TESTIMONY

OF

DOLORES ALFOND

BEFORE

THE

PENNSyLVANIA LEGISLATURE


MAY 3, 1999



Mr. Chairman, members of the committee, thank you for the opportunity to speak with you on behalf of American Servicemen left behind at the end of the Korean War. As chairperson of the National Alliance of Families, I represent the families of our Prisoners of War and Missing in Action from World War II, the Korean War, Cold War, Vietnam, Persian Gulf and Yugoslavia. Today, I will discuss the abandonment of our Korean War POWs.


We commend you and your colleagues on the introduction of Senate Resolution No. 25 "Memorializing the President and the Congress to take whatever action is necessary to obtain the release of Americans being held against their will in North Korea." I hope my testimony will provide background and emphasize the importance of SR 25 to the POW/MIA families.


In 1953, at the conclusion of the Korean War, the families of those who had not returned realized something was very, very wrong. It didn't take long for the families to realize that North Korea had not returned all of our Prisoners of Wars. By 1954, they knew that many of our POWs had been transferred to China and the former Soviet Union. The United States Government dismissed these family members as distraught wives, mothers, fathers, brothers, sisters and children who could not accept their loved ones deaths.


Seeking answers, the Korean War POW/MIA families united to form the "Fighting Home Folks." While the organization has long since disbanded, its 46 year old struggle for the truth about our POW/MIAs continues.


Ignored by the government, "The Fighting Home Folks" developed their own underground pipeline for information. They spoke of Chinese involvement in the movement of U.S. POW's from Korea. They spoke of American Prisoners of War in Siberia, when few knew where Siberia was. They spoke and the U.S. government denied. Officials dismissed them and their information in the same way they dismiss the Vietnam families and their information.


Today, we know just how accurate "The Fighting Home Folks" and their information was.


On March 26th, 1996, I.O. Lee of the Defense POW/MIA Office prepared a memo titled " "Accountability of Missing Americans From The Korean War -- Live Sighting Reports."


The memo stated: "The U.S. Government has received numerous reports concerning Americans living or detained in North Korea after the prisoner exchanges with North Korea in 1953. Based on number of unaccounted for personnel captured by the communist forces and not returned from the Korean War and, a number of recent live American sightings in North Korea, the DPMO concludes that there are two groups of Americans in North Korea. A small group of defectors and a larger group of 10 - 15 possible POWs."


"A second, larger group of Americans is comprised of U.S. service members, most likely from the Korean War and possibly Vietnam War era. There have been numerous reports of both American and British POWs in North Korea. One of the most compelling reports received over the years was a sighting reported to D.O.D. by a Romainian in 17 Feb. 1988."


"Since the Oprica/Tomescu sightings a variety of additional sightings reports have been received, culminating in a recent flurry (last 60 days) of very compelling reports."


The report concludes by saying "there are too many live sighting reports, specifically observations of several caucasians in a collective farm by Romainans and the North Korean Defectors eyewitness of Americans in the DPRK to Dismiss that there are not American POW's in North Korea."


The memo detailed the sighting of Americans sighted by Mr. Oprica stating: "On October 1979, Mr. Oprica, a former Romanian, now a naturalized U.S. Citizen, along with Romanians employed at a North Korean factory in Pyangyang was on a North Korean government sponsored sightseeing trip. During this bus trip, the bus driver appeared to be disoriented and drove the bus through a collective farm. During the trip, he observed 7 - 10 Caucasians, including one individual with blue eyes, working in the fields. The workers appeared to be in their 50's. Mr. Oprica was told by a female passenger that the Caucasian farmers were American Prisoners of War....."


The same report states: "On 24 Nov. 95, another passenger on the bus, Mr. Florin Tomescu, was finally located in Romaina and interviewed. He confirmed seeing Caucasians working on a farm and the location of the collective farm to be somewhere between Pyongyang and the city of Nampo."


In 1996, during Congressional hearings, Col. Philip Corso, former Military Advisor to President Dwight Eisenhower provided testimony that leaves no doubt that many hundreds of American POW's were abandoned at the end of the Korean War..


