How Long Will This Honeymoon Last?
Click here for an update of this article (24 August 2001).
Earlier in 1998, Mr. Robert Jones, a Vietnam veteran, was appointed Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for POW-MIA Affairs (DASD/POW-MIA). Concurrently, DASD Jones serves as Director, Defense Prisoner of War/Missing Persons Office (DPMO).
DASD Jones replaced Jim Wold, BG, USAF (Ret) who served as DASD/POW-MIA and Director, DPMO, from early 1994 until September 1997. I was Jim Wold's deputy for several months until I retired in April 1995.
Jim Wold's tenure as DASD/POW-MIA started as a love-fest between him and certain members of the MIA community. He agreed to meet with anyone who wished to see him. Several of the well-known activists came into the office, at DASD Wold's invitation, and spilled out to him their stories. Families, veterans, representatives of veterans' groups, interested citizens -- all were welcome in his office. He really reached out to people. It was under Jim Wold's tenure that DPMO started the practice of holding family meetings all over the country. To set up these briefings, he had one of the staff officers plot on a U.S. map the ZIP codes of every family of a missing man. Then, where there was a cluster of families, he set up an update meeting. He was received positively.
Not for long. Within six months, the language of the incoming faxes changed. The half-baked stories circulating on the various activists networks started to pillory this decent man. His efforts to resolve the Plumadore-Judge-Berry case were -- and continue to be -- mis-represented to the point that truth is just another victim.
He worked to make permanent the temporary arrangements by which we were seeking answers to WWII, Korea, and Cold War losses. His honest and productive efforts soon came under the same attack as productive efforts in Southeast Asia. Everything he did was mis-represented, distorted, and picked apart.
Why? Simple. Because Jim Wold told the truth. When a family asked that he review their case and tell them the facts, he did. When the facts were not what they wanted to hear, they turned their wrath on him. I warned him that this would happen. At first, I think he did not believe me. I think that GEN Wold felt that I had been at it too long and was shell-shocked. He soon saw the light. You see, the folks who came to him asking that he review the case of their missing man and tell them the facts, were the same folks who had been asking the same questions for years, and had been receiving the same answers.
And, why do families receive the same answers today that they did years ago? Because the facts do not change. There was no evidence then that the man survived, there is no evidence now that he survived. For years, we told families that they had everything in the man's file. When the declassification ordered by President Bush was completed, we were still attacked for withholding information. We were not, but, you cannot prove a negative, so, Jim Wold took the attacks.
Now, Bob Jones is the DASD/POW-MIA. I met Jones one time, on a trip to Southeast Asia led by Deputy Secretary for Veterans' Affairs Hershel Gober. My impression was that Bob Jones is a solid citizen. In reading the notices on various POW activist sites, I see that he is being welcomed, mainly on the strength of his combat record and his no-nonsense approach to things.
Give him time. I am writing this in late October 1998. By late spring 1999, Bob Jones will be taking spears in the chest from the "activists." He will be denounced in the same terms used for Chuck Trowbridge, Joe Schlatter, and Jim Wold. You see, the facts never change.
Update: August 1999
The honeymoon lasted a little longer than I thought it would. In October 1998, I predicted six months. Here it is now August 1999 and the honeymoon is over. Let me explain.
There is one family organization that, in fact, represents families: The National League of Families of Prisoners and Missing in Southeast Asia ("the League"). In the late 1980s, a number of family members and activists, who were upset over the fact that they were unable to grab control of the League, formed the National Alliance of Families ("the Alliance"). The Alliance has gone through some name changes but now they call themselves the National Alliance of Families for the Return of America's Missing Servicemen. The Alliance is not much of a force for anything except spreading disinformation. Their membership includes a varied collection of family members, wannabes, self-appointed researchers and MIA specialists, and "activists." They hold an annual convention in D. C. at the same time as the League.
Against my advice -- and the advice of several others -- Jim Wold, when he was DASD/POW-MIA, accepted an invitation to speak at the Alliance's annual meeting. Now, Bob Jones has to honor that annual speaking engagement.
In June 1999, a portion of the Alliance meeting was shown on C-SPAN. The portion shown included several panel presentations featuring a collection of the same self-appointed specialists, researchers, and myth makers who have haunted the MIA issue for years. Then, DASD Jones came in and his presentation and question and answer period were shown. I watched Jones' entire presentation and Q&A. He did an excellent job of handling questions, most of which were of the "When did you quite beating your wife?" variety. He answered directly and forthrightly and refused to be trapped in the various ambushes that were being laid for him.
Some of the Alliance supporters were stung by Jones' presentation and are spreading rumors about him. Here is the background. There is constant civil war among the "activists." This crowd is unceasingly at each other's throats, forming cliques, breaking up, forming new cliques. Several of these folks send me e-mail -- a few even talk with me on the telephone -- and tell me the latest dirt on their adversaries. I listen politely as though I am interested -- I am not. It appears from what I am hearing now from some of the "activists" that they thought they would ambush Jones on several matters and he shoved it back up their collective noses. In an attempt to cover their failure to "nail Jones" (quote from one of these folks), they are now spreading the rumor that "senior Pentagon officials" were unhappy with him appearing on C-SPAN and that Jones is about to be dismissed and go work on the Al Gore for President campaign. This rumor is being given full play by USNR Commander Chip Beck who is spreading this tale in e-mail messages to the faithful. Appears that Beck was one of those who tried to ambush Jones and was shot down in the process.
Trust me, folks, it is not true. Jones is solid in his position as DASD/POW-MIA; no "senior Pentagon officials" called him in for a chewing-out after his appearance on C-SPAN. If he decides to work on the Gore campaign, it will be his decision.
Still, this is the rumor that they are now spreading, in an attempt to make themselves seem powerful enough to bring down a DASD. What a crock.
The Bush Administration is considering appointing an individual named Jerry Jennings -- I do not know the man -- as the new Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for POW-MIA Affairs (DASD/POW-MIA). I do not know if any announcement has been made, but this article was posted on the alt.war.pow-mia newsgroup on 23 August by an individual signing the name "Andy Krieger":
One wonders: (1) Who is raising questions about his credentials? (2) What are the questions? (3) Who is Andy Krieger? Oh, well, same old song -- read the original article and substitute "Jerry Jennings" for "Bob Jones."