Response to Mr. Daly
You should have come to this page from the page describing the myth that satellite
imagery shows "distress symbols" or "authenticator codes" stamped or
otherwise laid out in rice fields and other terrain in North Vietnam. These
"symbols" -- that do not exist -- are supposed to prove the US POWs were alive
in 1992, in Vietnam, and were signaling for help. One individual who pushes this
myth is Mr. Rich Daly, who identifies himself as executive director or researcher or
something like that for an organization calling itself "Minnesota Won't Forget
POW-MIA." Daly is a master at collecting documents, selecting material out of
context, then hammering away at it.
Daly pops up from time to time on the internet newsgroups alt.war.vietnam or
alt.war.pow-mia where he posts articles that misrepresent fact. In 1995 and 1996,
Daly wrote several letters to the Defense POW-Missing Personnel Office. He also was
the source of an article in a Minnesota newspaper -- I believe it was in August 1994 --
spreading the imagery symbols myth. Daly wrote to DPMO and we responded. He
then took out of context statements in our response and sent them to Senator Paul
Wellstone of Minnesota, asking that the Senator get the answers. Wellstone's office
sent Daly's letter to DPMO who answered the same questions again. This charade
continued for a while and may be going on still.
In response to a FOIA request that I submitted on imagery, I received a copy of Daly's
letters and the DPMO responses. I have reproduced here an 8-page letter from DPMO to
Senator Wellstone addressing Daly's claims. I scanned the original and converted it
to text. This letter is a bit difficult to read and understand because reading it is
sort of like coming in on the middle of a bad movie. Still, I recommend that you
read it, print it, read it some more. Daly frequently claims that DPMO did or said
something; this letter addresses his nonsense.
Begin quote of letter from Defense POW-Missing Personnel Office to
in response to letter from Rich Daly to Wellstone.
INTERNATIONAL SECURITY AFFAIRS
OFFICE OF THE ASSISTANT
SECRETARY OF DEFENSE
2400 DEFENSE PENTAGON WASHINGTON, [D.C. 20301-2400
1 May 1996
In reply refer to:
Honorable Paul Wellstone
United States Senator
2550 University Avenue, West
Court International Building
St. Paul, MN 55114-1026
Dear Senator Wellstone:
Thank you for your November 14, 1995, facsimile and April 12, 1996, letter. Your
facsimile forwarded a copy of a letter sent to you by Richard Daly. Mr. Daly was
responding to a letter sent by my office regarding "alleged pilot distress
symbols." He submitted a paper contesting 11 items related to these alleged symbols
and their investigation which he claims were not addressed by my office the Defense
POW/MIA, Office (DPMO). This letter addresses his concerns.
In his first item, Mr. Daly references comments made by the Senate Select Committee on
POW/MIA Affairs by stating "Senate Select Committee's recommendation that the
appropriate high ranking officials of the Executive Branch" seek information on
"GX2527" "by name" from the "government of Vietnam". The
Select Committee further advised: "In making that request, it should be emphasized to
the Vietnamese that there is a basis for questioning whether he could be alive." Mr.
Daly paraphrases from my correspondence that "DOD investigators" visited the
"area" and found no "witnesses".
United States Government (USG) officials did not approach the Vietnamese concerning an
American who was unaccounted for after his C-130 aircraft was downed by an enemy
surface-to-air missile in Laos in 1969 because there was no evidence any crew member
survived the incident. The analysis of all source intelligence did not support a finding
that any crew member survived.
When seven imagery experts reviewed the same photography as that viewed by the one
consultant who claimed to have seen "GX2527" and failed to reach consensus as to
its presence on the ground in Vietnam, no correlation to the American missing in Laos
should have been made. Continued and extensive analysis of the 1992 photography, as well
as subsequent photography, produced no identification of the alleged symbol. This fact,
coupled with an intelligence expert's on-the-ground investigation of the area, failed to
surface any evidence of its presence. The USG lacked a sufficient basis to approach the
Vietnamese with a by-name request for information on the individual lost in Laos.
