National Alliance of Families

For The Return of America's Missing Servicemen

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

BITS 'N' PIECES - November 6th, 1999

Dolores Apodaca Alfond

National Chairperson - (

Voice/Fax 425-881-1499

Lynn O'Shea

New York State Director - (

Voice/Fax 718-846-4350

Hearings on Cuban Participation in the Torture of American POWs In Vietnam - Hearings originally scheduled for October 29th, 1999, were postponed and rescheduled for November 4th. Testifying before the committee were former POWs Michael Benge, Jack Bomar, Ray Vohden and Robert Destatte of the Defense POW/MIA Office.

Bob Destatte once referred to the "Cuban Program" as an English language program "gone awry."

In testimony before the committee Michael Benge stated, in part: "...I have taught English to Vietnamese, and have been tortured by the Vietnamese, and I can tell the difference between the two. One might conclude from Mr. Destatte's testimony that neither he nor Mr. Trowbridge know the difference. I can also read English and understand what I read. One might also conclude that they may have a problem here too. Perhaps they should have taken basic English instruction from the Cubans."

"Mr. Destatte also had the audacity to testify that the Vietnamese high-command was unaware that the Cubans were torturing American POWs, and it was stopped once they found out. However, it is crystal clear from the POW debriefings, as well as the Air Force Intelligence Analysis, that the "Cuban Program" was sanctioned by the Vietnamese. This then leads one to ask, "How did Mr. Destatte reach his conclusion?"

"Mr. Destatte reached his conclusion by asking North Vietnamese communist Colonel Pham Teo, who told Destatte he was in South Viet Nam in 1967-68 and knew nothing of the "Cuban Program." However, he had heard rumors that it was an English language instruction program that had "gone awry." Mr. Destatte testified that the Vietnamese explanation "is... fully consistent with what we know about the conduct of the Cubans in question."

"Evidently, Destatte chose to believe a Vietnamese communist colonel over American POWs who had been brutally tortured in the "Cuban Program" and had clearly stated in their debriefings that the Vietnamese were well aware of and participated in their torture. Destatte chooses to believe a member of a draconian regime, which had systematically murdered 70-80,000 political prisoners after they took over power in Vietnam in 1975, and who had broken every agreement ever made with the U.S. and South Vietnamese governments."

"What bewilders me, as it should you, is that Destatte's superiors at DPMO had the audacity to let him testify before Congress to this foolishness. This exemplifies the quality of DPMO's investigation and analysis of the "Cuban Program."

"I am neither a trained investigator nor an analyst, but I do know how to research. And I have concluded that at best, DPMO's investigation and analysis of the "Cuban Program" was not up to professional standards, and DPMO's conclusions are shameful! However, they did a great job of obfuscating the issue...."

"My paper is based partially on what DPMO gave to Congressman Dornan's Committee, as well as on documents obtained from the DIA and the CIA through the Freedom of Information Act, and it is thoroughly referenced. I would like to submit a copy of it and the referenced material to the Committee at this time for the record."

"However, I have just scratched the surface, but I found enough documents to indicate that there should be a plethora of others related to the Cuban involvement in Vietnam if they are ever declassified as two U.S. Presidents have decreed. I also recommend that this matter be thoroughly investigated by professional investigators, not DPMO analysts."

"Besides evidence contrary to DPMO's stated position on the "Cuban Program," the documents I examined reveal:

  • the possibility that a number of American POWs from the Vietnam War had been held in Los Maristas, a secret Cuban prison run by Castro's G-2 intelligence service. The Cuban who claims to have seen them later escaped and made it to the United States, and was reportedly debriefed by the FBI;

  • a Cuban Official had offered the State Department to ransom some American POWs from Vietnam, but there was no follow up;

  • that Cubans, along with Russians, guarded a number of American POWs in Laos;

  • the Cubans photographed a number of American POWs in Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia;-- that besides the "Cuban Program," the Cubans were very heavily involved in Vietnam. They had several thousand "engineers" in Vietnam constructing, repairing and guarding the Ho Chi Minh Trail where a large number of Americans disappeared;

  • the possibility that American POWs were "treated" in Cuban hospitals in Hanoi;

  • the Cubans had a permanent DGI agent assigned to the COSVN headquarters in Cambodia, the North Vietnamese command center directing the war in South Vietnam. This is a fact not found in the history books on the Vietnam War. He was assigned there on the insistence of Rauol Castro, the head of Cuba's military and the brother of the real Fidel. This fact belies Mr. Destatte's testimony that "the Soviet and Cuban governments did not successfully dictate policies or actions to the North Vietnamese government;"

  • two unrelated documents telling of American POWs being taken from Vietnam to Cuba;

  • the Cubans were also actively engaged in subversive activities, infiltrating a number of communist youth into the U.S., and were funneling KGB money through Vietnamese communist agents to antiwar groups and individuals in the U.S.;

  • as recent as 1996, the Vietnamese trained Cuban Special Forces to undertake limited attacks in the USA."

    "Instead of hiring analyists at DPMO, DOD should hire some good professional investigators, such as former FBI or police investigators, and some people who know how to do systematic research. However, everytime DPMO gets good ones, it seems to find a way to get rid of them."

