10 additional documents (67 pages) of Vietnam War-related materials from the Russian side, and some of these were duplicates of materials received earlier. In contrast, KWWG figures for the same time frame are 260 documents comprising 16,000 pages. The U.S. side continues to identify specific documents, often by archival citation, that are potentially valuable to the accounting effort and has requested their declassification and release to the American side.
The "Quang Documents"
When a civilian researcher named Dr. Stephen Morris discovered the so-called "735" and "1205" documents in the archives of the former Soviet Politburo in 1993, he also noted two GRU documents which purported to be speeches to the Politburo of the North Vietnamese Workers' Party in the early 1970s by the author of the "1205" document, North Vietnamese General Lieutenant Tran Van Quang.
In assessing the "1205" document, some analysts have argued that General Quang allegedly had a relatively low rank and position at this period of time and therefore is highly unlikely to have addressed the Politburo on any subject, much less on the subject of American POWs. The "1205" document thus has been dismissed partly based on this argument.
Because the two "Quang documents" in the former Central Committee archives appear to demonstrate that, indeed, General Quang spoke to the Politburo on more than one occasion and on a range of topics during this time frame, the U.S. side of the Joint Commission has repeatedly sought access to these materials. It has provided the Russian side with the precise location within the archives where these materials can be found, and it has presented its case for access to these documents on numerous occasions. Senator Smith has argued this case personally to his Russian counterparts, and they agreed to work out an arrangement whereby the American side of the VWWG could review these documents. The U.S. side continues to await Russian fulfillment of this pledge.
There is one hopeful development to report in the area of broader U.S. access to Russian archival holdings that may lead to access to Vietnam War-era documents. The Commission's Korean War Working Group, through the tireless efforts of its American Co-Chairman, Congressman Sam Johnson, obtained access to Korean War records in the Central Archives of the Russian Ministry of Defense in August 1997 and has continued its review of these archives since that time. The VWWG hopes to obtain similar access there as well through a continued dialogue between Senator Smith and his Russian counterparts.
The Interview Program
Since the Joint Commission's May 1995 Interim Report, the VWWG has interviewed 515 citizens of the former USSR, including diplomats, military and security-service officers, high-level Communist Party and government officials, researchers, and journalists. In the past five years, VWWG analysts have traveled to eight of the fifteen newly independent states of the former Soviet Union, some of them repeatedly, to locate and interview veterans of the Vietnam War.
The American side is grateful for the assistance of the Russian side in arranging several of these important interviews. For example, during the 15th Plenum (November 1998), and again during the 16th Plenum (November 1999), the Russian side arranged for the American side to interview former KGB Chief Vladimir Semichastnyy (KGB Chief from December 1961 to May 1967) and former KGB Chief Vladimir Kryuchkov in November 1999. [The highest ranking KGB official who is alive today from the end of Semichastnyys tenure at the KGB (1967) to the end of the Vietnam War, Kryuchkov also headed the KGB from October 1988 to August 1991.] Also with Russian assistance, the U.S. side interviewed Konstantin Katushev, a CPSU Central Committee Secretary during the Vietnam War.
The American side has had considerable success unilaterally obtaining interviews with former Soviet veterans of the Vietnam War. Interviews conducted by the VWWG since 1995 have revealed numerous alleged firsthand sightings by Soviet officials of live American POWs in Southeast Asia during the Vietnam War. After analytical review, the majority of these reports were found to be credible. Many were successfully correlated to known incidents of U.S. loss in which personnel have been accounted for either as repatriated POWs or as individuals whose remains have been returned to U.S. control. Several other Soviet firsthand live sightings are still under review in the working group.
The interview program also has provided valuable insight into a number of analytical areas of high interest to the U.S. side. For example, since 1995, the VWWG has interviewed several dozen high-level former Soviet officials about the documents found in Russian archives in 1993, the so-called "735" and "1205" documents (see box). Those interviewed include the current chief of the GRU (Russian Military Intelligence), retired and serving GRU officers, several former Soviet ambassadors to Hanoi, Soviet Communist Party Central Committee officials, several former chiefs of the KGB, and a number of retired KGB officers. These interviews formed the basis of a judgment contained in the U.S. Intelligence Community's 1998 National Intelligence Estimate that both documents probably are authentic GRU acquisitions and not merely fabrications of Soviet intelligence services, as claimed by the Vietnamese.
The working group's interview program also has provided valuable information about another of the VWWG's current highest priority analytical issues-the meaning of the Volkogonov memoirs. After the discovery in early 1998 of Volkogonov's draft autobiography, VWWG analysts interviewed over twenty of Volkogonov's past associates and confidants. The information they provided has led the U.S. side to the following conclusions: Volkogonov believed that the purported KGB plan to "deliver knowledgeable Americans to the USSR for intelligence purposes" applied to American POWs; he briefed the plan to President Yeltsin and told his closest professional associates about his discovery; and he continued to believe until his death in December 1995 that the KGB plan could possibly have been implemented and hoped that it would become public knowledge through the publication of his memoirs.