In his testimony, Col. Corso stated: "In the past I have tried to tell Congress the fact that in 1953, 500 sick and wounded American Prisoners were within 10 miles of the prisoner exchange point at Panmunjon and were never exchanged."


Col. Corso's testimony was backed up by a declassified document showing that the Pentagon knew, in 1953, more than 900 POWs were held but not released by North Korea.


A Dec. 22, 1953 memo states that the Army was inquiring about the disappearance, from a camp of 610 Army and 300 Air Force POWS, before the POW Exchange. This information seems to back up Col. Corso's testimony.


A Foreign Service Information Broadcast (FBIS) Report, dated December 12th, 1996, stated: - "A man claiming to be a North Korean Defector said he once lived with American and South Korean Prisoners of War whose names were formally verified as Missing in Action (MIA) from the 1950 - 1953 Korean War.


Kim Yong-Hwa, who came to Seoul via China, said he met an American named John Smith (Phonetic) during a training session in May 1971 at Taechon Airfield in North Pyongan Province. Kim said he spent 40 days with the American, who was about 1.55CM tall, slender with a small face. Smith told him he was caught with another colleague while fighting at Changjin, South Hamgyong Province in North Korea, one of the first battles of the Korean War. His colleague had died, according to what Smith told Kim.


Smith spent time doing translations and menial labor, Kim said, and he talked about wanting to marry although he had given up hope of ever returning to the United States. The Korea - U.S. Combined Forces Command said it has found "John S. Smith" in the list of American MIAs and started an investigation to verify Kim's claim."


The results of that investigation remains unknown.


One of the most shocking documents recently uncovered is a 44 page "Air Intelligence Information Report," date 19 October 1955. In chilling detail, this report describes existing evidence of live American POWs not repatriated during Operation Big Switch and Little Switch. Men who, as the quotes indicate "were known to be in Kaesong awaiting repatriation." Men known "to be alive in Communist hands as of the close of the Korean conflict, Jul 53.


One of the most compelling of these cases is that of a five man B-29 crew. On January 29th, 1953, 1st Lt. Gilbert L. Ashley Jr., Airman 2nd Class Hidemaro Ishida, 1st Lt. Arthur R. Olsen, 2nd Lt. John P. Shaddick and 1st Lt. Harold P. Turner were shot down about 10 miles south of Pyongyang, the North Korean capital.


On May 24th a rescue attempt was made. It failed. The pilot of the rescue plane made radio contact with Ashley on the ground as they prepared to pinpoint the airmen's location and arrange a "snatch" pickup. According to the report - "The pilot reported that the voice was definitely that of the American who had previously been identified as Lieutenant Ashley."


The Air Force report states - "Ashley and four crew members (Turner, Olsen, Shaddick and Ishida) were known to be alive in communist hands as of the close of the Korean conflict, July '53." It does not say how the Air Force knew this.


In his book "Soldiers of Misfortune," journalist Mark Sauter wrote that U.S. intelligence officials received a message, apparently from Ashley's North Korean captors, that was interpreted as confirmation the five were alive as of Aug. 4, 1953....


The families of these men were never told of the failed rescue mission. They were never told that the five were alive in captivity. According to David R. Olsen, brother of Arthur Olsen "The Air Force told my parents they never had evidence that the men ever hit the ground." "It was a rotten thing" of the Air Force to keep from the families that the men survived, Olsen said.


China controlled the prisoner of war camps in North Korea in 1951. Compelling evidence exists to show that many POWs were transferred to China for interrogations. One of the most compelling cases is that of Cpl. Richard Desautels.


Cpl Desautles had several encounters with the Chinese before he was removed from his POW camp, for the last time. In a statement given on 24 June 1954 former POW Walter L. Mayo stated:


"Cpl Desautels spent 11 mos with a CCF truck supply outfit, after his capture...." "He told me that the CCF would not let him come in contact with other POW's as he knew too much. The last time he was seen to the best of my knowledge was in Pyoktong, in Mar. 1952...."


