MIA Facts Site

Former Congressman Billy Hendon: Mendacity Without Shame  


Summary.  One of the heroes of the MIA "activists" -- if not the supreme hero -- is former Congressman William "Just Call Me 'Billy' " Hendon.  Hendon served in Congress 1981 - 1983 and 1985 - 1987.  Since his first term, he has been at the center of practically every MIA caper and event of any import.

My experience with Hendon started in 1986.  I have not seen him since 1995 and for that I am thankful.  The man is a demagogue and a phony.  Yet, he is a persuasive speaker and has a dedicated following.

In the following article I lay out facts about Hendon that are never given any public revelation.  My article is, as usual, long and not very exciting.

UPDATE:  Bill Hendon died on June 20, 2018.  According to the Wikipedia article about him "Hendon died on June 20, 2018 under hospice care in Forest City, North Carolina, after long illness at the age of 73."

Some Basics

Hendon is from Asheville, NC.  He graduated from the University of Tennessee and stayed there as a graduate student while others not so fortunate were enjoying an all-expense-paid trip to Southeast Asia.  He later served as a junior faculty member at Western Carolina University, then went back home to Asheville, where he was elected to Congress in 1980.  He was defeated in 1982, elected in 1984, and defeated in 1986.  He did not run after his second defeat. Hendon is not a veteran of military service of any kind.

Since his first term in Congress, Hendon has been at the center of almost every MIA caper, story, adventure, and scheme.  I believe that he was behind many other incidents in which he did not appear publicly.

The best way to describe Hendon's mendacity is to jump right in and describe some of his activities.

By Sampan Across the Mekong

One of Hendon's stories -- I have heard him tell this twice -- is this: Hendon claims that he had access to sources from Laos who knew where US POWs were being held in the early 1980s.  According to Hendon's story, these POWs could be released if the US provided medical supplies to the Laotian government entity that was holding the POWs.  Hendon claims that he pulled together some donated medical supplies, flew them to Thailand, then, under cover of darkness, paddled a sampan across the Mekong carrying the medical supplies, only to find that the US POWs were not available for release.  He tells the story with all sorts of suspense, name-dropping, and theatrics.  It makes great theater -- but it is all nonsense and it never happened.

What really happened.

The Reagan administration, which came to office in 1981, brought with it a debt to a powerful Southern California POW-MIA lobby that had grown up around the restored National League of Families of Prisoners and Missing in Southeast Asia.  Reagan's administration put into place a ten-point strategy that was to lead to "the fullest possible accounting" of Americans still missing in Southeast Asia.  The point man for this strategy was Army Lieutenant Colonel, later Colonel, Richard Childress who moved in as Director of Asian Affairs on the NSC staff.  Dick was an extremely competent strategist with a superb background in Southeast Asian affairs.

A key element of the administration's ten-point strategy was to insist that addressing the MIA issue was a humanitarian issue, not a political matter.  That is to say, we wanted to convince the Laotians, Cambodians, and Vietnamese, that they should cooperate with us in accounting for our missing men as a matter of humanitarian concern, not as a matter to be manipulated for political gain.  Dick Childress sought for ways to impress the governments of Indochina with our seriousness about this position.

Remember, the US and Laos never broke diplomatic relations.  When the Communist Pathet Lao overthrew the Royal Laotian government in 1975, we withdrew our ambassador but kept the embassy open with a charge-de-affaires in charge.  We knew that the big hospital in Vientiane Laos, built with USAID money, was flat on its butt for lack of medical supplies and equipment.  Dick Childress proposed that the US government obtain donated medical supplies from various charitable organizations and fly these supplies into Laos on Air Force aircraft, accompanied by an official government delegation, as a humanitarian gesture. The hope was that if we showed humanitarian concern for the lack of medical supplies, perhaps the Lao would reciprocate with a humanitarian gesture of assisting us with accounting for our missing.

Another of Childress's moves was to encourage Congress to establish a special committee on POW-MIA affairs.  From this was born the House Select Committee on POW-MIA Affairs.  The Committee came under the cognizance of the Asia-Pacific Affairs Subcommittee of the House Foreign Affairs Committee.  Hendon was a member of this special House committee.

