MIA Facts Site

Shredding Documents

Summary.  The MIA "activist" cult has a truckload of wacky stories that they tell and retell.  The problem is that people who hear only those stories and nothing else, tend to believe this crap.  One of their wacko stories concerns the first commander of the Joint Task Force -- Full Accounting, General Tom Needham, and a claim that he shredded valuable MIA documents in the US Embassy in Bangkok.  The story  misrepresents and blows out of proportion an actual incident.

Background

JCRC

In 1992, the Joint Casualty Resolution Center (JCRC) was absorbed by the Joint Task Force -- Full Accounting (JTF-FA).
 
JCRC was the successor to the Joint Personnel Recovery Center, formed in Vietnam during the war.  JCRC was headquartered in Hawaii and had an operational element in Bangkok.   The JCRC covered the refugee camps, interviewed refugees and legal travelers, conducted negotiations with the Vietnamese, Lao, and Cambodians, and carried out repatriations of remains.  JCRC wrote up reports of all their activities and sent these reports back to their HQ in Hawaii and to DIA;  these looked for all the world like intell information reports but, because JCRC was a humanitarian agency, we called them simply "reports."  Thus, every report that JCRC made was in their files in Bangkok with duplicates in Hawaii and at DIA.

Joint Task Force -- Full Accounting (JTF-FA)

In the late 1980s, it became clear that we would soon have people stationed in Hanoi and that we would need a unit capable of staying in the field in Vietnam, Laos, and Cambodia to search for crash and grave sites and to conduct excavations, under the supervision of CILHI
scientists.  Thus was formed the Joint Task Force -- Full Accounting (JTF-FA), commanded by a US Army brigadier, headquartered in Hawaii, with operational elements in Hanoi, Vientiane, and Phnom Phen.  Essentially, the JTF-FA absorbed the JCRC and added a lot of people.
 
The JCRC office in Bangkok -- now the JTF-FA office -- was located in the US Embassy.   As the US presence in Thailand grew, demands for space in the Embassy grew.   General Tom Needham, first commander of JTF-FA, consulted with the ambassador, looked at what JTF-FA would be doing, and decided to move the JTF-FA analytic files and analysts from Bangkok to Hawaii to free up space in the embassy. 

The JCRC/JTF-FA Files in Bangkok

Over the years the JCRC had produced lots of files and the question was how much of this stuff should be moved back to Hawaii.

JCRC personnel conducted an inventory of everything in their files in Bangkok.   This inventory was sent to Hawaii and to DIA where inventories were conducted.   We determined that almost every document that was in Bangkok also had copies in DIA and in Hawaii.  There were a few files that were unique but not many.  Needham told the folks in Bangkok to destroy the duplicate files, send the files that were not duplicates to Hawaii and to DIA, and keep only the bare minimum of files in Bangkok.
 
It was this action that has generated a lot of phony stories.  Bill Bell started this whole nonsense.  Bell was upset that he was being shunted aside -- which was happening because he insisted on communicating back channel with his friends in the activist world.  Bell claimed that there were many documents with irreplaceable notes written in the margins.  What he did not tell anyone was that Needham told the troops doing the shredding to look at each document and, if any document had notes written on it, to save that document and ship it back to Hawaii, with copies to DIA.  Bell has also manufactured several other parts of this story, none of which are true but all of which show up in the "activist" claims.
 

The Wacky Story

The MIA cult makes a number of absolutely loony claims, including:

bulletA claim that Needham ordered the JCRC/JTF-FA guys to start shredding documents and that some of them refused only to have him threaten them with court-martial. 
bulletA claim that Needham was not happy with the slow shredding so he jumped in himself and started shoving documents into the shredder.
bulletA claim that the Ambassador  came down and ordered Needham to stop shredding and that Needham pulled a pistol on him and continued to shred. 
bulletA claim that Needham burned up the Embassy shredder and sent for a bigger one. 

Overall, they claim that Needham destroyed irreplaceable documents that prove the presence of US POWs.  Bullshit.  The only documents that were shredded were documents that were known to be duplicated in Hawaii and in DIA.
 
To this day, Bell and the MIA cult tell this story for the truth and unsuspecting people fall for it -- even the part about pulling a pistol on the Ambassador -- it's all crap.