In "ITEM 2," Mr. Daly again references the Senate Select Committee by
stating: "Committee finding in regard to the symbol "GX2527" that:
"This number correlates to the primary and back-up distress symbols and authenticator
number of a pilot lost in Laos in 1969." "JSSA (Joint Services Survival,
Evasion, Resistance, and Escape Agency) has confirmed that '2527' matches the
authenticator number of a serviceman still unaccounted for in Southeast Asia." JSSA,
the agency tasked with responsibility for the distress signals-evasion and escape
(E&E) program since 1953, states clearly and authoritatively in an official letter of
response, dated 6 Jan 1995, to an inquiry by Senator Smith on this same issue;
"According to the PACOM [Pacific Command] documents covering the Vietnam War period,
GX and TA were issued as classified E&E coded letter pair distress symbols; G and T
were considered primary letters with X and A as backups" and "an E&E code
letter symbol combined with an authenticator, such as GX2527, if seen on the ground, would
be a valid and very effective distress symbol."
Mr. Daly alleges the DPMO ignores these findings and denies the validity of
"GX2527" as a distress code. Whether the alleged symbol "GX2527" is a
valid E&E symbol is not relevant; six USG interagency intelligence imagery experts
took the position that there was no symbol an the imagery in question, and thus, there is
no correlation to any unaccounted for American. Numerous individuals since 1992, some
trained in photo analysis and some not, have reviewed the same photography viewed by the
one consultant. Each has stated that he could not see the alleged symbol.
In "ITEM 3," Mr. Daly states: ""Retired Colonel Lorenzo Burrough's
finding 'with 100 percent confidence a faint 'GX 2527' in a photograph of a prison
facility in Vietnam taken in June, 1992." Colonel Burrough's April 27, 1993, DATELINE
interview, where he stated clearly that the chances that "GX2527" could have
been created naturally are "absolutely zero". And memos from the records of the
Senate investigation that clearly discredit Carroll Lucas, who was brought in after
Colonel Burroughs findings were brought to the Committee's attention." Mr. Daly
alleges that DPMO "Ignores the findings of Colonel Burroughs, who used to run the top
secret National Photographic Interpretation Center, and sides with Carroll Lucas."
Several of the statements in ""ITEM 3" are in error. Burroughs and Lucas
were consultants to the Senate Select Committee. Both were hired for that purpose about
the same time, and on December 17, 1992, they issued a joint report. Mr. Burroughs stated
that special imagery enhancement techniques of positive and negative viewing were used to
identify the symbol; Mr. Lucas stated he believed the alleged symbol to be natural
shadings in the field, and not man-made intentional symbols. Based upon these opposing
positions in the joint report, the matter was submitted to a panel of six government
interagency intelligence imagery experts, all highly trained and current in
imagery analysis techniques. These six experts concluded that the suspect GX2527 could not
be identified as an intentionally prepared man-made symbol. Therefore, seven out of eight
persons who conducted analysis into the alleged symbol stated they could find no
intentionally prepared, man-made symbol. No findings of the consultant, Burroughs, were
ignored. Actually, his findings formed the basis for the further and extensive follow-on
analysis and investigation. Neither the public statements made by Mr. Burroughs, nor his
former position at the National Photographic Interpretation Center had anything to do with
his findings nor those of the interagency panel. DPMO agrees with the position of the six
interagency imagery analytic experts to the effect that there was no GX2527 symbol evident
in photography of 1992.
In "ITEM 4," Mr. Daly states: "Mathematical computations of all possible
coincidental outcomes of the six digit-alpha-numeric code "GX2527" as confirmed
by a University of Minnesota math professor and basic high school science clearly
demonstrating that there are well over 2 billion other possibilities that could have
occurred instead of 'GX 2527'." Mr. Daly again alleges that DPMO "Ignores
mathematical evidence completely."
The mathematical evidence is not in question; what is in question is whether the
alleged symbol GX2527 was on the ground and imaged on the 1992 photographic imagery of
Vietnam. The consensus of imagery experts is that it was not.
In "ITEM 5," Mr. Daly states: "SEREX 72 TA 88 symbol: Declassified
Defense Department documents clearly showing "T" as a valid 'Primary" distress code and "A" a valid
"Backup" distress code. Mr. Daly believes the DPMO "Ignores this evidence
No one questions the fact that T and A, along with many letters of the alphabet were
used during the Vietnam War as evader symbols. However, the issue in question is whether
these items were actually observed in photography of Vietnam. The individual who initially
believed he observed the symbol in a print made from imagery had no analytic experience in
imagery interpretation. Imagery analysts reviewed the actual imagery and found no symbols.
Thus there was no evidence providing leads upon which to base further investigation.
