Korean POWs taken to China

China Finally Admits What We've Known All Along

The Chinese government acknowledged, in 2003, that Korean War POW Richard Desautels was taken into China. Desautels was transported inland over 150 miles to the town of Mudken (now Shenyang) where the Chinese say he died and was buried. This information was provided to the Desautels family in 2003. The stunning admission of the Chinese government that a POW was transported to China came after 50 years of denial that any Korean War POWs were taken into China.

According to a summary provided to the Desautels family "The People's Liberation Army representative stated that he had found a complete record of 9-10 pages on this case in the Chinese archives, which are still classified. The Chinese People's Liberation Volunteer Army captured Sergeant Desautels and he was known to be a POW. According to the Chinese, Sergeant Desautels became mentally ill on April 22, 1953 and died on April 29, 1953. He was buried in a cemetery near Shenyang. The graves were moved when construction activity was conducted in the area and there is no record of where Desautels' remains were reinterred. Defense Prisoner of War/Missing Personnel Office (DPMO) requested a copy of the documents relating to this case. The Chinese have not yet passed those documents to DPMO."

Sadly this information was withheld from Korean War POW/MIA families. A Pentagon spokesperson stated that the information was meant only for the Desautles family. Technically, that is true. By law case specific information can only go to a family member. It is the family member's choice to disseminate or not.

However, non-case specific information such as the stunning admission, after 50 years of denial that an American POW was moved to China impacts all Korean War POW/MIA families. That information should have been shared with the families and the public without the case specific details naming Richard Desautles.

The overwhelming evidence of Chinese involvement with American POWs from the Korean War makes it impossible to believe that Richard Desautles was the only POW taken to China.

The following is excerpted from an Associated Press article, published June 19th, Robert Burns. Full text of the Burns article may be found on our website at www.nationalalliance.org/korea/ap.htm

"…. China had long insisted that all POW questions were answered at the conclusion of the war in 1953 and that no Americans were moved to Chinese territory from North Korea. The little-known case of Army Sgt. Richard G. Desautels, of Shoreham, Vt., opens another chapter in this story and raises the possibility that new details concerning the fate of other POWs may eventually surface."

"Chinese authorities gave Pentagon officials intriguing new details about Desautels in a March 2003 meeting in Beijing, saying they had found "a complete record of 9-10 pages" in classified archives."

"Until now, this information had been kept quiet; a Pentagon spokesman said it was intended only for Desautels' family members. The details were provided to Desautels' brother, Rolland, who passed them to a POW-MIA advocacy group, the National Alliance of Families, which gave them to AP this week."

"According to the Chinese, Sgt. Desautels became mentally ill on April 22, 1953, and died on April 29, 1953," the summary said. It added that he had been buried in a Chinese cemetery but the grave was moved during a construction project "and there is no record of where Desautels' remains were reinterred."

The reported circumstance of Desautels' death - sudden mental illness - may sound improbable. But the key revelation - that he was taken from North Korea to a city in northeastern China and then buried - matches long-held U.S. suspicions about China's handling, or mishandling, of American POWs during and after the war."

"It raises the possibility that wartime Chinese records could shed light on the fate of other U.S. captives who were known to be held in Chinese-run POW camps but did not return when the fighting ended in 1953. And it appears to undercut the Pentagon's public stance that China returned all POWs it held inside China…."

"Desautels' reported burial site - the city of Shenyang, formerly known as Mukden - is interesting because it is far from the North Korean border and was often cited in declassified U.S. intelligence reports as the site of one or more prisons holding hundreds of American POWs from Korea. Some U.S. reports referred to Mukden as a possible transshipment point for POWs headed to Russia…."

"The Pentagon has taken an interest in the Desautels case for many years. A June 1998 Pentagon cable to the U.S. Embassy in Beijing said the case was one of several on which China should be pushed to provide answers, that "we believe the Chinese should be able to account for these individuals."

"Now it turns out that China did provide an accounting, although it is incomplete and was kept under wraps for five years. Larry Greer, a spokesman for the POW-MIA office at the Pentagon, said Thursday that although U.S. officials asked to see the 9-10 page file on Desautels, China has yet to provide it or additional information."

