National Alliance Of Families
For the Return of America's Missing Servicemen
+ World War II + Korea + Cold War + Vietnam +
Dolores Apodaca-Alfond, National Chairperson, voice/fax 1-425-881-1499
Lynn O'Shea, NYS Director, voice/fax 1-718-846-4350
The Hostage Connection
POW Exploitation. By the middle of 1950 when Stalin ordered the invasion of South Korea, the Soviet Union already had extensive experience with the transfer and incarceration of large numbers of prisoners. Tens of millions of its own citizens had been consigned to the GULAG as well as millions of German and Japanese POWs and POWs from other armies allied to the Axis. The
Axis POWs, in particular, were specifically exploited as labor, much of it skilled, to rebuild the war-ravaged and labor-short Soviet Union. The labor camp system had become an industrial empire of Beria's NKVD within the Soviet Union, an empire constantly in need of fresh workers to replenish and expand the work force.
In 1950 the MVD produced a thousand-page study on the exploitation of foreign POWs. This Top Secret document was entitled, About Spies. Operative Work with POWs and Internees taken Prisoner Durinq the Great Patriotic War of the Soviet People. 1941-1945. "This document summarizes and assesses the methods and results of programs used to exploit foreign POWs on Soviet territory."F51 As part of this exploitation program, Soviet security agencies heavily recruited agents among these POWs to be activated upon their eventual return to their homelands. Additionally, the Soviet Union used the possession of these POWs to exact important political and economic concessions from the new governments of Germany and Japan. Therefore, by the
middle of 1950, the Soviet Union had at hand a vast, well-practiced, efficiently-operating, and profitable system for the collection, incarceration, and exploitation of POWs.
The Stalin - Chou En-lai Meeting. The exploitation of POWs as Soviet state policy was blatantly contained in the minutes of a 19 September 1952 meeting between Stalin and Chinese Foreign Minister Chou en-lai in which he recommended that the Communists keep back twenty percent of United Nations POWs as hostages.
Stalin. "Concerning the proposal that both sides
temporarily withhold twenty percent of the prisoners of war
and that they return all the remaining prisoners of war -
the Soviet delegation will not touch this proposal, and it
51 Paul M. Cole, The Sharaskha System: The Link Between Specialized Soviet Prison Camps and American POW/MIAs in Korea? (Draft) (Santa Monica, CA: The RAND Corp., 1993) p. 14.
remains in reserve for Mao Tse-tung."F52
This letter was provided by the Russian side of the Joint Commission. We believe that large numbers of United Nations POWs, the overwhelming number of whom were soldiers of the Republic of Korea Army (ROKA), were already being secreted away in camps throughout the Soviet Union, as will be shown by the statements of Lieutenant General Khan San Kho and Zygmunt Nagorski.
Lieutenant General Kan San Kho. The essence of the Stalin - Chou en-lai meeting was corroborated by a senior retired Soviet officer, Kahn San Kho, who had been seconded to the North Korean People's Army, promoted to the rank of lieutenant general, and who eventually served as the deputy chief of the North Korean MVD. He stated in November 1992 that he assisted in the transfer of thousands of South Korean POWs into 300 to 400 camps in the
Soviet Union, most in the taiga but some in Central Asia as well. LTG Kahn testimony shows the POW element of the GULAG was operating efficiently at this time in absorbing large numbers of UN POWs. Although LTG Kahn admitted only to knowledge of Korean prisoners, his interview strongly suggests the possibility that other UN POWs, including Americans, could also have been
condemned to the camp system. F53
Colonel Gavril I. Korotkov. Another Soviet source is retired Soviet Army Colonel Gavril Ivanovich Korotkov, who served from July 1950 to mid-1954 as part of a general staff-based analytical group reporting to Marshal Rodion Malinovskiy, then commander-in- chief, Far East Military District, on developments in intelligence (tactical and technical) gained from the
ongoing war in Korea. Specifically, Korotkov's political section was responsible for reporting on political information, the morale and psychological well-being of U.S. units engaged in Korea. This information was to be used in support of propaganda activities and possibly the
refinement of operational/contingency plans. Colonel Korotkov provided the following information in an interview in August 1992:
Soviet military specialists had been given approval to interrogate U.S. POWs. There were two stages to this process:
Stage 1, Interrogations in North Korea. These were
conducted at the front, immediately after POWs had been
52 "Minutes of the Meeting Between Comrade Stalin with Chou en-lai, 19 Sep 1952, translated in Draft TFR 37-11.