In "ITEM 6," Mr. Daly states: "JSSA Deputy Director Robert Dussault's
testimony before the Senate Select Committee, taken under oath, clearly stating that he
saw the letters "SEREX" and that the symbols "TA" were the
"E&E code letters that applied in 1972", the year the pilot was shot
down." Mr. Daly once again asserts that the DPMO "Ignores this evidence
Mr. Dussault is not an imagery expert. His comments concerning his observations are his
own, and did not represent the views of the government, or, in particular, the views of
the imagery experts at the National Photographic Interpretation Center. They are not
supported by either the review of the same print or the original imagery by photo analysis
experts. In the original photography of the area in question, imagery analysts have not
found the symbols in question. In the absence of substantive evidence as to the presence
of these symbols, the alleged symbols were never previously addressed by the USG.
In "ITEM 7," Mr. Daly states: "From the Senate Select Committee report:
"They (JSSA analysts) correlated 19 of those authenticator numbers with numbers
belonging to Americans still listed as missing in Southeast Asia." Mr. Daly states
that DPMO has ignored completely this ""major finding."
This is not a major finding. The same Senate report also states, "it was later
demonstrated to the satisfaction of all parties that none of these numbers were man-made,
and all were naturally occurring phenomena such as shadows, ridges, or trees, with the
exception of one additional symbol identified by one consultant in an altogether different
location (Senate Report 103-1, page 25).
"JSSA personnel, who either were not trained in photographic analysis, or were not
current in photo analysis techniques, found more than 100 alleged symbols in prints
(reproduced copies of the original imagery) shown to them by imagery experts. When their
observations were checked further, some of the numbers and/or letters they claimed to find
in the print could be correlated to the numbers and/or letters of Americans who were
However, when allowed to review the original imagery (not a reproduced copy) of the
same area, the same JSSA analysts conceded that they had not observed this large number of
symbols in the area analyzed. Thus, whether these nonexistent numbers or letters
correlated to missing Americans was never an issue; the JSSA personnel agreed they could
find no such letters or numbers in the original photography of Vietnam.
To demonstrate to the JSSA personnel how easy it was to find numbers or letters in
prints that were not observable in the original photography, the JSSA personnel were given
the opportunity to review photography of one of our western states. In this photography,
they were able to find similar letters and numbers.
In "ITEM 8," Mr. Daly writes: "1988 'USA' symbol: Declassified Defense
Department document from 1988 clearly stating that the letters of the "USA"
symbol "form water filled depressions in the otherwise dry field". This document
dramatically rebuts the 1992 "Laotian youths" explanation provided by the
Defense Department." Once again, Mr. Daly states that the DPMO has ignored evidence.
The statement concerning rebuttal by "Laotian youths" is wrong. When imagery
analysts first reviewed the photography containing "USA," their initial analytic
findings were that the letters were depressions that when filled with water would form the
dark images observed on the imagery. They based their initial analytic findings on the
basis that since, the surrounding rice field was much lighter in color, the darkness of
the letters was probably caused by water filled depressions.
This initial photographic analysis was in error. In November 1992, when a United States
Government investigator visited the field where the letters had been observed 4 years
earlier, he determined that field in question was covered with rice straw approximately
18" tall. The rice straw accounted for the lighter
color of the rice field. When the rice straw was removed, however, it was discovered that
the earth underneath the light colored rice straw was dark, and was still damp months
following the harvesting of the rice (any farm boy from the upper midwest can attest to
this occurrence where hay bales or windrows are left too long in the field). One of the
sons of the rice field owner stated that he had stacked rice straw in the shape of the
symbol "USA" and set it afire. His acknowledged actions would have revealed the
solid black earth below the lighter colored rice straw. The removal of the rice straw, by
burning away the straw down to the bare rice paddy earth below, would account for the
darkness of the letters as observed in the 1988 photography.
In ""ITEM 9," Mr. Daly states "1988 ""WRYE" symbol:
This symbol was found on overhead imagery taken in 1988. The DPMO states that his remains
were returned in 1990. The DPMO should be required to provide an itemized report on the
"remains," in question and action should be taken to establish an 'independent'
forensic examination of said "remains."
