MIA Facts Site

The Hendon Connection:

My Conspiracy Theory

Summary.  Garwood stated upon his return to the US that he had no knowledge of US POWs. After his court-martial in 1981, he began an association with former Congressman Billy Hendon and then-Congressman Bob Smith. Hendon has a long history of developing and fostering fabricated and misleading information on the MIA issue. Hendon introduced Garwood to Bill Paul at the WSJ and one of Garwood's "live sightings" is almost identical to a story of which Hendon was most fond.  I believe that Hendon collaborated with Garwood to develop the claims of US POWs in Vietnam after 1973 that Garwood revealed in the 1984 WSJ article.

Consider this sequence of events.

1979

Garwood returns to the US, is charged with various violations of the Uniform Code of Military Justice, and the march to his court-martial begins.

Garwood is debriefed and states that he knows nothing of US POWs in Vietnam.

1981

Billy Hendon, elected in the 1980 election, takes his seat in Congress, becomes a member of the House of Representatives Select Committee on POW-MIA Affairs.

Hendon becomes a more and more vocal critic of DoD actions to account for missing Americans and begins his move into leadership of the cover-up-and-conspiracy crowd.

Garwood is convicting of collaboration with the enemy and of striking another US POW.

Garwood and Hendon have initial meetings.

1982 - 83

Hendon is defeated in his re-election bid. He works for six months in early 1983 as a consultant in the DoD policy office for POW-MIA affairs (ASD/ISA (EAP) ) where he has access to all reports of missing Americans. One of Hendon's favorite reports, one that he asks DIA analysts about, is a report in which a refugee claims to have seen six US POWs in a compound at #17 Ly Nam De Street, Hanoi.

Within weeks of Hendon's departure from his consultancy ( it expired after six months ), an ABC reporter requests, under the Freedom of Information Act, 83 reports of US POWs in Vietnam after 1973, all of which had been seen by Hendon.

Hendon and Garwood continue their association.

1984 - 86

December 1984, Bill Paul publishes an article in the Wall Street Journal that cites interviews with Garwood in which Garwood claims to have seen or encountered US POWs in Vietnam after 1973. Bill Paul is a frequent visitor to Hendon's office. One of Garwood's claims is almost identical to, and seemingly supportive of, Hendon's favorite story -- the #17 Ly Nam De sighting.

November 1984, Hendon is elected to Congress and takes office in January 1985.

Early 1985, Hendon introduces legislation to establish a special Congressional investigative committee to take over from DoD the investigation of "live sighting" reports. To support his legislation, Hendon claims that DoD is incompetent and is covering up the presence of US POWs in SEAsia. To support his case, he refers to the "live-sighting" reports he saw while he was a Pentagon consultant. When DIA analysts explain to him the results of the investigations of these sightings, he refuses to accept those results, denouncing the analysts as incompetent and as part of a vast cover-up.

Hendon's constant attacks on DIA analysts become more virulent and pointed. A DIA internal investigation concludes that the analysis is solid but that the DIA Special Office for POW-MIA Affairs needs more people and a general upgrade of capabilities.

Congressman Bob Smith has become more closely allied with Hendon, to the point of echoing and supporting Hendon's claims.

In mid-1986, DIA refuses to continue providing personal briefings to Hendon after he threatens an analyst with a baseball bat, saying "Maybe this will get the truth out of you." All other information to Hendon is provided in session of the House POW-MIA Committee.

Hendon is defeated in the 1986 Congressional elections.

DIA continues its attempts to debrief Garwood, especially after the December 1984 WSJ article. Garwood refuses to meet with DIA but makes numerous public appearances, repeating the claims from the WSJ article.

In December 1985, the US Supreme Court refuses to hear Garwood's appeal, thereby letting stand his court-martial conviction.

In February 1986, Garwood consents to a debriefing by DIA. DIA can submit only written questions, the interview lasts three hours, and Garwood avoids further contact with DIA.

