P.G. I was part of a then secret operation called Egress Recap, an odd name apparently referring to the “egress” and “recapture” of Americans held in North and South Vietnam.
P.G. I was part of a three-man team that ran intelligence networks from Qui Nhon, South Vietnam, out into Binh Dinh Province. One of our tasks was to gather any information on “bright lights,” which was the code name for Americans still held by the Viet Cong and North Vietnamese.
P.G. Approximately 2500 soldiers are listed as POW/MIA.
Of those about 1200 were reported to have been killed, but their bodies were not recoverable.
P.G. Eight military women died. Lieutenants Carol Ann Drazba and and Elizabeth Ann Jones were killed in helicopter crashes near Saigon in 1966. Captain Eleanor Alexander and Lieutenant Hedwig Orlowski were killed in a plane crash in 1967. Colonel Annie Graham and Lieutenant Pamela Donovan died from serious illnesses. (See photo to the let) Sharon Ann Lane was killed in a rocket attack at Chu Lai in 1969. Captain Mary Klinker was killed during Operation Babylift at the fall of Saigon in April, 1975.
P.G. 59 non military women were killed. They were Red Cross, CIA, AID, and missionaries. 37 were killed in Operation Babylife at the fall of Saigon.
Evelyn Anderson was captured and burned to death in Kengkok, Laos, 1972. Her remains were recovered and returned.
Beatrice Kosin was captured and burned to death in Kengkok, Laos, 1972. Her remains were recovered and returned.
Betty Ann Olsen was captured during a raid on the leprosarium in Ban Me Thuot during Tet in 1968. She died and was buried somewhere along the Ho Chi Minh Trail
Eleanor Ardel Vietti was captured at the same leprosarium in 1962. She is till listed as a POW and MIA.
P.G. As with so much about the Vietnam War, there is more than one side. The government, with some exceptions, claims we left no one there. But there is an underground of citizens made up of former intelligence operatives, former POW’s, their families and others who set forth very different views.
P.G. Yes, thousands. Our government insists they were all mistakes or hoaxes.
P.G. I think that that we did leave soldiers behind. Maybe a lot of them.
For example, twelve years after the war, satellites picked up the letters USA dug into a rice field in the area of Sam Neua, Laos. Below it was a letter K, with an elongated final stroke. This was the symbol airmen used to signal distress. (See satellite photo above)
P.G. No, I can’t. I’m relying on the statements of those who knew. In 1992, General Eugene Tighe, then director of the Defense Intelligence Agency admitted to congress that indeed we had left soldiers there. He said that he based this on the evidence he had.
Two secretaries of defense came to the same conclusion. Melvin Laird, Secretary of Defense from 1969 to 1972. Laird testified to congress, under oath in an open session, “I think that as of now that I can come to no other conclusion . . . some were left behind.”
James Schlesinger was Secretary of Defense from 1973 to 1975. Regarding the U.S. need to expeditiously leave Vietnam, he testified to Congress, “One must assume that we had concluded that the bargaining position of the United States … was quite weak. We were anxious to get our troops out and we were not going to roil the waters…”
P.G. Le Duc Tho, the Vietnamese negotiator at the Paris Peace Talks, claimed that the issue of our POW’s was tied to “the question of reparations” for the destruction caused to their county.
Nixon had promised North Vietnam 3.25 billion dollars to rebuild the country. The Vietnamese have a long history of holding back captured soldiers for barter and ransom. By holding our soldiers as ransom, they hoped that Nixon would keep his reparations promise. Nixon had other problems, though, when he was dealing with the Watergate scandal and attempts at his impeachment.
He never made good on the promise.
P.G. The facts are out there, but sorting through the many claims and refutations, the “confirmations” and all the attempts to debunk them, as well as the attempts to discredit individuals personally, takes persistent inquiry and an open mind.
P.G. The characters of Patricia Pavlik and Quintyn Ames are fictional, of course. But the places mentioned in the story are real. Even the coastal leper colon village of Cuy Hoa. As for the description of facts brought out regarding the men we left behind, I am basing much of that on my own research and personal conversations with knowledgeable individuals whom I trust.