Former POW Ellis P. Clark stated on 8 June 1954 - "Cpl Desautels.... remained at POW Camp #6 two or three weeks and was then taken away by the Chinese."


Former POW Richard Grenier stated on 12 June 1954 - "When we were repatriated, I saw him. He was taken away cause he could speak Chinese, so they took him out of the camp. They said he was a rumor spreader and blamed everything that went on in camp on him. So they took him away and when I was released I saw him in Pyoktong village. He must of been held."


A former POW named Joseph, whose last name is unreadable in the documents stated of Desautels - "The above mentioned POW was taken into China... He returned to Camp No. 5, in March 1952, at that time he mentioned if he should disappear to make inquires concerning his whereabouts with the proper military authorities...."


No less than 19 former POWs, reported Richard Desautels in captivity. By far, the most chilling statement expresses Richard Desautels own fears "...he mentioned if he should disappear to make inquires concerning his whereabouts with the proper military authorities...." Richard Desautels knew he wasn't coming home.


In a summary report prepared by the U.S. Government, former POW Richard Grenier reported that he had last seen Richard Desautels in August 1953. According to the report, "in an accounting furnished by Communist forces on 2 March 1956, Desautels is shown as "escaped." : A similar "accounting" by the Communists listed a known double amputee as "escaped."


In the fall of 1997, North Korea made a stunning offer. They were willing to negotiate for "American Survivors" held in North Korea. The White House response was a resounding NO! Because the offer was communicated through a third party the White House concluded it was an empty gesture.


The offer of the North Koreans to negotiate for American "Survivors" was not an empty gesture. In late 1996, a small delegation, led by Mr. Robert Egan, a prominent businessman friendly to the POW issue, traveled to North Korea. Also traveling with the delegation were former POW Capt. Eugene "Red" Mc Daniel and Investigative Journalist Mark Sauter.


In the spring of 1997, I personally met with representatives of the DPRK in New York City. The 1996 trip to North Korea and my meeting in New York was the prelude to the unprecedented offer, by the North Koreans, to negotiate for American "survivors." Several weeks of delicate planning collapsed when the White House refused to cooperate in the negotiations for American "survivors."


There is no explanation as to why the Clinton Administration termed the offer for American "survivors" an "empty gesture." We would think that any information relating to this nation's "highest national priority" would be acted on immediately.


In a slight of hand worthy of Harry Houdini, the Pentagon managed to take the focus off North Korea's offer to negotiate for live American "survivors" and redirect focus to an excavation site. Within days of an Associated Press article detailing the North Korean offer to negotiate for American survivors, the Pentagon announced a new delegation would be heading to North Korea, to witness an excavation and possible remains recovery.


As widely reported, the Pentagon pressured North Korea to extend an invitation to a family member to visit a site currently being excavated. The accompanying publicity successfully diverted the attention from "live men" to remains. Wire service stories contained references to a possible public relations move by the North Koreans. That was half right.


It was a public relations move but not by the North Koreans. It was pure Pentagon. By sending this new delegation to North Korea, they gave the media a new focus and American "survivors" were quickly forgotten.


The North Koreans showed their willingness to discuss live American "survivors." It was the United States government that rejected the offer.


In late 1997 another South Korean POW escaped North Korea. During an April 24th, 1998 interview the 72 year old South Korean soldier, Yang Soon-yong stated; "I was taken to the Aoji coal mines and spent three years there with about 500 other South Korean soldiers and three American prisoners. Everyone got released from the prison camp in June of 1956, but the majority stayed behind, as most were posted to dig coal at Aoji...."


No further information was provided on the "three American prisoners? Were they held until June of 1956? Did the U.S. government even ask about these men? Are they among the American Survivors?


Finally the most interesting statement on POWs held back by the North Korea comes from the North Koreans themselves. On May 16th, 1954, the Chief of the Army's Legal Division, Col. John K. Weber submitted a memorandum regarding statements made by North Korean, Lee Sang Cho. The memorandum is written on the letterhead of "Headquarters United Nations Command Military Armistice Commission."


