The documents found this past spring in the Sedgwick D. Tourison Collection at Texas Tech University raises many troubling questions. The questions that leap out at us are: How long and where were these men held?
In the case of Lt. James T. Egan USMC, the Vietnamese provided the answer to the second part of our question. According to the Vietnamese, Lt. Egan died in captivity in December 1968. Captured January 21st 1966, Egan was held as a Prisoner of War for 2 years, ten months and an unknown number of days. Yet, no returned POW ever reported seeing Egan in captivity.
Where did the Viet Cong hold him? We can't answer that question. We can tell you where they didn't hold him. According to the case summary published in the Report of the Senate Select Committee on POW/MIA Affairs, Lt. Egan and Marine Cpl. Edwin "Russ" Grissett disappeared from the same patrol, one day apart.
The following is excerpted for the Senate Report:
[Begin Summary] On January 21, 1966 Lieutenant Egan was serving as Artillery Forward Observer with a patrol element of the 1st Force Reconnaissance Company. Their patrol was fired upon, and after the skirmish, Lieutenant Egan could not be located. The next day Lance Corporal Edwin R. Grissett, Jr. (Case 0236) was also declared missing when he became separated from the same patrol.
In April 1966, information was received that both Grissett and Egan were captured alive from a South Vietnamese Popular Force soldier who had just escaped from Viet Cong captivity. The soldier asserted that Corporal Grissett told him Lieutenant Egan was wounded and later shot by the Viet Cong. Another report was received from a different source that an American with an individual correlating to Corporal Grissett had been shot and killed.
Corporal Grissett told him Lieutenant Egan was wounded and later shot by the Viet Cong. Another report was received from a different source that an American with an individual correlating to Corporal Grissett had been shot and killed.
Corporal Grissett was reclassified as POW during the war, but Lieutenant Egan was not. Neither were accounted-for at the end of Operation Homecoming, after which both were declared dead/body not recovered. Corporal Grissett's remains were repatriated and identified in June 1989.
In August 1990, U.S. field investigators in Vietnam interviewed eight witnesses concerning the capture of the two Marines. The information they provided did not lead to the recovery of any remains of Lieutenant Egan.
Russ Grissett was taken to a Quang Ngai POW Camp and held with other American POWs. Egan was never seen in that camp or any other camp. Yet, he was held as a POW for almost three years. Did he travel with the Viet Cong, as their prize to be exhibited from village to village? Highly unlikely. Or was he held in a second tier POW camp, a camp no one came home from? Both the U.S. and Vietnamese deny the existence of a second tier prison system. If we are to believe that no second tier prison system existed, where was Lt. Egan held for his 2 years, 10 months and unknown number of days in captivity?
As detailed in our newsletters of June 24th and July 8, two memos written in 1992 by Sedgwick Tourison an investigator with the Select Committee on POW/MIA Affairs, reported that the Vietnamese had acknowledged the capture of 19 servicemen the U.S. carried in the status of Missing in Action. One memo described the 19 as having "survived into captivity." Of the 19, only two Robert Greer and Fred Schreckengost have been accounted for with the return of remains and questions surround the Schreckengost identification. The cases of the 17 remaining servicemen who "survived into captivity" have been declared "fate determined." As of this writing those "fate determinations" were made without benefit of remains.
On July 22nd 1992, the very same day Sedgwick Tourison wrote his first memo stating; "My review of JCRC casualty files has surfaced several messages which list a total of nine American servicemen Vietnam has acknowledged were captured alive, all of whom are listed by DOD as having been declared dead while missing. None are officially listed as ever having been a POW," the committees∆s Chief of Staff Frances Zwenig was writing a memo of her own.
The topic of Zwenig∆s memo was her recent trip to "Thailand, Vietnam and Laos." The memo itself is of little value. However the attachments are of great interest. Specifically, it is the July 17th cable from Joint Task Force Full Accounting Detachment Three Vientiane. The cable describes Zwenig's July 14 - 15th meeting with "Mr. Le Mai and other high ranking Vietnamese officials." The main topic of the meeting... accounting for the 135 servicemen listed as Last Known Alive.
