MIA Facts Site

Garwood's "Island Fortress" Claim:

The Vietnamese Response

If you have come to this page, you have completed reading the story of the Smith - Garwood- Hendon "island fortress" fantasy.  The following article is the text of a French press agency report on the Vietnamese response to the claims made by Smith and Garwood in their July 1993 trip to Hanoi.  Three retired Vietnamese colonels who worked with Garwood during his period of collaboration in Vietnam held a press conference and this report details their statements.  This report was broadcast in English from Hong Kong, 11 July 1993, 1047 hours GMT.

The following text is quoted exactly from the AFP report.  I have occasionally placed an explanatory note in the text, marked by parentheses like this (Note: . . . )


Dateline Hanoi, July 11. - - - Vietnamese officers who said they worked closely with collaborator Robert Garwood during the 1970s accused him Sunday of betraying their friendship by claiming he saw American prisoners here after the war.

The three retired colonels were made available to reporters after Garwood concluded a four-day visit to Vietnam with U. S. Senator bob Smith, who said the results of the trip had boosted Garwood's credibility as a witness.

The officers took the opposite tack, saying that Garwood had no credibility since he maintained that he was a prisoner of war (POW) until he left Vietnam in 1979, when they said he lived freely, contributed to the propaganda work and had a Vietnamese fiancee.

Colonel Nguyen Thai, chief of enemy proselytizing for the fifth military region, said Marine Corps Private Garwood was captured in 1965 and was chosen for early release along with several other U.S. prisoners in 1967. (Note:  There were other U.S. POWs who were released in 1968.  Two of these men testified regarding Garwood's collaboration, his refusal to be released, and his participation in a "liberation ceremony.")

"We tried to persuade him to return to U. S. Army, but he didn't agree.  After his capture, he realized that the Vietnamese people and government were carrying on a policy of democracy and equality that he thought didn't exist in America," Thai said.

The retired colonel said Garwood became a salaried cadre from the Vietnamese People's Army, and lived in or near Hanoi from 1970 until he asked to go home in 1979.  (Note:  Several hundred former South Vietnamese military officers who encountered Garwood in the "re-education camps" NW of Hanoi where they were imprisoned, testified that he was a salaried member of the camp staff.  They learned this from conversations with Garwood and with other North Vietnamese military personnel who worked with Garwood.)

"We were ordered by upper levels that he was to be accepted into Vietnamese society, and we were ready to treat him as an associate of the Vietnamese people and not as an enemy.  He was treated as a friend, who could be free," Thai said.

Garwood told AFP after arriving here that he had been a prisoner until 1979, the he said he had more freedom of movement that other POWs.  He also said that he saw at least 30 to 40 apparent American POWs in Vietnam after the war.

"When we released him we hoped that he would enjoy happy life with his family in the United States.  We hoped he would not be punished by the U. S. government.  We sought to do everything to protect him," Thai said.

"But now he has come back with a bad and impolite attitude, saying he had been 14 years in prison, captured and tortured, but this is completely fabricated."

Colonel Doan Hanh, commander of the unit that administered re-education camps, produced a black-and-white photo of Garwood and an Asian man identified as his roommate, a Thai pilot who defected to Vietnam, standing in front of the Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum in Hanoi before 1975.  (Note:  According to reports from hundreds of former inmates of the re-education camps, and according to Garwood's own statements, he was close friends with a Thai pilot named Son, who had fled to North Vietnam.)

No other Vietnamese documents concerning Garwood were produced, however.

Garwood, who was court-martialed for collaboration after he returned home, said upon arrival here that the Vietnamese would try to discredit him by saying he was their friend, but he stressed: "I was their enemy then and I'm their enemy now."

Smith said Garwood had boosted his credibility by leading the Senator's delegation to an island in remote Yen Bai province where he said he saw apparent American prisoners held in two buildings in 1977.  (Note:  Smith and Garwood did not visit and island.  They motored along the shore of Thach Ba and put in on a peninsula.)

But Vietnamese officials said the two buildings Smith's team found on the island were constructed in 1987. (Note:  Satellite imagery supports this claim that buildings in the area visited by Smith and Garwood were not constructed until the late 1980s.)



And there you have it folks:  comments by the Vietnamese on the charade pulled by Garwood and Smith in 1993 as well as Vietnamese statements on Garwood's collaboration.  Is it not amazing that the large quantity of information collected by the U. S. directly correlates with and supports what the Vietnamese have to say and directly refutes Smith and Garwood.

Back to the island fortress story.