53 Amembassy Moscow Message, 271140Z, Subject: POW/MIA: Interview with General Kahn San Kho.
transferred into the hands of the North Korea-based Soviet
forces. Initial contact focused on gaining operational and
tactical intelligence, such as order-of-battle, etc.
State 2, Transfer to the Soviet Union. Korotkov was not
aware of exactly who selected which American POWs for
transfer to the Soviet Union for further interrogation, or
which criteria were used in the selection process, but the
most likely characteristics were experience, i.e., seniority
- field grade officers and above. Two separate groups
handled these military interrogations, the GRU-subordinated
intelligence group which was interested in detailed tactical
and technical intelligence, and the main political
directorate-subordinated group, which was interested in
Korotkov had only limited knowledge of the procedures for the movement of Americans to and through the USSR. he did not know where the processing facilities or camps were located in North Korea. On several occasions he had visited the Soviet naval base at Pos'yet which served as a transit point for the movement of American POWs north to Khabarovsk. Although there was an
airfield nearby, he believed that the bulk of the Americans were transported from Pos'yet to Khabarovsk by rail. But most likely at least some of the POWs were moved from North Korea or China by air.
Korotkov stated that the American POWs were kept under the control of the MGB. Generally, military interrogators had only a few hours with the Americans, although they sometimes had up to a few days, depending on the nature and perceived value of the information or source. While the POWs were at Khabarovsk, the MGB controlled them when they were not being interrogated. Once the process was completed, the POWs were returned to the control of the MGB. Therefore, Korotkov stated, he had no direct knowledge of the fate of these personnel. Although Korotkov did not know the exact number, he felt that the number of Americans processed through Khabarovsk was in the hundreds. Despite the fact that his political group had access to
only a portion of the total number of POWs interrogated by the analytical group, he felt confident in this high estimate. Following the rout of the 24th Infantry Division in July and August 1950, there were "tens of American POWs" as Colonel Korotkov put it, but the number climbed quickly through the first months of the war. Furthermore, he indicated that operational directives said that Americans caught behind North Korean lines should be taken alive, not killed. A number of American pilots were taken alive. Moreover, Korotkov indicated that the Koreans were quite willing to allow the Soviets direct access and eventual control over U.S. POWs. By contrast,
the Chinese, according to Colonel Korotkov, were very reluctant to release control over Americans who came into their hands.
Colonel Korotkov further stated that he had personally interrogated two American POWs, one of whom was a LTC Black. He could not remember the names of any other of the American POWS who had been processed through Khabarovsk. All reports on U.S. POW interrogations from Colonel Korotkov's analytical group were forwarded to the Headquarters, Far East Military District. The political group's reports were also sent directly to the Soviet Army's Main
Political Administration, 7th Directorate, and the technical group's reports were sent through GRU (Military Intelligence) channels to Moscow. An effort was made to gain the cooperation of POWs and turn their allegiance. Those prisoners who demonstrated a willingness to cooperate were separated from the majority and given favorable treatment. However, as he remembers it, the
number of Americans who cooperated was very small, in contrast with the Soviet experience with German POWs in World War II, of whom a higher percentage was willing to cooperate. An overall report was compiled which assessed the morale of U.S. servicemen in Korea. Colonel Korotkov stated that he had seen a copy of this report in the GRU archives at Podol'sk.F54
In his first interview, Colonel Korotkov stated that he had interviewed a U.S. officer, LTC Black. We believe that this may have been USAF LTC Vance Eugene Black who was reported by other POWs to have died of mistreatment and malnutrition in a North Korean POW camp.F55 Another retired Soviet officer, GRU Colonel Aleksandr Semyonovich Orlov, stated that he had arranged for an interview by a Pravda correspondent with LTC Vance Black.F56 In his subsequent interview with MG Loeffke, Colonel Korotkov denied having interrogated LTC Black, stating that he perhaps we had confused the name with a black POW. Task Force Russia interviewers, however, were adamant that he had been referring to
54 Amembassy Moscow Message, 241259Z Aug 92 Subject: POW/MIA Team Interview with Colonel Korotkov.
55 Lieutenant Colonel Vance Eugene Black, assinged to the headquarters of the l9th Air Force, was on a B-29 of the 98th Bomb Group that was shot down by enemy flak on 2 May 1951 over Pyongyang, North Korea. He died in captivity on or about 1 November l951. His death was witnessed by 1Lt Robert J. O'Shea, USMC. Lt. Col. Black died of mistreatment, and starvation at the infamous North Korean POW camp called "Pak's Palace".
