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Full-text: April 20 1971 hearing (pages 353-406)


CIS: 71 H381-9 SuDoc: Y 4.F 76/1:P 93/4/971/PT.1

American Prisoners of War in Southeast Asia, 1971

 



HEARINGS


BEFORE THE


SUBCOMMITTEE ON NATIONAL SECURITY POLICY AND SCIENTIFIC DEVELOPMENTS


OF THE


COMMITTEE ON FOREIGN AFFAIRS


HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES


NINETY-SECOND CONGRESS
FIRST SESSION


______________________

March 23, 24, 25, 30, 31, April 1, 6, 20 {vvaw}, 1971

__________


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COMMITTEE ON FOREIGN AFFAIRS

Thomas Ellsworth Morgan, Pennsylvania, Chairman

{Details to come}

______________________

NATIONAL SECURITY POLICY AND SCIENTIFIC DEVELOPMENTS SUBCOMMITTEE

Clement J. Zablocki, Wisconsin, Chairman

{Details to come}


(II)


 


CONTENTS

{To come} {p.353}

 


American Prisoners of War in Southeast Asia, 1971


_______________


Tuesday, April 20, 1971


House of Representatives,
Committee on Foreign Affairs
Subcommittee on National Security
Policy and Scientific Developments
,

Washington, D.C.


The subcommittee met at 2:05 p.m. pursuant to call, in room 2172, Rayburn House Office Building, Hon. Clement J. Zablocki (chairman of the subcommittee) presiding.

Mr. Zablocki.  The subcommittee will please come to order. Today’s session continues a series of hearings on the subject of American prisoners of war in Southeast Asia being conducted by the Subcommittee on National Security Policy and Scientific Developments.

This hearing is a continuation of a session held on March 31. Our witnesses at that time were representatives of the Committee of Liaison with Families of Servicemen Detained in North Vietnam.

Because of a conflict with the Democratic caucus on that day, the session was delayed. As a result, the witnesses were only able to make their statements and answer a few questions from the subcommittee when the hearing had to be adjourned, in accordance with House rules, because of the work being done on the House floor.

We asked the witnesses to come back today to allow members to finish their questioning, and they have consented.

With us today are Mrs. Cora Weiss of New York City, cochairman of the Committee of Liaison, and two members of the board of her organization, Mr. Stewart Meacham of Philadelphia, peace secretary of the American Friends Service Committee, and Dr. Richard Barnet of Washington, D.C., Director of the Institute for Policy Studies.

Thank you for returning. Unless you have a further statement to make at this time, we shall begin the questions. Time permitting, and I assume there will be sufficient time because of the lack of floor action, the subcommittee will hear from Mr. Louis Stockstill of Washington, D.C. Mr. Stockstill is a writer and journalist whose article entitled “Inside the Prisons of Hanoi,” is appearing in the April issue of Reader’s Digest.

We would like to ask representatives of the Committee of Liaison with Families of Servicemen Detained in North Vietnam if you have any additional comments you want to make before we begin the questioning.

(Witnesses indicated they had no further statements.) {p.354}

QUESTIONS LETTER TO POW FAMILIES

There being no further statement, I would like to ask Mrs. Weiss to comment on a copy of a mimeographed letter sent to families of prisoners of war by the Committee of Liaison.

It is dated January 6, 1971, and is signed by you, Mrs. Weiss, and by Mr. David Dellinger. That letter contains this paragraph, and I quote:

The release of the men which we all seek can be achieved only when the administration sets a date for the total withdrawal of American troops from Vietnam. This also includes the release of men held by the NLF in the South. The Vietnamese have consented to freeing the Americans even before the troops have withdrawn as long as the date of total withdrawal has been set.

Do you recall that letter and that statement?


Statement of
Mrs. Cora Weiss,
Cochairman of the Committee of Liaison With Families of Servicemen Detained in North Vietnam, New York, N.Y.


Mrs. Weiss.  Yes, sir.

Mr. Zablocki.  The clear implication of that statement to families is that all the United States need do is to set a date for final withdrawal and prisoner release will begin. Do you believe that to be true, and, if so, what reason do you have for that view?

Mrs. Weiss.  That is not only true but it would be a moment of honor in the history of America. It was most recently confirmed in a story datelined April 16 from Paris by Henry Gininger, where clarification by the North Vietnamese was given to the problem of when the men would be released in connection with setting the date.

Mr. Le, the spokesman for the North Vietnamese delegation, in Paris, said, “There is no problem. The goal of the discussion would be the freedom of all military prisoners.

“We have no interest or purpose in keeping the prisoners. It is not true that we consider them to be hostages,” and he cited the precedents of the Geneva Conference in 1954 on Indo-China ending hostilities between the French and the Communists and providing for the partition of Vietnam.

Discussion on release of prisoners began shortly after signing of the accords and all prisoners were freed by October. In the 100th session of the meetings in Paris which took place on January 21, Ambassador Xuan Thuy reiterated the positions of the North Vietnamese that discussions for the release of prisoners of war would begin as soon as the date was set for the withdrawal of all American troops, and Madame Binh, in a statement to Ambassador Bruce, also repeated that they would not even have to wait until the following day, they could begin the discussions the very same day that a date for withdrawal would be set.

That is all a matter of record.

Mr. Zablocki.  Before pursuing the questions, the Chair would like to respectfully request that the gentlemen in the room to maintain the proper decorum, take off their hats, at least out of respect for the ladies that are here, please. {p.355}

HANOI’S REQUIREMENTS FOR POW RELEASE

In an earlier mimeographed letter to families dated October 30, 1970, and signed by you, you stated that release of prisoners depends on the United States fulfilling two demands by Hanoi: (1) setting a date for withdrawal, and (2) agreeing to withdraw support from the Saigon Government.

Yet in your January 6 letter, you made no mention of a second demand. Is it because the North Vietnamese have abandoned that requirement, or were you attempting to mislead the families to think that with the simple setting of a date their loved ones would be on the way home?

Mrs. Weiss.  I wish the setting of a date were so simple, Mr. Chairman. It seems to be the thing that is holding up the end of the war and the very thing the President is resisting. It is both the demand of the American public and the demand of a large percentage of Congressmen.

We absolutely do not want to mislead the families, and cannot be accused of doing so. Those two demands have been as a matter of record the demands made by the North Vietnamese from time to time for settlement of the war.

They have not changed. It is more recent that the emphasis by the North Vietnamese has been that the condition for releasing prisoners is setting the date for total withdrawal of troops.

To say that that is just a simple question and request, I think, is oversimplifying it.

DID HANOI ABANDON ONE REQUIREMENT?

Mr. Zablocki.  May I ask, whether to your knowledge the North Vietnamese have abandoned the second requirement, that is, that the United States withdraw support from the Saigon Government?

Mrs. Weiss.  I cannot speak, nor can any of us at the Committee of Liaison, for the North Vietnamese. I suggest that Congress ask the North Vietnamese.

However, Madam Binh’s first point in her eight-point proposal of September 17th makes it clear that setting the date is the primary condition.

Mr. Zablocki.  Was the second condition made by any North Vietnamese officials which caused you to include it—

Mrs. Weiss.  It has been a condition that has been part of the North Vietnamese position all along.

Mr. Zablocki.  Yet you omitted it in the January 6th letter. What is the significance?

Mrs. Weiss.  I really don’t follow your line of questioning. I think it is creating an issue where there is none, setting the date at this point is sufficient for beginning the immediate discussions on the release of prisoners held both by the North as well as the South.

Mr. Zablocki.  It is very important if there are two stipulations, or if there is one, or if there are more than two. Your earlier letter mentioned two requirements and your letter of January 6th had only one. My question is whether the second requirements is no longer necessary. {p.356}

Mrs. Weiss.  I just finished saying that as far as we know from the press and from the statements that are issued in the Paris talks, it is now sufficient that a date be set for troop withdrawal to begin discussions on the release of prisoners.

Mr. Zablocki.  Then it is your understanding that the second requirement mentioned in your October 30th letter is no longer a requirement?

Mrs. Weiss.  The second requirement would be a condition of the overall parts of the settlement of the war, and it is no longer now, as far as we know, a requirement for beginning discussions on the release of men.

FUNDING OF COMMITTEE OF LIAISON

Mr. Zablocki.  In our last hearing, which was so abruptly terminated, the subcommittee did not have an opportunity to ask the Committee of Liaison representatives how you are funded. What is your budget?

Mr. Weiss. We have received funds since our inception from families, from individuals on the committee, and from individual contributors who are responding to the committee’s work. We spent in the first 8 or 9 months of operation a little less than $5,000.

In the subsequent few months, we have spent less than that. We do not have a large paid staff or heavy expenses.

Mr. Zablocki.  Is there any other organization that is a contributor to the Committee on Liaison?

Mrs. Weiss.  Not to my knowledge. The funds come primarily from families who contribute without solicitation from us, because we do not charge for our services, and secondarily, from individual contributors.

Mr. Zablocki.  That would total the $5,000?

Mrs. Weiss.  That was for the first 8 or 9 months of our operations.

Mr. Zablocki.  What is your total budget operations since then?

Mrs. Weiss.  We have spent less than $10,000 in the 15 months that we have been in operation.

Mr. Zablocki.  And all of that amount was by individuals, small contributions, unsolicited?

Mrs. Weiss.  That is quite true.

Mr. Zablocki.  That is to be our understanding?

Mrs. Weiss.  That is true.

MEANING OF “DISCUSSIONS”

Mr. Zablocki.  Mr. Findley?

Mr. Findley.  Mrs. Weiss, one of the aspects of the attitude of Hanoi that troubles me is that they always qualify their position on releasing POW’s with use of words like this, “We are ready to begin discussions of the question.”

Why do you suppose they are that guarded about it if they are really determined to release all prisoners when American forces are totally withdrawn. Why don’t they say it?

I can’t find any language that the North Vietnamese have used at Paris or elsewhere which does not have such qualifications in it. {p.357}

Mrs. Weiss.  I will share this answer with Dr. Barnet. I would refer you once again to the April 16 statement which is the first clarification that we have had on what the word “discussions” means.

It simply says it means freedom.

“The goal of the discussion would be the freedom of all military prisoners.” Again, we cannot speak for the North Vietnamese. We don’t pretend to. That is not our role, and it should not be.

I would refer you, as other Congressmen have done, to speak to the North Vietnamese.

COMMITTEE’S ACCESS TO CAMPS

Mr. Findley.  I realize that. You do have a unique relationship with Hanoi, one that is not shared by anyone else in this country to my knowledge, and that is why I raise the question.

Because of that relationship, and because of your expressed and I think genuine concern for the welfare of the POW’s, have you at any point asked your contacts for the privilege of going to Hanoi and having a firsthand look at the camps?

Mrs. Weiss.  Mr. Findley, as you know, I was in a detention camp in North Vietnam. Mr. Meacham brought back three prisoners from North Vietnam. Other members of the committee have been both in detention camp and have interviewed prisoners.

Mr. Findley.  But have you asked for access—

Mrs. Weiss.  We are not an international organization. We do not purport to play a governmental or official role in terms of being inspectors. We are people who, because of our interest in ending the war, and our concern for its victims, have the ability and the desire to put families in touch with the prisoners, and that is the role that we felt would be best for us in terms of serving the most humanitarian purpose, and the role that we are able to play.

Mr. Findley.  I would think a logical corollary to that role would be to attempt to see the prisoners firsthand and assure yourself and the families that they are receiving decent treatment. Could you tell us approximately how many of the prisoners you and Mr. Meacham and others representing the COL have had a chance to observe?

45-50 POW’S SEEN BY WESTERNERS

Mrs. Weiss.  I believe in the time since the first prisoners were taken in 1964, about 45 to 50 American prisoners have been seen by westerners. That includes journalists from Europe and other members of the antiwar movement in this country. That also includes the prisoners who were brought home with the help of the antiwar movement.

Mr. Findley.  But the Committee of Liaison has had a chance to observe about how many of those 45?

Mrs. Weiss.  Five men were seen at Christmas. I saw nine, Stewart Meacham came back with three, Dave Dellinger interviewed some 20 or more, and Dennie Davis returned with three.

Mr. Findley.  Did you see the quarters in which they were kept?

Mrs. Weiss.  Yes, we did.

Mr. Findley.  Did you ask for the privilege of seeing other quarters? {p.358}

Mrs. Weiss.  We were grateful for the opportunity that we were given to visit the camp that we were taken to, and to meet and talk with the men with whom we spoke. In the process of visiting this camp, we saw bedrooms with three, five, and eight beds in them, beds having mattresses, blankets, mosquito netting, with items that the men had received from home, such as decks of cards, a sweatshirt, and other items. We saw shower rooms, a social room where there was an exhibit of art on display, and a room where, since we were there just before Christmas, artwork showing the traditional Christmas scenes painted by prisoners was on view.

We were satisfied with what we saw. It was immaculately clean. No one asks for comfort or luxury in a time of a war. It was certainly adequate for the basic needs of people.

And they were protected from bombing with air-raid shelters.

Mr. Findley.  But I assume from your response that you did not ask to have access to quarters other than the ones that you were shown?

Mrs. Weiss.  No, we did not.

Mr. Findley.  Did you ask to see any particular individuals?

Mrs. Weiss.  No. You must recall that when we went to North Vietnam in December of 1969, we did not expect to see any individuals at all. As a matter of fact, we knew very little about who was in North Vietnam, and this was a quite unexpected extra to our 2-week visit there.

Mr. Findley.  I appreciate that and understand it, and I certainly do not want you to feel my questions are hostile.

Mrs. Weiss.  I understand. I appreciate that. I did not know any of the prisoners in December of 1969.

COMMITTEE SHOULD ACT FOR POW RELEASE

Mr. Findley.  But you do indeed have a very unusual relationship with North Vietnamese officials, and I would hope that as you look to the future that you will seize any opportunity that comes to identify those that are held, to inspect their quarters, and also to convey in every way you can the concern of the families.

Mrs. Weiss.  Mr. Congressman, that is a very nice idea, and maybe we should welcome it; but every time we have produced anything that has been requested by Congressmen or Government officials or public opinion in America, it has been rebuffed.

It has been rejected. It has been refused to be recognized as official. Women who have statements before them that their husbands are dead, with a date and a cause of death, are prohibited from getting a change in their status by the Department of Defense from MIA to KIA, so what is the point, you see, in trying again to come out with more information if every time information comes out, something is done to either negate it; or worse, after we came out with a tremendous amount of information in November, Washington’s thank-you to North Vietnam was the Sontay raid. [Applause.]

Mr. Fulton.  Could you repeat that? I missed your intent and meaning.

Mrs. Weiss.  The point that we are making is that every time we have come out with the kind of information that is so desperately {p.359} wanted by Americans, Members of Congress, members of the Government, wives and mothers and fathers, the information is rebuffed.

It is met with contempt. The Secretary of State, for instance, met the official list of 339 POW’s held in North Vietnam with a comment that it was a “contemptuous maneuver”; and the list of dead, which has been desperately wanted by so many people, was met with the Sontay raid in November.

ROLE OF COMMITTEE OF LIAISON

Mr. Findley.  My response to you is that I don’t raise my questions in a spirit of contempt at all, and I feel that the families involved here, and I am sure many of them, if not all of them, are grateful to the COL for the services that have been rendered.

I still feel a great agony because of the lingering uncertainty. The enemy has seen fit not to allow the International Red Cross to make the traditional inspection of camps; and because of your concern for the welfare of prisoners and the mental anguish of the families, I would think it would be highly appropriate for you to try to broaden the scope of your intervention on their behalf of trying to gain access to the prisoners.

Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

Mr. Zablocki.  Dr. Barnet, do you care to reply?


Statement of
Dr. Richard J. Barnet,
Codirector, Institute for Policy Studies, Washington, D.C.


Dr. Barnet.  Yes. My own feeling, and I can only really speak for myself on this, was that when I was there, given the reaction to information that has come in the past that Mrs. Weiss talked about, and given the attitude of our Government on prisoner questions, no very useful purpose would have been served if I visited one, or two, or even three camps. It could always be said, “You did not visit them all. They showed you the camps they wanted to show you.”

I don’t think that the committee, which I believe serves an absolutely unique and crucial purpose in communications, can arrogate to itself the role of an inspector, to be a surrogate for the International Red Cross or anybody else. I think that were we to attempt to play that role, we would be unfair to the families whom we are trying to serve, and also to the public.

Mr. Findley.  Actually, I was not suggesting you be a surrogate to the International Red Cross, but rather to fulfill the humanitarian functions that organization has been historically able to fulfill.

It is a service not to the Defense Department or to the Congress, but to the families involved. I would think it would be a comfort to these families to have knowledge of conditions in more than, say the six or eight different rooms you have seen. The extent to which you were granted access would aid in alleviating this anguish felt by many families.

Dr. Barnet.  I understand, Mr. Findley, and I appreciate that, and the spirit in which you asked the question, I do think that it is difficult in view of the relationship between North Vietnam and the {p.360} United States and the particular role which the committee has been able to play to press terribly hard for that.

I think that any information that we can get, of course, we welcome and we want to get as much information as we can.

I think that the degree of information that we are able to get and the extent to which the committee would be able to bring back information will depend crucially on what happens in the war.

MEANING OF “DISCUSSIONS”

This gets back, really, to a question that you asked Mrs. Weiss, that I would like, if I may, to comment on. That is why the North Vietnamese talk about “discuss” instead of simply saying “we will release the prisoners”?

I think the answer here comes back as it does everywhere in these negotiations to the issue of credibility. I think the North Vietnamese are not going to say in advance that “we are going to do thus and so” for setting a date, because setting a date may not be the same thing as setting a date and carrying out the commitment.

The agreement to come to the table in Paris was premised on a commitment by the United States to stop the bombing of North Vietnam, and as they have seen, the bombing of North Vietnam has not been stopped.

Planes continue to bomb at intervals in North Vietnam. I don’t know that this is the answer. I can’t speak for them or really read their minds, but I think if you look at the history of the negotiations and the way they have operated, it is pretty clear that they are using guarded language for the purpose of making sure that when they, this Government says that we are prepared to set a date for the total withdrawal of all American forces from Indo-China and the cessation of military operations by American forces, that we really mean it and that we are really going to carry it out.

Mr. Zablocki.  Mr. Morse.

PURPOSE OF 1969 HANOI VISIT

Mr. Morse.  Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

Mrs. Weiss, Mr. Barnet, Mr. Meacham. Tell me if you will, Mrs. Weiss, the original purpose of your December, 1969 visit to North Vietnam.

Mrs. Weiss.  I was invited as a leader of Women Strike for Peace by the North Vietnam Women’s Union, to see what America had wrought in 4 years of bombing in North Vietnam.

Mr. Morse.  In your discussions at that time, there were apparently discussions about the prisoners. Who introduced that subject?

Mrs. Weiss.  We introduced it as it was stated in my testimony originally. We had prior discussions in this country about our readiness and willingness to help ease communication between POW’s and families if the North Vietnamese were ready and willing.

Mr. Morse.  I commend you for the work you have done, but is the principal purpose of the COL to achieve the release of the prisoners, or to effect the identification of a date certain? {p.361}

Mrs. Weiss.  The members of the Committee of Liaison are all active leaders in the antiwar movement. As individuals our principal purpose is to end the war so that the prisoners can come home and everybody else can come home, as a committee our purpose is to provide a chance for communnication {sic: communication}, swap information. If we can help keep families in touch with their relatives, we are more than happy to be able to do that.

Our purpose is that of liaison for communications, but we would not be doing this if we were not primarily interested and concerned with ending the war.

HANOI’S REASONS FOR IGNORING CONVENTIONS

Mr. Morse.  The North Vietnamese have made the point you repeated, that the prisoners are not being held as hostages. If that is the fact, can you account for the fact for their refusal to permit International Red Cross inspection?

Mrs. Weiss.  I think we went over that territory last time.

Mr. Morse.  I apologize for not being here.

Mrs. Weiss.  I will try to summarize it. Under the Geneva Convention, the North Vietnamese have an exemption under article 85, and therefore do not feel required to abide by the requirements for international inspection by an organization such as the ICRC.

Aside from that, the International Red Cross is basically a western body, not an international body, and the North Vietnamese are content that they are providing humanitarian treatment to the prisoners, and that the men could come home if we would leave.

There are no western based international organizations operating in North Vietnam. As you know, there is a history of the difficulty with the International Control Commission as well. They don’t pretend to be unbiased.

Mr. Meacham.  Mr. Morse, if I could just comment on that, you know, one can speculate about the Red Cross inspection angle, but none of us can do more than that.

It is a matter of speculation. I more or less agree with the speculative comments that Mrs. Weiss has made, and the thing that I don’t see is the logical connection that your question, it seemed to me, suggested, that the failure to bring in the International Red Cross reinforces the idea that they are holding these people as hostages.

My feeling is, and this is just speculative again, that if they were thinking of these people as hostages, they would want to dangle them as obviously as they could.

What would be the point in considering them as hostages, which suggestion is that you are using them as a kind of bargaining pawn, without holding them out there where everybody could, you know, have a look.

I don’t see—there does not seem to me to be a logical connection between these two aspects.

CREDIBILITY GAP WITH NORTH VIETNAM

Mr. Morse.  We hear a great deal about a credibility gap in our own society, and I, as one whose credentials on the war are fairly well {p.362} established, find a credibility gap on the part of the North Vietnamese. One of the credibility gaps was the failure for meaningful results to occur after the halt of the bombing halt to the north in November of 1968, because after that halt came, then there was the immediate insistence of the two principals.

It was hoped at this time that there would be meaningful discussions, but those discussions were inhibited by the insistence of the North Vietnamese on two principles, No. 1, total and complete U.S. withdrawal, and No. 2, support by all parties for a government in South Vietnam devoted to “peace, independence and neutrality.”

I am concerned, too, with Congressman Findley’s question. Let us assume that a date for U.S. withdrawal were set. We really have no assurances that the discussions will lead to very much. I realize, too, that the other side perhaps doesn’t have any assurances that the date will be respected.

Dr. Barnet.  To go back for a minute to what I think happened after the agreement to go to Paris. I don’t think that the North Vietnamese said they were going to agree to the American formula for ending the war. I don’t think there is any statement which could have led any official of the United States to think that they would have settled for anything less than withdrawal of American forces from Vietnam at that time.

I think that they have in fact made many changes in their proposal over the period. They are not changes that bring them very close to the American position, which has really in essence been even changed since the war was undertaken.

It has always been the American policy to maintain an independent U.S.-oriented government in South Vietnam. The President very clearly reiterated that just yesterday, and that is what the war has been about.

That is what the fighting has been for—

Mr. Morse.  But, in the October 7 speech, the President did undertake to negotiate the total withdrawal of U.S. forces.

I am sorry. Go ahead.

Mrs. Weiss.  The October 7 speech ignored the initiative of the PRG with respect to releasing prisoners. The October 7 speech also had a hidden clause calling for the return or release of all prisoners of war to the country of their choice.

That was kind of a tricky speech.

Richard M. Nixon (U.S. President, Jan. 20 1969-1974 Aug. 9), “Address to the Nation About a New Initiative for Peace in Southeast Asia” (White House, Oval Office, October 7 1970, 9:00 p.m.) {274kb.pdf}, Public Papers of the Presidents of the United States, Richard Nixon, 1970, entry 335 (U.S. GPO 1971), SuDoc: AE2.114:970, LCCN: 58061050, ISSN: 0079-7626CJHjr


HANOI’S NEGOTIATING PRINCIPLES

Dr. Barnet.  I think the point is that for the North Vietnamese the issue has always been, “Is the United States going to agree to remove the military power which is what keeps the present South Vietnamese Government in power, and are they willing to permit the domestic political forces in South Vietnam to work out a political solution?”

That has been essentially their proposal all along. They have made various changes and I think very greatly moderated their original position. Their original position was that the NLF was the sole voice of the Vietnamese people. {p.363}

They have moderated this considerably to take into account the positions of other groups in South Vietnam. They clearly contemplate a coalition government at this time.

I think that, if the United States would agree to accommodate a complete withdrawal of its forces and if in fact it would undertake that commitment, then I think it is perfectly clear that the present South Vietnamese government would change, and change rather quickly.

Mr. Morse.  Do you suggest that the second of the two principles is no longer relevant, then?

Dr. Barnet.  I am suggesting that the second of the two principles is not an independent second principle, but would rather follow—it would rather follow from a decision on the first.

That is, I don’t think that the Vietnamese are insisting that the U.S. Government overthrow the South Vietnamese Government, as the State Department has characterized it.

I don’t think that has ever been their position. I think they are demanding that we undertake to remove our forces, all of our forces, and when that happens they are betting, and I would bet with them, that the complexion of the South Vietnamese will change radically.

WHY DID NLF REJECT ELECTION OFFER?

Mr. Morse.  Do you have any special information, Dr. Barnet, as to why the 1969 offer to participate in an election commission in which all elements of the South Vietnamese Government would be represented was rejected by the North Vietnamese?

Dr. Barnet.  I don’t have any specific information about it. Again I can guess. I think the reason was that it was held in the framework of a constitution in which those who were either supporting them or were neutralists had been excluded from—

Mr. Morse.  But the specific offer was made to permit these other elements to participate?

Mrs. Weiss.  Was General Minh in jail at the time?

Dr. Barnet.  This was a government that had jailed an opponent. The Government had put tens of thousands—we don’t know the exact number—of political opponents in jail, a government which discredits itself from time to time.

You may have seen the statements of Vice President Ky a couple of days ago. I suggest that they did not think that looked like a very promising avenue for a good result.

Mr. Morse.  Then you suggest that until the Thieu-Ky government is gone, there will not be a good chance of negotiation.

Dr. Barnet.  Yes, I do.

Mr. Morse.  You said 4 minutes ago that it did not—

Dr. Barnet.  What I said was that, 4 minutes ago, if the United States were to withdraw all its forces and would do it on a reasonably prompt schedule, that the Thieu-Ky government would not have to be overthrown by the United States, that it would fall as a result of popular pressures in South Vietnam.

Mr. Morse.  Thank you, Mr. Chairman. {p.364}

DIFFERENCE BETWEEN SETTLEMENT AND POW RELEASE

Mr. Zablocki.  Mr. Bingham?

Mr. Bingham.  Thank you, Mr. Chairman. We—aren’t we getting two things confused here? Aren’t we getting confused the question of what might make the basis for a total settlement and the question of what might provide the basis for the release of American prisoners?

Dr. Barnet?

Dr. Barnet.  They are separate questions, but I think that the agreement for setting the date, in such a way that it was credible would, as one Vietnamese delegate said in Paris recently, and I don’t have the reference, but I recall hearing it—I think this was quoted by Senator Hartke, if I am not mistaken—then bring a cease fire in 48 hours. You could proceed very promptly to a settlement of the other issues. I think the whole question is whether the United States is really prepared to stop exercising power through military means in South Vietnam, and everything behind hinges on that, including the prisoners.

Mr. Bingham.  Well, I am in agreement with that, but I would be very disturbed by a suggestion that if we undertook to do that and proceeded to carry that out that the prisoners might then not be released if there were no end, let us say, to the conflict between North and South Vietnam.

Dr. Barnet.  I see what you mean. No, I think there is no question about that. It seems to to me that the North Vietnamese have absolutely no motivation to keep those prisoners once the United States is out of there, just as they have no motivation to keep the French once the French were out of there.

Mr. Bingham.  Could I suggest this, that there seems at times, particularly before the September 17 statement by Madame Binh, to have been some uncertainty as to just what the North Vietnamese were saying on this, but it seems to me that in the light of what was said clearly on September 17, that what the United States should do is go on the assumption that this statement meant what it said. If it turns out not to be true then we can rexamine it.

Dr. Barnet.  I agree with that completely, Mr. Bingham.

[Applause.]

Mr. Fountain (presiding). Proceed.

HANOI’S VIEW OF INTERNATIONAL CONTROL COMMISSION

Mr. Bingham.  I was interested in a comment you made, Mrs. Weiss, about the attitude of the North Vietnamese toward the International Control Commission. Do they regard this as a body that is not unbiased?

Mrs. Weiss.  I think it would be wiser, rather than speculate to ask the North Vietnamese themselves how they feel about things like this. This is not within my area of expertise.

I do know we prefer to go into North Vietnam in ways other than with the ICC.

Mr. Bingham.  If what you said earlier is true, it is rather interesting, because I think most people who support the Vietnamese war from the United States point of view would say that the International Control Commission had been biased the other way. That is perhaps in the nature of the situation. {p.365}

I think, also, perhaps for Mr. Morse’s benefit, it might be well for you to make clear, as you did the last time, that you do regret the fact that the North Vietnamese have not applied the Geneva Convention.

At least I know you said that, Dr. Barnet. Do you think it would be highly desirable if they did?

Dr. Barnet.  I think it would be highly desirable if as much information could be had. I think that the human costs of the policy are very regrettable.

Mr. Bingham.  One final point I would like to bring out. In all of the discussions, and indeed in Madame Binh’s statement which I have here, the use of the words “withdrawing troops” are used.

In light of the recent statements, particularly by President Nixon and Secretary Laird, that they seem to contemplate the continuation of air action by the United States, after the withdrawal of ground troops, on an indefinite basis, what is your interpretation of what the words “withdrawing troops” mean?

Dr. Barnet.  I think that withdrawing troops would certainly mean cessation of American bombing operations, and I would think that it would also involve a cessation of American support for South Vietnamese bombing operations in the Indochina area.

I would think certainly it is worth noting that the prisoners who we believe to be in the hands of the Pathet Lao in Laos and in the hands of the NLF in South Vietnam, are apparently not permitted to have any communications on any kind of regular basis, just as the North Vietnamese refused to permit any communications on a regular basis while the bombing was going on in their country. I must say I can understand where a country has been the most heavily bombed country in history, why they would not be very receptive to making concessions over issues of prisoners.

So I think for that reason, too, if we are concerned about prisoners generally in this area which, of course, we must be, we cannot contemplate a policy of continuing bombardment in Indochina.

Mr. Bingham.  I would just like to say in conclusion that I agree with that interpretation. I am very disturbed at statements that indicate that the administration is not contemplating ending American participation in the war. As far as I can see, their statements indicate that they are going to follow a policy that dooms these prisoners to being held indefinitely.

Mrs Weiss.  Right.

[Applause.]

CONTACTS WITH NLF, PATHET LAO?

Mr. Fountain.  Mr. Fulton?

Mr. Fulton.  Has your group ever contacted the National Liberation Front, the Vietcong, the Pathet Lao for information and identification of other American prisoners held either by them or in Cambodia or Laos?

Have you tried to broaden your scope?

Mrs. Weiss.  It has been the policy of the Pathet Lao and the Provisional Revolutionary Government not to provide information on personnel that they may be holding until acts of hostility cease.

Mr. Fulton.  My question was, have you tried to do it, not what their position is. {p.366}

I am glad to have your comments. But have you tried to broaden the scope?

