National Alliance of Families

For The Return of America's Missing Servicemen

+ World War II + Korea + Cold War + Vietnam +

BITS 'N' PIECES - October 23rd, 1999

Dolores Apodaca Alfond

National Chairperson - (

Voice/Fax 425-881-1499

Lynn O'Shea

New York State Director - (

Voice/Fax 718-846-4350

Hearing Scheduled - a Hearing is scheduled for October 29th, 1999 on Cuban Involvement with American POWs in Vietnam. In a press release dated October 19th, Congressman Benjamin A. Gilman (R-NY), Chairman of the House International Relations Committee, announced that "the committee will hold an open hearing to examine Cuban involvement in the torture of American prisoners of war in Vietnam. The hearing will be held on Friday, October 29, 1999, at 10:30 a.m. in room 2172 of the Rayburn House Office Building."

"Between July 1967 and August 1968, a team of interrogators believed to be Cubans brutally beat and tortured 19 American aviators, killing one, at a Hanoi POW camp known as "the Zoo." Recently, a survivor of the savage beatings identified the lead torturer, known to his victims as "Fidel."

"Chairman Gilman said: "I am grateful to Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen for her leadership in pursuing this issue. I served on the select committee that initially investigated the fate of American prisoners of war and those missing in action. There is no statute of limitations on the crimes committed by these Cuban torturers. Neither shall there be a statute of limitations on our commitment to discovering the truth of their crimes so they may be brought to justice. Our nation owes this to the courageous men and women who served us so loyally in Vietnam."

"The Committee is inviting survivors of what has become known as the Cuban program, expert witnesses, and Department of Defense officials to testify at the October 29 hearing..."

Ex-POW Says He Was Tortured By Cuban - From United Press International (UPI) Sept. 9th, "Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, R-Fla., says she has asked the Department of Defense to provide more information on the "Cuba Program" of interrogation of U.S. prisoners of war in Vietnam."

"Retired Air Force Col. Ed Hubbard has identified a picture of Cuba's minister of higher education as his chief tormentor. She said Defense Department officials said at a meeting in Washington today they would show the picture to 16 other POWs allegedly tortured by Cubans during the war to see if they could identify Cuban Gen. Fernando Vecino Alegret. Hubbard was shown a picture of Alegret Wednesday and said: "Of all the pictures I've seen, this is the one that most clearly and accurately can be identified as 'Fidel.' I can state with 99 percent certainty that it's him."

"Fidel" is the nickname given by American POWs to one of three Cuban interrogators at the POW camp known as "The Zoo," a former French movie studio near Hanoi. The Cuba Program was described in documents declassified by the Defense Department's Prisoner of War, Missing Personnel Office has provided details of the interrogation sessions." "Ros-Lehtinen said Robert Destatte of the POW office told her he had never seen the picture. She and Reps. Dan Burton, R-Ind.; Robert Menendez, D-N.J., Robert Gilman, R-N.Y., and Lincoln Diaz-Balart, R-Fla., asked the department to provide more information if they had it."

We wish to extend our thanks to Congressman Gilman and especially Congresswoman Ileana Ros-Lehtinen who has worked tirelessly to expose war crimes committed by Cubans against American POWs in Vietnam.

A special thanks goes to former POW and National Alliance of Families Board Member Michael Benge. Mike has worked non-stop for years to bring this little known and brutal chapter of Vietnam War POW history to light. Working closely with Congresswoman Ros-Lehtinen, Mike provided valuable information that led to this hearing. In a Miami Herald article dated August 22nd, 1999, titled "Former U.S. POWs Detail Torture by Cubans in Vietnam," Mike stated; "Some people have forgotten these atrocities. Some want to forget, I don't forget."

One American POW, Earl Cobeil, died as a result of the "Cuban Program."

Sad Commentary - The following is from a United Press International article, by Nancy L Torner, dated Oct. 19th, 1999, "1/3 in U.S. say it's OK to torture POWs" - "Some 32 percent of Americans believe it is acceptable to torture prisoners of war to obtain important military information, according to a survey commissioned by the International Committee of the Red Cross."

"By comparison, the practice is considered acceptable by only 29 percent of Bosnians, 28 percent of Russians, and 21 percent of Colombians and Somalians, and 33 percent of Lebanese, according to surveys also taken by the international firm of Greenberg Research, Inc. The surveys are part of an ICRC project emphasizing the 50th anniversary of the modern Geneva Conventions, which govern international humanitarian law.... An overall report will be presented by ICRC in November in Geneva."

Punchbowl Exhumations - As you all know CIL-HI plans to exhume the remains of approximately 80 Americans Killed during the Korean War and buried at the PunchBowl national Cemetery in Hawaii, as unknown. The 80 servicemen have name associations and circumstantial information, that may allow identification.

What You May Not Know - At the recent Regional family update in washington state, family members were told that CIL-HI would exhume 8 sets of remains per year. At that rate the exhumations will take 10 years. It is hard to believe that we do not have the ability to exhume and identify these remains in a shorter period of time.

Why does Johnie Webb still have a job?

Masterson Update - In the June 26th edition of Bits N Pieces we reported on a 1972 document located in the Library of Congress, listing Michael J. "Bat" Masterson as one of 21 POWs transported from Laos and South Vietnam to North Vietnam. We provided that document to Mrs. Masterson during our 1999 annual meeting. As is the case with so many families, Mrs. Masterson had never seen the document, but knew the information it contained existed somewhere, in some format. She had been trying to get this documentation for 25 years. (See Bits N Pieces June 26th 1999 for full details.)

