MIA Facts Site

Who are the
"informed Americans"?

Summary:  In November 1998, an "alert" to the MIA activist community was posted on the newsgroup alt.war.pow-mia concerning a Russian document recently uncovered that ". . . points toward a KGB-planned transfer of captured US Personnel to the then Soviet Union . . . ".   Recipients of this message were urged to  ". . . give this widest possible distribution and take the appropriate action accordingly." The message included a link where the document in question could be found.  I clicked on the link and read the document.  This article discusses what the document in question really says and provides facts to counter the misleading claims that are now being spread throughout the activist community.

Background

Following the collapse of the Soviet Union, a US - Russian Joint Commission was formed to provide US researchers access to Russian documents and individuals who may have information on Americans who are missing from World War II, the Cold War, Korean War, and the Vietnam War.  Russian General Dimitri Volkogonov was the Russian co-chair of the US-RJC and his counterpart was US Ambassador Malcolm Toon.  On the US side, Ambassador Toon was supported by the Task Force - Russia (TF-R) originally established under the auspices of Department of the Army, later subsumed under the Defense Prisoner of War - Missing Persons Office (DPMO) as the Joint Commission Research Directorate   (JCRD).  Name change, same mission -- to research Russian knowledge of the fate of Americans lost in WW II, Cold War, Korean War, and the Vietnam War.

Volkogonov was dying of cancer when I was assigned to the DPMO in July 1993.  He would combine research trips to the US with visits to cancer specialists at Walter Reed.  He died recently, I believe in 1997 (I may have the date wrong.).

The "informed Americans" document

What the MIA activists are excited about is a memorandum that was found in documents that General Volkogonov maintained.  It seems that he prepared a memorandum of his activities as co-chair of the US-RJC that included some thoughts as to future research, etc.  Contained in his memo is the following statement:

" . . . I have a copy of it.  It's (sic) content is as follows:  at the end of the 1960's the KGB (external foreign intelligence) was given the task of "delivering informed Americans to the USSR for intelligence gathering purposes."

This, then, is the "smoking gun" that has set off the MIA activist community.   The words "informed Americans" are supposed to mean that US POWs with certain special knowledge were taken to the Soviet Union where they either continue to be held or were executed or died.  (NOTE:  Various translations of this document have since appeared, using the term "knowledgeable Americans" or "informed Americans.")

A Serious Look at "informed Americans"

Now, there may be a few readers out there who find themselves, as I did, completely underwhelmed by the Volkogonov document.  Exactly how does the statement   "delivering informed Americans to the USSR for intelligence gathering purposes"   translate into the transfer of US POWs from SEAsia to the USSR?  My position was and is that this comment referred to normal KGB operations that attempted to lure Americans with specialized knowledge to the USSR where information could be elicited from them, stolen from their briefcases, or where they could be developed for future approaches. 

One common activity was for a Soviet scientific organization to sponsor an international conference on some topic of interest to the Soviets.  Scientists and researchers from around the world would be invited.  Unknown to those attending the conference was the fact that the conference was a cover for the KGB to collect information.  Papers presented at the conference were important intelligence collection targets.  Certain scientists would be courted by KGB operatives who would either elicit information from them or who would establish contacts that could be exploited later.  And, the KGB was not above stealing materials from hotel rooms.   At first, I believed that this is what Volkogonov's reference to "informed Americans" was about.

There is another KGB activity that, I believe, is the source of the "informed Americans" comment.   Consider the following.

Encouraging US Deserters

The phrase in question states that General Volkogonov learned, apparently in about late 1991, that the KGB had a secret plan in the 1960s to "deliver knowledgeable Americans to the USSR for intelligence purposes".  In fact, the KGB did carry out at least one such a program in the late 1960s; however, the program had nothing to do with the transfer of American POWs to the Soviet Union.  The program was designed to induce American servicemen to desert their posts, bring them to Moscow for brief exploitation, and then move them to Sweden or other locations outside of the Soviet Union.