Mrs. Weiss.  Yes; we have asked if they would be interested in providing information, and have been told that while they are most sympathetic with the anguish of the families that as long as bombing and acts of war continue, they are not able. The situation to comply with regard to North Vietnam is completely different they explain, because the bombing has stopped there, or at least theoretically it has stopped, and the communication is available in North Vietnam and they have taken an accounting of the personnel who have been captured, whereas as long as we continue the bombing and the fighting in Laos and in South Vietnam and in Cambodia, we keep making or creating new prisoners each day, so there is no accounting at the moment, and there will be if we cease and leave.

BELIEVES HANOI HAS IDENTIFIED POW’S

Mr. Fulton.  Are you satisfied that the North Vietnamese Government has identified all the U.S. prisoners that they have?

Mrs. Weiss.  I have no reason to believe that they would withhold any information, and I understand that a member of the State Department has told Mr. Barnet the same thing, and he reported that during our previous testimony here.

Mr. Fulton.  Are you the only conduit or source of getting this information, or would it be possible to try to get information through other organizations of a similar nature who are interested in peace?

Why is it that they will only deal through your organization when we talk about the Government of North Vietnam?

Mrs. Weiss.  The North Vietnamese have made it clear that they will deal with the American people, the peace-loving people of America whose motive is to help end the war, and they will be delighted to deal with the U.S. Government as soon as the U.S. Government negotiates a military settlement to the war and concludes the war.

Mr. Fulton.  Why does the North Vietnamese Government limit the U.S. prisoners of war to letters of only six lines?

Why aren’t they more generous with the correspondence? It does not cost them anything.

Mrs. Weiss.  You will have to ask the North Vietnamese authorities that. I think that question relates to an earlier discussion we had with Congressman Findley. They give a little and there is a complaint that it is not enough. If it were 10 lines, you still would complain that it is not enough. You would have to ask them, but even the six lines they allow are not appreciated.

THE TORN ENVELOPE INCIDENT

Mr. Fulton.  When you were here before you spoke about an envelope that had been torn open, and evidently had been delivered to you from a U.S. prisoner of war. Was there any inference in your testimony about it being torn open, that it might have been torn open by someone not authorized, somebody in any U.S. Government agency, the Department of Defense, the State Department, the CIA, or the U.S. Postal Service? {p.367}

Was there any inference in your testimony that it had been tampered with?

Mrs. Weiss.  First, let me just clarify the facts. It was an envelope that was sent to the North Vietnamese in Paris and had been returned to us torn open and empty in that it was refused by the North Vietnamese because it arrived there with the contents removed.

We leave the inference up to the listeners. All we have is the empty envelope.

Mr. Fulton.  When these wives and widows can go directly to the North Vietnam representatives or commission, in Paris, why don’t the North Vietnamese delegation members at least advise these relatives what information they have when they would be dealing directly with the families of those concerned, not with the U.S. Government?

Mrs. Weiss.  The families that have talked with us after visiting the North Vietnamese in Paris, have told us they were cordially received, and they were told that the Vietnamese don’t have the information in Paris, because that is not their duty there, and they must come back and discuss the question with the Committee of Liaison, which they have done, and in those cases, we have followed through on their behalf to find out about their missing relatives.

A CEASE-FIRE IN VIETNAM

Mr. Fulton.  There has been some talk here, Mr. Chairman, of the possibility of cease-fire on both sides. Suppose the fighting would simply just stop, for example, the bombing of the north by the United States or the withdrawal of our troops which our Government is now doing. I recall the tragic Tet incident and North Vietnamese attack where there was an agreed cease-fire for a religious observance of their own by Vietnam people on both sides, a religious observance of Eastern religion, that had nothing to do whatever with the Western culture or religion, or a western power.

This pause was within the purview and to practice the religious beliefs of the Vietnamese people themselves regardless of whether they were north or south.

I do recall that recess and agreement was violated. When there was such a violent and disastrous massive violation, what reason do we have to expect that there would not be another violation if the United States did agree to a cease-fire?

Mrs. Weiss.  There would be no violation, Mr. Chairman, if the presence of the green machine were gone, There could be no violation if American military power left Vietnam.

Mr. Fulton.  Would you have us withdraw all our U.S. troops and then stop the supply of the South Vietnamese Army at the same time that Communist China and the U.S.S.R. were sending full supplies to the North Vietnamese Army?

Should there not be as a specific condition of any cease-fire—a cessation of the delivery of supplies on both sides?

Mrs. Weiss.  As an American citizen, I am concerned with where our taxes and our sons are going and what they are supplying and what they are being asked to do, and I am concerned that we pull out tomorrow morning if not tonight from Vietnam. [Applause.]

(Mr. Zablocki resumed the chair.) {p.368}

Mr. Fulton.  That means taking the men and supplies out?

Mrs. Weiss.  That means dismantling every base and taking out the seven and a half ton bombs, too.

Mr. Fulton.  That means we would leave the South Vietnamese defenseless—

Mrs. Weiss.  I am sure the South Vietnamese could not care how we take care of our problems. I am concerned about what we are doing, and our morality. [Applause.]

Mr. Fulton.  You would not insist that Communist China and the U.S.S.R. likewise stop supplying arms to North Vietnam, the Vietcong and the National Liberation Front, so that the war would then cease? I don’t see how anybody can get the war to cease unless there are conditions preventing the implements of war.

Mrs. Weiss.  Mr. Chairman, as an American citizen, I am concerned about American policy, and I think that is what we are here to talk about.

Mr. Zablocki.  The members will return as soon as they reply to their names on a quorum call.

POW EXECUTIONS IN SOUTH VIETNAM

Dr. Barnet, in your statement you alleged, and that is, your statement of March 31, you alleged that some summary executions of Vietcong prisoners have been common practice. What proof do you have of that statement?

Dr. Barnet.  I have, Mr. Zablocki, included in my written record a long account, eyewitness accounts by returned soldiers involved, and newspaper correspondents and others which were introduced into the Senate by Senator Hatfield, and I have included it in the record, as you requested.

There are however, in this room, Mr. Chairman, a number of individuals who informed me before the hearing that they themselves were “witnesses to torture of South Vietnamese prisoners,” and I would strongly suggest that some of them be invited to testify now—

Mr. Zablocki.  Well, we have other witnesses and questions to ask you. I don’t think we should disrupt the orderly procedure. I hope you would agree. Our questions are for you, not of the general public.

Dr. Barnet.  I am certainly glad to answer them. I can answer them secondhand, having spoken with a number of individuals personally, having read the record of the Winter Soldier Investigation in Detroit and other similar hearings which have been conducted around this country by veterans of this war who have been concerned enough, outraged enough by the conduct of our Government and its South Vietnamese Allies that they have gone into communities to tell the American people the truth about this war and who we are fighting for.

COMPETENCE OF RED CROSS INSPECTIONS

Mr. Zablocki.  The International Red Cross inspections of South Vietnamese POW camps have not resulted in the reports of tortures and inhumanities which you alleged in your March 31 report. In your view, is the INCR guilty of publicity or inefficiency?

Dr. Barnet.  I do not know. I know the testimony of numerous individuals, now in the hundreds, and commonplace reports going back as far as 1963— {p.369}

Mr. Zablocki.  Have you visited a South Vietnamese prisoner of war camp?

Dr. Barnet.  No, as I say it is secondhand information, but there are people in the room who have, and I was sufficiently concerned about reports.

(Interruption from the audience.)

Mr. Zablocki.  The witness will continue.

Dr. Barnet.  I was concerned about the stories of ejection of prisoners from helicopters, about the use of electric generators to extract information in interrogations and other reports by responsible known correspondents, that in 1963 I went to the Department of State and asked for information about it.

At that time, there was the usual denial, as there has been since.

CRITICISM OF MAIL CAMPAIGNS

Mr. Zablocki.  In your statement, of March 31, you were critical of the mail campaigns to Hanoi, calling them “a deceit” because they would not make the other side more willing to release prisoners. Do you at the same time deny that the mail campaigns have had the effect of obtaining somewhat better treatment for American prisoners of war, at least in terms of being able to send mail and packages to and from them?

Dr. Barnet.  I deny that completely, Mr. Chairman. I think the improvement in the relations has been due to our committee and the efforts of people in the peace movement who have tried to show that not all Americans support the brutality which the North Vietnamese see as coming from the United States.

I think that the pattern is very clear, Mr. Chairman, that where people in the United States have reacted decently to initiatives, they have been reciprocated and they have been extended, and that where these initiatives have been used for propaganda purposes as in the release of some of the prisoners who were then used to speak out on alleged inhumanity, that has had an adverse effect on moving the prisoner issue along.

It seems perfectly clear that the North Vietnamese would not have released prisoners they had mistreated. They would not be sending them back to the United States—

Mr. Zablocki.  They released only nine.

Dr. Barnet.  Right, and some of those have participated in campaigns to discredit the North Vietnamese treatment of prisoners, and that has had the support and backing of the Government, and has had a most detrimental effect on the possibilities of early release of the prisoners.

Certainly it has had the effect of stopping early release of, unilateral release of, other prisoners.

REPATRIATION OF NORTH VIETNAMESE POW’S

Mr. Zablocki.  Dr. Barnet, as you know, there are 9,000 North Vietnamese in South Vietnam prisons. Is that your understanding?

Dr. Barnet.  I don’t know the figure.

Mr. Zablocki.  Are you aware that few of the North Vietnamese prisoners are said to want to return to North Vietnam, nor do they want to be repatriated? {p.370}

Dr. Barnet.  I am not aware of that, but I would be very surprised. It does not, I must say, surprise me that that argument is made, because that, as you recall, was made during the Korean War, and had a very unfortunate effect of prolonging the negotiations for ending that war.

So I think the issue of repatriation to country of choice, which was introduced into President Nixon’s peace proposals is very unfortunate and has the effect, because the Vietnamese also read history, of suggesting once again that we are not serious about ending our relationships with South Vietnam, bringing our troops back, and stopping the aggressive activities that are being carried on in that country.

Mr. Zablocki.  In your conversations with representatives of North Vietnam and Hanoi, was the prisoner of war issue, that is, North Vietnamese prisoners who are detained in South Vietnam, ever discussed?

Dr. Barnet.  North Vietnamese prisoners in South Vietnam?

Mr. Zablocki.  Right.

Dr. Barnet.  No.

Mr. Zablocki.  It is not true that the North Vietnamese maintain there are no North Vietnamese in South Vietnam, and no prisoners?

Dr. Barnet.  They have not officially admitted that North Vietnamese troops are in South Vietnam.

Mr. Zablocki.  Do you believe their contention that they do not have prisoners in South Vietnam? Do you personally believe North Vietnam in this regard?

Dr. Barnet.  That they do not have any North Vietnamese prisoners in South Vietnam?

Mr. Zablocki.  Yes.

Dr. Barnet.  I have no reason to believe it.

Mr. Zablocki.  Do you believe North Vietnam? Or do you believe that the North Vietnamese prisoners are indeed in South Vietnam?

Dr. Barnet.  I believe from newspaper reports that there are North Vietnamese troops in South Vietnam in considerable numbers.

But I have no reason to believe—

Mr. Zablocki.  My question was to establish the credibility of the North Vietnamese when they make a statement or present a fact. They maintain there are no North Vietnamese prisoners in South Vietnam. Do you believe them?

Dr. Barnet.  You mean North Vietnamese prisoners in the hands of the South Vietnamese?

No, I don’t believe that. As far as I know, there are some prisoners.

HANOI’S VIEW OF GENEVA CONVENTION

Mr. Zablocki.  What representations, Dr. Barnet, have you made to the North Vietnamese urging that they change their positions regarding their obligations under the Geneva Conventions?

Dr. Barnet.  Excuse me.

Mr. Zablocki.  What representations have you made to the North Vietnamese in urging that they change their position?

Dr. Barnet.  I did not feel it was incumbent upon me to make recommendations. {p.371}

Mr. Zablocki.  Do you think they are fulfilling their obligations under the convention?

Dr. Barnet.  I have said not, but I have explained why they have done it, and I have explained that the consequences of that are not what has been alleged by the Government. That is, I am satisfied by the reports of the visitors, of correspondents, and from what I know of the North Vietnamese themselves that what they say about the treatment of prisoners is probably correct.

As I said, I would have hoped that this issue of the International Red Cross and inspection would not have come up. They have their reasons for taking the position they have, while I neither fully understand nor accept. Since I was not in a position to negotiate with them about anything, I did not feel I could make a representation.

LEVERAGE WITH NORTH VIETNAM

Mr. Zablocki.  Since the North Vietnamese obviously depend on the Committee of Liaison to channel mail to and from the prisoners in a manner advantageous to them, it would seem to give the committee a certain amount of leverage with Hanoi in getting better treatment for prisoners.

How often have you used that leverage to bring relief to our prisoners?

Dr. Barnet.  Mr. Chairman, I don’t think any American has very much leverage with the North Vietnamese on the prisoner issue, whether to get 10 or 20 or 30 letters, when Americans are developing 7-1/2 ton bombs in South Vietnam, when we are consistently using napalm on their people, when we are destroying villages. I think you have to put this in perspective. Sure, I would hope very much that they would be more forthcoming on issues on the prisoners, and I have said that here, and I am sure that they know my attitude on that. But that is not very important to them, given the fact that this country has consistently over 5 years and more carried out a totally destructive policy with the destruction of villages, with the use of napalm. I don’t think we have very much leverage with them. We don’t seem to have very much leverage with our own Government. We have been pointing these things out for 5 or 6 years. We—

Mr. Zablocki.  Doctor, if I may just interject, despite all the conditions you mention, including napalm bombs and other bombing, nevertheless, your committee has been able to have some leverage on the North Vietnamese in obtaining certain correspondence to certain prisoners and allowing families to exchange letters to and from.

Why would you say you have leverage in that instance but no leverage in obtaining better treatment of prisoners in—

Dr. Barnet.  Because the treatment of prisoners, as far as we can tell, is as good as required under the conventions.

Mr. Zablocki.  Why won’t the North Vietnamese permit inspections?

Dr. Barnet.  We have been through that many times, Mr. Chairman.

Mr. Zablocki.  I just can’t understand it.

Dr. Barnet.  The reason is that they are a sovereign government, that they have signed and made a specific reservation under article 85 of the Geneva Conventions, that they regard those who come out {p.372} without provocation to bomb their villages and their people as war criminals, that they have as a result of public pressure and their own, what seems to me, clear humanitarian impulse, chosen not to prosecute those men as war criminals and therefore, but by refusing to prosecute have not waived their rights under the reservation in article 85 to decline international inspection.

CIVILIAN CAPTIVES IN NORTH VIETNAM

Mr. Zablocki.  Are you aware that in the number of prisoners in South Vietnam, or in the prisons in North Vietnam, there are some civilian personnel included?

Therefore, would you agree with Hanoi that they, too, are war criminals? Are you satisfied that every North Vietnamese prisoner— every American in a North Vietnamese prison is a military man, and that there are no civilians?

Dr. Barnet.  No; I am not satisfied with that.

Mr. Zablocki.  Why has North Vietnam failed to advise our country about the status of the civilians? Have you brought this matter up with them? You have just told the subcommittee that you are satisfied that Hanoi holds some U.S. civilians. Did you discuss this status of civilians?

Dr. Barnet.  Mr. Chairman, it was my interest when I went there, and it is my interest now, to get the prisoners back, all of them, military, civilian, whoever is there, and the way to get them back is to end this war. To quibble with them—

Mr. Zablocki.  I am referring to your giving credibility, and apparently agreeing with the position of North Vietnam as to the reservations of the Geneva Conventions that they need not, because they classify their prisoners as war criminals, they need not release the identity even of civilians. If you want a legal answer, which I would be glad to give you, article 4 states that persons who accompany the armed forces without actually being members thereof, such as civilian members, and so on, are to be treated as prisoners of war.