The "735" and "1205" Documents
The "735" document purports to be a report by the North Vietnamese Workers' Party Secretary Hoang Anh to the Partys 20th Plenum in Hanoi in December 1971/January 1972. In the report, Hoang Anh claims that the North Vietnamese were holding 735 American aviators at that time. The Commission believes that the document is a legitimate Soviet Military Intelligence (GRU) acquisition. During the September 1993 plenary session of the Joint Commission, the Russian side officially passed to the American side two pages of the document that specifically mentioned the subject of U.S. POWs. The U.S. Government received a copy of the entire document from Dr. Stephen Morris, a civilian researcher working in the Russian archives, who originally discovered the document.
The "1205" document purports to be a report to the North Vietnamese Workers' Party Politburo by General-Lieutenant Tran Van Quang on 15 September 1972. According to the report, Quang told the Politburo that Hanoi was holding 1,205 American POWs at that time, more than twice the number of POWs who were repatriated during Operation Homecoming in 1973. The U.S. side received eleven pages of this document which directly pertained to American POWs from the Russian side, but Dr. Stephen Morris, who discovered the document in January 1993 in Russian archives, provided the entire document for examination by American analysts.
The U.S. side of the VWWG considers the 735 and 1205 documents a top priority issue. Senator Smith met with General Quang in Vietnam in July 1993 and found his answers to questions about the origin, contents, and authenticity of the 1205 document evasive and unconvincing. Other U.S. Government officials also have interviewed Quang and Anh. The working group will continue to seek information about the manner in which the GRU acquired these documents, the source(s) from whom the documents were acquired, the manner in which these materials were handled by the Soviets after the documents were acquired, and the credibility assigned by the Soviets to these materials and their source(s).
The Russian side maintains that no such plan as that described in Volkogonovs memoirs ever existed, and it denies that its archives hold the documents described by Volkogonov. Nevertheless, the U.S. continues to seek appropriate documentation that either would validate Russian assertions that no such plan existed, or would provide further details about the existence of the plan. At the request of the American side of the Joint Commission, the Vice President and the Secretary of State have raised this issue to their Russian counterparts through letters, brief discussions, and non-papers. The issue also has been raised repeatedly within the Joint Commission. As the U.S. Chairman of the Commissions Vietnam War Working Group, Senator Bob Smith vigorously leads the American approach to Russian counterparts on this important issue.
Archival Access in the Former USSR Republics and the Eastern European Nations
The VWWG has obtained access to a number of important archives in non-Russian states of the former USSR. In the past five years, VWWG researchers have worked in defense ministry, Communist Party, and security archives of several former republics of the USSR, as well as in a number of archives in Eastern Europe. Support from these states for continued access to their archives is encouraging, and there is sufficient reason to believe that useful information might still be uncovered. Nonetheless, the most important archival information related to the fate of unaccounted-for American service members from the Vietnam War most likely resides in Russian archives.
The VWWG has actively pressed for official Russian support to the working group's humanitarian mission at all levels. In a number of important areas, obtaining such support has been challenging. In every forum available, however, the U.S. side of the working group will continue to urge a more active high-level involvement on the part of the Russian side.
The U.S. side of the working group is heartened by the prospect that it might soon obtain access to the Central Archives of the Russian Ministry of Defense at Podolsk. It is anticipated that materials will be forthcoming from these archives that will substantively contribute to the fullest possible accounting of missing Americans from the Vietnam War. The U.S. side of the working group will continue to press for the widest possible access to this and other Russian archives. Meanwhile, research in the archives of non-Russian republics of the former USSR, the U.S., and East European nations will continue.
