Symposium: Why We Left Our POWs Behind

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During the 2008 presidential campaign Pulitzer Prize journalist, Sydney Schanberg (who exposed the “Killing Fields” massacre in Cambodia) could not get his expose of John McCain published in any of the major dailies.  Finally, “The Nation” printed the story.  And when that issue hit the stands, the POW/MIA issue should have been thrust front and center in the media. Instead McCain’s betrayal of our POW/MIAs registered not even a blip on the political news radar.

Had this been an isolated incident it could somehow have been explained away (i.e. McCain’s military record as sacred cow) but the fact that it happens over and over again points to a conspiracy that is beyond “theory.”

Jay brought up some disturbing information about policy changes at the Defense Prisoner Missing Personnel Office (DPMO), under new director Robert Newberry.  When Newberry was first appointed by Obama I spoke with him about my Korean War POW/MIA Peace Treaty Initiative.  He was very supportive of the idea.  Here is the email he sent me after he reviewed the initiative:

Thanks Bill,

This looks like a good initiative and it certainly makes sense.  We should most assuredly learn from the past.  Let me review it more thoroughly with my staff and I will get back to you.  I added Ed Frothingham to this e-mail, he is my Principal Director.

Thanks again,


I knew once his handlers got a hold of the Initiative, Newberry would have to backpedal and make sure the Initiative didn’t see the light of day.  Here’s his follow-up response.   And look how fast they instituted “damage control.”  Nothing happens that fast in that office.


I appreciated the opportunity to read your draft. We would offer one recommendation.  The issue you raise was also evident in the peace negotiations with the North Vietnamese from 1968 to 1973. The part that POWs and MIAs played in the negotiations was examined by the Senate Select Committee on POW/MIA Affairs and there is a good account of it in pages 6- 14 of the Executive Summary of the Committees report (Senate Report 103-1, January 13, 1993). The Summary may provide information useful for your initiative.

That said, as part of the Department of Defense, we are not in a position to endorse or co-sponsor your initiative. I personally do want to assure you of the importance the Department attaches to the accounting for our missing personnel and your efforts to assist.


This is such a pile of useless, political-ease nonsense.  My documentary film is partly about the travesty that was the Senate Select Committee on POW/MIA Affairs.  He said he watched the film.  How, with a straight face, can he suggest I look at the Select Committee report?

A few years back I met with Newberry’s predecessor, Ambassador Charles Ray.  We had a a face-to-face meeting for over an hour and a half.  Again, like Newberry, his initial response was favorable pending review by his “staff”.  And again that’s when it got shut down.

His final word on the matter was to speak with Congress about it because that’s where DPMO gets their marching orders.  Of course when you go to Congress, our legislators first start looking into the issue by inquiring at DPMO. And what they’re told by DPMO is that they have no evidence of live POW/MIAs. So essentially, DPMO stops any possibility of ever getting marching orders from Congress. And so the revolving door continues to spin insuring no further action on the matter.

Right now my only hope within government rides with Sen. Lugar’s office because right now they at least seem to be skeptical of what DPMO is telling them.

For a private initiative on the Korean War front, maybe some “journalist” will walk into North Korea, get captured and one of our former presidents will run over there on a rescue mission. And maybe that “journalist” could say, “I’m not leaving without our POWs.”  Then see our red-faced former president save face.

FP: Thank you Bill Dumas. Tell us how McCain betrayed our POW/MIAs.

Dumas: McCain was intent of being the chairman of the Senate Select Committee on POW/MIA Affairs in the early 90s.  Bob Dole thought better of that prospect and wisely chose Sen. Bob Smith who as one of only a few Senators on the committee who wholeheartedly worked to bring all the evidence of abandoned POWs into the open to conduct a full investigation.

As Sen. Smith would later say, “We never finished the job” and the committee was disbanded a year after it began its work.  Only one day of the hearings focused on the Korean War.  (Since one of the Clinton administration’s top priorities was to normalize relations with Vietnam, the POW panel needed to go away.  Also, co-chair, Sen. John Kerry’s wife’s family landed the largest ever real estate deal with Vietnam shortly after the hearings ended – see Sydney Schanberg’s revealing story in The Village Voice during the 2004 presidential campaign).