For example, in early 1992 a former KGB officer told US intelligence that in
approximately 1967-68, the KGB, in cooperation with the International
Department, operated a special program through a front organization called
the "Peace in Vietnam Committee in Japan" (PVCJ) that induced American
servicemen to desert to Sweden.  He said the PVCJ was part of the Soviet
Afro-Asian Solidarity Committee.  He described the members of the PVCJ as
intellectuals, writers, and high profile persons such as movie stars;
however, he said, none of the members were aware of their organization's
connection with the KGB.  The PVCJ's activities included publishing anti-war
handbills and brochures that were distributed to American servicemen in
Japan on shore leave or R&R, or who were in Japan recuperating from wounds
suffered in Vietnam.

According to the former KGB officer, American servicemen who deserted in
Japan initially were moved to homes of Japanese movie stars and other
prominent anti-war Japanese persons in the outskirts of Tokyo.  When
arrangements could be made, members of the PVCJ would escort groups of four
or five deserters to Hokkaido and put them aboard Japanese fishing boats.
The fishing boats would rendezvous with vessels of the KGB's border patrol
in the seas north of Japan and transfer the Americans to the Soviet vessels.
The Soviet vessels would take the American deserters to Sakhalin Island.
From there the Americans were moved to Moscow.

According to the former KGB officer, the first group of American deserters
brought to Moscow under this program was a group of four sailors who
deserted from the aircraft carrier Intrepid in the Japanese port of Yokohama
on 23 October 1967.  According to a UPI story published on 28 December 1967,
the sailors were Richard Baily, 19 of Jacksonville, FL; John Barilla, 20 of
Catonsville, MD; Michael Lindner, 19, of Mount Pocono, PA; and Craig
Anderson, 20, of San Jose, CA.  This group arrived at Arlanda International
Airport, Stockholm, Sweden, on a commercial airliner on or about 29 December
1967.  Their desertion gave a boost to the anti-war themes being played up
by various peace groups.

The KGB tried to keep its sponsorship of the program low-profile.  After
arriving in Moscow, the Americans were billeted in an out of the way hotel.
The deserters predominantly were enlisted men with relatively low rank.  Few
proved to be of interest to the KGB for intelligence purposes.  Consequently, the majority were not interrogated by the KGB.

The KGB did not want the deserters to remain in the Soviet Union.  In fact,
the KGB officer said one of his tasks was to deliver an "anti-Soviet lecture" to the deserters, aimed at persuading them to not seek asylum in the Soviet Union.  He did this so successfully that he was commended in writing for his endeavors.  None of the deserters remained in Moscow; all traveled onward to Sweden.

The KGB operation was closed down sometime in 1968 after an American
deserter left his hotel room in Moscow, went to a local bar, and told his story to two American women he met there.  The women took the deserter to the American Embassy where, apparently, he was debriefed by a member of the defense attaché staff.   (My emphasis, to be discussed later.) In any event, the deserter apparently disclosed the route through which deserters were moved from Japan to Moscow, and the operation was shut down.

According to the former KGB officer, approximately 25-28 Americans deserters
were funneled from Japan to Moscow through this operation.  Although the
program produced few if any deserters of intelligence interest to the KGB,
the deserters were widely quoted in the Soviet press and the KGB viewed the
operation as a successful propaganda effort.
(My emphasis, to be discussed later.)

This former KGB officer doubted very much that American POWs were
transferred to the Soviet Union, and did not believe any American POWs were
being held in the Soviet Union.

The KGB might have tried to carry out similar operations in other nations in
the late 1960s.  For example, Americans assigned  in Vietnam returning from R&R in Bangkok in 1967 and early 1968 told stories about being approached in bars by a KGB officer who cold-pitched them to desert or work for the Soviets.