1987 - and on

Hendon joins up with an MIA "activist" organization. Later the board of directors of the organization becomes alarmed at the amount of money Hendon is spending and the outrageous activities he is engaged in; the board is concerned that the organization is suffering because its affiliation with Hendon and he is fired. He responds by forming his own group. He makes substantial sums of money from his solicitations of support.

At no time from the earliest days of his association with the MIA issue to the present ( February 1998 ) does Hendon produce a single piece of evidence that leads to the recovery or identification of a missing American, dead or alive.

DIA interviews Garwood, at great length, three times:  September 1987, February 1988, and November 1990. After these interviews, in which Garwood gives seriously conflicting versions of his "live sightings," DIA concludes that his claims are bogus. Senator Bob Smith disputes DIA's conclusions and in meeting after meeting with DIA analysts, Smith tries to undermine DIA's analysis and conclusions. None of it works.

Garwood's image undergoes a makeover in some circles. He is presented as an abandoned prisoner of war who was charged with crimes to cover up the fact that he was abandoned. Senator Bob Smith champions Garwood's cause.

Garwood denounces the book Conversations With the Enemy. Soon after this, a made-for-TV-movie appears, "The Last POW?: The Bobby Garwood Story." Not surprising, the movie presents a view of Garwood as a heroic victim.

The bullshit continues with Hendon, Smith, and Garwood crossing paths time and again. Things reach a real peak of mendacity with the July 1993 "Island Fortress" episode in Vietnam.

Why?

I believe that Hendon coached Garwood and it was Hendon who led Garwood to fabricate his bogus claims of having seen US POWs in Vietnam after 1973. Why? Because there were advantages in such a caper for everyone.

1. Hendon and Smith are constantly trying to find reliable witnesses -- or witnesses whom they can sell as reliable -- to prove that the DIA was lying and covering up the presence of US POWs in Vietnam after the war. What better witness than Garwood, who had been there for six years after Operation Homecoming?

2. Garwood had lots to gain. He had been convicted of collaboration and of striking an American POW. His appeals were not going well. Garwood could have believed -- or, Hendon could have convinced him -- that, if Garwood told these stories, the Department of Defense would grant Garwood immunity and possibly vacate his conviction in order to get him to cooperate by telling his stories of US POWs in Vietnam.

3. Garwood has a dependent and malleable personality. That's the main reason he did what he did in Vietnam; he follows a lead and is easily swayed. Hendon is a persuasive man and could easily have promised Garwood another book, a movie, overturned conviction, restoration of back pay and allowances, etc.

No one except Hendon and Garwood know the truth; Senator Smith likely knows most of the story.  I believe that Hendon put Garwood up to the live sightings and helped him with his fabrications.  Smith is not innocent.

The Tragedy of What is Happening Now

It's all very simple.  Hendon and Smith have tried and tried to prove that US POWs were abandoned in Southeast Asia.  Every witness they produce, every analysis they surface, every hero they sponsor, everything they do turns to do-do.   They need an unimpeachable source.  They need an American who really was a POW long after the end of the war.  With Garwood, they have their perfect proof. 

Big problem:  Garwood was a willing collaborator, not a POW. 

No problem.  Just clean up Garwood.  And, sports fans, this is exactly what Smith and Hendon are doing.  Look at what they have succeeded in doing:

bulletThe movie, The Last POW? The Bobby Garwood Story.
bulletMonica Jensen-Stephenson's piece of pseudo-history, Spite House If you have not read it, don't waste your time.  This book is revisionist history at its worst.  She did not interview a single POW who saw Garwood's collaboration.   Instead, she found a retired marine lieutenant colonel who claims to be a born-again Christian.  He says that he was part of a special team sent to hunt down Garwood and kill him.  To cleanse his soul of the devils that haunt him, he must confess that he now realizes that Garwood really was a POW.  This book is trash.   But, Universal Studios has bought the movie rights.

 That's what happens when you elect a high school coach to the Senate.