56 Amembassy Moscow Message, 151645Z Oct 92, Subject: POW/MIA: POW/MIA Team Interview With Colonel (Ret) Orlov. See also Pravda Special Correspondent, "The Way of Interventionists," Pravda, 14 August 1951, p. 4 translated in TFR 31-1). Colonel Orlov stated that LTC Black was considered a suitable subject for interview because of his position as a staff officer.
the family name "Black" rather than to the black race. In this second interview, Colonel Korotkov remembered that the first officer he interviewed had been an Army first lieutenant, most likely from the 24th Infantry Division, but that he could remember nothing else. He had better recall
about an Air Force pilot because he found much in common with him, such as color of hair (light), height (about 6'2"), rank (captain). He also said the pilot was about 28 to 30 years old. Colonel Korotkov also stated that while he was assigned to the project of interrogating Americans in the Far East during the Korean War, he also interrogated Japanese POWs, captured in World
War II, and still held in Soviet custody. Here is an admission that foreign POWs were part of an overall system of exploitation.F57
Colonel Korotkov changed his statement in a subsequent interview with Major General Bernard Loeffke, former Director of Task Force Russia (now Joint Commission Support Branch - JCSB), in September 1992 after being contacted by a member of the Russian Foreign Intelligence Service. He then stated that the interrogations took place somewhere undefined, which he could not
remember, in the Chinese-Korean-Soviet tri-border area. In MG Loeffke's words:
Since that encounter, the colonel changed his story as to
the location where he interrogated U.S. POWs. Even after
having been contacted by the KGB official, COL Korotkov
agreed to answer questions on tape in front of Russian LTC
Osipov, General Volkogonov's assistant. This interview took
place on September 29. He said he and other Soviet officers
in Soviet and at times Chinese uniforms had interrogated
U.S. POWs over a 1-2 year period (1951-52) in an area near
the borders of USSR, Korea and China. In this new version,
Korotkov claims that he did not know, if that particular
location was in Russia or not. The important point is that
he would not say that it was not inside Russia. In all
previous interviews he had specifically said that these
interrogations took place in Khabarovsk. The colonel was
obviously willing to oblige the security services by not
saying that it took place in Khabarovsk; but he was not
willing to say that it did not take place on Russian soil.
The colonel's official statement on tape, and in front of a
Russian officer assigned-to the-Joint POW/MIA Commission
cannot easily be refuted. Korotkov is a respected military
57 Amembassy Moscow Message, 261132Z Oct 92, Subject: POW/MIA: Follow-Up Interview with Colonel Gavril Korotkov.
officer with prestigious academic credentials.F58
What Colonel Korotkov did not do was to deny that Soviet military personnel, including himself, were directly involved in the interrogation of a "large" number of American POWs during the Korean War. F59 In a subsequent videotaped interview recorded by Mr. Ted Landreth, an Australian journalist, Colonel Korotkov clearly stated that American POWs had been taken "through Khabarovsk" into the camp system. Their ultimate destination he did not know.
Later in discussions with Colonel Stuart Herrington, during the December 1992 Joint Commission meeting in Moscow he restated that the prisoners were escorted by a female Soviet Border Guards Officer in Soviet uniform. He also stated that he conducted his interrogations in Soviet uniform. During the Korean War, as the Russian side has explained, the Soviets attempted to establish deniability of involvement by a policy of dressing its military personnel, who served in Korea, in Chinese or North Korean uniforms. U.S. intelligence reporting during the Korean War as well as the testimony of a number of POWs who had contact with Soviet personnel tends to confirm this
policy. There are also some examples of the Soviets' failure to adhere to this policy, usually involving hasty interrogations conducted shortly after capture. However, these examples are in the minority. Specifically, there are no known examples of Soviet officers wearing Soviet uniforms
participating in formal interrogations with the exceptions of the cases of 1Lt Parks and Cpl Flores, cited in Part I. For Soviet personnel to have worn their uniforms during the interrogation of U.S. POWs argues at a minimum that the POWs were in the Soviet Union and that the Soviet authorities may have considered the issue of deniability to be irrelevant for men who were
never going home.
Lieutenant Colonel Philip J. Corso. Further evidence comes from contemporary U.S. intelligence sources. LTC Philip Corso, who served as Chief, Special Projects branch of the Intelligence Division, Far East Command, under Generals Douglas MacArthur, Matthew Ridgeway and Mark Clark during the Korean War. One of his primary duties was to keep track of enemy POW camps
in North Korea, their location, the conditions at these camps, the estimated number of U.S. and other UN POWs held at each camp, and their treatment at the hands of the enemy. He has stated
58 Amembassy Moscow Message, 021430Z Oct 92, Subject: POW/MIA: Maj Gen Loeffke's Personal Assessment of Moscow POW/MIA Team's Operations.