In summary, while there is evidence that the KGB had a secret plan in the
1960s to "deliver knowledgeable Americans to the USSR for intelligence
purposes", there is no credible evidence that could support a belief that
the plan included the transfer of American POWs from Southeast Asia to the
Soviet Union.

Another Part of the Myth

One item that pops up from time to time in the MIA mythology is a story about an American who was secretly moved to Moscow, who escaped his Russian captors, and made his way to the American Embassy.  There are variations on this theme -- in some variations, the American was taken to East Germany where he escaped.

In the first place, no such incident occurred.  No American was moved to the USSR, escaped, and fled to the Embassy.  There were a few American servicemen who were released from captivity in Hanoi and flown to Moscow, usually in the company of various peace activists.  These early releases (before Operation Homecoming,1973) were done by the Vietnamese in an attempt to influence international opinion.

I believe that the myth about an American escaping to the Embassy is based in two facts:

bulletThe few early releasees who returned through Moscow, or,
bulletThe deserters described above who traveled through Moscow enroute to Sweden and the guy who spilled the beans in Moscow.

Note the two items that I highlighted above, pointing out that the Russians made a lot of use of propaganda statements from US deserters.

The Misinformation Piles Higher

Meanwhile, another party is now being heard from.  In the late 1980s, an individual named Roger Hall popped up in the MIA issue.  I do not know Mr. Hall's background but he has now become a "MIA researcher" who spends his time in the National Archives and Library of Congress.  He submits FOIA requests to various government agencies and I assume that he is working on a book.

My favorite Hall story dates from 1993 or 1994 when one of our action officers was talking with a staff member at the national Archives.  She commented that earlier that morning Mr. Hall was asked to leave the archives.  It seems that he had asked for the umpteenth time for a document that simply did not exist.  When he was politely told -- again -- that no such document existed, he shouted to the lady that she was a "dumb b****."  At that point, he was asked to leave.

Anyway, Hall recently filed suit against the CIA, alleging that CIA has withheld documents from him.  The MIA activist community recently has  been soliciting donations to help cover his legal expenses.  Apparently, the CIA has released some documents because the following piece of work is now being carried on the Advocacy and Intelligence Index web site:

QUOTE FROM AIIPOWMIA WEB SITE:

Advocacy And Intelligence Index
For Prisoners Of War/Missing In Action, Inc. (AIIPOWMIAI)
Bob Necci and Andi Wolos

THE POW/MIA E-MAIL NETWORK (c)
aiimar08.99f

CIA Releases POW DOCUMENT

The POW/MIA FOIA Litigation suit against the CIA produced 29
documents in an attempt by the CIA to deceive the court that all other
information had been declassified.  The CIA located a cabinet of documents
concerning the POW/MIA issues that had not previously been identified in
either communication to Roger Hall, plaintiff in the suit against the CIA or
to the court.  These released documents are only the first of the CIA load
of documents, this is the first layer that was protecting the withheld
documents we seek.  The CIA has a wealth of information on POWs and this is
the first in their front-end-loading attempts to release the least
significant information to try to discourage the POW/MIA pursuits in the
interests of the POW/MIA families, veterans, researchers and the American
public 

Documents relating to Vietnam POWs to Russia

A 5 November 1992 document relating to a declassified/redacted
version of a 1982 report of another Soviet plan to transfer US POWs to Perm,
Russia during the Vietnam conflict; it cited KGB Lt. Gen. Grigoryev and was
shown to the POW/MIA Select Committee in February 1992 on the eve of the
committee's trip to Moscow.

Most of the other 28 documents do not reveal anything new or
exceptional, this is because that was the purpose of them being hidden in
the first place. To have something to let loose, and to disappoint anyone
getting to it.  Most of this info was released by the POW/MIA Senate Select
Committee.  We have identified numerous records and groups of records that
the CIA denies knowledge of.  For example they state I allege that Air
America was a CIA {contract} organization, or rely on here say information
that the CIA ran the war in Laos.  When I in fact use Select committee
depositions as the source for some of the evidence, and have witnesses to
testify that will confirm this.  Still this is some of the trickery they try
to deceive the court with.