Recently, Mrs. Masterson provided us with copies of memos generated by Air Force Casualty and the Defense POW/MIA Office (DPMO) regarding her requests for information on the January 14th, 1972 DIA memo. In an October 22nd phone conversation, Mrs. Masterson described the responses as "garbage."

We also discussed the implication in the Air Force memo that her distress came from the "receipt of the document" rather than the FACT that the information it contained had been withheld from her for over 25 years.

The DPMO memo, dated 26 July 1999, describes the 1972 memo as; "Reportedly obtained from the Library of Congress, the 27-year-old memorandum named 21 individuals who DIA POW/MIA analysts believed at that time were moved to North Vietnam from either Laos or southern Vietnam....."

The memo continued; "...While a copy of the memo was not maintained in Lieutenant Colonel Masterson's file, or in the files of any of the other named individuals, it appears authentic..."

"...Former DIA analysts who are now with DPMO, were unfamiliar with the memo, but understood how and why Lieutenant Colonel Masterson's name was included and offered the following information:"

"In mid-1970, sensitive wartime information concerning American prisoners in North Vietnam was erroneously correlated to Lieutenant Colonel Masterson based upon a mistaken analytical interpretation. His name was included in the memorandum identifying him as a prisoner in North Vietnam based upon this incorrect analytical assessment. For almost two years, DIA analysts incorrectly considered Lieutenant Colonel Masterson a POW. Of note, however, is that the U.S. Air Force never concurred with DIA's interpretation of the data and continued to list him as MIA. Three months after dissemination of the 1972 memo, DIA analysts realized that the sensitive information had been misinterpreted and was not associated with Captain Masterson, but instead referred to Air Force Lieutenant Ronald Mastin. In view of the analytical error and the complete lack of corroborating evidence to support a belief that Lieutenant Colonel Masterson was a captive in North Vietnam or anywhere else, DIA analysts reversed their opinion, concurring with the Air Force that his correct status was MIA."

"Since 1974, Lieutenant Colonel Masterson's wife has been aware of DIA's erroneous correlation that resulted in their one-time belief that he was a POW. This analytical misinterpretation has been explained to her in various conversations with DIA personnel dating back more than two decades."

"It is important to note that this memo was not deliberately withheld from Lieutenant Colonel Masterson's family. Instead, it appears that in 1972 either no one thought to put it in the files of the named men or the administrative support staff simply failed to make any file copies..."

What is not explained in the DPMO memo is how Ronald Mastin, shotdown northeast of Hanoi, could have ever been considered " moved from their original areas of capture in Laos and South Vietnam to North Vietnam."

Mrs. Masterson has requested all information and intelligence reporting on the capture of Ronald Mastin and the documentation supporting the DPMO contention that DIA subsequently changed their analysis from Masterson to Mastin. Let's hope she doesn't have to wait another 25 years.

Let's Get This Straight - you confirm capture of 21 men and no one thinks to add the information to their files. You might miss one file, or two or five but all 21 files.... Come on.....

Oops Correlation Error - In the past DIA and DPMO has shown a pattern of "finding" errors in correlations in reports relating to POWs who did not come home. Reports relating to unaccounted for American's, POWs left behind, miraculously become errors in correlations and actually relate to returned POWs. We continue to ask, has anyone ever come across a report of a live POW who did not come home, that DIA/DPMO has not said... oops correlation error?

If It's Tuesday It Must Be Vietnam - From Reuters Hanoi - "President Clinton is likely to visit former enemy Vietnam next year, a senior U.S. official said Friday. U.S. ambassador to Hanoi Pete Peterson said Clinton might make the trip -- and be the first U.S. president to set foot on Vietnamese soil in decades -- during the middle or end of 2000."

"Vietnam Prime Minister Phan Van Khai had formally invited Clinton to visit at last month's summit of the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) forum in New Zealand, he said. "Prime Minister Khai did invite the president... and the president has announced he wants to visit. He has expressed an interest to visit from the first day I came here," Peterson told Reuters in an interview."

Show Your Support - Koneta/LRV is offering POW/MIA Splash Guards. Koneta is the first and only splash guard manufacturer working with the National Alliance of Families. The POW/MIA Splash Guards are available on 38 series, Ultra-Rubber Premium Anti-Sail/Anti-Spray splash guard. The black guard displays the white POW/MIA logo. Cost for a 24" x 30" Splash Guard is $14.50 + $7.00 shipping each. You can place your order through our good friends Jack and Wilma Laeufer of Lima Area MIA-POW. Send your check to: Lima Area MIA-POW, at 6525 Mayberry Road, Columbus Grove, Ohio 45830. (Ohio residents please add 6% tax.)

A portion of the profits will be donated to Lima Area MIA-POW and in turn to the National Alliance of Families. Both are 501(c)3 organizations.

C-SPAN Tapes - Tapes of the C-SPAN broadcast of the Saturday morning session, of the alliance 1999 annual meeting, are still available. Cost is $20.00 which includes shipping. Send your check to the National Alliance of Families, at the address below.

The National Alliance of Families Eleventh Annual Forum is scheduled for June 22th - 24th, 2000, at the Wyndham Hotel, Washington D.C. (same as last year.) Room rates are $105.00 per night. Contributions are needed to finance our forum. Donations may be mailed to:

National Alliance of Families

P.O. Box 40327

Bellevue, Wa. 98015

Remember all contributions are tax deductible.

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