The real medical supply delivery mission

When the medical equipment and supply flight went into Vientiane, it was on a US Air Force C-141, complete with Air Force markings.  The medical supplies were accompanied by a delegation comprised of representatives of the US  military, the White House, and Congress.  Hendon was one of the Congressional representatives.

The medical supplies were delivered, the delegation members held some meetings with Laotian officials in which they stressed the humanitarian need to account for our missing.  Then everyone sipped tea, got on the 141, and flew back home.

That's it.  No sampan.  No US POWs waiting to be rescued.  No midnight crossing of the Mekong.

I gotta admit, though, Billy's version is a lot more exciting.

Hendon,  "live-sightings," and the Wednesday afternoon follies

When Hendon was defeated for election in 1982, he left Congress when the new Congress convened in January 1983.  Because he had been a loyal Republican, and he needed a job, he was sent to the Pentagon where the Dept. of Defense was told to find him a job for six-months.   Because of his previous work on the House POW-MIA committee, Hendon asked to be assigned to the POW-MIA Office of the Assistant Secretary of Defense for International Security Affairs (ASD/ISA (POW-MIA)); he was assigned there and worked with USAF LTC Jerry Venanzi, a returned POW.

While working in ASD/ISA, Hendon had access to raw, unevaluated reports coming in from US interviewers in the refugee camps of Southeast Asia and other places around the world.  This access was to provide Hendon with material that he uses to this day.

The Live-sightings

Since the last days of the war, Defense Department interviewers and researchers were in Southeast Asia, working in the refugee camps.  These folks interviewed the hundreds of thousands of refugees fleeing from Vietnam, Laos, and Cambodia in an attempt to find refugees with information about Americans.  ( For a review of some of this work, see my article on Accounting for the Missing. )

Over the years, we collected much valuable information from refugee sources.  Most of the information dealt with sightings of Americans captured during the war who were released at Operation Homecoming; some refugees provided information of crash sites and grave sites; others provided information on the workings of the Vietnamese prison system; many had seen former USMC PFC Robert Garwood during the period he lived and worked in North Vietnam.

Also, some refugee sources claimed to have seen people whom they believed to be Americans, either living freely or in prison in Laos, Vietnam, or Cambodia, long after the end of the war.  Most of these "live sighting" stories were true.  However, they were not sightings of US POWs. Instead, they were sightings of American or other Caucasian civilians imprisoned for violating Vietnamese law.  Some of these live sightings were fabrications -- the sources, for some reason or another, had concocted a story.  ( Follow this link to read an in-depth article about fraudulent reporting. )

Hendon's favorite stories

As a matter of course, live-sightings were the highest priority for investigation.  After all, if a source reported that he/she had seen an American in captivity in Vietnam in, say, 1980, that sighting needed to be investigated quickly to determine if, in fact, there was a US POW still being held.  Each time the House Select Committee on POW-MIA Affairs met, time was devoted to a briefing on the latest live-sighting reports and the course of the investigation into these reports.

It was during this time that Hendon seized on the POW-MIA issue.  He never missed a meeting of the committee and questioned DIA analysts at length about the live sightings and other matters.  Hendon's interest in the MIA issue was matched by that of fellow freshman Congressman John LeBoutellier.  LeB. was from a wealthy New York family and he saw a potential Cabinet member every morning when he was shaving.  LeB. and Hendon teamed up for a while to badger DIA about live sightings.

( NOTE: LeB. would later, after he left Congress, form an organization called Skyhook II.  Skyhook II used mass mail campaigns to raise money.  LeB. had a cohort, a retired USAF Lt. Col., who lived in Thailand and "ran a network of agents" who provided him with information about where US POWs were still being held.  In fact, the "agents" were an odd collection of con artists, all of whom were well known to DIA and to the JCRC interviewers working in the refugee camps.  Their information was a mixture of rumor and fabrication.  None of this, however, kept LeB. from claiming, in his mail campaigns, that his agents were just days away from freeing a US POW and we need a few more dollars to make it happen.  But, I digress.  Back to the Hendon story. )

As his first term neared an end, Hendon's attacks on DIA became a matter of embarrassment for his colleagues on the committee.  Hendon claimed that DIA "agents" were out to "assassinate" him and he told LeB. that he (Hendon) was carrying a pistol.  LeB. figured he had best distance himself from Billy.  In one memorable conversation, overheard by a USMC officer, Hendon told LeB. :  " You must stick with me on this ( the MIA issue ), John.  We are going to get a book and a movie out of it and we can stay elected for a long time. "  LeB. went off to run his own operation.