Dr. Barnet.  Now, I do not know under what circumstances the civilians who may be in their hands happen to be there, or the circumstances under their capture. They apparently conclude that they, too, are participants in a war crime.

I believe that one could make a very good argument that this war from its inception is a violation of the principles against aggressive war which were adopted by the United States at Nuremberg, and I think they have a legal case there.

But that is somewhat beside the point. Arguing either publicly or privately about the fine points about the Geneva conventions. I think we have to find a way to get the prisoners back, and back soon, and I am absolutely convinced as many other people who have seen them and talked to them and listened to them in Paris, that we will get the prisoners back, all of them, if we end this war, and if we withdraw American forces and stop the fighting.

INSPECTION OF POW CAMPS

Mr. Zablocki.  Regardless of their position as you have just related it, do you personally believe that North Vietnam should allow impartial inspection of prison camps? {p.373}

Dr. Barnet.  No, I can’t imagine under these circumstances that North Vietnam would do it, or particularly should do it.

Mr. Zablocki.  I am not asking whether North Vietnam will do it. I am asking your personal opinion whether they should.

Dr. Barnet.  You say would you like them to do it?

Mr. Zablocki.  Yes.

Dr. Barnet.  Yes.

Mr. Zablocki.  Do you think they should do it?

Dr. Barnet.  No, “should” is different. “Should” has to do with obligation, I can’t say—

Mr. Zablocki.  You would like them to do it, but you seem to agree with the position that they apparently have some technicality or legality in not permitting inspection. You either have to have one position or the other. Do you think prison camps should be inspected, or should not be?

Dr. Barnet.  My position is clear. I think they have a right to take advantage of the reservations under article 85.

Mr. Zablocki.  Well, even with civilians?

Dr. Barnet.  Even with civilians, and personally I would hope that the maximum amount of communication would be allowed. I said that. But it seems clear to me that the way to get a situation where we don’t need communications is to get the prisoners back.

POSITION ON CLOSING POW CAMPS IN SOUTH VIETNAM

Mr. Zablocki.  In order that I can understand your thinking more clearly, what would be your position if the prison camps in South Vietnam would be closed to inspection? Inspection would not be permitted. And if you knew civilians were in POW camps in South Vietnam, what would be your position, not what you would like to see? Should the camps in South Vietnam be opened to inspection?

Dr. Barnet.  Yes, it should. In the first place, South Vietnam—

Mr. Zablocki.  Why do you have the double standard?

Dr. Barnet.  Because South Vietnam did not sign the reservation, South Vietnam agreed to be bound by the Geneva conventions without the reservations, and therefore under the law they have an obligation.

Mr. Zablocki.  Do you think the VC’s that bomb theaters and civilian places, if they are incarcerated, do you think those camps should also be inspected?

Dr. Barnet.  We are talking about a matter of law. As a matter of law, we have an obligation because we did not specifically disclaim it. The North Vietnamese do not. That is a different legal question. Now if you are talking about my personal preference, I would ask everybody to be inspected.

Mr. Zablocki.  If the South Vienamese {sic: Vietnamese} Government chose to disclaim under the Geneva Convention the obligation to have their prison camps inspected, what would your position be?

Dr. Barnet.  If they were in the same legal positions, as the North Vietnamese they would have, it seems to me, the same legal rights that the North Vietnamese do, and I would make the same argument for them that I have made here with respect to the North Vietnamese.

Mr. Zablocki.  Mr. Findley?

Mr. Findley.  Mr. Chairman, on that same subject, I think it would be a mistake to leave the record as it is because it might carry the im- {p.374} plication that Hanoi has only rejected inspection by the International Red Cross, while Hanoi’s opposition to inspection by another party from outside its own borders goes well beyond its opposition to the International Red Cross.

Other nonwestern nations offered to fulfill this role in North Vietnam and this offer was rejected.

GETTING THE PRISONERS OUT

Mr. Zablocki.  Mr. Bingham?

Mr. Bingham.  Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

I don’t quite understand why we are at this particular point in the discussion. I would phrase some of these sentiments more strongly than these witnesses do about the obligation of the North Vietnamese, but I don’t see that the basic thesis that they are presenting here, which is that we are not going to get these prisoners out until a date is set for withdrawal, is particularly affected one way or the other by their views on the subject of the obligation of the North Vietnamese or the South Vietnamese with regard to the Geneva Convention.

I just have one question at this time. It is a rhetorical one, but I think it is one worth putting in the record.

Is there anything in the Geneva conventions, Dr. Barnet, that would require the North Vietnamese to release American prisoners so long as hostilities continue?

Dr. Barnet.  Nothing, absolutely nothing, but, of course, the customary practice in all wars is to release prisoners at the end of the hostilities. Indeed, the North Vietnamese by releasing the number that they have, have gone beyond their obligations under the treaty.


Statement of
Stewart Meacham,
Peace Secretary, American Friends Service Committee


Mr. Meacham.  I think the Geneva Convention definitely states that prisoners should be released and repatriated after the cessation of hostilities. I think that is the exact language.

Mr. Bingham.  Isn’t this true that with the exception of occasional changes this has been the pattern of warfare as long as anyone can remember?

Dr. Barnet.  That is correct.

Mr. Bingham.  I think it might be well to have in the record again the question of the release of the French prisoners after the negotiations. Would you want to give the facts on that, please?

Mrs. Weiss.  The accords were signed between the French and the Viet Minh on July 1, 1954, and by the first of October all prisoners were freed.

In fact, the majority were released within 6 weeks.

Mr. Bingham.  Thank you. That is all, Mr. Chairman.

WOULD COMMITTEE SERVICE NORTH VIETNAMESE POW’S?

Mr. Zablocki.  Mr. Fulton?

Mr. Fulton.  It brings up the question of transposing so that there might be your kind of relief offered to the North Vietnamese prisoners {p.375} in South Vietnam. Would your organization be willing to provide the same service for North Vietnamese prisoners in South Vietnam by seeing that their mail is carried through without being opened, that there is identification, that there is a word as to their well being, and that their families are contacted?

That is the obverse, the opposite side of the coin we have been speaking about. Would your organization be open to that course of assistance?

Mrs. Weiss.  I am surprised that that should be necessary. The South Vietnamese claim they are functioning under the Geneva Convention and that all those things are things that are happening and are operable.

Mr. Fulton.  Yes, but you and I are the skeptical type.

Mrs. Weiss.  But don’t you trust your ally and the words of your ally?

You see, you are so willing to give us more jobs. I don’t mean to make fun. It is curious that you want us to do more and more and more, and yet everything we have done has been thrown back in the face of the Vietnamese people, and the “thank you” that we get, whether it is for mail, or prisoners we helped to be released, whether it is information, whatever it may be, the results are horrendous.

The flow of information, mail, and release of prisoners, have resulted in killing people, and you want to give us more jobs.

Mr. Fulton.  The one thing that you miss is that on this subcommittee you have been complimented for your work and nobody raised one voice or objection in disagreement on your assisting our U.S. families of servicemen to establish communications with prisoners of war.

Mrs. Weiss.  That is very kind, and we appreciate that, but I am afraid it is not a universal feeling.

COULD COMMITTEE OF LIAISON EXPAND ITS SERVICES?

Mr. Fulton.  I am talking about your reception at this subcommittee hearing. Second, even the chairman has said, to you, “could your services be expanded?”

I have said to you, “Maybe on the obverse, maybe there is not adequate service being given to the North Vietnamese prisoners in South Vietnam.{”} Through your organization, would you be willing to do the reverse, not that you can do it, but would you be willing?

Mrs. Weiss.  If you would give us the authority to see to it that the prisoners of war and political prisoners and suspects who are taken by the thousands and held in tiger cages in South Vietnam would not be tortured to death, I am sure that we would all be willing. [Applause.]

Mr. Zablocki.  Would the gentleman yield?

Mr. Fulton.  If I could make one comment. Some of us are impartially here trying to arrive at a result that is unbiased. We are trying to explore situations that might open up avenues that could be of benefit, and that will work out adverse results that a lot of us had no part in. For example, I was in the minority in 1965 when this course of action happened, and I believe I am still in the minority.

Mrs. Weiss.  Mr. Fulton, I am afraid that as taxpayers we are all responsible. {p.376}

Mr. Fulton.  I must yield to my friend from New York, who has been patiently waiting.

Mr. Bingham.  I thank the gentleman for yielding. I wonder if the gentleman has any information that either the North Vietnamese prisoners in South Vietnam or their families, or their Government are desirous of having the Committee of Liaison undertake such work, because they would be the ones to make the request it seems to me, not the gentleman from Pennsylvania.

Mr. Fulton.  Well, of course, the gentleman from Pennsylvania has an inquiring mind and very few restraints in searching out possible solutions.

It is better that we look into the ramifications and see what might be the best course, so that actually we are here looking ahead to see what might be worked out. It is an indirect compliment to this organization that some of the members of this subcommittee say, “Maybe you could expand your work,” and where there has been considerable criticism on the other side.

LISTED POW’S WHO HAVE NOT WRITTEN

The question comes up on the previous testimony of Mrs. Weiss, when you had said that there were as I recall, four or five or maybe more, U.S. prisoners of war who had been listed by North Vietnam as prisoners of war, and yet who did not want to, and would not write to their families or their friends.

Could you explain that a little more? Could they have been psycho, logically unbalanced, in need of treatment, or were they just discouraged with the whole country, beginning with their families?

Mrs. Weiss.  The fact of my statement, I believe, Mr. Fulton, was that of the 339 confirmed prisoners we have received mail from all but six. We did not state the reason why the six had not written.

Mr. Fulton.  I am asking you what you think it might be.

Mrs. Weiss.  I am not there, and I have not asked them, and I think it would be pointless to speculate. The fact is that all of the others have written and we certainly hope that one day soon we will have mail from the remaining six.

Mr. Fulton.  Whether you have any information that any of our U.S. prisoners of war in Vietnam would rather be released and stay in North Vietnam, is really one of the points of my question. I would ask any one of the three witnesses for your comment.

Mrs. Weiss.  I have no information about that whatsoever. I would hope that we could find a solution so that all of the prisoners of war can come home. The solution is available.

I think we really have to talk about the power of Congress in achieving that solution, and it is a simple one of setting the date, to withdraw all our troops so they can come home where they belong, and then we won’t have to worry about inspection and conditions and all the other matters we have been dealing with today.

Mr. Fulton.  There is a resolution I placed in the last Congress saying that June 30, 1971 the Administration should come before Congress to outline its policy and obtain the approval of Congress.

Would you agree with that resolution? {p.377}

Mrs. Weiss.  I would hope by June 30th they would pull out. I am afraid if they came to you and outlined their policy, they would repeat what the President repeated three times last week, which I gather would be 20 years remaining there.

USE OF TROOPS FOR CIVILIAN OBJECTIVES

Mr. Fulton.  Would you recommend that when the United States is moving the troops out at a slower rate than you would want, or than I have wanted, that we then turn our swords into plowshares and start using the troops that are there to help advance the Vietnam economy and assist development programs in civilian capacities?

Mrs. Weiss.  Why don’t we let the Vietnamese decide who is going to plough the land and build the homes that we have destroyed?

Mr. Fulton.  You would not, while the United States had troops there, move them out of combat and move them into economically beneficial tasks or projects for the benefit of the Vietnamese even after the war is over?

Mrs. Weiss.  I guess uninvited intervention is uninvited intervention, and I would rather be invited.

Mr. Fulton.  You would not want to proceed with the Mekong Dam for irrigation and flood control?

Mrs. Weiss.  It is interesting to talk about rehabilitation. I am afraid it is a luxury we cannot discuss while we are dropping 7-1/2-ton bombs and napalm. I think we have to think about getting out first.

Then let’s go back in, when invited, in civies.

Mr. Fulton.  We are the representatives of the people in the Congress. We are inquiring into the policies. We are not the Commander in Chief. We are not the Secretary of Defense. We are not the Secretary of State. We Congressmen are here, you see, to inquire as to possible alternatives to policy. Let me tell you, these hearings are read, and read carefully, not only here, but all over the world.

CONGRESS CONTROLS PURSE STRINGS

Mrs. Weiss.  Mr. Congressman, I would hope we would not abrogate our responsibilities as controllers of the purse strings and as Members of Congress, that we don’t feel that the President can just lead us around and make his own policy.

I would hope that the Members of Congress in the interest of solving the prisoner of war problem, for which this subcommittee has been in session, would recommend highly to their brothers and sisters in Congress that they set the date for the total withdrawal of troops this year.

Mr. Fulton.  Well, when you brought up the question of funding and financing our U.S. Forces, you well realize that the Department of Defense is already financed, somewhere between $50 billion and $100 billion for a year to 2 years ahead of time.

As that money is already appropriated, Congress has lost control of it. The DOD can go ahead and spend the funds under the executive branch for what they would, or the executive can withhold the money. We Congressmen are the ones who provided funds originally for U.S. defense. But once the funding is appropriated and in the defense estab- {p.378} tablishment budget, then that becomes the executive function to disburse the money.

So that when you say, “Shut off the funds” that really would mean about a 2-year delay before it would have any effect.

Mr. Meacham.  Mr. Fulton, could I comment?

Mr. Fulton.  I would be very glad for you to. I am open minded.

Mr. Meacham.  I have not participated much in this exchange, and I have been interested in sitting here almost as a bystander yet one who is very much involved.

Mr. Fulton.  You looked very intelligent.

Mr. Meacham.  Appearances can be deceiving.

I don’t want to sound captious or critical, or anything of that sort.

Mr. Fulton.  Go ahead. It is a frank discussion. Let’s have it.

NEED TO CONTROL U.S. MILITARY

Mr. Meacham.  I think I would have been much more interested in many of the questions that have been asked of my colleagues here if this were the Foreign Affairs Committee of North Vietnam rather than of the United States. And I would like to say why I feel that way.

It has seemed to me that it is terribly important for the civilian authority of a government to exercise real control over the military. I think this is one of the great issues of the times, that the military is not only in danger of taking over, it just about has taken over. And with our military conducting itself as it is in Vietnam for this committee to be principally concerned not with the search and destroy missions of our military, not with operations Phoenix, not with the organized assassination activities that are carried on as a matter of course, not with the herbicidal obliteration of vast areas of this country, not with the most terrible obliteration bombing that has ever been visited on any country at any time in history, not with the torture of prisoners under interrogation in interrogation centers built by the CIA, manned and staffed by South Vietnamese trainees of the CIA— for this committee not to be concerned about these things is something I cannot understand. I don’t know what this subcommittee has done about these matters.

I get considerable information from the New York Times about our military excuses in Vietnam. I get it from all sorts of sources, and possibly I have neglected the pages or the reports of this committee. Maybe it is all there. But one thing I have not read is that this committee has done anything at all about these actions.

I have sat here today and listened to my colleagues struggling with your probing questions and your nice moral distinctions about the ethical responsibilities of the North Vietnamese. It seems to me that you first have to fulfill your moral responsibility to your own Government before you can assume to exercise moral responsibility over some other government. And I tell you, gentlemen, your failure at this point somewhat disarms those of us who for one reason or another are in a position to perform some small acts of humanitarian service and then to carry that humanitarian service on to its next step and then to its next step. Because we are all smeared with the brush of American militarism, brutality, and destruction in the world today. {p.379}

This is true of everyone of us in this room. We are not sitting divided on this point. You know, we turn to you as our last hope, and instead what we get is a lot of very moralistic questions directed at the conduct of a government to which you have no access and over which you have no control; it seems to me you are guilty of a certain absence of responsibility toward that government to which you do have access and over which you should have a great deal of control.