"Mark Sauter, an author and researcher on the subject of POWs from the Korean War, said in an interview that Beijing authorities are to be commended for finally providing useful information. "The case of Sgt. Desautels has been a focal point of a six-decade cover-up by the Chinese government," Sauter said. "This is the first crack in the dike. From what we can tell, the Pentagon has not aggressively followed up, either on the Desautels case or those of hundreds of other Americans for whom the Chinese should be able to account."

"American officials believed from the earliest days of the armistice that concluded the Korean War without a formal peace treaty in July 1953 that the Chinese and North Koreans withheld a number of U.S. POWs, possibly in retaliation for U.S. refusal to repatriate those Chinese and North Korean POWs who chose not to be returned to their home country out of fear of retribution."

"Gen. Mark W. Clark, the American commander of U.S.-led forces during the final stages of the Korean War, wrote in a 1954 account that "we had solid evidence" that hundreds of captive Americans were held back by the Chinese and North Koreans, possibly as leverage to gain a China seat on the U.N. Security Council."

"Over time, however, U.S. officials muted their concerns, while periodically pressing the Chinese in private. Publicly, the Pentagon's stance today is that China returned all the U.S. POWs it held. "Some U.S. POWs spent time across the (Yalu) river in Manchuria, but to the best of our knowledge, all have returned," the Pentagon's POW/MIA office says in a summary of wartime POW camps."

What Returned POWs Had to Say About Richard 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...." Statement of former POW Joseph [Last Name Unreadable] - 16 June 1954.

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

"The last time I saw Cpl Desautels was in April 1953,... In the middle part of April 1953, he told us (me and other GI's, whose names I don't recall), that he was going to be taken to Autung, China…."Statement of former POW, signature unreadable, - 17 June 1954

"....He was either killed by the Chinese or is still being held." Statement of former POW Clarence Banks - 25 May 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." Statement of former POW Richard Grenier - 12 June 1954

American POWs reported Richard Desautels alive in August 1953, four months after the Chinese government say he died. There is not doubt Desautels was taken to China. The only question remains is….. When did Richard Desautels die. It certainly wasn't in April 1953 as the Chinese government stated.

There are at least 19 statements made by former POWs, reporting 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. He expected his government to come and get him.

Shenyang, formerly known as Mukden - The name Mukden appears in many documents relating to the issue of POWs transferred from North Korea to China. Not being familiar with the area, we did a little Google search and came up with two very interesting facts.

1. The Shenyang Aircraft Corp. - "Founded in 1953, Shenyang Aircraft Corporation [SAC], with some 30,000 employees, has emerged as China's largest fighter aircraft enterprise….. SAC is divided into four divisions: civilian aircraft and ancillary equipment, military aircraft, and civilian products…" [Source: Federation of American Scientists (FAS ) http://www.fas.org/nuke/guide/china/contractor/sac.htm ]

2. School of Foreign Languages - " Founded in 1953, the School of Foreign Languages, Shenyang Normal University has five departments. They are English Department II (3rd-4th year teaching), the Russian Department, the Japanese Department, and the French and German Department. [Source: School of Foreign Languages web page http://lilyedu.com/english/theschooldetail.html ]

An Aircraft Factory and a School of Foreign Languages, both founded in 1953. We know Richard Desautels spoke English, French (according to his records) and Chinese. We know allied forces in Korea were made up of troops from various nations. We also know a large numbers of pilots believed captured never returned. Missing ground troops…. Missing airmen…. A School of Foreign Languages…. An Aircraft Factory….

Coincidence, you decide!

Little Did We Know -- In the March 1, 2008 edition of Bits N Pieces, we commented on a recent agreement between the Chinese and U.S. Government that would have Chinese archivists searching records for information on Korean War POWs and MIAs. At that time we stated; "High on the list of individuals on whom the Chinese records should provide information are Roger Dumas, Richard Desautels and Paul Van Voohris." Little did we know…