It was clear to all the POW/MIA advocates and investigators that John McCain was more of an obstacle to the process which seemed an odd contradiction since he was a POW in Vietnam.  McCain would essentially tell witnesses like retired Col. Phillip Corso, who was President Eisenhower’s POW/MIA liaison during the Korean War, that he was lying when he said the President (on Corso’s recommendation) decided to abandon American POWs who were transferred to the Soviet gulags (possibly over 1200 POWs and at least 800.)  McCain based his accusation that Corso was wrong about that assertion solely based on McCain’s feeling that “Eisenhower wouldn’t do that.”  (Ironically, during the Senate hearings, McCain treated his North Vietnamese POW camp interrogator like he was his best friend and gave him a hug after his testimony.  And then brought the sister of an American MIA pilot to tears with his brutal and insulting questioning of her before the panel.)

Aside from McCain’s despicable treatment of POW/MIA family members and advocates, he was able to use a stealth tactic to slip though an amendment to a Senate bill that would keep millions of government records pertaining to POW/MIAs classified.  And this was at the same time that Sen. Smith and others were attempting to declassify these documents to help in the research of abandoned POWs.  Clearly there are no national security concerns in keeping these documents classified.

McCain benefitted directly from his actions because his stealth bill would insure that his POW records would never be declassified even after he and all his next of kin are no longer alive.  The question is, why would McCain go to such extreme lengths to keep his records classified?  Could it be that the records reveal an alternate version of the carefully crafted and exploited “war hero” story that McCain has meticulously cultivated.  As an aside, it should be noted that before McCain served in Vietnam his top ambition was to be President of the United States.

For details about McCain’s “betrayal” of POW/MIA go to:

Benge: I agree with all of the contributors’ statements and have little more to say except perhaps a couple of things related to the 1205 document mentioned by Jay.  I wrote an article, POW/MIAs: Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell for publication in the Washington Times a little after Bill Gertz’s article State Department accused of stifling POW-MIA Probe was published on 1/12/99.  In it, I mentioned the failure of DPMO Russian division to investigate a case I reported (based on an FBIS report and an article in Pravda) regarding US Army Sergeant Jim Patrick captured at the at the Elbe River in Germany in May of 1945.

After the discovery of the 1205 document, a Russian archivist stated that there were a larger number of similar documents in the archives; however, the Americans weren’t interested in them.  The Russian archivist was immediately “silenced.”  A Russian parliamentarian stated that during a meeting in Moscow last month (probably December 98) “…we were told by your government, your State Department, not to pursue these issues.” In June 1992, Russian President Boris Yeltsin arriving in the US made a stunning revelation on Dateline NBC that American POWs had been taken to the Soviet Union: “Our archives have shown this to be true.”  Immediately the UAG launched a concert effort to debunk Yelsin, first the Administration claimed that Dateline had translated Yeltsin’s remarks incorrectly.  After the translation was verified, Yeltsin was then accused of having drunk too much Vodka and had misspoke.  He too was silenced.  A former member of the US-Russian Joint Commission on POW/MIAs told me that after Yeltsin returned to Russia, a cable was sent by DOD/State warning him that further revelations on POWs could jeopardize aid to Russia.

Later, KGB Major General Oleg Kalugin, a classic spy master and Soviet disinformation officer (control officer for the honey pot scandal in the State Department), stated several times, once on Australian TV, that he had “interviewed” a rather large number of American POWs in Hanoi after 1975.  For his silence, he was given a green card and now owns half-interest in the spy museum in DC.

And the band plays on.  Mike

FP: This is very depressing.

Joe Douglas, last word goes to you.

Douglass: One of the characteristics a reader will find in the POW/MIA non-fiction literature (now 25 to 30 books, several documentaries, and numerous op-ed pieces) is a noticeable  common belief reached by dozens of independent researchers. This belief is also present in the above discussion and is reflected the cry of “Foul!” in their analyses of the U.S. government’s handling of this issue and the no-nonsense charges of “cover-up” and thousands of missing POW/MIAs who were knowingly left behind.  This cry is accompanied by a tremendous number of high-quality facts. What is also clear is the gradual emergence of additional facts, rarely given any “presence” in the press or government announcements, respecting these American soldiers who were knowingly left behind.