Hendon:  Pentagon Consultant

Hendon was defeated in the 1982 mid-term elections so, when Congress convened in January 1983, he was unemployed.  Following normal Washington practice, the Reagan administration (Hendon is Republican ) found him a job.  Because of his previous work on the House POW-MIA committee, Hendon asked to be assigned to the POW-MIA Office of the Assistant Secretary of Defense for International Security Affairs (ASD/ISA (POW-MIA)); he was assigned there and worked with USAF LTC Jerry Venanzi, a returned POW.

While working in ASD/ISA, Hendon had access to raw, unevaluated reports coming in from US interviewers in the refugee camps of Southeast Asia and other places around the world.  From time to time, Hendon would confer with Venanzi regarding a report coming in from the field and, on occasion, asked DIA analysts to explain a certain document to him.  For the most part, Hendon really did not do anything of any importance.  He was there to provide him with an income until he could get his re-election campaign started.  At the end of his six-month consultancy, Hendon left ASD to go back to North Carolina and prepare for the 1984 election.

( NOTE:  Billy tells a dramatic story about his leaving the Pentagon.  Hendon claims that, while in ASD/ISA, he saw incoming intelligence reports describing the presence of US POWs in Vietnam, Laos, or Cambodia long after the end of the war.  He says that he tried to blow the whistle on these reports and do something to rescue these Americans but that the Pentagon was not interested. Hendon says he resigned in protest.  Baloney.  He was there on a six-month consultancy and left at the end of six months.  He never raised any issue with anyone regarding any intelligence reports. )

The ABC FOIA request

A few weeks after Hendon left the Pentagon, a reporter from ABC News wrote to the Pentagon under the Freedom of Information Act
( FOIA ) requesting the release to him of  82 documents pertaining to the presence of US POWs in Southeast Asia.  He asked for these documents by title and by their message cite number, a number that would have been known only to someone who had seen the original messages.  The reporter also referred to these messages as being contained in the "Venanzi file."  Hendon worked for the six months that he was in ASD/ISA for Air Force Lt. Col. Jerry Venanzi, a returned POW.

When ASD/ISA personnel starting digging through their files to locate the requested documents, they found that many of the original documents had notes on them in Hendon's handwriting and that, on many of the documents, the staples had been removed and replaced, as though the documents had been separated for copying, then re-attached. Venanzi and DIA analysts, upon reviewing the documents requested under the FOIA, noted that every one of these 82 documents was one that Hendon had asked questions about.

The Wednesday Afternoon Follies (aka:  The Bob and Billy Show)

Hendon was elected again in 1984 and was quickly appointed to the House POW-MIA Committee.  He introduced legislation that would have formed a special Congressional investigative committee that would remove from the Pentagon ( specifically, DIA ) the responsibility to investigate the live-sighting reports.  Hendon claimed that DIA was interested only in "debunking" sources' stories, not in rescuing the live US POWs that these sources had sighted.  In an attempt to gain support for his legislation, Hendon started a process that, he planned, would reveal the "debunking" mentality alive in DIA and sway other members of Congress to support his legislation.  This is what he did.

Every week, Hendon would request that DIA analysts come to his office ( we finally settled on Wednesday afternoon as the appointed time ) to explain to Hendon what had been done to investigate certain live-sighting reports and to explain DIA's conclusions concerning the report.  When DIA analysts arrived in Hendon's office, he would have invited other members of Congress.  The afternoon would go something like this.