The above document is important because each time information is found
reporting on plans, programs, and witnesses [Gen. Jan Sejna] revealing POWs
taken to Russia it is said to be the only report or information on such
activity.  Following is the Russian reply to inquiries on another plan of
the 60's to "deliver knowledgeable Americans to the USSR for intelligence
purposes" received from AIIPOWMIAI.

Interview with former KGB Chief Vladimir Semichastnyy, November 10, 1998

Representatives of the Joint Commission interviewed the former Chief of the
Soviet KGB, Vladimir Semichastnyy, regarding his involvement in an alleged
KGB plan from the late 1960s to "deliver knowledgeable Americans to the USSR for intelligence purposes."

Semichastnyy denied any knowledge of the KGB plan that was revealed by
General Volkogonov in his recently published memoir. Semichastnyy said that
the KGB would not have had a specific plan to transfer American citizens to
the USSR.  He acknowledged, however, that an objective to access American
military personnel in Southeast Asia might have been included as a part of a
six-month or one-year plan of overall KGB foreign intelligence objectives.
Semichastnyy admitted that he might have signed such a document containing a brief reference to American servicemen, but he could not specifically recall
having done so.

Deputy Minister Kalinin:  Esteemed Mr. Ambassador!  Esteemed Gentlemen!
During the 15th Plenum, our group has primarily focused on the information
that was published in Volkogonov's book regarding the alleged KGB plan to
transfer American citizens from Vietnam to the Soviet Union.  During this
time, in my view, we have determined that a separate plan to transfer
American citizens from Vietnam to the USSR did not exist.  However, a
presumption exists that some fragmented part of an overall KGB plan could
have existed; at the same time, not a single American was ever transferred
from Vietnam to the USSR.  This question is fairly complicated because all
of it is based on assumptions and rumors.  Even in Volkogonov's publication
it is not clear who ordered the alleged transfer of Americans to the USSR.
In order to shed light on this issue, we met with the former Chairman of the
KGB, V. E. Semichastnyy, who stated during our discussions that a separate
plan did not exist, and that he was not aware of the plan that was
referenced in Volkogonov's book.  I think that we have gained a lot of
perspective on the future direction of the Group and how we should proceed,
especially with regard to the activities of Foreign Intelligence, the GRU,
the General Staff, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the industrial
ministries (relating to the workings of spetsgruppas), and so on.  Of
course, Senator Smith's suggestion to prepare a letter to the heads of our
government requesting assistance with respect to the documents we are
discussing needs to be carried out.  We will continue working with
Semichastnyy.  We now have a specific, definite direction, and if we keep
working in this direction, we will obtain a positive result.  The most
important thing is that there is nothing sensational here, based on the
information that we presently have.  We can say once again that Americans
were not transferred from Vietnam to the Soviet Union.  I suggest that there
needs to be more active work done with China because, based on the
relationship between China and Vietnam at that time, one can conclude that
China might have information on American prisoners.

Following is list of documents received from the CIA. 

