MIA Facts Site

The Thach Ba
Line Drawings

Introduction.  You should have come to this page from the article describing an attempt by Senator Bob Smith and former USMC Private Robert Garwood, in July 1993, to mislead people as to the facts of Garwood's claims that he saw US POWs in Vietnam in 1977.  If you have not read that article, you need to go back and read the article about The Island Fortress.  It will provide you with the background and it has a link back to this page.

Now that you have read the Island Fortress article, you have the background to see what this is all about.

Smith Returns From Vietnam

When Senator Smith returned to Washington, D.C. from his trip to Hanoi, he was ready to bash the Defense Intelligence Agency.  According to Smith, he and Garwood had found buildings that ". . . DIA has said did not exist."  These were the very buildings where Garwood saw US POWs in September 1977.  We were called to his office to hear his report on the trip.  In the course of having him beat up on us, we asked him a few questions.  It turned out that the Smith party had carried a global positioning system (GPS) receiver and he had the coordinates of the ferry landing where they got on the boat that took them to the buildings and the coordinates of the buildings.   We obtained those coordinates from him and went to the National Photographic Interpretation Center (NPIC).  We had the imagery analysts at NPIC pull satellite imagery of Thach Ba, going back to 1977, that showed the coordinates of the spots that Smith had provided us.

What the Imagery Showed

The imagery analysts then reviewed that imagery to see if the buildings Smith and Garwood had visited in July 1993 were present previously.  Surprise, surprise.   The buildings clearly were present on imagery of July 1991 but after that, it got shaky.  There were buildings present in 1991, 1989, and 1985.  Then -- in imagery of 1984, 1983, 1980, 1978, and 1977 -- there were no buildings of any kind on the site.  Smith was not happy with this report.  Senator John McCain got wind of this and we briefed him.  McCain went to the producers of ABC's 20/20 -- who had taken a production crew to Vietnam with Smith and were preparing to show the Smith-Garwood dog and pony show.  The ABC producers would not listen to McCain and they ran the story anyway.

The satellite imagery that was analyzed in response to the Smith-Garwood trip is classified.  However, to brief members of Congress with unclassified material, NPIC analysts prepared line drawings from the imagery.  These line drawings -- detailed sketches, to scale -- show all the items of importance that are shown on the imagery.   However, with line drawings another analyst is not able to detect the capabilities of the system that took the image, thus allowing the line drawings to be unclassified.   I submitted a Freedom of Information Act request to the Department of Defense for documents pertaining to the Smith-Garwood 1993 trip to Vietnam and the line drawings were in the material that I received in return.

Date of imagery

What the imagery showed at the location of the Smith-Garwood July 1993 visit

24 July 1991

The buildings visited by Smith and Garwood are there.

17 June 1989

The buildings visited by Smith and Garwood are not there but there are nearby buildings and evidence of construction.

14 May 1985

The buildings visited by Smith and Garwood are not there but there are nearby buildings.

4 June 1984

There is not a building within a 2-mile radius.

18 November 1983

There is not a building within a 3-mile radius.

27 August 1980

There is not a building within a 3-mile radius.

14 July 1978

There is not a building within a 5-mile radius.

27 September 1977

There is not a building within a 3-mile radius.  Remember, September 1977 is the date Garwood put on his sighting of US POWs at the island fortress.

  The Line Drawings

I have scanned the line drawings into jpeg files and prepared a brief description of each line drawing, each on a separate page.  Below is a table with links to the line drawings.  I recommend that you start with the 24 July 1991 and work back chronologically.  These jpeg files are big -- one of them is over 2 MB -- and the pages take a couple of minutes to load.  Please be patient; thank you.