bulletHendon would ask the DIA analyst to read the report or reports that he has asked about.
bulletAt some point, while the analyst was reading the report, Hendon would go into his closet, open a filing cabinet, and pull out one or more files.  He would then come back into the office and follow along with the reading from the file folder.  Obviously, what he had in his office safe was either the documents obtained from the ABC FOIA or copies of the documents that he had purloined while he was still in ASD/ISA.
bulletAfter the report was read, Hendon would then ask the other Congressmen if they wanted anything explained to them.  This would lead to some questions about what various terms mean, where some place was located, etc.
bulletThen, Hendon would ask the we describe how we had investigated the report, what the investigation had uncovered, and what were our conclusions about the report.
bulletAs the DIA analyst(s) would describe the investigation, etc., Hendon would get more and more animated.  He would interrupt, asking that things be explained again, confronting the analyst(s) on every point.  As the afternoon went on, Hendon would begin to attack the analyst(s), accusing them of not following up on the report, denouncing their analysis and follow-up, and twisting every answer and comment to try to discredit what we were saying.
bulletThen, Hendon would announce that the "briefing" was over.  He would turn to the other Congressmen, ask them if they were as "appalled" as he was, describe to them how US POWs were rotting away in Southeast Asia this very minute, and demanding that they support his legislation, so that something serious could be done about these reports and so that the "debunkers" at DIA could no longer cover up the presence of US POWs.

A Typical Sighting Report and Hendon's Response

Let me relate to you a typical live-sighting report, one that was a favorite of Hendon's, and use this an an example of how Hendon operated.

Mr. Arlo Gay was an American who had moved to Vietnam and started a commercial fishing business.  He fished throughout the war and, when things started getting hot in 1974 and 1975, with the Communists advancing, he moved his business to the southern coast of Vietnam.  When Saigon fell in April 1975, Gay was approached by a CIA officer who gave him a supply of fuel for his boat and asked that Gay go to a designated point on the coast, pick up some  Vietnamese who had worked for the CIA, and take them to a rendezvous point where they and Gay would be taken out of country.

Gay agreed, got the fuel, then used up some fuel screwing around.  He went to the pick up point and picked up the Vietnamese.  By now, he was running low on fuel.  At this point, he was motoring past an island that was home to a South Vietnamese naval base.  He saw a helicopter with South Vietnamese markings on it land at the base so he figured it was still in ARVN  hands and he could get some fuel there.  He put in only to find that the North Vietnamese had taken over the base.  The helicopter had on board two South Vietnamese Army officers and their families.  These two and Gay were captured and transported back to the mainland where they were moved by small boat up a river to the town of Rach Gia.  As the three were being moved to Rach Gia, their Communist captors would, from time to time, stop at a village, put into shore, make Gay and the two ARVN get out of the boat and stand there while the Commie troops pointed them out as "Americans" and "American puppets."

Gay was held at Rach Gia for a while, then moved to a prison near Hanoi ( Bat Bat ).  He escaped, wandered around the countryside for 30 days, and turned himself in when he realized that he was going in a circle and was about to starve.  He was released and came back to the States after about one year of imprisonment.  The two ARVN were sent to re-education camps and eventually emigrated, one coming to the US, the other to Canada.  Gay and the two ARVN were interviewed several times by DIA.

Rach Gia was a favorite place for "boat people" to get out of Vietnam.  Because so many Vietnamese from the Rach Gia area left Vietnam and ended up in refugee camps, we have all sorts of stories from people who either saw Arlo Gay or who heard of the American.  There are several "live sighting" reports in which the source states that, a few days after the fall of Saigon, he/she was at the riverbank in a certain village, heard a commotion, and went to investigate.  There, the source saw Communist soldiers in a boat with "three Americans" on board.  The soldiers would call in the villagers, point out the "Americans" and "American puppets," denounce them, them get back in the boat, and head off up the river.   When you look at the location, the time frame, the description of the people involved, and the stories told by Gay and the two ARVN, it is clear that what these people reported was an incident involving Gay and the two ARVN.

These stories were some of Hendon's favorites.  He would have the analyst read the report or reports of the "three Americans" then he would ask us what we made of this story.  We would describe what had happened to Gay and the two ARVN and tell Hendon that we concluded that this story ( these stories ) were sightings of those three.  Hendon would leap up, and start denouncing us for "debunking."   This was his typical line of questioning:

Hendon:  "How many Americans were in the boat?"

Analysts: "One.  Arlo Gary."

Hendon: "How many Americans did the source say he/she saw?"

Analyst:  "Three. However, the two ARVN officers were both Eurasian, both were taller than average Vietnamese, and both of them looked somewhat western."