1. Interrogation of US POWs by Soviet Officers
2. KGB Allegations Denied - Kalugin
3. Update On PW-MIA Activities
4. DIA (PW-MIA) Review Panel on 7 January 1993
5. Information On Alleged MIA Remains in China
6. 5 November [1992] meeting with Senator Smith (KGB Lt. Gen.
Grigoryev)
7. Russian Ministry for Federal Security (MFB, formerly KGB) Response
Concerning US POW/MIAs in the Former Soviet Union
8. Sen. Smith - letter - US POWs to Russia
9. Sen. Kerry - letter - Soviet Involvement with American POWs
10. SSCI Staff Briefing on Reporting of US POWs in the USSR after WWII
(They located 4 doc but missed the 1205 doc)
11. Reported Sighting of a Captured American Pilot in Southern Laos
             in May 1971
12. Reported May 1971 Sighting of a Captured Northwest Muong Phine
13. Sighting of three Unidentified US POWs in an NVA/PL Prison in the
Lao/South Vietnam Border Area in Early 1968.
14. FBIS Reports Searching for Evidence of American PWs Held in Laos
15. Reported Sightings in South Laos of Four Captured American Pilots in
Mid-1970 and Two Captured American Pilots in Early 1969
16. a.  Mid-1970 Sighting of Four Captured American Pilots in a North
Vietnamese Commo-Liaison About 25 kilometers Northwest of Tchepone
b.  Early 1969 Sighting of Two Captured American Pilots Approximately 15 Kilometers of Moung Phine
17. Enemy Prisons in Laos - Laos
18. Enemy Prisons in Laos
19. A Vietnamese Diplomats Denial that Vietnam sent US Prisoners of War
to the Former Soviet Union (Yeltsin, July 1992)
20. Enemy Prisons in Laos, 8 October 1971
21. Alleged Soviet Incarceration of US Vietnam Prisoners of War,
(DOI: 1970) 12 March 1982
(Lt. Gen. Petr Ivanovich ((Grigoriyev)) "specially selected US
prisoners received from North Vietnam for long term or life time custody and
"ideological retraining" in the soviet Union "on the order of several
thousand")
(NOTE:  This report was investigated and found to be completely without merit. To begin with, there were not "several thousand" Americans missing.)
22. HPSCI Staff Briefing on Reporting of US POWs in the USSR Post WWII
23. Union Leader Brings to Light Pact Violation  (Lindstrom)
24. Laos POW List Shows 9 From US
25. US Asks Former Soviet Republics about American MIAs
26. Sighting of Downing of US F-4 Jet in Savannakhet Province, Laos
27. Alleged Sighting of a Live Caucasian American Prisoner at Khak Keut
Town, Khoueng Khammouak, Laos in June 1975
28. Sighting of Eight US POWs in Sam Nuea Province, Laos, and the
Subsequent Death of One of the POWs

For additional information write to:

POW/MIA FOIA Litigation
PO # 8044
Silver Spring, MD 20907-8044

****************************************************************************
*
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originator.  Posting of this message to the POW/MIA E-MAIL NETWORK (c) list
does not show AIIPOWMIAI  endorsement.  It is provided so you may make an
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Advocacy And Intelligence Index
For Prisoners Of War/Missing In Action, Inc.
1220 Locust Avenue, Bohemia, Long Island, New York 11716-2169 USA
Voice: (1-516) 567-9057    Fax: (1-516) 244-7097    TDD: (1-516) 244-6996
E-mail:
AIIPOWMIAI@aol.com   (Bob Necci)
           
andi@earthlink.net   (Andi Wolos)
Website:
http://www.aiipowmia.com/


END QUOTE FROM AIIPOWMIA WEB SITE:

Comments

Now, this is amazing.  First, in a fallacious appeal to authority the author cites the late General Jan Sejna's unsubstantiated allegations that American POWs were taken from Vietnam to the Soviet Union during the war.  Second, note the apparent quotes in this item from an individual identified as "Semichastnyy" and another identified as "Deputy Minister Kalinin."   Their comments are very close to my analysis of the phrase "informed Americans": essentially, that this phrase is a reference to a KGB operation that had nothing to do with US POWs.

The gratuitous comments in the AIIPOWMIA article about the CIA release being trickery intended to deceive the court says a lot about what is going on here.  The "researcher" and the MIA activists keep looking, keep finding nothing, but just cannot admit that their closely held claims are nothing but myth.

(NOTE:  I composed an earlier article dealing with the "informed Americans" that you may want to read, if you have any patience left.   The article, titled "Low Beams," is found here.)

This article prepared:  March 14, 1999