The Plan to Clear Garwood: An Assault on Those Who Served Honorably
Summary. As of this writing -- February 14, 1999 -- two activities are underway revolving around former USMC PFC Robert Garwood, the only American to have been convicted of collaborating with the enemy in Vietnam. This article is long and confusing. I may edit it one day, but, until then, thanks for reading it and for tolerating my poor writing.
First, there is a continuing effort to rewrite history and eventually to overturn Garwood's conviction .
Second, there is a vicious attack building on a small group of former US POWs who testified against Garwood in his court-martial. In 1998, former (fired) Sixty Minutes producer Monika Jensen-Stevenson published a book entitled Spite House. This book is part of the attempt to rehabilitate Garwood. Based on the claims of a former USMC lieutenant colonel, Tom McKenney, Spite House attempts to prove that Garwood was innocent, framed by a spiteful government. The book is total trash. The author: totally disregarded the accounts of US POWs who knew Garwood; made no attempt to review the trial transcript; and, essentially did nothing but accept at face-value McKenney's and Garwood's falsehoods. Passages in Spite House are slanderous toward US POWs held with Garwood and one of them has now (January 1999) filed a libel suit against Monika Jensen and her publisher. The MIA activists have commenced a maddog attack on this man and on the other POWs held with Garwood.
Ross Perot has hired an individual to "look into" Garwood's conviction. My concern -- and this should be the concern of every other veteran who served honorably in Vietnam -- is that with Perot's money and connections, with Senator Bob Smith's position, and with former Congressman Billy Hendon's scheming, enough noise will be made to generate sympathy for Garwood and possibly have his case re-opened. There is already talk of a movie based on Spite House.
The libel and slander suit against Monika Jensen and her publisher has
been settled (December 16, 1999). Jensen has admitted to the libel and slander and,
under the terms of the settlement:
The facts of the Garwood case are simple. Garwood was a Marine PFC in Vietnam. He disappeared from his unit in September 1965. Soon afterward, leaflets turned up bearing his signature and a "fellow soldiers appeal" from Garwood, urging other US servicemen to stop fighting against the VC and PAVN. Later, other Americans who had been held prisoner reported their contact with Garwood. He had clearly "gone over" to the enemy. Garwood struck another American who was a POW at the time. Garwood was a snitch for the PAVN; he would talk with US POWs then tell the PAVN what the POWs had said, frequently resulting in extreme punishment for the Americans whom he had betrayed. Garwood was seen by US POWs carrying a weapon and PAVN gear, operating with PAVN units. US personnel in I Corps reported, from time to time, observing a Caucasian operating with PAVN troops and many of them picked out Garwood's photo as the man they had seen. When US POWs were released in 1973, Garwood chose to remain behind. He worked as a member of the staff of the prison camp complex NW of Hanoi where tens of thousands of former South Vietnamese military officers were incarcerated after the Communist takeover of South Vietnam.
When Garwood returned to the US in 1979, he was tried by court-martial and convicted of collaboration and of mistreating a US POW. His conviction was appealed all the way through the military appellate system then through the civilian courts to the US Supreme Court who, by refusing to hear the case, let stand his conviction.
In 1993, the Assistant Secretary of Defense for Command, Control, Communication and Intelligence (ASD/C3I) requested a review of the official record dealing with Garwood. The review was completed in June 1993 and the full text of the report to the ASD/C3I is reproduced on this site. You may read the report starting with Section I by following this link. The ASD/C3I report is reproduced in five sections. There is a sixth section in which I describe Garwood's bogus claims to have seen US POWs in Vietnam after 1973.
The Billy Hendon Connection
There is, across the country, a vocal group of people loosely known as "MIA activists." Their fundamental claim is that US POWs were abandoned in Vietnam at the end of the war, the US government knew of this abandonment and tried to cover it up, and the cover up and abandonment continues. Principal actors in this movement are former Congressman William "Billy" Hendon and Senator Bob Smith. Smith and Hendon were junior Congressmen together in the early 1980s during which time they attempted to prove their claims by referring to various "live sightings" of Americans and other intelligence reporting. Space in this article does not permit a full layout of the Hendon - Smith cabal but these articles provide the details:
Hendon Needs to Rehabilitate Garwood
Immediately upon his return in 1979, Garwood was debriefed on several occasions and
asked if he had encountered any other Americans. Garwood responded that he
had no knowledge of US POWs in Vietnam and he had not seen another American since 1969
Hendon and Smith have been trying to rehabilitate Garwood since at least 1983 - 84. When Garwood was debriefed upon his return to the US in 1979, he stated on numerous occasions that he had no knowledge of US POWs in Vietnam after 1973. However, after a series of meetings with Hendon, possibly including Smith, in 1983 - 84, Garwood gave an interview to a Wall Street Journal reporter in which he described several instances in which he claimed to have seen US POWs -- or people he believed to be US POWs -- in Vietnam after 1973. His reports are all bogus. What is interesting about Garwood's claims, though, is that they resemble reports that Hendon insisted were true. Clearly, Hendon was trying to set things up so that Garwood would appear to be corroborating his (Hendon's) favorite stories. The charade fell apart when Garwood, after dodging for seven years, was finally interviewed by the Defense Intelligence Agency. His stories fell apart.