Hendon: (Leaping to his feet, and turning to the other Congressmen.) "See there??  The source clearly said three Americans, but there was only one American.  See what I mean?  Debunking at its worst.  They ( the DIA analysts ) want to pin everything on Arlo Gay.  I am appalled.  See why we need to take this away from them?  (  yadda - yadda - yadda - louder and louder ). . . "

On one occasion, Hendon even pulled a baseball bat from his closet and shook it in an analyst's face:  "Maybe this can get the truth out of you."

Stop the Madness

One afternoon in late 1986, the DIA Director, USAF LTGEN Leonard Perroots (three-star ) went with us to Hendon's office and he was subjected to the same treatment.  Perroots had enough, talked with other members of Congress, and we stopped the Wednesday afternoon follies.  Actually, what we agreed was that Hendon would send his request through the committee and DIA analysts would brief the committee.  Hendon still sent requests directly to DIA but, with the cooperation of the rest of the House Committee, we stopped the Wednesday afternoon follies.

A Few More Notes

What I found interesting was the reaction of Hendon's colleagues -- simply put, they did not support him ( except for one -- more about him later ).  We would go to Hendon's office, participate in his circus, and leave.  Often, the next day, we would get a call from one or more of the Congressmen who had been in Hendon's office, asking us to come talk to them individually, or, without Hendon present, about the report(s).  We would do that, we would answer their questions, sometimes providing them with written responses, then we would never hear from those members again and they would not be in Hendon's office again.  Obviously, he had little support.  A frequent question that we were asked by other members was why we continued to put up with Hendon's bullying tactics.  I wondered the same thing and was glad to see LTGEN Perroots knock it off.

There was, however, one exception.  Hendon's partner in these proceedings was Congressman Bob Smith of New Hampshire.  Often, it was apparent that Hendon and Smith had rehearsed their act.  Hendon was ask a question and Smith would follow up with a question that we all recognized as one of Hendon's favorite points.

When Hendon was defeated in 1986, Smith hired Hendon's main MIA staffer -- she was fired after she sent out some letters over Smith's signature that he had not approved.  Still, it was from these episodes in 1985 and 1986 that the Hendon - Smith relationship developed; to this day, Smith continues to carry Hendon's water.  Don't believe it?  Read my article on the phony caper that Hendon,  Smith, and Garwood tried to pull off in the summer of 1993.

More Hendon Tales

Raising Money

After his electoral defeat in 1986, Hendon went to work at the American Defense Institute, a conservative lobbying group run by former POW Eugene "Red" McDaniel.  ADI does a lot of educational and informational stuff -- they sponsor patriotic essay contests in schools, for example.  Hendon went to ADI to run something called the Live POW Lobby.  It was supposed to supplement McDaniel's on-going campaign to prove that US POWs were still alive in Southeast Asia.

McDaniel is himself an MIA "activist."  He makes speeches in which he uses his famous line about how he went to war knowing that he could be killed or captured but not knowing that he could be abandoned.  Because of his long term imprisonment and the torture he underwent, he is a true hero.  It's just that his stories are not true.  He has raised a fair amount of money using appeals claiming that he has information about live US POWs and that he is trying to rescue them.

When Hendon joined ADI, the MIA fund-raising and shenanigans got into high gear.  Hendon used the ADI offices and communications structure to spread all sorts of crap.  This went on for a few months then the ADI Board of Directors threw the flag on the play.  One of the people in the DIA MIA Office had a friend who was on the ADI Board.  He described to us the Board meeting in which the Board laid down the law to McDaniel.  It seems that Hendon had sent out letters and fund-raising appeals that were so blatantly foolish that the Board was getting some flak.  I do not recall when this happened.  But, Hendon was forced to leave ADI.

He then went on to form his own organization called Home Free.  Hendon continued to raise enough money to live comfortably.

Hendon was also the originator of several reward schemes.  The basic premise is that there is a huge pot of money here and if someone will just bring out a live US POW, he/she can have the money.  While at ADI, Hendon claimed to have come up with $2.4 million dollars.  Several members of Congress -- including Bob Dornan and Bob Smith -- had their photo taken standing next to a big pile of "money" and offering the reward.  Later, Hendon and ADI appealed for 4 million people to pledge $25 each, thereby pledging one billion dollars.  Hendon would then publicize this reward offer throughout SEAsia and bring in a live US POW.  The money was safe and Hendon knew it.  Still, the reward offers kept his name in public and kept him busy.