59 Amembassy Moscow Message, 261132Z Oct 92, Subject: POW/MIA: Follow-Up Interview with Colonel Gavril Korotkov.
emphatically under oath before the U.S. Senate that U.S. POWs were taken to the Soviet Union. He stated that his information came from hundreds of intelligence reports from agents, defectors, North Korean and Chinese POWs, civilians, and repatriated U.S. POWs.F60 He also stated that at least two and possibly three trainloads of U.S. POWs were transferred from Chinese to
Soviet custody at the rail transshipment point of Manchuoli on the Manchurian-Chita Oblast border of China and the Soviet Union. He estimated that each trainload could carry a maximum of 450 POWs. His information formed the basis of a major national policy decision by President Eisenhower in 1954. LTC Corso's professional determination of the situation was based
on the concentrated application of the intelligence resources of the United States. F61
LTC Corso stated during a videotaped interview with Task Force Russia in January 1993:
I secured this information from I'd say, hundreds of
prisoner of war reports, from Chinese and North Korea, who
actually saw these prisoners being transported and later I
talked to a few high level Soviet defectors who confirmed it
- that this transfer was going on . . . . And that they were
being taken to the Soviet Union. We estimated they were
taken there for intelligence purposes. The operation, as
far as we were concerned, was a GRU/NKVD operation in those
days. And it was mostly to elicit information from them,
possibly take over their identities or use them as agents,
or . . . to assume their identities. And we had information
along this line that this was being done . . . . Also, we
had information that once the information was taken from
them, and they were used, how the Soviets saw fit to use
them, they were eliminated, and they would never come back.
Which actually happened - they never came back. They were
killed, which was Soviet policy, also.
The source of this information, as I said, was hundreds of
prisoner reports, North Korean and Chinese prisoners that we
took, defectors and other intelligence that I can't describe
for certain reasons. And, as I say, photographs, because we
60 The U.S. side of the Joint Commission has conducted an intensive search for the hundreds of intelligence reports that Lieutenant Colonel Corso has cited. No reports of that magnitude have been found.
61 Statement of Lt. Col. Philip J. Corso, U.S. Army (ret.) Hearings of U.S. Senate Select Committee on POW/MIA Affairs, Washington, D.C., November 10, 1992. Interview with Lt. Col. Corso by Task Force Russia, 11 November 1992.
photographed the camps, and so we saw movements, and the - people on
the ground, civilians, also would come through. This was the
intelligence process, put together very, very carefully, for a long
period of time, matching all information and putting them together
to show a pattern in the picture. F62
LTC Corso's single most dramatic source was North Korean Lieutenant General Pak San Yong. Pak was a Soviet colonel of Korean ethnicity who had been seconded to the North Korean People's Army and promoted to lieutenant general. He was also a member of the North Korean Communist Central Committee. Pak had been captured and disguised himself as a private but had
been denounced by anti-Communist fellow prisoners. Under interrogation, he revealed that U.S. POWs had been sent to the Soviet Union and that they had been prioritized by specialty and that he had a list of those specialties. Pak had no information on the number of POWs sent to the Soviet Union.F63
In response to a question on how closely the defector information paralleled the information from POWs, LTC Corso responded:
Very close, in fact. What I was seeking from the defectors
was the KGB/GRU operation. Not so much that prisoners were
being taken to the Soviet Union, because we already knew
that. But I wanted to learn more of the method of the
operation of the GRU/KGB on how they used these prisoners,
because that was the intelligence aspect of this. We knew
that some were being used for espionage and maybe some for
sabotage and we wanted to know what we could find out. So,
mostly, my information on numbers and the transfer of
prisoners was not taken from defectors. I didn't need that
from defectors - we had that information, but operations
within the Soviet Union, and the way they treated and what
they did with these prisoners - that was where we were
lacking in a lot of our information. And that I tried to
get - and I got it - from defectors.F64
LTC Corso's concern that U.S. POWs were being recruited and trained for espionage missions was born out in June 1954 when the U.S. Army advised the Air Force that
62 Statement provided by LTC Corso to Task Force Russia, 23 February 1993, and video interview of LTC Corso conducted with Task Force Russia on the same date.
63 Annex B to Task Force Russia Biweekiy Report 13 November 1992, Subject: Interview with LTC (Retired) Philip Corso.