MIA Facts Site

Mythology Galore

Summary.  During my tenure in the MIA offices in the Pentagon, we occasionally received letters from one Paul Rifenberg from Michigan.  Mr. Rifenberg was filled with the usual cover-up-and-conspiracy stories and he apparently believed them all.  Now, Mr. Rifenberg has found the MIA Facts Site and he has been leaving messages on the Guestbook.  One of his messages reveals an enormous load of mythology.  Here is a reply -- I don't know what I bother, though.

Rifenberg's Misinformation

The following message was posted on the MIA Facts Site Guest Book on May 28, 2000, by Mr. Paul Rifenberg:

"In referencing previous studies on the issue, you left out the Senate Foreign Relations Minority Reports (both of them) as well as the Tighe Pentagon Panel Study, which used the terminology of "STRONG PROBABILITY" of live POWs. I believe the RAND and GAINES studies were conveniently overlooked as well. The Senate Select Committee's final findings were sabatoged by Senators Kerry and McCain. Researcher/investigators for that Committee were fired when their findings/estimates of live POWs didn't jive with theirs, they allowed Henry Kissinger and Richard Nixon to make "factual changes" in their testimony, and apparently the opinions of people like Bill Bell, Terry Minarcin, and Jerry Mooney didn't factor into their conclusions. I believe even two former Secretaries of Defense testified that we left men behind. How could anyone believe otherwise ? And if we did, Colonel, where are they ? Wasn't it your function, your role, your official charged task. . .to find out ? Is this web-site some sort of justification or explanation of why you spent years sucking up our tax-dollars without any results ? That's fine, you're retired now. We'll keep looking anyway, if that's okay with you."


In response to an earlier message, I had told Mr. Rifenberg that there were two Congressional reviews of the MIA issue:

  1. In 1976, the House of Representatives Select Committee on Missing Persons in Southeast Asia issued an excellent and comprehensive 5-volume record of its hearings, plus a 1-volume record of its findings.  This Committee concluded that there was no evidence that US POWs did not return at or before the end of the war. The Committee also concluded that the best way to account for the missing was to obtain the cooperation of Vietnam and to do exactly what US investigators have been doing for over two decades.
  2. The Senate Select Committee, which met from mid-1991 through early 1993, concluded:   "We acknowledge that there is no proof that U.S. POWs survived, but neither is there proof that all of those who did not return had died. There is evidence, moreover, that indicates the possibility of survival, at least for a small number, after Operation Homecoming." 

He responded with the message quoted above.  The following provides details that he conveniently leaves out.

"Senate Foreign Relations Minority Reports"

To save time, you could check out this URL for an example of the foolishness that the Senate Minority Report contained.  The rest of the report was as specious as the example cited on the linked page.

Back in 1990, some members of Senator Jesse Helms' minority staff came to the Pentagon and visited the DIA Special Office for POW-MIA Affairs.  Helms was, at the time, the ranking minority member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.  Three of his staff came to visit.  One -- whose name I do not recall -- was a long time Helms staffer.  Another was a recently retired Army warrant officer, Tracy Usry.  The third one I do not recall.  They asked a few innocuous questions and went on their way.

Later, I learned from a member of the majority staff that former Congressman Billy Hendon had convinced Helms to look into the MIA issue and to publish a report under the authority of his position as ranking minority member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.  According to this staffer, the other minority members of the Committee were not keen on the idea but they went along with Helms.

The result was a report  -- titled An Examination of U. S. Policy Toward POW/MIAs -- by the minority side of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee that repeated all the old, disproved claims about abandoned POWs, cover up, conspiracy, and the rest of the mythology.  Several minority members signed the report out of deference to Helms -- then Helms' chief of staff, a retired admiral named Nance, found out what had happened. 

Meanwhile, this same cabal of staffers convinced Helms that they had information that a US POW was about to be freed -- this happened in October 1991.  Helms went public -- he was shown on CNN and the other networks standing on the Capitol steps proclaiming that he had information that a US POW from the Vietnam War would be freed in "30 to 60 to 90 days."

Nance was horrified -- he had just finished reading the report and now this.   Nance called to Helms' attention the serious errors in the report and pulled the Senator back from the edge.  Helms told Nance to fire the whole crowd and they were out.  But, the "Senate Minority Report" was in the public domain and, to this day, it remains an article of faith for the MIA cult. 

Later, in November 1991, Usry was exposed as having falsified and misrepresented most of the information in the "Senate Minority Report." (Hearings Before the Senate Select Committee on POW/MIA Affairs, Part I of II, Nov. 5, 6, 7, and 15, 1991, pages 443 - 447.)