Sooner or later, with luck and unwitting publicity, some survivors may emerge and gain the publicity they deserve. Should this take place, as has already been the case in select cases, it will not be accompanied by any positive media exposure because of what they tell us about both our government and the Soviet’s and Russian’s government. Those who returned have been threatened and told to keep quiet, and discredited by a number of official professional Washington actors.

Thus, in their absence—and presence even more so should some more return—those whose curiosity has been set in motion are invited to carefully read one of the best eye-opening examples of what one well-placed insider within the U.S. government had to say in writing in his resignations about our governments duplicity. I refer to the well-decorated former Army Green Beret solder, Col. Millard Peck, who also volunteered to head the Defense Intelligence Agency POW-MIA office that was responsible for actions respecting the missing POW/MIAs. After two years he quit in disgust. His resignation is available on the Internet and in a Senate Republican Staff report, An Examination of U.S. Policy Toward POW/MIAs, and as an appendix in my book, Betrayed. This Senate report, short and to the point, another government first, was widely distributed by Senator Helms’ staff beginning on May 23,1991, ultimately 120,000 copies. It was not long before those “in charge” got to Helms, who then fired all those responsible. This short report is what forced the formation of a Senate Select Committee on POW/MIA Affairs in 1992, to learn the truth (that is, bury the issue for good).

Also, for those who are interested in what the highest positioned Communist defector ever knew first-hand about what happened to a major portion of the American POW/MIAs who never returned, and why the US Government tried to silence and discredit this defector, his story is presented in full in Betrayed and in several articles readily available on the Internet (See, for example, “Remembering Those We Left Behind”), including a detailed report submitted to the House Armed Forces Personnel Subcommittee in testimony given under oath by the above key Communist official, Col. Phil Corso, and myself in September 1996.

But, beware. None of the books, op-ed pieces, and articles that tell the truth (rather than try to deny what happened or bury the truth) are easy reading because of the horrendous message they tell about our government’s propaganda: that none of our military men were knowingly left behind—alive! They all tell the story of betrayal. The trail of finding the truth starts with the following legacy accumulated by 2002:

Larry J. O’Daniel: Missing In Action: Trail of Deceit (1979).

Bill Paul: “Robert Garwood Says Vietnam Didn’t Return Some American POWs” and numerous other Wall Street Journal articles (1984-1991).

Monica Jensen-Stevenson: 60 Minutes, “Dead or Alive” (1985).

Ted Landreth: We Can Keep You Forever Video (1987) Distribution in the U.S. blocked by the White House.

John M. G. Brown and Thomas G. Ashworth: A Chain of Prisoners: From Yalta to Vietnam (1988).

Monica Jensen-Stevenson and William Stevenson: Kiss the Boys Goodbye: How the United States Betrayed Its Own POWs in Vietnam (1990).

Foreign Relations Republican Staff, U.S. Senate Committee: An Examination of U.S. Policy Toward POW/MIAs (1991).

Nigel Cawthorne: The Bamboo Cage: The Full Story of the American Servicemen still held hostage in South-East Asia (1991).

Dorothy McDaniel: After the Hero’s Welcome: A POW Wife’s Story of the Battle Against a New Enemy (1991).

Ted Landreth: Missing in Action: The Soviet Connection Australian 60 Minutes Video (1991-1992).

Red McDaniel (American Defense Institute): Americans Abandoned Video (1992).

Sydney H. Schanberg: Numerous Newsday articles (1991-1993)

James D. Sanders, Mark A. Sauter, and Cort Kirkwood: Soldiers of Misfortune: Washingon’s Secret Betrayal of American POWs in the Soviet Union (1992).

John M. G. Brown: Moscow Bound: Policy, Politics and the POW/MIA Dilemma (1993).

Mark Sauter and Jim Sanders: The Men We Left Behind: Henry Kissinger, the Politics of Deceit and the Tragic Fate of POWs After the Vietnam War (1993).

Laurence Jolidon: Last Seen Alive: The Search for Missing POWs from the Korean War (1995).

Craig Roberts: The Medusa File, (1997).