In her meetings, Ms. Zwenig made it clear she was representing the views of committee chairman Senator John F. Kerry. According to the cable: "She said that the Senate Select Committee looked at DOD records and identified the names of 244 missing Americans who did not return at Homecoming, and 111 who died in captivity. She added that the committee asked DOD to research the remaining 133 names hoping to reduce the list, but DOD did not respond in time for the hearings. She remarked that for the most part, the 133 names are the Vessey 135 and that she understood the SRV's confusion on what Senator Kerry said at the conclusion of the hearing. She said Senator Kerry believes that the Vessey cases can be resolved by the recovery and identification of remains, through records, from witnesses of deaths, or some combination of these. She said that Senator Kerry believes SRV explanations of deaths could be based upon past policies and inadequate records in the South."
With an accounting method provided by the Committee∆s chief of Staff, that did not require identifiable remains, the Vietnamese now had a way of dealing with that pesky problem of men captured but not returned, without the bother of actually recovering and returning them.
During Zwenig's trip to Vietnam, normalization was a hot topic of conversation. The Vietnamese expressed their opinion that the U.S. was not moving fast enough toward recognition. Ms. Zwening stated that the Committee had no control over the decision to normalize. According to the message traffic, "Ms Zwenig explained the mission of the Senate Select Committee is to produce a better accounting of POWs since WW II and that the fall of the USSR has aided the SSC mission. She added that the SSC cannot deal with aid to the SRV and that Senator Kerry see the SSC as a way to bring this issue to a close."
In reviewing 2 of the cases involving 5 of the 19 servicemen who "survived into captivity" we found several interesting reports that conform to what we can only call the "Kerry Method" of accounting.
Various Vietnamese witnesses reported that Army Capt. John McDonnell, injured his arm in the crash and subsequently died of that injury, injured his leg and subsequently died of that injury, was shot while attempting to evade capture and subsequently died of that injury, was injured either in the crash or during capture and while being transported fell of his stretcher hit his head and died, and last but not least was killed during an American bombing raid. These various "witness" statements allowed a determination of fate to be made in the McDonnell case, without the recovery of remains.
Among the first victims of the "Kerry Method" of accounting and by far the most public are Thomas Mangino, Paul Hasenbeck, Daniel Nidds and David Winters. The four, included in the Tourison Memo of August 1st 1992, as "survived into captivity." In a much publicized trip to Hanoi in November 1992, some 2 months after Tourison wrote his memo, which stated the four had "survived into captivity," Senator John Kerry was presented with the diary of Col. Pham Duc Dia. In his diary, Dia detailed the ambush, killing and burial of the four. To the media he described how he participated in the ambush. Several years later in the book "Hanoi∆s Secret Archives" Dia is quoted by the author stating he participated in the burial of the four and could lead U.S. investigators to the burial site, but no one had asked.
The problem.... Dia lied. He did not participate in the ambush, killing or any of the two exhumations or burials supposedly conducted under the nose of American search teams. Ignored is a CIA report from sources evaluated as "possibly true" that the four were captured and there were plans to move them westward. DPMO ignored this CIA report saying it was hearsay. According to DPMO the source reporting was accurate but the information reported was wrong. It would also seem that the Vietnamese admission, as described in the Tourison memo that the four "survived into captivity," was also ignored.
Without the requirement of identifiable remains, or any remains at all, the door was opened for a new level of creative accounting, which accepted questionable Vietnamese witness statements and ignored U.S. intelligence reports of capture.
Zwenig's trip paved the way for the Kerry trip in November of 1992 and the public accounting for of Mangino, Hasenbeck, Nidds and Winters. When hearings resumed in December 1992, Kerry bragged how he had gotten an accounting on these four men. Yet, within the committees own records, that statement was known to be untrue. Mangino, Hasenbeck, Nidds and Winters "survived into captivity."
View the Tourison Memos
View July 22, 1992 Document
View August 1, 1992 Document
The 19 New POW Cases Part I
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