I don’t take very seriously your statement that you have no power over money appropriated for this war. I just don’t believe it. I think you do have, and I wish you would assert it.

THE CONGRESS AND UNANIMITY

Mr. Fulton.  I recall Mrs. Weiss’ surprise when I brought up the question of whether the North Vietnamese prisoners in South Vietnam could not well use the services of this organization to insure their rights.

She expressed extreme surprise that anybody would bring that up on this committee. When you said that everybody was tarred with the same brush of militarism, I don’t think they are, because there are various degrees of opinion here on this Foreign Affairs Committee, every kind of a different degree of opinion. I must say I strongly support U.S. defense and security of the American people, but am selective as to emphasis, and to insure protection of individual rights. A couple of weeks ago I voted against extension of the draft. So I certainly am not of excessive military inclination.

Under the circumstances, I don’t think you should use broad brush treatment in labeling everybody. The American people are trying to get a peaceful and just solution to this Southeast Asia war. The more I stay in Congress, the more I believe in the good intentions of the wonderful American people as people, and the strength of our democratic form of government.

The U.S. Government does not always do everything I say, and I am sure it does not do everything you say, but this is part of the problem of democracy, of working out successful solutions by debate and decision by the people’s representatives. Unless we are all here trying and discussing without any name calling to arrive at some sort of equitable result and, explore these various facets by probing questions, then there is no use using the methods of democracy. The other solution is just to have somebody at the top say it, order action, and that is it.

This is why I think it is very productive that you come, and that you make your points, because they are in the record. Your recommendations are in the committee record not only for this committee, but only they are in the record they are read worldwide.

So I compliment each one of the three of you for appearing and I would say this to you: I don’t believe even you, among yourselves, have one complete solid agreement on all policies and methods to reach these goals.

Mrs. Weiss.  We are all agreed. We all want to get out of Vietnam right away.

Dr. Barnet.  On the main issue, we are in agreement. {p.380}

Mr. Fulton.  I agree that on the main issues you are agreed, but not on every facet of procedure. I want to ask the professor a question.

Would you pull our troops out at the same time that the U.S.S.R. and Red China were sending in the full complement of military supplies to the North Vietnamese Army?

Dr. Barnet.  I think that, if I may say so, Mr. Fulton, that question is not one that should really be of interest to this subcommittee.

I can give you my personal answer. It would depend on a great many facts. I can give you a long discourse on that, but I—

Mr. Fulton.  You can provide the longer statement for the record, but a short summary would help.

Dr. Barnet.  I think the main point is that we are Americans, we are the major obstacle to peace in Indochina, and the return of these prisoners depends on the conduct of the American Government.

We are in a position to talk about that. You are in a position to exercise important influence on the conduct of that government, and I think that is what we should do.

I think the fine points of negotiation when they take place, will happen. I have great confidence in the skill of American negotiators once they have been given the word that we are really prepared to negotiate an end to this war.

THE SUBCOMMITTEE: A HANOI VISIT?

Mr. Fulton.  Suppose some of us said we would request to go to North Vietnam as members of this subcommittee, which has jurisdiction.

First, do you think North Vietnamese authorities would let us in, and secondly, could your organization get us in?

Mrs. Weiss.  We could save your money and you would not have to go to North Vietnam, because our job is here at home. If we ended the war, and we are convinced we can do it, because 75 percent of the American people want out now, we won’t have to go to North Vietnam.

Mr. Fulton.  I mean we Congressmen who are willing to take the risk to investigate on the spot. Why can’t we go?

Mrs. Weiss.  There is no purpose now to go. We should stay here and work hard so that the war ends and so that the men will be released. Then you might go after the war on a friendly visit.

Mr. Fulton.  We were there before the war.

Mr. Zablocki.  On a friendly visit.

Mr. Fulton.  We were on a study trip to East Asia and Vietnam in 1965.

Mr. Zablocki.  Would the gentleman yield?

Members of this subcommittee were in Hanoi and talked to the people of Vietnam.

Mrs. Weiss.  Next time should you go, give them a date for the withdrawal of troops and I am sure you will be more than welcome.

REQUESTS TESTIMONY FROM VIETNAM VETERANS

Mr. Zablocki.  We have another witness.

Mrs. Weiss.  Mr. Chairman, I wonder, considering the unusual circumstances that we are presented with today, if the men who we have {p.381} sent to fight for our cause in South Vietnam and who during their experiences there had first-hand contact and first-hand information regarding the treatment of prisoners by the South Vietnamese and by the Americans, who are Vietnam veterans and who are sitting here today, if they could not join in this testimony?

I think it would be very helpful toward your finding a solution for the problem for which you are sitting.

Mr. Zablocki.  Time permitting, after the subcommittee hears Mr. Stockstill, we will try to hear them. I have a final question.

Mr. Fulton.  Could we have the veterans present designate a spokesman, maybe two or three?

They would designate a spokesman, whoever it might be, and we will then hear two or three and have statements submitted, with the chairman’s permission.

I have some people waiting, I will be right back.

Mrs. Weiss.  I am sure they can consult with each other. With your assurance that they will be able to testify here today while they are here.

Mr. Zablocki.  The chairman cannot give you any assurance. We won’t be here until midnight, of course, but the representatives that are here may file a statement. We have another witness that is scheduled. At the beginning of this session I had clearly stated that we will try to have an orderly session.

REPLY BY AMBASSADOR SULLIVAN EXAMINED

As you know, Mr. Meacham in your early testimony you had referred to the activity of former Ambassador William Sullivan in Laos. He had figured prominently in your testimony.

Subsequent to your appearance here, the subcommittee took testimony from Ambassador William Sullivan, and Ambassador Sullivan said that the instructions which he received, which he communicated to you were that the prisoners were to have free choice as to whether they would travel back to the United States via commercial aircraft or whether they would travel by military aircraft. He says that the instructions he communicated to you before you went to Hanoi were those which were carried out and that the only modification was that originally if they—the men—chose to travel by commercial aircraft they were to go economy class.

Ambassador William Sullivan advises the subcommittee that he protested that instruction that they go economy class, and he was able to get first-class air passage for them.

Have you a comment?

Mr. Meacham.  I wish you had questioned Ambassador Sullivan and myself side by side. After I had finished my testimony, I encountered Jim Murphy in the back of the room, who is a State Department official. I don’t know whether he is here now or not, and if he is, I would like for him to come forward.

He was in Vientiane at the time and was present the first time that I talked to Ambassador Sullivan at the embassy in Vientiane, and I said to him, “Jim, did I tell it the way it was?” That was after this meeting here.

He was a little bit upset. He said, “Yes, you told it the way you knew it”, but, he said, “the newspaper report that you said you {p.382} received while you were in Hanoi regarding Ambassador Sullivan’s statements about the military planes and so forth for the men to come home,” he said, “this was not an accurate report, but you did not know that.”

And I said, “Well, if it was not accurate, why didn’t Ambassador Sullivan just deny it at the time? That would have straightened the whole thing out and it would not have taken 2 weeks.”

He did not give me any specific reply to that question.

CHARGES OF “TORTURE CHAMBERS”

Mr. Zablocki.  Are there further questions?

Mr. Findley.  Just one, Mr. Chairman. Mr. Meacham, I have the highest respect for the Society of Friends and for the Quakers, and for you, and I am sure that you would not make a statement based on very skimpy evidence or hearsay.

You have made a charge against the Government of the United States that is very grave. I am sure you are aware of that. You have charged that a Government agency has actually financed torture chambers in South Vietnam. I think in fairness to our Government, in fairness to the Society of Friends, that you serve, as well as in fairness to this subcommittee which, believe me, is seeking to get the facts about the treatment of prisoners of war, whether it be in the south or the north, you should be as specific as you possibly can be about those charges so that we can delve further into this matter.

Mr. Meacham.  Yes, sir.

Mr. Findley.  I cannot underscore the importance of this too greatly, because I can’t recall a charge against the Government of the United States that has been made that has had greater gravity.

Mr. Meacham.  Yes, sir. I have reference to the interrogation center that is located in Quang Nghai.

Mr. Findley.  Would you spell that?

Mr. Meacham.  Q-u-a-n-g N-g-h-a-i. That is in I Corps. It is one of the very active combat areas of the northern part of South Vietnam. The CIA financed the interrogation center that is there.

Mr. Findley.  The construction of this?

Mr. Meacham.  The construction and the management and the training of people who carry on the interrogations in that interrogation center.

Mr. Findley.  And has it been operated under the authority of the CIA?

Mr. Meacham.  This is a matter which I hope your committee will now investigate. Whether it is under the authority technically of the CIA, or whether it is under the authority technically of the Saigon Government, or whether there is some shared participation.

Mr. Findley.  But you have charged that it was financed by the CIA.

Mr. Meacham.  Let me tell you sir, if I may finish. What I charged was that it was built by the CIA, and that the people who operate the interrogation activities in there are CIA trained.

That is what I charged.

Mr. Findley.  Is it further your belief that the CIA is informed about the procedures that take place there? {p.383}

EVIDENCE OF INTERROGATION CENTER

Mr. Meacham.  This I don’t know. I have never been able to penetrate the state of CIA intelligence—I am using the term in its technical sense—but in the prison that is located at Quang Nghai, people are, you know, held as prisoners who are taken from time to time to this interrogation center.

They are suspected of being adherents of the National Liberation Front, the PRG, they are taken to this interrogation center and they are questioned there, and doctors who have access to them who have been staff members of the American Friends Service Committee in Quang Nghai—one of them is Marge Perisho. She is a young doctor who was—Nelson at that time. Her name is now Perisho. She was captured at the time of TET and held 45 or 50 days as a prisoner and then was released.

She has testified to seeing the marks on the bodies of women after they had returned from the interrogation center which were described to her by these women as being caused by physical aspects of the interrogations, and as well as she could tell, these were the kinds of marks that such interrogations would have made.

Another American Friends Service Committee staff person named Jill Richards—she happens to be a British woman, she is now in England, she is no longer in Quang Nghai. I would imagine that if this committee wanted to bring her here to testify or send someone to England to talk to her, she would tell her experiences.

Incidentally, Marge Perisho testified before one of the congressional committees at the time of the investigation of the Con Son exposť.

Mr. Findley.  What time frame did this cover, do you know?

Mr. Meacham.  With Jill Richards it was, oh, about 1969, in there. She was a psychiatric social worker, and when she first had access to some of these women in the prison, they were showing the physical manifestations of malaria, shaking and trembling and that sort of thing, and the doctor who was treating them for malaria decided that was not what was wrong with them.

He did not know Vietnamese. He asked Jill Richards to come in and see if she could make any sense of this. He thought maybe it was some kind of psychological illness. She knew Vietnamese. They told her that what was happening to them was that they had been tortured, and that this is what was giving them these manifestations. She, too, observed the markings on their bodies.

Mrs. Marge Nelson, she was there for a time period of the better part of a year prior to the TET.

Dr. Barnet.  Mr. Findley, there are people, I am informed, in this room, who can give “eyewitness testimony” as to the operation of those camps, and I think there is nothing more important for the committee to do than to hear that testimony.

Mr. Findley.  Mr. Meacham, your charge was based upon the information you received about this one camp, or center, is that correct?

Mr. Meacham.  That is the most direct and reliable information that I personally have had. One has seen and heard other things. The whole Con Son story bears this out. One sees and hears other things reported in the press that causes you to feel that this kind of thing happens. {p.384}

The stories of kicking guys out of helicopters so that the next two people you question are going to answer questions, this has been published in the paper as something that happens.

Mr. Findley.  That does not relate to your charge of torture financed by the CIA.

Mr. Meacham.  I said torture under interrogation. I mentioned the CIA in connection with this. In the helicopters, it was questioning and when a guy would not answer, he was kicked out of the helicopter and then the next guy was asked, “Are you going to answer?”

Mrs. Weiss.  On the Dick Cavett show, an admission was made by an American military officer of killing a double agent. He said he did it under the orders of the CIA, and he went on to say there were hundreds of examples.

Mr. Zablocki.  The committee will stand in recess until 4:15 in order to give the members an opportunity to vote.

(Whereupon, a brief recess was taken until 4:15 p.m.)

THE SUBCOMMITTEE RESUMES

(The subcommittee reconvened at 4:15 p.m., Representative Clement J. Zablocki, chairman of the subcommittee, presiding.)

Mr. Zablocki.  The subcommittee will resume the hearing.

The next witness is Mr. Louis Stockstill, of Washington, D.C. As I stated earlier, Mr. Stockstill is a writer and journalist whose article entitled “Inside the Prisons of Hanoi” is appearing in the April issue of the Reader’s Digest. If you would proceed, Mr. Stockstill.


Statement of
Louis Stockstill,
Journalist and Writer


Mr. Stockstill.  Thank you, Mr. Chairman. For about a dozen years I sat here as a newsman at the press table, and I think that was probably a much more comfortable position than I occupy today.

However, since I am a novice at testifying before congressional committees, and for fear that I may forget, I would like, before I begin my prepared statement, to answer, if I may, about three or four questions that were raised here today, or at least try to shed some light on them. My comments will be very brief.

Mr. Barnet was asked again about article 85 of the Geneva Conventions. He said that North Vietnam has not waived its reservations under article 85. As you know, the reservation to this article says in effect that men who are tried as war criminals and convicted are not entitled to the protections of the Geneva Conventions.

Mr. Barnet, however, in his prepared statement before this committee noted, and I quote, “Nevertheless, as a result of considerable worldwide pressure, Ho Chi Minh announced in 1966 that the officials of the Johnson administration were the main criminals and declared that the pilots would not be tried.”

Now, of course, North Vietnam cannot have their reservation to article 85 both ways. They cannot say they will continue their waiver and say that they do not intend to try the men as criminals. As you know, of course, there are statutes of limitations even in civil law, and these {p.385} men have been held 4, 5, 6, and 7 years with this waiver hanging over their head.

Obviously, no one with any kind of reasonable intelligence would expect that that condition should continue forever.

Another question that was asked was about the letters from the prisoners who are held captive in North Vietnam and why these are not delivered to their families. As you may know, since the ICRC inspects these camps, and these men are given the protection of the Geneva Conventions, they are allowed to write to their families. Unfortunately, however, North Vietnam will not accept letters written by these men.

Mrs. Weiss was questioned about a number of things relating to North Vietnamese and VC policy, in which she said that she could not address herself to answers to these questions because she could not speak for the other side. But this morning on the Today show she was asked a similar question and she said that Madame Binh had offered to “immediately release” the prisoners if we will set a withdrawal date.

It would appear to me she chooses to quote the North Vietnamese when it serves her purpose and that she prefers not to quote them when it serves her purpose.

Actually, Madame Binh has said no such thing. She has not said she will immediately release the prisoners. She has said that if we will set a withdrawal date that the Vietcong will then talk about the question of releasing prisoners.

BACKGROUND OF LOUIS STOCKSTILL

But in any event, Madame Binh does not represent the North Vietnamese. She represents the Vietcong.

Now, to pick up my prepared statement, my name is Louis R. Stockstill. I am a freelance writer with offices in the National Press Building at 14th and F Streets NW here in the District of Columbia. In following the prisoner-of-war issue very closely over the past 2 years, I have been constantly amazed by the magnitude of the distortion and misinformation that has been aired in one way or another about this grave problem.

