MIA Facts Site

The Japanese Monk:
More Misrepresentations

Summary.  In 1989, the Vietnamese released a Mr. Ganshin Yoshida, an old Japanese Buddhist monk who had been in Vietnam for 25 years.  Yoshida's story -- actually, his lack of a story -- has been falsified and misrepresented by the MIA activists.  This article contains the facts about Yoshida.

Background

In 1989, the Vietnamese released from prison in Hanoi and old, sick Japanese Buddhist monk, Ganshin Yoshida.  Yoshida was taken back home to Sapporo, Japan by his daughter where he lived in the convalescent ward of a hospital for three years, he died in 1992.

Yoshida had gone to Vietnam in the 1960s, sponsored by a Buddhist organization in Japan.  He established a temple in Vietnam -- South Vietnam -- that was supported both by local people and by donations from the Japanese sect that sponsored him.   When the Communists took over Vietnam in 1975, Yoshida was arrested, along with another monk who was younger than he and who had been in Vietnam for only a short while.   While the other monk was released in 1978 (I am not certain about this date -- he was released in 1978-79-80 as best I recall), Yoshida remained in prison in Vietnam until his 1989 release.

Why was Yoshida held?

Yoshida had been in Vietnam for a long time.  The Buddhist temples had been the source of opposition to the governments in South Vietnam and, when the commies took over in 1975, they clamped down on real and potential sources of opposition -- newspapers, temples, churches, civic and social organizations, schools, and the like -- just as totalitarian regimes of the right and left have always done.  In fact, when the commies seized the northern half of Vietnam in 1954, they arrested a lot of Buddhist leaders to ensure that their organizations would not support anti-government activities.   Thus, their arrest of Yoshida was normal practice.  I have no idea why they continued to hold him when the second Japanese monk and other Japanese were released.   Yoshida's daughter claimed that he had become a Vietnamese citizen but we could not confirm this.

What does US intell know about Yoshida?

US intell knew a lot about Yoshida and about the prisons where he was held. 

First, let me describe how we obtained our information.

As you know, following the Communist takeovers in Vietnam, Laos, and Cambodia in 1975, hundreds of thousands of people fled these three countries.  This stream of refugees continued well into the late 1990s, and people still leave Indochina.  Refugees from these three countries ended up, as their first stop, in refugee camps in Thailand, Malaysia, Singapore, Hong Kong, or the Philippines.  These camps were operated either by the host  nations or by the United Nations.  The US government had these camps covered. We had close relationships with  the national authorities running the camps, with the UN authorities, and with the humanitarian relief organizations that did most of the day-to-day work in the camps.  US interviewers were regularly in the camps -- their presence being determined by the flow of people into the camps.  For example, US interviewers were constantly in camps in Thailand but only visited camps in Hong Kong when new people arrived because there were far more arrivals in Thailand than in Hong Kong.

Refugees were screened by using written questionnaires:  name, home, where and how departed Vietnam, ever arrested, where held in prison, ever encounter foreigners in prison, knowledge of Americans, and myriad other questions.  In cases where refugees alleged to have information about Americans, the camp authorities knew to contact US interviewers immediately.  Otherwise, the interviewers visited the camps regularly to review the questionnaires.  For example, we sought information on the prisons systems.  Thus, anyone who indicated on a questionnaire that he/she had been in prison would be interviewed about that prison.  This is a very simple version of how a complicated and productive system worked and how we obtained a lot of information from the refugees.

Information about Yoshida

US interviewers interviewed the second Japanese monk who was released in the late 1970s.  He told details of his friend Yoshida, Yoshida's arrest, trial, conviction, sentence, and the like.  He had been in a prison in the south with Yoshida at the time of his release.  Thus, we knew where Yoshida was to start with and how he got there.

As the years passed, an occasional refugee would describe a Japanese monk as being a prisoner in a prison where the refugee had been held.  If we lay these reports down chronologically, a pattern emerges.

bulletSome of these refugees reported on Yoshida at the place and at the time reported by the second Japanese monk.
bulletSome refugees reported on Yoshida's location, condition, and activities after the second monk was released.  These reports describe a Japanese monk -- Yoshida -- who is growing older and who is beginning to have health problems.
bulletThen, as we review the reports of a Japanese monk, we find no more reports of Yoshida in the prison in the south where he was for years.  Instead, we now begin to get reports of an old, feeble, sick Japanese monk in a prison in the Hanoi area.  And, as we review reports from that prison, we find that there were no reports of a Japanese monk -- or any other Japanese -- in that prison until the time that Yoshida leaves the southern prison and appears in the Hanoi prison.

Thus, we have a chain of reporting on Yoshida's location and condition.  Those reports tell of a man who is aging, beginning to have health problems, then with serious health problems, then moved to a prison in Hanoi where he is tended full time by guards, prison medical personnel, and other prisoners.

It is from this prison in Hanoi that Yoshida is released.  He was visited there by Japanese foreign ministry officials who appealed to the Vietnamese to release him, based on his age and his health and mental condition.

US intell knows where Yoshida was, his condition, and what other prisoners were held with him.

The "activist" claims about Yoshida

Here is a typical claim that appears on an MIA cult website about Yoshida:

June 10 1989: The Washington Post reports a Japanese monk released after 13 years in a Vietnamese prison had American POW cellmates who nursed him to health.