While I can never prove this, I believe that Hendon and Garwood collaborated on Garwood's claims. In the first place, I do know that Garwood and Hendon spent some time together in 1983 - 84. If you have read the previous article on Hendon, you know that this time coincides with the period that Hendon was a "consultant" in the Pentagon POW-MIA office. More important, though, is the fact that Hendon needed Garwood. Why? Simple. In spite of all his efforts, Hendon was not able to convince anyone ( except Bob Smith and a few other fringe elements ) that there were US POWs still in Southeast Asia. Every single report he cited, every "source" he surfaced turned out to have nothing to do with abandoned US POWs. Hendon needed a reliable source. Garwood provides that source for them, but, there is one inconvenient problem: Garwood was not a POW. Garwood was a willing, active collaborator who was given a fair trial and was convicted of his crimes. So, if Hendon could get Garwood's conviction overturned, and if Garwood would provide irrefutable details of live-sightings, their relationship would be mutually beneficial to the max.
Another instance of Hendon and Smith collaborating to make Garwood smell like a rose came in the famous Smith-Garwood trip to Hanoi in 1993. Check it out through this link.
In typical Hendon fashion, though, he does not need to have Garwood's conviction overturned. All he needs to do is keep the pot stirred. Hendon once described to DIA analysts his method of operation. Hendon bragged that he could make the American public believe anything he wished it to believe on the POW/MIA issue, or any other issue. He explained that he only needed to make it controversial to oppose him, because, in Hendon's words, people in uniform and public servants "don't have the balls" to confront him out of fear that the controversy will harm their careers. Thus, said Hendon, he can make the most reckless and outrageous charges, knowing that he will not be called into question. And, when people see Billy and others like him going unchallenged, the audience assumes that the critics are correct. This is what Hendon, Garwood, and Smith are up to -- they figure if they can keep up a steady drip-drip-drip of propaganda about Garwood, they can rewrite history. I have no intention of letting them go unchallenged, thus, the MIA Facts Site.
In 1998, former (fired) CBS Sixty Minutes producer Monika Jensen-Stevenson published her book on Garwood, Spite House. The book was based on interviews with Garwood and with a retired USMC LTC, Tom McKenney. McKenney claims to have participated in missions trying to hunt down Garwood. Now, after a religious conversion, McKenney meets Garwood and recognizes him for what he is: an all-American boy who set up by his own government. (Spit !)
The McKenney-Jensen thesis is that the US government was embarrassed by Garwood's return because his presence proved that US POWs remained in captivity after 1973. To cover the fact, the Marine Corps prosecuted Garwood, complete with cooked-up evidence, lying witnesses, and all sorts of other shenanigans.
In preparing the book Jensen interviewed other Americans who were POWs and observed Garwood's collaboration but she did not use their accounts. There is no indication that she ever attempted to obtain the trial transcripts; never interviewed any of the Marine prosecutors; never did anything but take Garwood and McKenney at their word.
The Libel and Slander
Several US POWs were held at one or more camps established in I Corps. Garwood was in this area until approximately 1969 when he went to North Vietnam. These US POWs saw and, to some extent, interacted with Garwood.
In Spite House, Garwood is presented as the hero and these US POWs are portrayed as cowards, whiners, and collaborators. The most egregious of the lies in Spite House are those directed against an individual who, at the time, was an Army physician and POW. As a physician, this man was bound by his Hippocratic oath to render all possible care to those in need. Garwood claims that the doctor::
For a physician to have done any of these would have been a violation of his Hippocratic oath and these charges -- all of them completely false -- are slanderous and libelous of the physician. For this reason, in January 1999, he filed suit against Monika Jensen and her publisher .