And it is in this context that I should like to address some of the comments made in the prepared statements submitted to you by Mr. Stewart Meacham, Mr. Richard Barnet and Mrs. Cora Weiss. As I read the statements of these three witnesses, I was dumbfounded by their numerous misstatements of fact, and by what I can only characterize in the kindest possible way as their highly oversimplified interpolation of other supposedly factual information.

THE 1968 PRISONER RELEASE

Mr. Meacham, as he told you, was one of those who went to North Vietnam in 1968 to “escort” back to the United States three American servicemen who were released from POW detention camps in Hanoi.

The three men were Major James Low, Major Fred Thompson, and Major Joe Carpenter (then a captain). {p.386}

Mr. Meacham told this subcommittee that Thompson and Carpenter “had been captured less than a year prior to their release.” This is not a false statement, but it most certainly distorts the truth. These two men had been captives less than a year—but much less than a year. In fact, Carpenter had been a prisoner only 5 months and 16 days, and Thompson had been captured less than 4 months before the two were turned over to the Meacham group.

Next, Mr. Meacham said that the third prisoner. Major Low, “had been captured about a year and a half before his release.” But Major Low, too, had been imprisoned only a short time. He was captured December 16, 1967, and released to Mr. Meacham 7 months and 2 days later, on July 18, 1968. He had not been a captive for even half the time Mr. Meacham claims.

Mr. Meacham said the three men displayed “no indication of physical emaciation,” that he was impressed with “how alert they were,” and he comments that they all had said “they rarely needed medical attention.”

Perhaps this would be significant if the men had been held as long as Mr. Meacham implies. But remember that, contrary to his testimony, all three had been prisoners of war for periods ranging from less than 4 months to slightly more than 7 months. It is doubtful that they would be representative of our men who have been confined for periods of 4, 5, 6, and 7 years. Yet this is the impression the public might gain if Mr. Meacham’s testimony should stand, uncorrected.

Mr. Meacham also discussed his conversations with the three former POWs during the period after they were turned over to him and his colleagues and transferred to a Hanoi hotel. He testified that in these conversations, all three men “agreed that the basic conditions of their life in the detention camps * * * were adequate” and that they had “denied” ever being pressured, threatened, or in any way mistreated in connection with their interrogation by DRV authorities.

Well, let’s put ourselves in the shoes of these men. They were, after all, still inside the city of Hanoi. For all they knew, their rooms were bugged, their conversations monitored. Surely most of us would not, at this point in time, have called attention to any mistreatment we had received. We would have been gravely aware, just as these men could not help but be aware, that we were not yet free.

Mr. Meacham says he and his fellow “escorts” asked the three POW’s whether they had been subjected to physical threats or harsh treatment. He does not say where this conversation took place, but he does state that some of the conversations were conducted on the plane trip home, after the group had left Hanoi.

He said Low and Carpenter told of such incidents (that is, physical threats and harsh treatment) “before they had been turned over to the authorities.” He said “Thompson told me no story of any threats or abuse by the villagers” and that “all three agree” that after they were in the hands of the authorities they were “not subjected to further threats.”

DISPUTES STATEMENTS IMPUTED TO POW’s

These statements, attributed to the former POW’s, do not agree with what Major Thompson and Major Carpenter have told me. {p.387}

Both of these men, as well as Major Low, were committed to solitary confinement throughout their imprisonment by North Vietnam.

But even before they reached the prisons of Hanoi, and after they were in the hands of North Vietnamese military forces, Major Carpenter was thrown into a bamboo cage with his feet in stocks and his wrists in old, rusty handcuffs. It was 3 weeks before he was transported to a more formal detention camp in Hanoi, and there he was tossed into a cell that did not even have a bed. He had to sleep on the bare concrete floor. He said his captors constantly sought to humiliate and degraded him, that he was subjected to physical brutality and constant threats of torture.

With regard to Major Thompson, Mr. Meacham said, if you will recall, that the major “told no story of any threats or abuse by the villagers.” The facts Major Thompson has related to me sharply contradict the implications of that statement. Even though he was captured by North Vietnamese military forces, Major Thompson was taken from village to village for a period of 10 days and put on public display so the people, among other things, could throw rocks, sticks and clods of dirt at him. At one point, he was even made to run a mile-long gauntlet, with the local populace lined up on both sides hitting and kicking him. In one village where he was confined in a wooden structure, the crowds tore the door down and tore boards off the walls trying to get to him. The guards protected him to the extent of not allowing him to be mortally injured, but as he says, it appeared that they had strict orders to get him to Hanoi in one piece.

This they did. But once inside the prisons of Hanoi, he was committed to solitary confinement, and he remained in solitary cells until released, sleeping on a concrete slab or wooden planks. He says he was never physically tortured, “when they did beat me, it was never with an instrument, only with their hands.” He says some of the guards “appeared not to care about you one way or another,” but that others “would kick you every time they got near.” He tells about his experience in a dispassionate and understated way. But remember that he, Low and Carpenter, as well as the next three men who were released, had been held for very brief periods: three for approximately 4 months each, two for approximately 5 months each, and one for 7 months. In other words, their experience was not a prolonged one.

WHY THREE POW’S WERE SELECTED FOR RELEASE

When Thompson, Low and Carpenter were brought together at the time of their release, they tried to figure out why they had been selected. They determined, as many others have since determined, that the obvious conclusion was that none of them had been held very long, all were in apparent good health, they were not debilitated or injured, nor had they been subjected to extremes of brutality. And, too, each had been penned up, separately, in a solitary cell, barred from learning all they might otherwise have learned about the general condition of the prison camps or the general condition or treatment of other prisoners.

As Major Thompson says, “We were safe bets to release. People would see us and say, ‘Maybe they do take good care of their prisoners.’” {p.388}

But given this general set of circumstances, it is easy to understand why he and the five others released in 1968 are so reserved in talking about their grueling experience. They know their experience, because it was of relatively short duration, was not typical. That, in fact, it cannot by any stretch of the imagination, be as life defeating as the experience of men who have been confined for long years.

I should mention, briefly, that I have refrained from discussing Major Low’s circumstances only because he is one of the few releases I have not had an opportunity to interview.

QUALITY OF FOOD GIVEN POW’s DISPUTED

And now I would like to comment further on Mr. Meacham’s testimony. He said the releasees told him they had been fed a “thick kind of soup or stew” that they believed “was probably prepared with its nutrient properties rather carefully considered.”

Stew as most Americans know it, and as Webster defines it, is a dish consisting of either fish or meat, and vegetables.

Major Thompson says the “watery” soup was made either from potatoes, squash or pumpkins, depending on which was in season. And, “you could hold the bowl up to the light, and if you saw grease on top you knew that meat had been in it at some time. The only meat I ever saw was pork fat and very little of that.” All of the former POW’s I have talked with confirm this description of Mr. Meacham’s nutritiously thick stew.

In summing up his testimony, Mr. Meacham told you of conclusions he had reached based on his “own firsthand observations, experiences and impressions.” He does not say which are merely impressions and which are firsthand observations.

But he does say this: “The basic conditions of life in North Vietnam detention camps while quite plain and severe are adequate to maintain a state of health and decency.”

I must assume this is an impression, not a firsthand observation, for nowhere in Mr. Meacham’s testimony does he say he has ever been inside a single detention camp. None of the members of these groups has ever come back from North Vietnam, to my knowledge, claiming to have seen—at most—more than a single cell or two in a single POW camp, and then only under controlled conditions. Yet, limited as their information is, they weave it into sweeping generalities.

CLAIMS HARSH TREATMENT OF U.S. POW’S

Mr. Meacham further says this: “Where threatening or harsh treatment has occurred toward captured pilots in North Vietnam it has typically come not at the hands of military or prison authorities but at the time of capture or immediately after capture at the hands of angry villagers.”

This statement is completely false on the basis of statements made by the former prisoners. And perhaps this would be an appropriate point, Mr. Chairman, to make quick reference to my article in the April issue of Reader’s Digest. I understand the article has been the subject of discussion in these hearings. The article paints a grim {p.389} picture of life “Inside the Prisons of Hanoi.” And I think it is important for the committee to be aware of the fact that although the article mentions no specific prisoner by name, the facts are those related to me by the men who have been confined in these prisons. The material relies heavily on in-depth interviews I conducted with these men, and in particular, on interviews with Maj. Joe Carpenter, Maj. Fred Thompson, Col. Norris Overly, Seaman Douglas Hegdahl and Lt. Robert Frishman. These five former captives were confined in three different prison complexes within the city of Hanoi and in addition all of them spent some portion of their confinement in two of the same prisons. They also represent all three of the separate groups of prisoners released by North Vietnam.

If the story is grim, it is because the experience of these men was a grim experience. It is their story. And as ugly as it is, I feel certain that my limited writing talents could never portray it in all of its ugliness. What these men have told me of the misery and demoralization, of the brutality and inhumanity they suffered can never be captured on paper. Yet time and again we find members of the Committee of Liaison sugar-coating this aspect of the overall prisoner issue.

I have given examples cited by Thompson and Carpenter. But I should add that I have conducted extensive interviews with several others, and not one has failed to mention various forms of mistreatment at the hands of military and prison authorities.

CHALLENGES DR. BARNET ON POW TREATMENT

Take the testimony of Richard Barnet. On page 3 of his prepared statement he says: “What is the hard evidence on the issue of treatment? Colonel Norris Overly who was released in February 1968 but made his first public statement on November 18, 1970, stated that peasants in the immediate area of his capture beat him and spat at him over a 4-day period until he was turned over to the military, at which point the mistreatment ceased.”

Both the tenor and implications of this statement are false. And so are the facts.

Let’s look first at the implications. The comment that Colonel Overly waited two and a half years to talk about his experience might leave the impression with the uninformed that it took him a long time to make up his mind what to say. The second implication is that regardless of what he said, even then, he actually suffered very little

Now let’s look at the facts. First, he did not, as Mr. Barnet charges, wait until November 1970 to make his first statement. Nor has he stated, as Mr. Barnet claims, that his mistreatment ceased once he was turned over to the military.

In 1968, a few months after his release, Colonel Overly appeared before the House Armed Services Committee and told about his experience. This was in a closed-door briefing, and therefore not “public,” but it nevertheless put the details of his capture and confinement firmly on record.

Subsequently, in 1969, he traveled throughout the country relating his experience to large groups of POW/MIA families. This, too, might not be considered “public” in Mr. Barnet’s view, but certainly {p.390} it underscores the fact that Colonel Overly was making no effort to withhold his story. (Interestingly, Colonel Overly has told me that throughout 1968, 1969 and most of 1970, no one from the news media ever came to him for an interview.) Mr. Chairman, I talked with Colonel Overly as I was preparing this statement, and he has furnished me with a letter that explains better than I could why the first six men released by Hanoi agreed among themselves to seek no immediate public platform to tell about their experiences.

The letter provides valuable insight as to why this agreement seemed reasonable and proper at that time. I ask that it be included in the record at this point, if the committee has no objection.

Mr. Zablocki.  Without objection, it will be made part of the record at this point.

(The letter referred to follows:)

________________


Department of Defense,
The National War College.
Washington, D.C., April 16, 1971.

Mr. Louis Stockstill,
National Press Building,
Washington, D.C.

Dear Lou: In accordance with your request for a statement to be rend into the Record of the hearings before the Zablocki Subcommittee, I provide the following statement:

It has come to my attention from recent testimony before this committee that I spoke out about the prisoner of war issue for the first time in November of 1970. This is simply not true. In order to explain in its entirety what has taken place within the last three years concerning those who are ex-prisoners of war from Hanoi, I think it is necessary for this committee to understand what has taken place in the public affairs area since February of 1968 when I was released with the first group of three.

Within a few weeks after my release in February of 1968, a meeting was held in Florida with officials of OSD Public Affairs presided by Mr. Daniel Henken, representatives of the Air Force and Navy and the three released prisoners. The topic of discussion was whether or not to hold a press conference and to publicize the conditions in the prisons of Hanoi. It should be clearly understood at this point that every discussion, and every agreement and every policy, if that is the correct word, was based primarily on the concern for the welfare of those men remaining in the prisons of Hanoi. Since the release of prisoners before the end of hostilities represented a new precedent, it was generally agreed that a “wait and see” policy should be utilized. In other words, wait for the other shoe to fall. In the history of all warfare, prisoners had not been released before the end of official hostilities; therefore, the utmost of caution was used in order not to endanger the welfare of those remaining in prison. This agreement was reached after two days of consultation, and with the agreement of the Chief of Naval Operations, Chief of Staff, United States Air Force, and representatives of OSD Public Affairs.

I emphasize the word agreement because it was not a policy, rather an understanding with anticipation of future events. At no time was I ever informed that I could not speak out and at no time in my entire Air Force career have I ever been “muzzled” by the Department of Defense as some critics of the Vietnam War seem to think. Shortly after my release, Martin Luther King was assassinated and the Tet Offensive reached a climax, with both incidences holding the headlines of the national media. As a result, the North Vietnamese did not receive the widespread publicity they sought in our press. Six months later, in August of 1968, three more prisoners were released from Hanoi and similar consultations were held with OSD Public Affairs and the previous agreement of “wait and see” remained. At no time were these three individuals informed that they could not speak out and at no time were they “muzzled.”

Since this agreement of “wait and see” did not produce results, Secretary Laird, of the new Administration, accused the North Vietnamese of across-the- {p.391} board inhumane treatment against our prisoners of war and specifically pointed out that they had only released men who had been in captivity for a short time and in relatively good physical condition and therefore could not be considered representative of the majority of prisoners in Hanoi. This statement was made to the press in May of 1969. Three months later, in August of 1969, the North Vietnamese released the last three prisoners consisting of a Navy lieutenant, a Navy seaman, and an Air Force captain. These officers had been in captivity for a longer period of time than the previous six and their physical condition was further debilitated as a result of the longer captivity. The last three released prisoners were urged to speak out publicly and tell the citizens of the United States what prison life was actually like. This was done because it was becoming increasingly clear that Hanoi was sensitive to their world image and were reactive because of this sensitivity. Since the past agreement of remaining silent was now considered obsolete, the majority of the ex-prisoners started to relate their experiences to interested groups.

In late 1969, it was extremely difficult to get any radio, television, or newspaper personnel interested in the prisoner of war issue. It was not until H. Ross Perot and his abortive attempt to reach Hanoi took place that the media interest intensified as a result of the raid on Son Tay. I emphasize the fact that in late 1969 the press was simply not interested. As a result of recent events and the intensified interest of the communications media, members of OSD Public Affairs, the Individual services, the National League of Families, other organizations, and the majority of the ex-prisoners of war have informed the public of the conditions in the prisons of North Vietnam and to a lesser degree in South Vietnam and Laos.

Now to answer the specific statement before this committee that it was not until 1970 that I spoke out publicly. Shortly after the return of the last three prisoners in 1969, the Air Force put together a briefing team consisting of representatives from Headquarters, United States Air Force and three of the nine released prisoners, including myself as team chief. We visited 17 Air Force locations across the United States, thoroughly briefing the next of kin of prisoners of war and those missing in action. Each of the nine released prisoners received invitations from interested groups to relate their experiences in their local areas. I repeat, at this time the press was not interested. From that time on and as a result of the efforts of H. Ross Perot and a subsequent interest of the press, more and more invitations and demands to hear about the situation developed in each ex-prisoner local area. In some cases, local area publicity was granted by the media, but on a very small scale. Early in 1970, the Secretary of the Air Force Office of Information established a focal point for all requests to hear Air Force ex-prisoners of war and to schedule and coordinate these requests with each individuals career pattern and everyday workload. I participated in this program and in fact helped set up the procedures for coordination and control. At no time before or since have I been told by any official in the Department of Defense what I can say and what I cannot say. I have been left entirely on my own and my own common sense and judgment about the content of my speaking engagements. I participated publicly numerous times prior to November 1970 in talking to interested groups.