According to the memorandum Mr. Lee made the following statement, during the 42nd meeting of the Military Armistice Commission; "The prisoners of war of your side once held by our side were already completely repatriated in accordance with the Armistice Agreement. The prisoner of war not for direct repatriation are held by our side pending the final disposition of the entire prisoner of war question."


No one has ever explained who the prisoners of war not for direct repatriation were. Are they among the American Survivors?


In providing an opinion of Mr. Lee's statement, Col. Weber writes:


"Two things must be borne in mind in getting at the meaning of this statement. First, it was not a 'prepared-in-advance' statement; rather it was an 'on the cuff' reply prepared during the meeting' and, secondly it was intended as a reply to our demand for an accounting for more than three thousand of our prisoners which we had just leveled at the enemy."


"The enemy has always contended:


a: It has returned all prisoners entitled to be repatriated.


b: That as to prisoners of war 'not for direct repatriation' the final disposition of the status of such prisoner yet remains for 'the political conference provided for in the Armistice Agreement, or at any other related international conferences'. (See Letter 26 January 1954 from Lee Sang Cho to Chairman of the Neutral Nationals Repatriation Commission.)"


"...It is significant that such letter was occasioned by and was concerned with the 347 non-repatriated prisoners of war."


"The enemy has consistently contended that under the language of the Armistice Agreement, the status of non-repatriated prisoners of war is a matter reserved to the political conference. Under these circumstances the enemy may be charged with a wrongful 'interpretation' as distinguished from a breech of an undisputed covenant...."


"There is one feature about the language used by the enemy which definitely should be explored by us. In all the communications and statements made by the enemy, a singular phrasing has been used. That expression in substance is: 'prisoners of war not for direct repatriation.'"


"The Armistice Agreement refers to such prisoners as 'those prisoners of war who have not exercised their right to be repatriated.' It is here pointed out with much emphasis that the expression 'prisoners of war not for direct repatriation could include not only such prisoners who had not exercised their right to be repatriated, but others whom the enemy had decided were not for direct repatriation."


"It is my thought that the Chinese and Korean language versions used in the Armistice Agreement should be compared with the Chinese and Korean language versions used by Lee Sang Cho in his letter of 26 January 1954, and in the Lee Sang Cho statement at the 42nd meeting of the MAC. If the Armistice language is found to be substantially different from these later statements we have a very substantial and embarrassing opening to follow-up on the more than three thousand prisoners who have not been returned."


Embarrassing, you bet. Imagine explaining, in 1954, to the POW/MIA families and the American public that American Servicemen remained captive in North Korea. Imagine explaining that today!


Senators, the POW's alive today in North Korea, China, and the former Soviet Union have waited long enough. Their families have waited long enough.


Today, live POW's do not factor into any of our negotiations with North Korea. Instead of asking for live men, we ask for remains and access to archives. Remains and documentation are important but let's get the live POWs first. Why aren't we negotiating for the 10 - 15 POWs referred to in the DPMO memo issued by I.O. Lee?


For the last 50 years, generations of POW/MIA families have battled for the truth. Over 40 years passed before the United States Government admitted American POW's from the Korean War were taken to China and the former Soviet Union. How much longer must the families wait for the truth? How much longer must our POWs wait? Or, should our POWs simply resign themselves to their fate as John Smith has, giving up all hope of ever returning to the United States?


The POW/MIA families are tired. The concerned citizens who support us are tried, but we are not going away. We have battled too long and fought to hard to stop now.


The answers are out there. We will not rest until we have those answers. Our POWs and their families deserve the truth.


In closing let me share with you the unofficial creed of the POW/MIA families and the concerned citizens who support us.


"Though we've come a long way, there is much, much more to be done. The deck is stacked against us. Our adversaries are well-entrenched and well financed and scared of any change in the status quo. In the long run, we will prevail. We hold the trump card, folks, and when the dust clears, and the dense morning fog burns off, when we clear our wire of sappers, and the gunships go home, by God, we'll still be there, because what we seek to do is right."



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