More on the 19 New POW Cases
Clarification – The memos written by Sedgwick Tourison during his tenure as an investigator with the Senate Select Committee on POW/MIA Affairs are part of a series of memos dealing with the "numbers." The numbers in question related to how many POWs may have been captured but not acknowledged by the Vietnamese.
Both the July 22nd and August 1st memos were addressed to "FAZ" as in Frances A. Zwenig, chief of staff for the Senate Select Committee. Ms. Zwenig was often seen during the hearings sitting behind committee chairman Senator John Kerry, and on many occasions was seen whispering in his ear, during a hearing. The information gathered by Mr. Tourison was presented at highest level of the committee.
Attached to the August 1st memo was a draft letter addressed to Alan Patak, International Security Affairs - Dept. of Defense. The letter was to be signed jointly by Senator John Kerry, as Chairman and Senator Bob Smith, as Vice Chairman. We don't know if the letter was sent or if a response was received.
The first paragraph of Tourison's draft letter answers one of the many questions we've received since our June 24 newsletter. Who provided the information on captured and survival in captivity?
The first paragraph of the letter, to be signed by Senators Kerry and Smith stated: "It has come to our attention that over the last several years, the Joint Casualty Resolution Center and/or Joint Task Force Full Accounting (JTFFA) have received information from witnesses in Vietnam that some American servicemen declared dead while in a missing status actually survived into captivity. In some cases this information has come from Vietnamese officials who are acknowledging for the first time that some Americans not previously confirmed captured alive did in fact survive into captivity but later died. This appears to represent a significant breakthrough and this Committee needs to learn more about such cases, a preliminary list of which is attached."
Mr Tourison was confident enough in the information to recommend the committee issue a formal request for additional information. Among the questions asked was... "What is the Defense Department's policy regarding casualty reclassification of individuals declared dead while missing when information is received from witnesses that they died while captured?"
Another concern expressed by readers is Mr. Tourison's well known opinion that no POWs were alive in Vietnam after Operation Homecoming concluded in 1973. This opinion, which we totally disagree with, does not preclude him from issuing a memo stating that men previously listed as died while missing were in fact captured. While the August 1st memo clearly state the men named "survived into captivity," it also states; "there is evidence that death occurred in captivity and during the war."
With regard to the 19 New POWs, Mr. Tourison observed; "the majority are South Vietnam cases which occurred in an area and at a time that survivors would have been moved to one of the several well (sic) camps in the western portion of Central Vietnam. None were seen there and none were seen in North Vietnam, supporting the hypothesis that they did not survive for long in captivity."
Let's look at two of the statements made by Mr. Tourison in that last paragraph. The first... "they did not survive for long in captivity." Yet, Mr. Tourison's July 22nd memo, stated "Vietnam has now acknowledged that Lieutenant Egan was captured alive and has reported that he died in captivity in December 1968."
Lt. Egan was captured January 21st 1966. Egan was never seen in any of the known POW camps by any of the returned POWs. So, where was he held during his almost three years of captivity?
Today, the Egan case is considered active and is listed as "urgent" on the Joint POW/MIA Accounting Command (JPAC) web site. According to the JPAC web site: " The URGENT list includes all unaccounted-for casualties from all conflicts, including WWII, where we currently lack an FRS (Family Reference Sample) but have a specific need for an FRS in relation to active casework. These are cases where the JPAC CIL already has remains (recovered or received) that might represent the casualties listed. There is a real possibility that casualties that are listed in this category could be identified and a real certainty that an FRS provided for the listed casualties will be used to contribute to the forensic analysis of unidentified remains. A listing here does not guarantee an identification. For example, the CIL might have recovered five sets of remains and can only narrow the list to twenty missing service members. In such a case we would request all twenty FRS but only five identifications can result."
Are James Egan's remains awaiting identification at CIL-HI? Will the truth ever be known about Egan's captivity and death? Only time with tell.
The second statement deals with the well known policy to move American's captured in Quang Ngai to "one of the several well (sic) camps in the western portion of Central Vietnam." As no returned POW ever reported seeing James Egan, perhaps another camp existed in the western portion of Central Vietnam, unknown to U.S. Intelligence. The existence of an unknown camp in Central Vietnam would certainly explain how someone "survived into captivity" yet was never seen by any of the returned POWs.
One CIA document dated July 1967, reports the capture of 4 men on April 21st 1967. The four were captured on the Thuong Hoa River by a Binh Son District VC main force. A second report stated the four Americans had been captured at a "secret tunnel" and were to be moved to a western area." There is no doubt that the four men are Tom Mangino, Paul Hasenbeck, Danny Nidds and David Winters. They are the only four men to disappear on April 21, 1967 on the Thuong Hoa River in the Binh Son District. Knowing that they "survived into captivity" as stated in Tourison's August 1st 1992 memo, adds weight to the second report that they were to "be moved to a western area."
In spite of the information contained in Tourison's 1992 memos, the Defense POW/MIA Office has steadfastly maintained that the four were killed during an ambush. They dismissed the CIA report of capture stating: "the informant reported what is obviously hearsay."
Every witness interviewed by JTF-FA investigators reported the men shot and killed during the ambush. It was based on these witness interviews that this case was declared fate determined. Yet, somewhere within either DIA or JTF-FA files are the documents on which Tourison included Mangino, Hasenbeck, Nidds, and Winters in the group of 19 New POW Cases, men who "survived into captivity."