Remember the following series of events.

bulletMarch 1979:  Garwood returns to the US from 14 years in Vietnam.  He was interviewed in several venues and each time he stated that he had not seen any Americans in Vietnam after 1973.
bulletFebruary 1981:  Garwood is convicted by court-martial of collaboration with the enemy and of striking an American POW.
bullet1984:  After several meetings with former Congressman Billy Hendon, Garwood told a Wall Street Journal reporter -- who was often in the company of Hendon -- that he had seen US POWs on several occasions between 1973 and 1978.   One of those sightings was the "Island Fortress" sighting in which Garwood claimed that he saw US POWs on an island in Thach Ba in September 1977.
bullet1981 - 1989:  The Defense Intelligence Agency attempts to interview Garwood regarding his "live sightings."  Garwood avoids all contact with DIA, ostensibly because his conviction is under appeal.  In January 1986, the Supreme Court lets stand his conviction and he agrees to talk with DIA.  He is interviewed off and on 1986 - 1989.  DIA analyzes his information and concludes that Garwood's claims to have seen US POWs in Vietnam after 1973 are without merit.  Senator Smith disputes these findings in several meetings with DIA personnel; smith emerges as an advocate for Garwood.
bulletJuly 1993:  Billy Hendon goes to Vietnam, followed shortly by Smith and Garwood. 
bulletAccording to the owner/operator of a ferry on Thach Ba who was interviewed in July 1993 by DIA, Hendon approached him about hiring his ferry to take a trip along the shore of Thach Ba to locate some buildings.  A few days later, Smith and Garwood came to the same ferry and had the operator take them to the same buildings to which he had taken Hendon a few days before.
bulletGarwood walked up to the buildings and announced that this is where he had seen US POWs in September 1977.
bulletSmith and Garwood were accompanied by an ABC 20/20 crew who filmed and reported on the whole affair.

What you will see on the line drawings

The line drawings are just that:  drawings of what is seen on the imagery.   the line drawings show only land forms, roads, buildings, and vegetation.  In our meetings with Smith, he traced out the route that he, Garwood, and the 20/20 crew from the ferry landing to the buildings.  I have drawn on the first line drawing their route and on each line drawing I have circled in red the area where the 1993 buildings were.

What Is Important Here

These are the important points.

  1. The satellite imagery does not simply not support Garwood's claim of having seen US POWs in a building on an island in Thach Ba in 1977.  The imagery refutes Garwood's claim
    bulletReviews of imagery to search for a building or buildings on an island as described by Garwood show no such structures anywhere in the lake.
    bulletReviews of imagery of the area visited by Smith and Garwood in 1993, where Garwood claimed to have found the buildings in his 1977 claim, show that the buildings they visited in 1993 were not constructed until after 1984.
  2. Senator Smith was shown the imagery; we went over it with him and answered his questions.  He clearly understood that the buildings that he and Garwood visited in 1993 were not built until after 1984.  In fact, residents of the buildings told him that.  Smith completely ignored these facts and went ahead with his ABC 20/20 interview and his press releases.
  3. ABC 20/20 was shown the line drawings by Senator McCain.  ABC ignored the facts, never asked DIA for any input at all, and went ahead with this bogus story.
  4. The whole affair was set up by Billy Hendon, who traveled to Vietnam with Smith, Garwood, and the ABC 20/20 crew.  Hendon went to the lake before Smith and Garwood, found some buildings, and set up this charade.

Sort of makes you proud to be an American.

A technical note

As you view the line drawings, you will notice that the shape of the landforms changes, especially the shoreline.  This is true for two reasons:

  1. The satellite is not necessarily looking straight down with every photograph, thereby making the shore lines look different because of the obliquity involved.
  2. The photographs were made at different times of the year.  Thach Ba is a reservoir used for flood control and irrigation purposes.  Thus, the water level varies and this variation will cause the shoreline to change shape somewhat.

Follow this link to start with the 24 July 1991 imagery.

Click on the links to view the indicated pages.

Smith - Garwood visit to Thach Ba, July 1993   Article describing the line drawings. (This article, no link.)
24 July 1991 24 July 1991 - closeup 17 June 1989 14 May 1985 4 June 1984
18 November 1983 27 August 1980 14 July 1978 27 September 1977