Confirmed by order of the President of the Russian Federation
October 6th, 2000, No. 1725
Composition Russian Federation Presidential Commission on
Prisoners of War, Internees, and Missing in Action
Zolotarev V.A. Head, Institute of Military History, Ministry of Defense of Russia (Chairman of the Commission)
Golumbovskiy K.V. Head of Department of the Directorate of the apparatus of the Security Council of the Russian Federation (Deputy Chairman of the Commission)
Nikiforov N.I. Deputy Head, Institute of Military History, Ministry of Defense of Russian (Secretary of the Commission)
Anderson K.M. Director, Russian State Archives of Socio-Political History
Arbatov A.G. Deputy, State Duma of the Federal Assembly of the Russian Federation (by agreement)
Bashkov G.K. Deputy Chairman, Commission of Former Prisoners of War, Russian Committee of Veterans of the War and Military Service (by agreement)
Bezborodov N.M. Deputy, State Duma of the Federal Assembly of the Russian Federation (by agreement)
Bilalov A.G. Deputy, State Duma of the Federal Assembly of the Russian Federation (by agreement)
Biryukov L.I. Chief of Department on the Committee for Military Internationalists of the Council of Heads of State for the Commonwealth of Independent States
Borisov T.N. Deputy Head of Department of the Ministry for State Property
Botka N.P. Deputy, State Duma of the Federal Assembly of the Russian Federation (by agreement)
Brudukov P.T. Deputy, State Duma of the Federal Assembly of the Russian Federation (by agreement)
Vinogradov V.K. Chief Inspector and Deputy Director of the Federal Security Service of Russia
Volkov V.N. Deputy, State Duma of the Federal Assembly of the Russian Federation (by agreement)
Gvozdeva S.N. Deputy, State Duma of the Federal Assembly of the Russian Federation (by agreement)
Grisenko V.N. Deputy Head of Main Directorate of the General Staff of the Armed Forces of the Russian Federation
Grishankov M.I. Deputy, State Duma of the Federal Assembly of the Russian Federation (by agreement)
Deyneka V.G. Commander, Naval Aviation, Russian Navy
Didenko A.S. Plenipotentiary Representative of the Ministry of Defense of Russia in the organs of State Government-Head of the Special Department
Yermakova E.L. Deputy, State Duma of the Federal Assembly of the Russian Federation (by agreement)
Zagidullin S.I. Deputy, State Duma of the Federal Assembly of the Russian Federation (by agreement)
Zolotukhin G.A. Head of Directorate of the Affairs of the Ministry of Defense of Russia
Kadyrov A. Head of the Administration of the Chechen Republic
Kalinin Yu. I. Deputy Minister of Justice of the Russian Federation
Klimov V.V. Deputy, State Duma of the Federal Assembly of the Russian Federation (by agreement)
Kozlov V.P. Director of ROSARKHIV (Archival Service of Russia)
Korotayev V.I. Deputy Director, Russian State Military Archives
Kruglik V.M. Deputy Director, Federal Border Guard Service of Russia
Lekareva V.A. Deputy, State Duma of the Federal Assembly of the Russian Federation (by agreement)
Mironenko S.V. Director of the State Archives of the Russian Federation (GARF)
Musatov M.I. Deputy, State Duma of the Federal Assembly of the Russian Federation (by agreement)
Orlov A.S. Chief Specialist of the Institute of Military History of the Ministry of Defense of Russia
Osipov S.N. Head of Department, Ministry of Justice of Russia
Pamfilova E.A. President of the Socio-Political movement "For the Dignity of the People" (by agreement)
Panin S.O Chief of Directorate of the Foreign Intelligence Service of Russia
Pronichev V.Ye. First Deputy Director, Federal Security Service of Russia
Pudikov V.P. Chief of Directorate, Apparatus of the Security Council of the Russian Federation
Rybakov Yu.A. Deputy, State Duma of the Federal Assembly of the Russian Federation (by agreement)
Stegniy P.V. Director of Department, Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Russia
Tarasov S.P. Head, Central Naval Archives
Trubnikov V.M. Head, Main Directorate, Ministry of Internal Affairs of Russia
Fedulova M.G. Member, Coordinating Council of the Union of Soldiers' Mothers Committees of Russia (by agreement)
Filippov V.A. Deputy Head, Military Memorial Center of the Armed Forces of the Russian Federation
Chuvashin S.I. Head, Central Archives of the Ministry of Defense of Russia
Shauro S.V. Head, Main Information Center, Ministry of Internal Affairs of Russia
Shchekochikhin Yu.P. Deputy, State Duma of the Federal Assembly of the Russian Federation (by agreement)
Yakushev V.N. Head of Department of a Directorate of the President of the Russian Federation
FOR MORE INFORMATION
The Defense Prisoner of War/Missing Personnel Office maintains an Internet site or "Homepage" that provides up-to-date information on the work of the U.S.-Russia Joint Commission on POW/MIAs and information on the entire range of U.S. Department of Defense personnel accounting efforts. The site is located at: http://www.dtic.mil/dpmo/.
A large volume of documents collected by the Commission relating to World War II, the Korean War and the Cold War is archived at the Library of Congress and may be accessed at the following web site: http://www.lcweb2.loc.gov/trf/trfquery.html.
Additionally, Commission documents related to the Vietnam War may be found at: http://www.lcweb2.loc.gov/pow/powhome.html.
Archival materials related to the Commission may also be found at the National Archives and Records Administration in College Park, Maryland in Record Group 330.II.81. Individuals who wish to access these archives are advised to contact the Textual Archives Services Division at (301) 713-7250, extension 235. By calling several days in advance, it is possible to have materials of interest located and set aside prior to a visit. Further information on accessing material at the National Archives may be found at their webpage: http://www.nara.gov/.
Questions pertaining to the search for information on Russian POW/MIAs may be addressed to the Russian Federation Presidential Commission on Prisoners of War, Internees and Missing in Action at: 103132, Russia, Moscow, Staraya Ploshchad, Building 4, Entrance 6, telephone (095) 206-5948, fax (095) 206-3304.