Frank Anton: Why Didn’t You Get Me Out, (1997).

Monika Jensen-Stevenson: Spite House: The Last Secret of the War in Vietnam (1997).

George J. Veith: Code-Name Bright Light (1998).

Timothy N. Castle: One Day Too Long: Top Secret Site 85 and the Bombing of North Vietnam (1999).[viii]

Larry O’Daniel: Trails of Deceit (2000).

Philip D. Chinnery: Korean Atrocity: Forgotten War Crimes 1950-1953 (2000).

Steve E. Kiba: The Flag: My Story, Kidnapped by Red China (2002).

And several more added since the above list was compiled, most notably Bill Dumas’ excellent documentary on the Korean War men left behind.

Unfortunately, this issue and its handling has been an enormous national disgrace going back to WWII and even WWI. This is message that all of the discussants above are trying to explain in this virtual town meeting. Also in common, we all give our thanks to our host Dr. Jamie Glazov and Front Page for helping to get this message out.

FP: Thank you Joe Douglass.

Before we depart, Bill Dumas can you kindly give us the link where we can watch your documentary or order it?

Dumas: My documentary film that contains a DVD Extra on McCain is available at The DVD can be purchased there or viewed streaming online at  Please don’t purchase the alternative version of the DVD on Amazon or Ebay. These DVDs are the result of a bad distribution deal that flooded the discount DVD wholesalers and I don’t see any revenue from these sales.  The official DVD is a blue cover.

Thank you, Jamie, for making this forum happen to keep alive the fight to find our POW/MIAs and prevent the repeat of abandoning our soldiers.  It was an honor participating in the discussion with Dr. Douglass, Mike Benge and Jay Veith.

FP: Thank you Bill Dumas.

We also encourage all of our readers to read Joe Douglass’s article, “Remembering Those We Left Behind.”

Dr. Joseph Douglass, Jay Veith, Michael D. Benge and Bill Dumas, thank you so much for joining Frontpage Symposium to discuss this tragic and appalling story.


[i] Ibid, emphasis added, pp. 17-18.

[ii] Ibid., p. 204.

[iii] Ibid., p. 205. The JCS memo that spelled this out was dated 1 April, 1945. As identified in Soldiers of Misfortune, Ambassador Harriman advised the Secretary of State only a few weeks before, “no arguments will induce the Soviets to live up to our interpretation of the agreement except retaliatory measures which affect their interests.” p. 57.

[iv] Secretary of War Henry Stimson noted in a memo the Russian threats not to turn over American prisoners. This was also clear from the Russian position that all Russian “citizens” were to be repatriated, which included all former Russians who had fled Russia and taken up citizenship in other countries. Roosevelt agreed to this, and only reluctantly excepted former Russian citizens in the United States after several top officials complained that it was illegal to turn over those in the United States. None the less, in November, 1,179 Russians who had fought against Stalin in the German Army were turned over to a Soviet ship in Seattle. See Soldiers of Misfortune, pp. 31-39.

[v] Moscow Bound, op. cit., p. 231-327.

[vi] Soldiers of Misfortune, op. cit., pp. 95-133.

[vii] Ibid, p. 96.

[viii] Dr. Castle’s book is focused on Site 85 in Laos and its capture. It is not on the POW/MIA problem in general, but on those missing from Site 85. It is included on this list because what happened at Site 85 fits the “pattern” and is well researched. It also provides an excellent characterization of the decision-making process that provides additional insight into the POW/MIA problem in general.

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  • StephenD

    I applaud the efforts but fear you'll never get to the bottom of it all until it is much too late and all living relatives and memories are gone regarding POW/MIA's.

    • Steve Elkin

      I agree! Every president since Nixon has known about this and done NOTHING!

  • Ben

    The US government attitude towards communist Russia has the certain continuation in it`s international broadcasting of radio Liberty,voice of America on Russia: these radio for years support the Russian policy against the "orange revolutions" and other imperial actions.The liberal ideology of Broadcasting Board somehow connect the today`s Russia with it`s leftist past.