In closing, I would like to express my resentment to those who would like to make it appear as if the Defense Department has controlled me and “muzzled” me and suddenly lifted the censorship in November of 1970. This is simply not true. The entire situation was an evolvement from a basic concern for those remaining in Hanoi and possible repercussions from speaking out, to the realization that to speak out was the only way to improve life for those remaining as prisoners. I hope this statement makes it sufficiently clear that this is another attempt on the part of certain anti-war groups, who are uninformed, to distort the truth in furtherance of their beliefs.

Norris M. Overly,
Colonel, United States Air Force.

________________


COLONEL OVERLY’S STORY

Mr. Stockstill.  However, at least two months prior to the date on which Mr. Barnet says Colonel Overly made his first public statement, the Colonel participated in a public symposium on the POW/ {p.392} MIA issue. I was one of the symposium panelists. And this public event, open to the press, took place on September 23, 1970, at the Sheraton-Park Hotel, right here in the District of Columbia.

During the symposium, Colonel Overly related, as he had many times previously, the events of his capture and imprisonment. This committee has heard his testimony and I need not belabor the fact that, contrary to what Mr. Barnet says, Colonel Overly’s mistreatment did not end after he was turned over to the military. The brutality of his wretched confinement by the military, for 29 days in a bamboo cage, on his stomach, bound hand and foot, is not untypical. And, even within the later confines of the Hanoi Hilton, the brutality did not end. On one occasion, for example, a guard coldly clubbed him with a rifle butt because he had committed the outrageous crime of crossing his legs while seated in front of one of the prison officials.

In commenting that Colonel Overly’s mistreatment ended when he was turned over to the military, Mr. Barnet says “Air Force Capt. Joe V. Carpenter confirmed the same sort of experience.” But, as I already have pointed out, Major Carpenter confirms just the opposite.

Obviously, Mr. Barnet does not get his information from the only people who really know the facts—the former POW’s. When he says, as he said before this committee, that “No aspect of the war has been treated with more deception” than the plight of American POW’s, he inadvertently indicts the very deceptions he, himself, has indulged.

CHALLENGES MRS. WEISS’ TESTIMONY

There are equally serious misstatements of fact and erroneous implications in the testimony of Mrs. Cora Weiss, cochairman of the Committee of Liaison.

Early in her prepared statement she says that no amount of pressure, petitions, U.N. speeches, radio spots, ads, letter campaigns, etc., “can bring the prisoners back.”

This comment begs the question and fuzzes up the issue. As members of this committee know, these campaigns were mounted not to “bring the prisoners back,” but to secure for these men the protections of the Geneva Convention.

Mrs. Weiss says “The Geneva Convention calls for the exchange of prisoners at the conclusion of hostilities, not before.”

She has conveniently overlooked article 10 which clearly specifies the mandatory release of seriously sick and injured even though hostilities are still underway. And, again, her commitment fuzzes up the question of adherence to other mandatory provisions of the convention such as neutral inspection of the POW camps. An exchange of prisoners would be most welcome, of course, but if it cannot be effected until hostilities end, then obviously the other provisions of the Geneva Convention assume even greater importance.

It is interesting to note that Mrs. Weiss says the “Administration decided last fall to ‘go public’ with the emotion-packed issue of prisoners.”

Surely she cannot be unaware of the fact that this decision was not made just “last fall,” but took place in May 1969 when it was announced in a detailed and comprehensive press briefing at the Defense {p.393} Department. The announced purpose (there was no secret about it) was to help mobilize world opinion behind efforts to win enforcement of the Geneva Conventions.

MAIL DELIVERY BY COMMITTEE OF LIAISON

And now I would like to turn to Mrs. Weiss’s discussion of the role of the Committee of Liaison as a courier for delivering mail to and from the prisoners. You no doubt noted her admission that it was Hanoi that took the initiative in this matter. She makes clear the fact that David Dellinger (who cochairs the committee) did not open the overtures about the mail, that the North Vietnamese contacted him. In other words, the antiwar leaders did not go to the North Vienamese {sic: Vietnamese} and say “Won’t you help us get mail to and from the prisoners-of-war?” Instead, North Vietnam approached them and said, in effect, “Will you serve as our agents?”

This distinction is important. There may be differences of opinion about the reason, but my own experience makes me highly suspicious that the main purpose of the move was not to improve communications between the prisoners and their families, but rather to help bolster the credibility of the anti-war groups and perhaps assist them in gaining new converts. If this was not the case, why have normal mail channels been ignored? Mrs. Weiss, herself, has testified that prior to the institution of the present procedures, 100 POW’s had been allowed to write and that their families had received letters, She also notes that Hanoi recently has been returning letters sent to the Hanoi post office. Why? What is wrong with the normal mail channels? I checked with Mr. Robert Lewis, vice president of the Red Cross, to find out what the Red Cross experience has been. The fact is, 15,602 letters mailed by POW families through the Red Cross have been delivered in North Vietnam and receipted for by the Hanoi post office. If mail of such magnitude can get into North Vietnam; then obviously it can also get out.

When Mrs. Weiss says the Liaison Committee is looking for alternate safe methods of getting mail from families to prisoners, I submit that she has not looked very hard.

In discussing how the mail is transmitted, she says it is “immediately dispatched” to the family by the Liaison Committee. Yet we all saw the mail in this very committee room which she seemed to be more interested in presenting as an “exhibit” than in getting to the families as rapidly as possible.

Also, she claims the Committee of Liaison has found it difficult to make direct delivery of mail to some families because the State Department refuses to provide addresses for these families. It must be apparent that if the families wanted Mrs. Weiss to have their address, they know how to get in touch with her and the State Department could not prevent them from doing so.

POW FAMILIES AND THE MAIL DELIVERY

Further on in her statement, Mrs. Weiss says the “great majority of POW families feel that COL is rendering a service to them.” {p.394}

If this is so, how does Mrs. Weiss explain the fact that only 1907 letters (as shown by her own chart) were sent through the committee from these families during 1970? The chart points up that in five different months (and as late as last October) less than 50 families elected to use Mrs. Weiss’ post office. Of course, the chart shows quite heavy mail in mid-summer and just prior to Christmas, but the yearly average is pathetic. If each wife and parent of the 339 men on Mrs. Weiss’ list sent one letter per month (their allowance), they would have provided her with more than 2,000 letters in any given 3-month period, contrasted with 1,907 letters for the entire year.

Of course, the families have been forced into a position where they have to rely on Mrs. Weiss, and they know this. It’s either her or nothing. And if any of us had to make that choice, I feel certain most of us would take Mrs. Weiss whether we wanted her or not. That doesn’t mean we would necessarily be happy with the choice.

NUMBER OF LETTERS DELIVERED

And in this connection, I should like to briefly discuss the chart supplied by Mrs. Weiss on the number of letters transmitted from the prisoners themselves. Remember that the policy enunciated by North Vietnam through Mrs. Weiss’ committee authorizes one letter per month from each of the prisoners. But if you will look again at the chart, you will see that only 69 letters were transmitted during January 1970, none during February, none during March, none during July, none during August, none during October, and none during January or February of this year.

The total number of letters from the men, handled by the committee during 1970, was 2,722—which looks rather impressive on the surface. But remember that Mrs. Weiss has said that only 334 men have ever written, which means that the average, per man, per year, during 1970 was eight letters. Or, two letters every 3 months. But even this statistic is illusionary, because the letters frequently arrive in batches for a single addressee. As an example, Mrs. Kevin J. McManus received no mail at all during January, February, or March of 1970, then in April she got four letters. Throughout 1970, she received nine letters and two postcards (five in December).

What I am trying to say is that the one-letter-per-month policy is a myth, not a reality. And, as the committee is well aware, it does not in any event conform to the minimum of two letters and four cards per month as prescribed by the Geneva Convention.

I know that you have not been misled by Mrs. Weiss’ charts, but I think the record should show that if the 339 POW’s on the Weiss list had mailed the prescribed number of communications, their families would have received more than 8,000 letters and more than 16,000 postcards during 1970 alone.

MRS. WEISS’ INSPECTION OF HANOI POW CAMP

Some of Mrs. Weiss’ testimony on other subjects is equally misleading.

She tells, for example, about the visit she made to North Vietnam in December 1969. While there, she says she talked with three POW’s {p.395} and “inspected their camp,” and that she “found beds, six to eight to a room.”

The public and the press might gather from this statement that the prison camp is composed entirely of large rooms full of prisoners who enjoy unlimited access to their fellow captives. This does not, of course, conform to the facts related by all nine of the prisoners set free by Hanoi. Each of these men was confined either in a solitary cell or in isolation from all but a few other prisoners.

But, even more importantly, Mrs. Weiss saw little of the camp she tells you she inspected. In fact, she was permitted to enter only two cells. How do I know? Mrs. Weiss told me so, herself, in the presence of many others, right here on Capitol Hill not long after she returned. She held a meeting with the press in the Caucus Room of the Cannon Building. And at that time I asked her specifically to tell us if she had visited any of the prisoner-of-war camps. Prior to my question she had devoted practically none of her comments to the prisoners or the prisoner-of-war issue, but had, instead, offered a long recital about alleged atrocities she claimed were committed by U.S. troops. In responding to my question she said her group had been permitted to visit one POW facility and that they were allowed to enter two of the “dormitory rooms” there.

I would like to digress for a minute and say that I know something about this particular camp, and that actually in the entire camp there are only two cells such as Mrs. Weiss has described. Actually she saw nine men in all and was allowed to interview only three. She did acknowledge, however, that it was just one prison and that it may very well have been the best prison the North Vietnamese operate, and that she may have seen it under the most favorable conditions.

Personally, I think she was right on all of these counts. But, now, much later, she talks about having “inspected” the camp and she tells us that she “found beds, six to eight to a room.” All of the available evidence I have seen strongly points to the fact that the North Vietnamese open cells to visitors only after the cells have been carefully cleaned and stage-propped and a requisite number of beds installed.

WOMEN SEE SEAMAN HEGDAHL

For example, when three members of Women Strike for Peace (an organization of which Mrs. Weiss says she is a leader) went to Hanoi in September 1967, they were allowed to visit Seaman Douglas Hegdahl. Shortly before the women arrived he was moved into a new cell, a table was brought in, he was given a roommate, and the two men were supplied with materials with which to clean the room. What the women saw, therefore, was, in Seaman Hegdahl’s words, “not representative” or ordinary conditions in the camp.

And I think it is worth noting that while these three representatives of Women Strike for Peace were there, they also were allowed to talk with Seaman Hegdahl in an interrogation room, at which time photographs were taken. After the women returned to the United States, two of these photographs which had been cut apart and then spliced together were printed as a single, doctored photograph in a publication called Memo, the national bulletin of Women Strike for Peace. {p.396}

At the time the photos were taken, Hegdahl was sitting at a table by himself, facing North Vietnamese officials. The doctored photograph shows him facing the three women, in close proximity, to make it appear that all four were seated at the same table.

I cite this example because it is typical of the methods that have been used to falsify information these groups bring back.

Hegdahl was singled out for meetings with such groups on three different occasions. In each instance, he was told not to discuss what went on in the camp, what his living conditions were, or the fact that he had been held in solitary confinement.

Mr. Chairman, shortly after his visit with the three Women’s Strike for Peace representatives, he was removed from his staged cell and put back in solitary.

This evidence of deliberate deceit on the part of the North Vietnamese must surely raise some questions about the validity of what Mrs. Weiss and her group were allowed to see, and what they were allowed to hear from the small number of men with whom they talked.

There are numerous other distortions or misstatements of fact in Mrs. Weiss’s testimony that I should like to comment on, but I have taken a great deal of the committee’s time already, so I will confine the remainder of my remarks to one final observation I feel is perhaps more important than all of the others.

ORIGIN OF “OFFICIAL” POW LIST

On page 12 of her statement, Mrs. Weiss says that by April 6, 1970, the names of 335 prisoners-of-war were known and published here, and that four more were added to the list in November when the DRV released a “final and official” list of 339 names.

I think it is highly important for the subcommittee to understand that this list did not originate in North Vietnam.

Please note that Mr. Weiss says the initial list of names (all but four) “were known and published here.” That phrase has an unusually odd turn. It would have been much more forceful and direct to say: North Vietnam released the names. But of course that is not the case.

However, the truth by now has become so enmeshed in what the public believes is the truth, that it is most difficult to separate the two.

So, let us go back to the time-frame Mrs. Weiss is discussing and examine what actually transpired.

I can document only a part of this, but an important part which I feel will reassure the committee as to the substance of the whole.

The three men who figured in the first disclosure of information about this list were Kenneth Kirkpatrick of the American Friends Service Committee in Seattle, a Harvard professor named Mark Patshne and a University of Montana professor named Egbert Pfeiffer.

They made a trip to Hanoi sometime early in 1970. I do not know the exact date. Nor do I know the exact date they arrived back in the States, although I believe it was sometime in June of that year.

Prior to their return, and while they were still in Southeast Asia (or at least while Mr. Kirkpatrick was still there), but after emerging from North Vietnam, Mr. Kirkpatrick disclosed to the press that he {p.397} and his colleagues had traveled to Hanoi with a substantial number of letters for prisoners-of-war, but that North Vietnam had refused to accept more than half of the letters, asserting that they held no prisoners except those whose names appeared on a list prepared by the Committee of Liaison, and that they would therefore receive mail only for the listed men.

The upshot of this disclosure was that some press accounts declared that Hanoi had released a list of POW’s. And that erroneous impression still persists.

The true facts, however, are clearly spelled out in a page one news story in the New York Times for Thursday, June 26, 1970, after Mr. Kirkpatrick’s return, and after the Committee of Liaison released the list of names. This account underscores the significant fact that the list was not put together by Hanoi but “was compiled by the Committee of Liaison over a period of time from letters sent by prisoners to their families.”

On page 8 of the same issue, the Times published the list of names, furnished to the newspaper by the Committee of Liaison, and headlined the story: “Names of 334 Captives on List Accepted by Hanoi.”

Here the key word is “accepted”. The North Vietnamese did not, from their own official records, or of their own volition, compose a list of American POW’s they hold, they merely “accepted” the Weiss list and claimed—as the Times story points out—that this constituted a list of all the captives.

Subsequently, even this assertion was proved invalid.

First—as Mrs. Weiss told this committee—when four more names were added in November 1970.

DISCREPANCIES IN “OFFICIAL” LIST

And again the following month, when the list reappeared in new guise and was presented to Senators Fulbright and Kennedy. This time it included the 334 names from the original Weiss-list, plus the four added in November, plus 20 the North Vietnamese now say are dead.

Here, too, there were discrepancies. But the most intriguing one— and one that has never been discussed publicly to my knowledge—concerns the fate of Comdr. Kenneth R. Cameron who was captured on May 5, 1967. On the “dead” list presented to the U.S. Senators, Hanoi claims he died (after 3 years, 5 months in captivity) on October 4, 1970. This is a significant date.

If Commander Cameron was alive until October 1970, why did his name not appear on the original list, first publicized in June of that year, and touted by North Vietnam as the complete list?

The reason is obvious: The list was pieced together by the Committee of Liaison from their own unofficial, incomplete and therefore unreliable records, and quickly embraced by the North Vietnamese as a handy means of deceiving the public into believing that Hanoi had fulfilled its obligation to identify the captives.

