MIA Facts Site

New Mythology
and
Same Old Stuff

Summary.  There are stories, claims, and reports related to the MIA issue that surface again and again.  They take various forms, deal with a number of topics, and some of them have taken on the stature of near-gospel.   On the other hand, from time to time, new tales are invented (the JFK, Jr. crash expense is one such new invention).  The purpose of this article is to accumulate in one place these commonly repeated or newly-introduced tales  and comment on them.  In some cases, I have placed a link to an article that provides more detail about the matter under discussion.  These are listed here in no particular order and I will add new items as they pop up.

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Here is a listing of what you will find on this page.

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"The government spent more to recover JFK, Jr.'s body than it is spending to recover missing men from Vietnam"

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Returned POWs are not allowed to read their own debriefings

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The French paid millions of dollars in ransom for the return of POWs from the French-Indochina War.

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"The government spent more to recover JFK, Jr.'s body than it is spending to recover missing men from Vietnam"

The short answer to this claim isnonsense.   The long answer issee short answer.   In an attempt to reach the fullest possible accounting of missing from SEAsia, the US government has been and continues to conduct an effort unparalleled in the entire history of warfare.  Close to 500 US personnel, military and civilian, are dedicated to the effort.  These include:

bulletDefense POW-Missing Personnel Office.   Located in Washington, DC, this office of close to 150 people provides analysis of reporting and information, public information, and contacts with families.
bulletJoint Task Force - Full Accounting.  Located in Hawaii.  Approximately 150 military personnel assigned, commanded by an Army brigadier general.  JTF-FA teams go into Laos, Vietnam, and Cambodia to search for aircraft crash sites and gravesites.   Once found, they work under the direction of anthropologists from the Army's Central Identification Laboratory to excavate and recover remains and material that will help determine what happened to the men involved in each loss incident.
bulletDefense Intelligence Agency STONY BEACH teams.  These folks are intelligence analysts and operators whose job is to interview people who claim to have information on missing Americans and to conduct other intelligence operations aimed at locating information on missing Americans.
bulletCentral Identification Laboratory - Hawaii.  CILHI is an Army organization staffed by active duty military and civilians, including forensic anthropologists.  Their job is to direct excavations of loss sites, recover remains, and identify those remains.   Most of CILHI's work involves identifications from Vietnam but they also work on current identifications (CILHI identified the crew of the space shuttle Challenger)as well as identifications from WW II and Korea.

Related articles are:

bulletAccounting for the missing
bulletIdentification

I encourage you to visit the DPMO website and read through their archives of press releases and announcements.  There you will see the extent of the effort, especially if you look carefully at the announcements of JTF-FA team deployments into SEAsia.

Why, then, are we now hearing the claim that "the government spent more on recovering JFK, Jr. than it is spending on recovering our missing men from Vietnam?"   Simple.  The MIA "activists" have for years seen their position slipping away -- their claims are regularly proven to be without merit and, as remains are recovered and identified, the men whom they claim are still POWs are being found in their crash sites.  So, they have to start something else -- it's just a weak attempt to keep the pot stirred.

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Returned POWs are not allowed to read their own debriefings

Not true.

When US POWs returned from Vietnam, they were debriefed as to their experiences.   Some of these debriefings were fairly simple, as in the case of men who were held only a short time, others were detailed with follow-ups going on for years.

In each case, men were promised confidentiality.  Essentially, they were told that their debriefs would remain classified and would not be made available to anyone outside carefully controlled official channels.  Why such a pledge?  Because individuals may have revealed information that was personally embarrassing or sensitive to themselves or to another person.  The Department of Defense wanted returnees to speak freely without fear of repercussions.  DoD needed details of the facts of imprisonment and of an individual's reaction and behavior so that information could be analyzed and used to prepare future servicemembers for captivity.

The pledge of confidentiality remains inviolate today with two exceptions.

1. If a returnee had any information about a man who is still missing, that information was provided to the missing man's next of kin.

2.  Returnees are permitted to read their own debriefings.  They cannot make copies or make notes.

During my tenure at DIA and DPMO, a few returnees came to our office to read their debriefs.  They did this to refresh their memories in preparation for writing their memoirs, giving an interview, or making a speech.  Some just wanted to read what they had to say.

The claim that returnees cannot see their own debriefs is not true.

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The French paid millions of dollars in ransom for the return of POWs from the French-Indochina War.

Not true.

The French pulled out of Vietnam and granted independence from the French colonial empire to the Indochinese states of Laos, Vietnam, and Cambodia following a series of military defeats at the hands of the Viet Minh.  The most famous of these defeats was the collapse of the French garrison at Dien Bien Phu in May 1954.  During their wars in Indochina, the French suffered many casualties and most French dead were buried in Vietnam, Laos, or Cambodia.  Because most of the fighting took place in Vietnam, that is where most French casualties occurred.

The French established military cemeteries in Vietnam, similar to those established by the US after WW II in Europe and the Pacific.  Over 25,000 French soldiers were buried in these cemeteries.  These men were not unknown or missing and they certainly were not prisoners of war.  These French military cemeteries were just as though our Arlington National Cemetery were located outside of Saigon -- the French government knew who was buried there and the men's families knew.  The French and Vietnamese had an agreement whereby the Vietnamese would maintain the cemeteries and the French would pay them for maintenance.  As time went on, the maintenance of these cemeteries became spotty, in some cases almost non-existent.

In the late 1980s, the French and Vietnamese opened discussions regarding these cemeteries.  The Vietnamese wanted the French dead out of Vietnam -- they needed the land and they wanted the reminders of French colonialism off their territory.  The French wanted their dead back on French soil.  Finally, a deal was struck and over the course of a couple of years, the French exhumed the remains from these cemeteries and returned them to France.

The French stated that they had, over the years, paid several million dollars for maintenance on these cemeteries.  It is this fact that certain MIA "activists" have misrepresented, claiming that the French paid ransom for POWs and MIAs to be returned to France.

In the early 1970s, a group of former French soldiers -- I  believe the number was 40 or 41 -- returned to France from Vietnam.  These men were not POWs.  They were deserters who had been living in Vietnam, freely and openly.  They were known to the French government and many of them had maintained contact with their families.   This situation is misrepresented by the MIA "activists" as being a group of French POWs returned in the early 1970s.

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This page was created on November 10, 1999 and last modified on December 24, 2007