  • LindaRivera

    "In June 1992, Russian President Boris Yeltsin arriving in the US made a stunning revelation on Dateline NBC that American POWs had been taken to the Soviet Union: “Our archives have shown this to be true.” Yeltsin was then accused of having drunk too much Vodka. A former member of the US-Russian Joint Commission on POW/MIAs told me that after Yeltsin returned to Russia, a cable was sent by DOD/State warning him that further revelations on POWs could jeopardize aid to Russia."

    The above reveals, and all of the other information that our government does not care about, and even DESPISES our precious POWs. Isn't the American government supposed to be better than the Russian government?

    There is nothing worse in this world than the betrayal of innocents. It is evident that Yeltsin would have cooperated in freeing our POWs!

    John McCain as well as one U.S. government after another, both Democrat and Republican, are GUILTY of the betrayal of our precious POWs. And the media have operated as another arm of the government by covering up this crime where the U.S. government could have rescued our POWs but REFUSED to do so.

  • LindaRivera

    Years ago, I read that one of the communist governments offered to return our POWs for money and that our government refused.

    Our military must go to war knowing that our government will move heaven and earth to rescue them if they are taken as POWs. The terrible tragedy for our wonderful military heroes is that our government will not lift a finger to help them. Not only that, but our government when GIVEN the opportunity to rescue our POWs will REFUSE to do so. Preferring that our precious POWs endure lives of living hell. Considering that, just what are our heroes fighting for? It is certainly not for justice, freedom and human rights.

  • LindaRivera

    Thank you to frontpage for caring about our POWs and for this article!

    Thank you to all of the wonderful people who for many, many years have been trying so very desperately to help and rescue our POWs. You are all angels.

  • skulldiggerin

    And None Dare Call It Treason.

  • delabejones

    (Etched on Ellis County Veterans
    Memorial in Waxahachie, Texas and inscribed on POW/MIA
    Empty Chair Memorial at New Hampshire Motor Speedway,
    Dedicated 07.17.2011)

    So many fates are left unknown
    And so many rumors that abound
    So many families ask the question
    “When will, the answers be found?”

    So many years have come and gone
    Sometimes, hope is hard to keep
    There’s some who feel there’s none
    And in some, it’s buried deep.

    The pain, is in not knowing
    How, to put loved ones’ to rest
    When there is no way to prove
    They have passed, the final test.

    But, no matter what the answers
    We can’t let this cause alone
    Until, each and every one of them
    Is found, and brought back home

    Del "Abe" Jones

  • LindaRivera

    It is a grave injustice that our serving soldiers are treated like third-class citizens. In the last two elections, voting papers were deliberately not given on time preventing our military from voting.

    Many of our military came home from Vietnam very ill from Agent Orange. In the past, wars were never won by spraying an extremely toxic, health-destroying chemical on trees. Agent Orange did not win the war. It harmed our military and the Vietnamese people.

    Many of our military came home from the first Iraq war very ill from an excessive amount of vaccinations, depleted uranium, etc.

    We must NEVER stop trying to rescue our POWs and must help our ill veterans as much as is humanly possible. And must make sure that our serving military get to vote.

    • delabejones


      With the one hand they seem to give
      And with the other, take away
      “We always will support our Troops!”
      But, they don’t do what they say.

      They promise all those benefits
      As you Raise your hand and Swear
      To Do Your Duty, Serve Your Country
      Anytime, and Anywhere.

      You keep your end of the Bargain
      And Follow Orders to a tee
      Even lay your Life on the Line
      So that others might be Free.

      You don’t ask for a whole lot
      Just to be treated with Respect
      Promises kept and Honesty
      From those People you Protect.

      But, too often those in Power
      Will Betray you without Shame
      Break those Vows they made
      Like it was only just a Game.

      It’s called, “Throwaway Soldiers”
      And the Pawns will always lose
      Because you Play by the Rules
      While they will Play as they chose.

      Del “Abe” Jones

  • LindaRivera

    To delabejones

    So true. And how utterly heartbreaking.

  • Jim

    There are stories about document destruction in the white house in an attempt the shut the door on pows and mia. It seems that one John Kerry and the great patriot John McCain were in the thick of it.

    The reason given was that the Gov. did not want to fight Vietnam all over again.

    McCain even referred to those rekatives of the MIA as Kooks.

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