The Indonesian Ambassador

Hendon claims that the CIA bugged the office of an Indonesian diplomat who had been the Indonesian ambassador to Hanoi.  In conversations monitored by the CIA, according to Hendon, the Indonesian ambassador told folks that he knew where there were live US POWs, that he had collected this information while he was stationed in Hanoi.  Hendon loves to tell this story.

The facts are dramatically different.  An Indonesian official, who had been the Indonesian ambassador to Hanoi, was approached by the US and asked if, during his tenure in Hanoi, he had gained any knowledge about missing Americans.  He replied that he had no such information.

At this time, we had debriefed the mortician and were trying to find some way to send a signal to the Vietnamese that we certainly would like to have all those remains returned to us.  US officials asked this Indonesian if he would be willing to intercede with the Vietnamese on our behalf.  After all, he had been in Hanoi for some time and perhaps he could use the friendships he had developed there to help us.  He agreed to do so and, on a few occasions,  he acted as a go-between with the Vietnamese on various MIA matters.

No one bugged his office.  He had no conversations with anyone about US POWs.  It's all Hendon's fabrication but, as with the case of any big lie, the more it is told, the more it is believed.

Hendon and Garwood

Former USMC PFC Robert Garwood, after his capture in 1965, started a long-term collaboration with the Vietnamese Communist.  His collaboration was witnessed by other Americans and, when he returned to the US in 1979, Garwood was tried an convicted of collaboration and of striking an American POW.  Immediately upon his return in 1979, Garwood was debriefed and asked if he had encountered any other Americans.  Garwood responded that he had no knowledge of US POWs in Vietnam and he had not seen another American since 1969 ( when he traveled from South Vietnam to North Vietnam ).

In 1984, after having started an association with Hendon, Garwood told a reporter for the Wall Street Journal that he had seen US POWs in Vietnam, after Operation Homecoming, on six occasions.  Read the details of Garwood's claims here.

While I can never prove this, I believe that Hendon and Garwood collaborated on Garwood's claims.  Why would they do this?  Simple.  In spite of all his efforts, Hendon was not able to convince anyone ( except Bob Smith and a few other fringe elements ) that there were US POWs still in Southeast Asia.  Hendon needed a reliable source.  Garwood was that source -- he was a GI and why would he lie?  One problem:  Garwood was a convicted collaborator.  So, if Hendon could get Garwood's conviction overturned, and if Garwood would provide irrefutable details of live-sightings, their relationship would be mutually beneficial to the max.

For the past decade ( this article is being written in early 1998 ), we have seen a concerted effort to clean up Bobby Garwood.  Bob Smith has become a real champion of Garwood, trying to convince anyone who will listen of the raw deal Garwood received.  The book Spite House by Monika Jensen-Stephenson is a blatant attempt to whitewash Garwood, even to the point of completely leaving out the evidence presented against him at his court-martial.  This attempted resurrection of Garwood is not accidental -- it is all part of a bigger plan by Hendon to help his case, to prove the the US government is duplicitous, etc., etc.  And, the hell of it is, Hendon may eventually succeed.   As of this writing, Columbia Pictures has bought the rights to Spite House. (Update:  December 1999, Monika Jensen-Stephenson, author of Spite House, admits in a libel suit that Garwood was her sole source and she pays a settlement to former US POWs whom she slandered.  Read about it here. )

Remember Hendon's plea to LeB. about the book and the movie???

The Videotape

For the longest time, Hendon marketed a videotape.  I forget the title of it but it is in the form of a briefing -- Hendon is the briefer.  He shows on the tape parts of various official documents that, according to Billy, prove that there are live US POWs in Southeast Asia and that the US government is covering up the fact.  I come in for a lot of his criticism.

This videotape is Hendon at his worst.  What he has done has been to selectively edit from official documents.  After the video was available, we reviewed it.  The documents that Hendon uses to bolster his case have all been carefully doctored -- he has clipped out a few sentences here, omitted some material there, and put together quite a case.