Another question asked by a family member of one of the 19 New POW Cases is why didn't this information come out during the life of Senate Select Committee on POW/MIA Affairs?
Imagine the furor had the committee announced it had uncovered the existence of 19 new POW cases. Men, who by the Vietnamese own admission, "survived into captivity." How would such information effect the push for trade and diplomatic relations with Vietnam? Had this information gone public back in 1992 or 1993, when the committee issued its final report, efforts to establish trade and eventually diplomatic relations with Vietnam would have come to a screeching halt! With media attention focused on the activities of the SSC, the announcement that 19 servicemen had "survived into captivity" and only two of the 19 had been recovered would have caused a national furor. How would the Vietnamese explain they never listed any of these men as captured, never listed them as having died in captivity
For more than two decades, Vietnam denied any knowledge as to the fate of Mangino, Hasenbeck, Nidds. Then in 1992, JTF-FA investigators were shown a display at the Da Nang Museum. There for all to see were the personnel effects of all four men. Drivers licences, shot records, ID cards, various personal papers, even a Texaco credit card belonging to Tom Mangino. All were in pristine condition, with no signs of blood or water damage. This fact always bothered the families, as the men were supposedly killed in an ambush where both guns and grenades were used and then their bodies were submerged in a river bank to avoid detection. Now we know why the personal effects were in such good condition.
But, none of the information on the 19 New POW cases was ever made public. To our knowledge only two families were ever informed that Vietnam provided information that their fathers died of wounds shortly after capture. They are the O'Grady and McDonnell families.
However, it is highly improbable that John McDonnell died of his wounds, the day after his capture. In fact, evidence indicates that Capt McDonnell survived in captivity at least to February of 1973. One source saw and spoke with a POW he identified as John. He provided a detailed description which was correlated to Captain John McDonnell.
None of this information is found in the final report of the Senate Select Committee on POW/MIA Affairs. The final report acknowledged that "There is evidence; moreover, that indicates the possibility of survival, at least for a small number, after Operation Homecoming...." Yet, the committee did nothing to address the question.... what happened to that small number? While the 19 individuals named in the July 22nd and August 1st 1992 memos were added either to the Vessey or Last Known Alive lists, there was no specific mention that these 19 were New POW Cases, or that Vietnam acknowledged they "survived into captivity."
Even the case summaries, included in the Senate Select Committee on POW/MIA Affairs final report, failed to reveal the depth of information held on the 19. Nowhere is that failure more visible then in the case summary of of Sgt. Donald S. Newton. It reads:
"On February 26, 1966, Sergeant Newton and Private First Class Willis were members of a long range reconnaissance patrol. They departed their patrol base on a short mission and were never seen again. After their disappearance, information was received that two U.S. servicemen had been captured during a firefight. One of the two was killed and the second, named "Newton," had been found wounded and captured alive.
Both were deceased missing in action. Neither was classified as captured and after Operation Homecoming were declared dead, body not recovered. Neither of their remains have been repatriated.
In August 1990, U.S. field investigators in Vietnam interviewed witnesses in Vietnam who described the ambush of two Americans. One was shot and killed, his body left behind on a river sandbank. The second was taken prisoner. Enroute to a higher headquarters the Viet Cong unit found itself having to move to avoid detection from a U.S. heliborne operation. The American prisoner, believed to possibly correlate with Sergeant Newton, was shot and killed to ensure the unit could move and avoid detection. A grave site of the dead American was identified but no remains could be located. In March 1991, U.S. field investigators interviewed another witness who provided generally similar information concerning the killing and burial of an American which correlated well to this incident." End Summary
The SSC case summary is lengthier than the case description found within the July 22nd 1992 Tourison Memo. Yet, it does not carry the weight of the simple declarative sentence issued by Tourison. "Vietnam has now acknowledged that Sergeant Newton was captured alive and taken to Hospital 102 of Military Region 5. His eventual fate has not yet been determined."
Yet the case summary published as part of the findings of the SSC report, in 1993, implies little question as to fate. Left unmentioned is that fact that Newton was alive and taken to Hospital 102 in Military Region 5 (Quang Ngai Province.) It is also interesting to note that the case summary found in the final report is almost verbatum to a case summary attached to the August 1st memo. While the memo spoke of capture and being taken to Hospital 102 of Military Region 5, the case summary ,which was eventually made part of the public record, never mentions that fact.
James Egan's case summary ignores the fact that the Vietnamese admitted holding him, and that he died in captivity, in December 1968. almost three year after his capture.
The great value of the Tourison memos is that they resurrect men long listed, by U.S. officials,
as have having died in their incident.
Men, Vietnam claimed they had no knowledge of.
Now, all we need to do is determine when or if these men died,
where they or their remains are and how to get
Vietnam to finally "fully cooperate" by returning the men we know and they admit died in their hands.
View the Tourison Memos
View July 22, 1992 Document
View August 1, 1992 Document
The 19 New POW Cases Part I
Return to Vietnam Index The National Alliance of Families has long been involved in the cases of Tom Mangino, Paul Hasenbeck, Danny Nidds, David Winters and John McDonnell. To learn more about these cases visit our web site.
Tom Mangino, Paul Hasenbeck, Danny Nidds and David Winters