MIA Facts Site

LTG Tighe:
His MIA Views

Summary.  The MIA "activists" like to quote Lieutenant General Eugene Tighe as stating that he saw reports during his tenure as director of the Defense Intelligence Agency that led him to believe (some number) of US POWs were abandoned in SE Asia.  The facts are quite different.

Background

I do not recall the dates when Lieutenant General Eugene Tighe (LTG Tighe) was the Director of the Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA).  He was director when I arrived for my first tour with DIA in July 1978.  I served at DIA from July 1978 until June 1982; my recollection is that LTG Tighe retired prior to my reassignment in 1982.

The "Tighe Commission"

In June 1982 I was reassigned from DIA to the Army's Command and General Staff College, Fort Leavenworth, Kansas, where I was a faculty member teaching national security affairs and Asian affairs.  In June 1985, I was reassigned to DIA as Chief of the Chinese Ground Forces analytic branch.  At that time, USAF LTG Leonard Perroots was the newly-assigned DIA Director.  Congressman Billy Hendon (R, NC) had been active in the MIA issue, accusing the Pentagon of covering up the "fact" of live US POWs.  LTG Perroots responded in two ways.  First, he formed a team from within DIA to review analytic and managerial processes in the DIA Special Office for POW-MIA Affairs.  Second, he asked LTG Tighe and several other general officers to come in and do the same.

We on the internal team made some suggestions to LTG Perroots for process improvements in the Special Office and he re-assigned every one of us to the MIA Office -- I became the chief of the analytic branch (Apr 1986 - December 1987) and later chief of the entire office (December 1987 - July 1990).

LTG (Retired) Tighe came in as the head of a group of retired general officers.  I do not recall all their names but they included:

bulletGeneral Robert Kingston, US Army.
bulletLieutenant General John ( I forget his last name), US Army, who was the last US Defense Attaché in Saigon.
bulletBrigadier General Robbie Risner, USAF, one of the senior US POWs in Hanoi.
bulletGeneral John Flynn, USAF, also one of the senior US POWs in Hanoi.
bulletAnd two other senior officers whose names I do not recall.

This panel was in session for several months -- they came and went, spending a few days at a time in the Pentagon.  In the end, they issued a report -- written largely by LTG Tighe -- that is part of the public record.  Anyone who wishes can obtain a copy of it through a FOIA request to DPMO.

During the tenure of the "Tighe Commission," I was chief of the analytic branch of the DIA POW-MIA Office.  We were directed by LTG Perroots, DIA Director, to provide to LTG Tighe and his panel members any support they requested.  Our analysts met frequently, probably one or more times each day, with the Tighe Panel.   We as a group, I individually, and our senior analyst individually  discussed the panel's work and its final report -- the so-called "Tighe Report" that activists are fond of citing -- subsequently with two other general officers who sat on the panel.  I know for a fact that all members of  his panel did not concur with LTG Tighe's views.  the only one who did concur was a DIA analyst that Gen. Tighe hand-picked as an advisor and who had no experience with the POW/MIA issue.    LTG Tighe changed the text of the report's conclusions to reflect his personal views after the other members of the panel had concurred on wording they believed accurately reflected the intelligence information that was available.

LTG Tighe and the DIA Special Office for POW-MIA Affairs

The following information is well-known by anyone who served in the DIA POW-MIA Office but is generally unknown outside the office.

In 1976 or 1977, I don't recall the specific date, LTG Tighe, then DIA Director, instructed the staff of the Defense Intelligence Agency's (DIA's) Special Office for POW/MIA to find new jobs before the end of that fiscal year.  He explained that he intended to close the Special Office at the end of that fiscal year.  He reasoned that since the United States had not left any POWs behind from the conflict in Southeast Asia (SEA), there no longer was a need for the DIA to devote resources to the accounting mission.  

At that time, the chief of the office was an Air Force colonel and the deputy was Mr. Charles F. Trowbridge.  Mr. Trowbridge was a retired naval aviator who had flown in Vietnam.  Trowbridge was assigned to the DIA POW-MIA Office in the early 1970s and was active in debriefing POWs during Operation Homecoming.  He retired from the Navy and stayed on as deputy of the POW-MIA Office.  Of all the people I ever met during my active duty time, Chuck Trowbridge was one of the finest, most dedicated individuals I ever knew.  His ethics and integrity are above reproach.  His knowledge of the POW-MIA issue is unquestionably the best and most complete.  Chuck did not agree with LTG Tighe's decision to close the POW-MIA Office.

LTG Tighe was prevented from shutting down DIA's accounting mission solely through quiet, behind-the-scenes efforts by Chuck Trowbridge   and through public efforts by the leaders of the National League of Families of Prisoners and Missing in Southeast Asia (the League).

The fact that Chuck Trowbridge saved the DIA POW-MIA Office from being closed has not, to my knowledge, been discussed publicly anywhere.  To the contrary, Mr. Trowbridge has been a frequent target of the uninformed activist community's vicious and calumnious attacks.

LTG Tighe's Congressional Testimony

At his last appearance as the Director of DIA before the House Subcommittee on East Asia and the Pacific of the Committee on Foreign Relations, LTG Tighe stated in his prepared testimony that there was no evidence that the US had left any POWs behind after the war in SEA.  During the question and answer period after he read his prepared statement into the record, one member of the subcommittee (Hendon) badgered LTG Tighe until he altered that statement.  LTG Tighe succumbed to the badgering and made the statement often quoted by activists, in which he said something to the effect that in his personal opinion we had left POWs behind.  Other members of the
subcommittee who were familiar with the full range of information about POWs and MIAs that was available to the intelligence community (the members of the House Task Force on POW/MIA were members of that subcommittee), and who were familiar with  Tighe's views, thought he had misspoken and they questioned him intensely on this point.    Nevertheless, for reasons only he knew, Gen. Tighe stood by that statement.   

I have personal knowledge that several members of the subcommittee, Gen. Tighe's two immediate successors as Director DIA, and the other general officers who sat on the so-called Tighe Commission, were genuinely puzzled by Gen. Tighe's statement.

LTG Tighe's Public Statements

After retiring from active duty, LTG Tighe made a number of public statements on the POW-MIA issue.  He appeared once on CBS "Sixty Minutes."  Each time he appeared publicly, he added to the number of POWs whom he "believed" were left behind.  At the time he was making these statements -- mid-1980's to early-1990's -- I was assigned to the DIA POW-MIA Office and we were amazed at what he said each time.   I watched his numbers grow from "a dozen or so" to "over sixty."  I also know that two DIA directors -- LTG Perroots, USAF, and LTG Soyster, USA -- wrote LTG Tighe asking him to cite his evidence.  He never did.

All of the above information was presented to the Senate Select Committee in 1992 and is part of the Committee's public record.