The facts about Yoshida

When Yoshida was released, his daughter accompanied him from Hanoi to Tokyo, then to Sapporo where he was hospitalized.  HIs release was publicized in the Japanese press and a few days after the first article about Yoshida appeared, his daughter told a Japanese newspaper that her father had encountered Americans while he was in prison in Vietnam.  It is from these statements by the daughter that we get the press claims that he had contact with US POWs.

Impossible to interview him successfully

We at DIA notified the US Defense Attaché Office in Tokyo to contact the family and to interview Yoshida -- they were to ask him first about any contact he may have had with Americans.  The attaché office found that Yoshida was not helpful.  His physicians had conducted a CAT scan and several other tests; they determined that he had suffered a number of small strokes and at least two large strokes.  He had little memory, he came in and out of reality, and he simply was not reliable as a source of information.

Still, we interviewed him on several occasions.  He was interviewed in Japanese by a Japanese-speaking member of the attaché office, along with an interpreter for good measure.  He was also interviewed by a Vietnamese-speaking member of the DIA research team.  In none of these interviews did Yoshida provide any information about Americans.  He told a consistent story of a foreigner -- Caucasian -- who gave him bananas and who helped him bathe.

I was assigned to Japan from July 1991 to July 1993.  While there, I spoke with the attaché officer who interviewed Yoshida.  Yoshida was an old man, his mind was gone, clouded by years of mistreatment and by strokes.  As I listened to the attaché officer describe Yoshida, I recalled my own grandmother who suffered several small strokes than a large stroke that incapacitated her.  When I visited her, she was at times lucid -- she could tell me who had visited her that morning, what she had eaten for breakfast, and other recent events.  Then, she would take a nap and, when she waked up, she was in another world -- she remember nothing of our previous conversations, she did not recognize me, she called me names of long-dead relatives.

The MIA cult accuses DIA of trying to claim that Yoshida was "crazy" and that we do so to cover up his explosive information on US POWs with whom he had contact.   Such claims are, as with most of their charges, bogus and unfounded.

What the record shows

If we review the records of people who were held in the same prisons as Yoshida, we find that there were, in fact, non-Asian foreigners in these prisons.  None of these people were US POWs; they were:

bulletAn American couple and their cat, arrested in 1979 and held for two months.  Their yacht strayed into Vietnamese territorial waters and they were held for a short while.   They were held in the same prison where the second monk last saw Yoshida and where there were many reports of Yoshida.
bulletThey reported observing an older Japanese man, described to them by their guards as a Japanese Buddhist monk.
bulletThey also reported seeing a Caucasian prisoner, a young man who spoke with a British or Aussie accent and whom they saw passing bananas to the Japanese monk. They never learned this man's identity.
bulletIn the Hanoi prison to which Yoshida was moved, we know of several foreign prisoners.   They were mainly merchant seamen and businessmen, arrested for smuggling, black marketeering, and bribery.  This prison had a hospital-type ward in which ill prisoners were kept;  Yoshida was in this ward from the time he was moved to this prison until his release.

Conclusion

From the evidence, then, it is clear that Yoshida had no contact with US POWs.   Other people, held in the same prisons at the same time as he, have reported no US POWs in those prisons.  We know the identities of the foreigners who were in these prisons, none of them US POWs.

A footnote

There is one more item -- a somewhat bizarre item -- that is part of the Yoshida story.   Former Congressman William "Just Call Me Billy" Hendon has made a career for the past twenty years of trying to prove that US POWs were abandoned in SEAsia.   All his stories, all his claims, all his favorite reports have been shown to be bogus, fabricated (some fabricated by Hendon), and misrepresented.  What Hendon does not want anyone to know is that he visited Yoshida.  That's right, in early 1990, Hendon went to Sapporo, Japan, and visited Yoshida.  Here is the story.

Yoshida's daughter contacted the US Defense Attaché Office in the Embassy in Tokyo and asked them why a Congressman named "Mr. Billy" was coming to Sapporo to see her father.  The attaché office was concerned because no one in the embassy knew anything about a Congressional delegation so they contacted us at DIA.  We then told them the story about Hendon and directed them to stay away from him -- if  Hendon had any contact with the embassy or the attaché office, he would claim that he had official support.

Yoshida's daughter and one of his physicians sat in on the Hendon meeting with Yoshida and the daughter immediately contacted the attaché office, after Hendon had departed.   She was pissed and upset.  According to her, Hendon had browbeaten her father, been very aggressive in his questioning, and tried to get the old man to admit that he had had contact with US POWs.  She told the attaché office that here father was puzzled, incoherent, frightened, and that the doctor had to ask Hendon to leave.

To my knowledge, Hendon has never publicly revealed that he made this trip.  Why not?  What would he have done if Yoshida had told him of the presence of US POWs in prisons in Vietnam?  Hendon would have called an immediate news conference to proclaim Yoshida's revelations.  Instead, he got nothing from Yoshida and he did not want anyone to know this, thus, Hendon sneaked out of Japan and has never told anyone other than a few close associates about this trip.  Instead, Hendon simply makes the occasional claim that Yoshida told of encountering US POWs -- he knows that his comments are sufficient for the MIA cult.

Typical Hendon.

November 16, 2000