Agreement was never reached among the Senate imagery consultants as to whether
"WRYE" was in the original 1988 photography. One analyst said, with
approximately 60 percent confidence, that he could see a possible "RYE," but he
was less confident that he saw a "W;" the other consultant said he believed it
was man-made. Other photo analysts who reviewed the same photography failed to find the
The return of the remains of Major Wrye is not in question; in the absence of photo
evidence that such a symbol was actually on the ground in Southeast Asia, there should be
no linkage between the alleged symbol and the date of return of positively identified and
In "ITEM 10," Mr. Daly states: "How the 6 imagery analysts" whose
combined analytic experience totaled more than 116 years" and who subsequently negate
all the distress signals evidence, were found by the Senate Select Committee to be
"not very knowledgeable about the military's E&E signals or, in some cases, even
aware of the program." Mr. Daly states that the DPMO has ignored this contradiction
There is no contradiction to this issue
for the DPMO and the Government interagency imagery experts to ignore. This statement is taken out of context from the Senate report. When the above
statement is placed within its proper context, it is non-contradictory. In addition to the
statement cited by Mr. Daly, the Senate report also says that "the Committee was
surprised by statements from DIA (Defense Intelligence Agency] and CIA [Central
Intelligence Agency] imagery analysts directly involved in POW/MIA work that they
were not very knowledgeable about the military's E&E signals or, in some cases, even
aware of the program." This was not a reference to the interagency panel of six
experts, but rather to the one or two analysts working in DIA and CIA who were directly
involved in the POW issue. Note that the Committee stated further that, "it was
confident that if a symbol appeared clearly on imagery, it would be identified by imagery
In "ITEM II," Mr. Daly states: "That the DPMO has misrepresented the
facts and findings involved in the entire distress signals issue, that NO AERIAL
IMAGERY OR EVIDENCE RELATING TO IT has been declassified, and that the Executive Branch
has evaded its moral and legal responsibility to honor in good faith the recommendation of
the Senate Select Committee to "request information" "from the government
of Vietnam on behalf of Peter Matthes."
The issue of distress signals is extremely sensitive and not one that lends itself
easily to declassification since it remains an active program in which present day
American aviators are trained for future actions in hostile combat environs.
The DPMO has never misrepresented facts or findings involved in this important, but
highly emotionally charged issue; if the question has ever been whether or not there was a
symbol or signal evident in imagery, DPMO has necessarily relied on the subject experts
who conduct photo analysis as a profession to provide the answer. If the experts agree
there is no symbol or signal as claimed by others who are outside the field of expertise,
then DPMO supports the experts' position. That is not misrepresentation. For further
discussion on this subject see the enclosed statement of former Assistant Secretary of
Defense Duane P. Andrews before the Senate Select Committee, October 15, 1992.
In October and November 1993, a joint United States-Lao team conducted an excavation at
an AC-130A crash site in Laos. This was the aircraft on which Major Peter Matthes was the
co-pilot. The remains of only one of the aircrew were positively identified; the remains
of the other seven aircrew members were recovered as group remains and repatriated on
November 15, 1993. Physical evidence recovered among the wreckage confirms that all eight
crew member's parachutes were onboard the aircraft at the time of the crash. When the
total of all information and evidence was carefully and methodically assembled and studied
by the American forensic scientists who rank among the best in the world, it was
determined that no crew member, including Major Matthes, survived the loss incident. This
case was effectively closed in October 1995 when the eight individual and group remains
associated with this case were returned to the United States for group burial.
Thank you for seeking the Department of Defense's response to this important issue. I
hope you find the information we have provided useful in answering Mr. Daly's questions.
Should you have any further questions, please do not hesitate to contact my office.
James W. Wold
Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense
Enclosure: As stated
End quote of letter from Defense POW-Missing Personnel
Office to Senator Wellstone
in response to letter from Rich Daly to Wellstone.
Return to the imagery article.
Update (16 October
Mr. Daly continues to spread phony information as recently as October 2000.
In 1967, an East German film crew produced a propoganda film about US POWs in
Vietnam, titled Pilots in Pajamas. Mr. Daly is now claiming that an Air
Force officer who was shot down in 1968 (shot down AFTER the movie was made) appears as a
captive in the movie. Nothing of the sort happened. What happened was that the
individual in question was interviewed on film some time before he was shot down
and a clip of that interview was used in Pilots in Pajamas. Mr.
Daly ignores this chain of events so he continues to claim that a missing man
actually appeared in captivity in Pilots in Pajamas.