Start here to learn more about Billy Hendon.

The "RAND and GAINES studies"  (sic)

Here Mr. Rifenberg reveals his true ignorance of the MIA issue. 

RAND Study

The "RAND" study to which he refers could be one of several.  However, there is no study by RAND that makes any claims that US POWs were abandoned in Vietnam.   There were RAND studies of how US POWs were treated, how they reacted to torture and isolation, how they adjusted when they returned, and a number of other topics.

The "GAINES" Study

I wrote the "Gaines Report."  Nowhere does it conclude or even hint that US POWs were abandoned in Vietnam or anywhere else.  Here are the facts.

In late 1985, LTG Leonard Perroots was named as Director of the Defense Intelligence Agency.  He was immediately set upon by then-Congressman Billy Hendon, who claimed that DIA was guilty of covering up the presence of US POWs still held in SEAsia.   Perroots was not familiar with the issue and he was not familiar with what a fool Hendon was -- he would later find out.

LTG Perroots formed a team to review the operations of the DIA Special Office for POW-MIA Affairs and make recommendations to him about the office.  I was a member of the team.  Team chief was USAF Colonel Kimball Gaines; other members were an Army colonel and an Air Force Captain.  There was a separate team of four DIA analysts who were asked to review the POW-MIA Office work on the "live-sighting reports."  We moved into the office in March 1986, reviewed how the office operated, and made our recommendations to LTG Perroots in April 1986.  As a result, he put Colonel Gaines in charge and made me chief of the analysis branch; I later became chief of the office.

We found that the DIA Special Office for POW-MIA Affairs was suffering from:

bulletExposure to attacks from Billy Hendon that would not be tolerated if he were attacking any other DIA element.
bulletLimited access to DIA's full resources -- that is, computers were out of date, training was out of date, etc.
bulletAnalysts in the POW-MIA Office were absolutely top-notch but they were exposed to too much press and outside pressure.

We DID NOT find anything to suggest that US POWs were still being held.  Over the years, I have read descriptions of "the Gaines report" that were hugely distorted.  Apparently, that's what Mr. Rifenberg has read.

"Tighe Pentagon Panel Study"

LTG Eugene Tighe had been the director of DIA prior to LTG Perroots.  In every instance, when he delivered Congressional testimony while he was director, LTG Tighe had stated that there was no evidence that US POWs were still alive in SEAsia.   Immediately after his retirement, Tighe popped up on 60 Minutes and in other venue claiming that he had seen evidence that led him to conclude that 12, 16, 50, 60 (take your pick, the number changed with the weather) US POWs had been abandoned in Vietnam.

LTG Perroots invited Tighe in to prove his claims.  LTG Perroots formed a group that consisted of Tighe, GEN Bob Kingston (USA), BG Robbie Risner and GEN Peter Flynn (USAF, both returned POWs), and LTG John (I forget his last name, USA, the last US Defense Attaché in Saigon).  They spent time in our office, reviewing files, asking questions, and the like.  Tighe wrote their report and he concluded that there was a "probability" that US POWs remained alive in SEAsia.  At the meeting to discuss the report, every single one of the other team members challenged Tighe -- GEN Kingston leaned over the table and shook his finger in Tighe's face -- they demanded that Tighe show them the evidence.  He could not -- he waffled and wiggled around.   Still, the other general officers signed the report, out of deference to LTG Tighe.

LTG Tighe's conclusion is unsubstantiated by any evidence.

All The Rest of the Nonsense

The remainder of Mr. Rifenberg's message is convoluted nonsense.

A couple of staff members of the Senate Select Committee on POW-MIA Affairs were fired -- Billy Hendon and Tracy Usry.  They were fired because they were leaking information to the press and were being general assholes.

Kissinger and Nixon did not change anything other than a few dates in their comments, after they had reviewed files to determine when and where something happened.

Minarcin and Mooney are dealt with in this article on the Baron 52 loss.

For a review of Bill Bell's fantasies, read this article.

And on and on and on.  Mr. Rifenberg has collected in one spot a vast array of mythology, half-truth, untruth, and misinformation.

Keep Looking

Finally, Mr Rifenberg concludes with the comment "We'll keep looking anyway, if that's okay with you."  Well, that's just dandy, Mr. Rifenberg.  Keep looking.  However, let me remind you that the only missing Americans who have been returned home have been returned as the result of US government efforts.  You, Hendon, and the rest of your heroes, have done NOT A DAMN THING but make noise.  Yessir, keep on looking -- I'm sure you'll find lots of missing men in Michigan.  As my old granddaddy said, "If it makes you happy, it just tickles me to death."

Posted to MIA Facts Site on 29 May 2000