The facts are completely different from the falsehoods in Spite House. I recommend that folks read Zalin Grant's book, The Survivors, for the facts about life in the camps where Garwood was collaborating. What really happened was that the physician, with no medical supplies or equipment to speak of, no sanitation, no assistance, and himself suffering from malnutrition, diarrhea, and other diseases, did whatever he could to try to treat US POWs as well as ARVN POWs in the camp. Garwood, meanwhile, was carrying a weapon, operating with PAVN against US forces, living with the PAVN, and snitching on the US POWs.
This physician and former POW has not been one of those professional veterans or professional victims that we are plagued with. He has not made speeches or written a book about his experiences. He quietly served in the Army, left the service, and has maintained a private practice, continuing the healing arts.
Garwood, meanwhile, has never held a steady job. In 1986, Ross Perot -- then on the Board of Directors of General Motors -- intervened to get Garwood a job with a GM dealership in North Carolina. Garwood lasted less than two weeks; he just quit coming to work. Garwood has shacked up with numerous women, one of them MIA activist Donna Long and the other a "sister" of MIA SGT James Ray. He has drifted around, being used by Hendon and Smith, appearing at the occasional MIA rally, always playing the part of the victim.
The Attack Begins
Within days of the filing of the libel suit, the following e-mail message was flashed to MIA activists:
To: "A.S. Warinner" <Storrs2@webtv.net>,
So there you have it folks. The heroes -- Frank Anton, Hal Kushner -- are now to be made the villains. McKenney's message is such crap. Court records "disappearing." Trips to Hanoi. Plot by the "power structure." Note in this message the claim that Mark Smith -- now there's a reliable source -- will speak to the Rolling Thunder rally in DC to lay out the "truth." What Smith would know about Kushner, Anton, and Garwood is beyond me. He was in a completely different part of Vietnam from them but look for him to make up a whopper.
Speaking of whoppers, the preceding message is one big whopper. Disappearing court martial records, failure to live up to the "soldier's code," making broadcasts -- none of which happened.
In the coming weeks, be prepared to witness vicious attacks on anyone who dares tell the truth, especially on Kushner and Anton. Lies will become truth and these men, who wanted only to get on with their lives -- and did fine job of it -- will be vilified, all in an attempt to wash clean Garwood's crimes against his country.
As I re-read this article, I realize that it wanders around all over the landscape. Let me sumamrize here. Maybe one day I'll come back and edit it into a recognizable work.
I can hardly wait for the next episode.
So, Why Do I Care?
I bear no grudge against Garwood; however, the facts as I understand them show clearly
that Garwood acted voluntarily, enthusiastically, and dishonorably to bring harm to
American POWs in the MR5 (B1 Front) POW camp and that Garwood bore arms against
American soldiers serving in (at least) Quang Nam, Quang Tin, and Quang Ngai
So, folks, there you have it and it ain't pretty.
In the early 1950s, the American people, through the new medium of television, were treated to the witch-hunts of Senator Joseph McCarthy. Anyone who questioned McCarthy became the worst of all possible villains -- a Communist. McCarthy trashed innocent people for some time until he took on Army lawyer Joseph Welch.
The background is that an associate of McCarthy's was drafted. McCarthy tried to pressure the Army to let the man out and the Army resisted. McCarthy responded by accusing various senior Army civilian and uniformed officials of being Communists or of harboring Communists in the ranks. McCarthy then tried to accuse a former WWII hero, General Ralph Zwicker, of communist wrong-doing. McCarthy stated on national television that Zwicker was not fit to wear a United States Army uniform. The nation watched as McCarthy blew up in fury and told Zwicker he did not have the brains of a five year old child.
Joseph Welch, who had been completely calm until this moment, took center stage. Welch's defense of Zwicker demolished McCarthy's position. McCarthy completely lost control of himself . He jumped out of his seat and said that one of Welchs employee, a young attorney named Fred Fisher, was a communist. Welch, almost in tears at this unwarranted attack on a young associate, delivered his famous rebuke of McCarthy:
MR. WELCH - Senator McCarthy I
think until this moment--
Today the issue is not non-existent Communists in the Army or the State Department. Instead, the issue is non-existent US POWs, abandoned by their government at the end of the Vietnam War. But the tactics are still the same. Bully, threaten, manufacture dirt. The MIA activists seek to destroy anyone who gets in their way by heaping calumny and bile on them. And we could ask the same question: "Have you no sense of decency, sir?"
You know the answer to that one.