    "My paper raises more questions than it answers, but only history will prove me right or wrong; however, I think I am on the right track. Only through full disclosure by the U.S. government agencies, which were gathering information on the depth of Cuban involvement in the Vietnam war and with American POWs, will we know the truth."

    "...Recently, I was invited as a representative of the National Alliance of Families to a briefing at DPMO by its head, Bob Jones. Among things he discussed was his proposal for DPMO to sponsor a meeting between the U.S., Vietnam, Cambodia and Laos to discuss American Servicemen lost along the Ho Chi Minh Trail. I suggested to Mr. Jones that he should also invite Cuba to the conference, for they were heavily involved. He told me that I was ridiculous, for the Cubans weren't involved in Vietnam. I recommended to him that he read both the material presented to Congress on the Cuban Program and Raul Valdes Vivo's book."

    "I was brought up with old fashioned values. My mother taught me at a young age that no matter how hard you search for the truth, you won't find it unless you want to...."

    The full text of the Benge testimony and the research paper he refers to is available on the National Alliance of Families Web Site at

    From the testimony of Capt. Ray Vohden, as reported in a Washington Times article by Audrey Hudson, dated November 5th - "I was beaten three or four times a day until I became demoralized. . .. I didn't care if I lived or died," said retired Capt. Ray Vohden..."

    Referring to the death of Capt. Earl Cobeil, "Capt. Vohden told the committee that guards "stood around talking loudly, laughing and yelling," as Capt. Cobeil was viciously beaten by "Fidel." At that point, he said, Capt. Cobeil was "already pushed beyond the limit from which he might have a chance to regain his sanity. "As I stood there on my crutches, my heart and mind overflowed with emotion. It was the most sickening feeling to hear what was going on and know there was nothing I could do about it," Capt. Vohden said."

    From the testimony of Capt. Jack Bomar, as reported in an Associated Press article by Pauline Jelinek, dated November 5th - "I would call up (U.S. Ambassador to Vietnam) Pete Peterson and say 'Hey -- ask the Vietnamese who this guy is," Retired Air Force Col. Jack Bomar, a former POW, testified. "Put pressure on our ambassador to put pressure on the Vietnamese."

    Damage Control - The Associated Press also reported that "Destatte said officials two days ago "discovered a still-classified September 1973 report that described" Alegret as director of a Cuban military institute from September 1966 to January 1973, leaving "little chance (he) could be the interrogator 'Fidel.'" Alegret, a lifelong military man who holds the rank of brigadier general, had denied the allegations against him, saying he was never in Vietnam. Cuban President Fidel Castro repeated the denial in a lengthy appearance on Cuban national television Monday night, saying that no Cubans ever tortured prisoners of war in Vietnam."

    North Korea Repatriates Remains - from the Associated Press by Robert Burns "Remains believed to be those of four American servicemen killed in the Korean War were flown to an Army laboratory in Hawaii after being released to U.S. officials in North Korea."

    "The remains will be studied at the Central Identification Laboratory at Hickam Air Force Base in hopes of confirming their identities, possibly through the use of DNA, the Pentagon announced Monday...."

    From an Army Times article, dated Oct. 18, 1999, by By Diane Tsimekles - "Scientists believe 50 to 70 unknown servicemen buried in the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific could be identified. Leading the effort is the U.S. Army Central Identification Laboratory, based in Hawaii near the Punch Bowl, the nickname given to the cemetery where 866 unidentified servicemen from the Korean War are buried."

    "Army scientists are now testing the first two sets of remains that were disinterred during a Sept. 15 ceremony. If those test prove successful, more could be done. "It's taken us months and months to get us to this point," said Johnnie Webb, CILHI director."

    "For more than six months, researchers have pored over historical records retrieved from the identification unit in Japan that originally processed all the unidentified remains before they were returned to the United States. The files include information about where the bodies were recovered and, when possible, the age and physical stature of the bodies at the time of death. Based on that statistical analysis, two sets of remains were deemed to have a high likelihood of successful identification. And 50 to 70 other sets could follow."

    "There must be sufficient evidence before they will be disinterred," Webb said. "There truly are unknowns out there that we have no idea who they are."

    "For the first two sets of remains, CILHI targeted 44 families from which they could get blood samples to conduct potential DNA comparisons...."

    "....The DNA comparisons will be conducted at the Armed Forces DNA Identification Laboratory in Rockville, Md. But before the DNA testing starts, CILHI's forensic anthropologists are examining the bones and teeth of the soldiers. They are also developing a profile of the person's stature, age, race and evidence of trauma at time of death."

    "Webb said CILHI already has a good idea of whose remains have been disinterred though they will not notify families until they can make positive identification. If an identification is made, the family can have the body returned to its original grave in Hawaii, or they can request a burial in a hometown cemetery or Arlington National Cemetery."

    "No more remains will be exhumed until these two servicemen have been identified or the possibilities have been exhausted. Webb said CILHI will work on two to three sets of remains at a time.

    Webb Said - "...The files include information about where the bodies were recovered and, when possible, the age and physical stature of the bodies ..."

    Webb Said - "..."There must be sufficient evidence before they will be disinterred...,"

    The author of the article states; "Webb Said CILHI already has a good idea of whose remains have been disinterred though they will not notify families until they can make positive identification....

    To All this We Have Two Words - Louis Mutta

    Why does Johnnie Webb still have a job?

    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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