It's all typical Hendon and all bullshit.

One More Hendon Story

When I first encountered Billy, I checked the Congressional Directory to see just exactly who this guy was.  The Directory is a collection of biographies of members of Congress. The biographies are provided by the members themselvesHendon's biography stated that he graduated from the University of Tennessee then, the next year, was a professor at UT.  Strange, I thought, that an individual with a bachelor's degree would be a professor at a major university.  So, I contacted a friend of mine at UT.  ( My home is in Knoxville, TN, the home of UT. )  The friend did a little checking and determined that Hendon was not and  had not ever been, a professor or even a faculty member.  What he had been was a graduate teaching assistant.  One of thousands of GAs, who, in exchange for a small stipend, teach some freshman courses, do a little tutoring, and do a lot of slave labor for real professors.

One Thing Missing

And -- there is one thing missing from Hendon's biography.  Military service.  Although he was of prime age to serve in Vietnam, Billy Hendon never spent a day in uniform.  He elected to serve his country with student deferments -- he hid out as a college student and as a graduate assistant while others less fortunate and more courageous did the fighting for him.  Spit.

So, What's Wrong With All This

Billy Hendon is a bullshit artist of the highest order.  But, one might ask, so what?  What has he done wrong?

Well, legally, probably nothing.  Morally, Hendon is bankrupt.  Let's look at some of the results of his actions.

Hendon is the source of the claim that DIA analysts are interested only in debunking sources.  This is complete nonsense.  Most of the sources who report information about Americans are reporting truthfully.  Only a small percentage tell fabricated stories and, in many cases, these fabrications are fairly innocent -- someone repeats a rumor and claims that it is a first-hand tale.  But, Hendon has seized on the small number of fabrications; he holds them up as true stories and denounces DIA for not believing these people.

Hendon has given phony information to families.  In other cases, he has led families to believe things that are not true.  In one of the Wednesday afternoon follies cases, a source claimed to have seen an American in a prison.  We had interviewed many other sources who were at the same place at the same time, they knew the man claiming to have seen the American.  Unanimously, the others said that there were no foreigners anywhere in that prison, certainly not any Americans.  The source who was lying used a name that sounded something like the name of a missing American.  Hendon contacted the family, told them that their missing man had been seen alive.  You can imagine the impact on the family. We laid out the whole story for them and they were extremely upset with Hendon.  He could not have cared less; when I raised this matter with him, he laughed it off.

His continued association -- albeit carefully concealed -- with Senator Bob Smith continues to plague the MIA issue.  By working through Smith, Hendon can continue his outrages.  And he does.

How Hendon Operates

Hendon once described to DIA analysts his method of operation. Hendon bragged that he could make the American people believe anything he wanted them to believe on the POW/MIA issue, or any other issue.  He explained that he only needed to make it controversial to oppose him, because, in Hendon's words, people in uniform and public servants "don't have the balls" to confront him out of fear that the controversy will harm their careers. Thus, said Hendon, he can make the most reckless and outrageous charges, knowing that he will not be called into question.  And, when people see Billy and others like him  going unchallenged, the audience  assumes that they -- Hendon, Smith, and their allies -- are  correct. 

One reason I publish the MIA Facts Site is to let Mr. Hendon know that he can kiss that shit goodbye.

For More Information

Susan Katz Keating, in her book, Prisoners of Hope: Exploiting the POW-MIA Myth in America, has an excellent portrayal of Hendon.  If you cannot find this book in your local library or bookstore, click here to order it on-line from Amazon.com.

This article describes a 1985-86 caper in which Hendon collaborated with former Major Mark Smith, claiming that they had a videotape proving the presence of US POWs in Southeast Asia.

Bottom Line?

The end result is that Billy Hendon, in spite of nearly two decades of activity, has produced not a single result.  Not one American -- dead, alive, whole, or part -- has been returned or discovered as a result of anything that Hendon has done.  Families and members of the public have been mislead.  Hendon has made a good living at it.  Maybe he can live with himself.

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bulletBy Sampan Across the Mekong
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bulletSo, What's Wrong
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UPDATE:  8 July 2007:  Read what President Ronald Reagan had to say about Hendon.