You will recall that Mrs. Weiss, in commenting on the “dead” list (page 14 of her statement)—and she made the same comment here again today—said that it disclosed the “cause” of the deaths. This is not true. The list gave only the date of death. The “cause” of death is {p.398} not discussed, even though five of the men had been prisoners from 1 to 5 years at the time they are reported to have died.

And as far as the date of death of others on the list is concerned, this too is suspect in many instances. North Vietnam says some of the men died on dates that are earlier than dates on which Hanoi subsequently publicized their capture.

Does this mean North Vietnam inhumanly propagandized men who were dead (making it appear that they were alive)? Or, were they actually alive, after the date North Vietnam now claims they died? Or, are they, perhaps, still alive today? These are grave questions the list raises but does not answer.

Unfortunately, each time the list has reappeared with some new revision, and through some new, quasi-official channel, it has gained some added degree of credibility with the public, so much so that many of our citizens have forgotten (if indeed they ever knew) where the list originated in the first place.

CHARGES DECEPTION ON POW’S

In conclusion, Mr. Chairman, I would like to hark back to the statement I already have quoted by Mr. Barnet, when he told this committee that “No aspect of the war has been treated with more deception” than the plight of American POW’s.

Sadly enough, there have been many, many gross deceptions.

I hope I have been able to demonstrate in some small measure how these deceptions have arisen and from what source. The Committee of Liaison has been as guilty as North Vietnam’s own propaganda machine.

RELATIONSHIP TO LEAGUE OF FAMILIES

Mr. Zablocki.  It is my understanding that you are associated with the League of Families—

Mr. Stockstill.  No, that is not precisely correct, Mr. Chairman. After the league was formed, the ladies, the wives and mothers of the prisoners of war and the men missing in action asked me if I would serve as a press advisor to them.

They knew very little about contacting the press, or holding press conferences or preparing news releases, and I told them I would.

I served in this capacity for several months, but I have since resigned because the ladies now know how these things operate, and they really no longer have any need for my services in that capacity.

Mr. Zablocki.  Were you asked to testify by representatives of the League of Families or the United States Government or other organizations?

Mr. Stockstill.  I was not asked to testify by any representative of the Government, Mr. Chairman. Some members of the League of Families, not the officials of the League of Families, but simply some of the members of the League of Families did suggest that I appear, because they were concerned about Mrs. Weiss’ testimony and about the testimony of Mr. Barnet and Mr. Meacham, and felt the record should not be left to stand as the testimony was presented. {p.399}

FATE OF POW LETTERS SENT TO HANOI POST OFFICE

Mr. Zablocki.  In your statement on page 8, you state that according to information you have received from the Red Cross, 15,000 letters mailed by POW families through the Red Cross have been delivered to North Vietnam and receipted by the Hanoi Post Office. Is there evidence that those letters were delivered?

Mr. Stockstill.  As far as I know, Mr. Chairman, there is absolutely no evidence of any kind that would indicate whether the letters were ever delivered or not. But the point, of course, I was trying to make was that the main channels for getting mail to and from Hanoi were open and available and could be used.

If North Vietnam wanted to see that those 15,000 letters that have arrived in Hanoi were delivered to the prisoners, they could be delivered.

Mr. Zablocki.  Do you have any knowledge whether any of the 15,000 letters were to persons or, I should say, servicemen in prison who are listed on the so-called “Weiss list”?

Mr. Stockstill.  If they were on the “Weiss list”? No, I do not have any information to that effect, Mr. Chairman, but I would feel quite certain that some were, because all of the families, of course, from the beginning have been very concerned about mail, and they use every channel that is available to them. Some of the ladies are here today in the committee room and I suspect there might be some among those who are here who have written through these channels, but I couldn’t say “yes” or “no.”

Mr. Zablocki.  Would it be proper for the committee to assume that only letters processed by or through the Committee of Liaison would be honored and delivered by the North Vietnamese?

Mr. Stockstill.  Again, I can’t answer specifically on that. I would think, however, that it certainly appeared to be the case.

WHY WAS SEAMAN HEGDAHL RELEASED?

Mr. Zablocki.  In your statement on page 10, you describe in some detail the elaborate preparations made by North Vietnamese in arranging meetings between representatives of the Women Strike for Peace and Seaman Douglas Hegdahl. It seems curious to me after making Seaman Hegdahl a part of several “show” situations, the North Vietnamese would automatically release him so he could tell his story and give the lie to their attempts to mislead.

What are your thoughts?

Mr. Stockstill.  It seems strange to me, too, Mr. Chairman, but I think there is one important aspect of this that has not been discussed; at least I have not discussed it.

You may recall that in May 1969, when the Defense Department first released major information about the prisoners of war, they released at that time a great many photographs of men in prison in Hanoi. These were photographs taken for the most part by Communist sources. {p.400}

I think all of them were taken by Communist sources and subsequently purchased in one way or another by American networks, American news magazines, or by foreign journals. These photographs included a number of Seaman Hegdahl and Lt. Frishman, two of the men who were in the last group to be released. The photographs clearly showed that they had suffered a great deal in confinement.

Seaman Hegdahl, for example, who I believe weighed 185 pounds at the time of his capture, looked like a cadaver. As a matter of fact, even though the North Vietnamese subsequently put him on a diet to fatten him up before they sent him home, when he arrived here he weighed only about 135 pounds at the most. So that he was still some 50 pounds below his normal weight.

There has been a great deal of speculation, of course, to the effect that because of the publicity that was given to these two men at the time, that North Vietnam reacted to this by releasing them. But I have no information as to why they selected these two men.

RECREATION FOR POW’S

Mr. Zablocki.  Have you seen some of the films released by Hanoi portraying some of our prisoners of war having recreational periods, playing basketball?

Mr. Stockstill.  I have seen a great many of them, Mr. Chairman. As a matter of fact, I was interested in your comment here during the last hearing when you said, “We see the same men playing basketball over and over again and that they can’t even make the baskets, and that it must be apparent that occasionally one of our men might make a basket in these games.” Yes, I have seen the films.

Mr. Zablocki.  In your interviews did you learn from any of the former POW’s that, indeed, they were given periods of recreation?

Mr. Stockstill.  Not one, sir.

Mr. Zablocki.  Thank you.

Mr. Findley.

Mr. Findley.  Thank you, Mr. Chairman. Mr. Stockstill, have you sought the opportunity to visit POW camps in South Vietnam?

Mr. Stockstill.  No, Mr. Findley, I have not. Not because I would not like to. It is simply because I have not had either the time or the opportunity. And I do not have personal funds to make such a trip.

WITHDRAWAL AND POW RELEASE

Mr. Findley.  I am sure that many Americans, perhaps a majority of them and certainly many of the people here in the hearing room today, believe that once our military forces are totally withdrawn from South Vietnam, that our prisoners will be released promptly. I am sure they hold that belief.

Do you share that confidence?

Mr. Stockstill.  No, I don’t share that confidence, Mr. Findley. Just as the other side is suspicious of us, many of us, I think, are suspicious of them. If a proposal were made to withdraw all troops after a time, at a given time, say, 120 days after North Vietnam has released all of the prisoners, and if North Vietnam agreed to such an arrangement, {p.401} then, of course, I would be in favor of that. But without some kind of guarantee, I certainly would not be inclined to want to believe that they would simply release our men as soon as we withdraw.

If so, why, for example, do Mr. Barnet and others keep harping back to article 85 of the convention which says, in effect, if Mr. Barnet is correct, that they can still try these men as war criminals.

Mr. Findley.  One aspect of this that troubles me is that the North Vietnamese obviously have objectives far beyond the total withdrawal of U.S. forces from South Vietnam. They would want our support of the Saigon Government to cease as well. And if they thought that POW’s were a useful lever in getting our military forces out of South Vietnam, I fear they might also assume it would be a very convenient and effective lever to terminate U.S. aid to Saigon, too.

Is that a fair assumption, do you think?

Mr. Stockstill.  Mr. Findley, I can’t really address many of these questions with the same sort of assurance that the previous witness did, because I really don’t know that much about these matters. However, it would certainly seem to me that, if it is proven to them they can use the prisoners to force us to do certain things now, that there is no reason why they wouldn’t want to keep the prisoners to force us to do other things in the future.

VALUE OF PUBLIC OPINION ON POW’S

Mr. Findley.  As I understand the thrust of your articles that you have written about the POW issue, you feel there is a valuable service to be rendered by public opinion on this issue, that there is the possibility that Hanoi will respond in some degree to the pressure of world opinion; is that a correct assessment?

Mr. Stockstill.  We have seen evidence of it. As Mr. Barnet himself pointed out, in 1966 when North Vietnam announced they were going to try our men as war criminals, there was great public outrage throughout the world and as a result North Vietnam backed down. North Vietnam does, therefore, react to public opinion.

More significantly perhaps as far as the current situation is concerned, since May 1969, when the U.S. Government decided to begin talking publicly about this issue, we have had some substantial, substantial for the families, developments in this area. We have had more mail from the men. We have, as Mrs. Weiss indicated, packages now going to the men.

We have finally had some identification of some of the men, no matter where it came from, at least we had some identification of the men.

So there have been some changes since May 1969 when we first began talking publicly about this issue. And since then the public has been reacting, as you know. Since that time there have been a great many efforts throughout the United States in support of the prisoners of war. Many cities throughout the country have sent delegations to Paris, for example, accompanied by their mayor and including many of their citizens from taxi drivers up to judges. These delegations, I think, have had some effect on public opinion in indicating to North Vietnam that the American people are not happy with the situation regardless of what they feel about the war, and whether {p.402} they are for the war or against the war, whether they want to get out or whether they want to stay, many, many of our people are very, very concerned about the issue of these men who are held captive.

Mr. Findley.  Mr. Stockstill, I for one would like to thank you very much for taking the trouble to prepare this very thorough statement and appearing here today.

Mr. Stockstill.  Thank you, sir.

Mr. Zablocki.  Mr. Bingham?

QUERIES WITNESS’ VIEW OF VIETNAM WAR

Mr. Bingham.  Mr. Stockstill, what is your general view of the war?

Mr. Stockstill.  Well, Mr. Bingham, as I said before, I don’t know that I can express a general view of the war that would be of any more value to you or anyone else than the views you might get from any man in the street. I did say to Mr. Findley a moment ago that I feel that it would be appropriate perhaps for the U.S. Government to suggest that we will withdraw from South Vietnam within 120 days or some given period after they released our prisoners.

I think that statement explains perhaps my view, to some extent, because I certainly am willing to have us get out of the war as quickly as possible. On the other hand, I would be very concerned about us simply withdrawing and leaving the men in the prison camps of North Vietnam and in the jungle camps that are maintained by the Vietcong and the Pathet Lao and Communist forces in Cambodia.

PUBLIC OUTCRY WILL NOT GAIN POW RELEASE

Mr. Bingham.  You indicate you think there is some evidence that the North Vietnamese respond to public opinion with regard to matters concerning the treatment of the prisoners, but do you have any reason to believe that they will release any of the prisoners or substantial numbers of the prisoners as long as the United States continues to be engaged in hostilities in Indochina?

Mr. Stockstill.  No, I really don’t, Mr. Bingham. On the other hand, as I said before, there are, in the Geneva Conventions, mandatory provisions for repatriation of the sick and injured, and article 109 of the convention also prescribes procedures for the repatriation or transfer to some neutral country of those men who have been held for long periods of time and whose health, therefore, is threatened.

As you know, some of our men who are held in the south have now been there—at least one of them has been there going on 8 years, and the first man captured in North Vietnam will begin his eighth year in captivity this August.

HANOI HAS RESPONDED TO WORLD OPINION

Mr. Bingham.  Yes; but as you have very forcefully pointed out, Hanoi has steadfastedly refused to apply the Geneva Convention rules regardless of all the pressure brought to bear and regardless of the United Nations resolution to that effect. Do you have reason to believe they are going to change their policy in that regard? {p.403}

Mr. Stockstill.  The only reason I have, Mr. Bingham, is that, as I say, they have shown some evidence of responding to public opinion. It may be that they might respond, I don’t know—I think all we can do is try, and I think that we must remember one thing. The Geneva Conventions are important not only to Americans that are captured in North Vietnam or who are held in the south, but they are important to the entire world because they are the only guarantee we have of any kind that men in future conflicts will ever be treated humanely and, therefore, if we don’t do something now to see that these conventions are upheld, obviously the sons of other women throughout the world will face the same sort of predicament in future conflicts.

Mr. Bingham.  I agree we should make every effort to see that the Geneva Convention is applied. I think we should also do that to many of those in South Vietnam who have not had the benefit of the Geneva Convention. [Applause.]

Mr. Chairman, I would like to hear from representatives of the veterans, therefore I won’t take any more time at this point.

Mr. Zablocki.  Mr. Fulton.

OTHER POINTS OF REFUTATION CITED BY MR. STOCKSTILL

Mr. Fulton.  You have stated certain allegations in your statement that there are numerous misstatements of fact. However, we could use a simplified interpretation of other supposedly nonfactual information, and with the chairman’s permission would you give an outline of that for the record, please? That is all.

Mr. Stockstill.  Mr. Fulton, if I understand your suggestion, of course I have already done that in my statement. I have given numerous examples of the ways facts have been misquoted or manipulated. I think it would be very difficult for me to go back to the statements now and, in the time available give you that information, or give you further evidence. However, I have marked all of the statements and if you so desire, I will be happy to go back and furnish additional information that I have not covered in my statement.

I only tried to cover certain important points in my statement, so I would not take too much of the subcommittee’s time.

Mr. Fulton.  Maybe our staff can supply the simplification.

Mr. Zablocki.  Of course, Mr. Stockstill can supply the information that you have asked for for the record.

Mr. Stockstill.  Yes; I will be happy to, Mr. Chairman.

(The following information was subsequently submitted for the record:)

________________


It would require considerable space to provide a definitive account of the numerous misstatements of fact contained in the testimony of Mr. Meacham, Mr. Barnet and Mrs. Weiss, but the following examples, in addition to those previously discussed, are representative:

Mr. Barnet (page three of his prepared statement) comments on what he calls “the U.S. government sponsored ‘Have a Heart Hanoi’ public relations campaign.”

This so-called campaign was not, as he states, government-sponsored. It was, in fact, only one feature of an overall campaign called “Rescue Line,” devised by one lone POW-wife, Mrs. James L. Hughes, of Sante Fe, N.M.

On page six of his statement. Mr. Barnet says, “Although the North Vietnamese refuse to be bound by the Geneva Convention they appear to be complying with the communication obligations provided for in that treaty.” {p.404}

The North Vietnamese appear to be doing no such thing. The Geueva Convention (Article 71) requires that POWs shall be allowed to send “not less (emphasis supplied) than two letters and four cards monthly”, and the forms prescribed for letters permit up to 250 words. This contrasts with the one-letter-per-month policy enunciated by North Vietnam (but never fulfilled) on forms which offer the prisoner only six or seven lines for a message.

Furthermore, Article 70 of the Convention requires that each prisoner be allowed to send a capture-card to his family within one week after arrival at a POW camp, informing his relatives of his capture, his address and his state of health (including information as to whether he is sick or has been wounded). North Vietnam has never complied with this most basic of all communications obligations.

Mr. Meacham said (page 8 of his testimony) that the interrogation process in North Vietnamese prisons ... is not accompanied by torture.”

There is, of course, no possible way that Mr. Meacham could possess first-hand knowledge about the extent of interrogation practices unless he had been present during the interrogation of each of the captured men; and he does not claim to have been present during the interrogation of even one prisoner. The Americans released by North Vietnam have, on the other hand, testified to the fact that many of them were tortured and that they know of torture meted out to others still imprisoned.

Mrs. Weiss (page 12 of her statement) says “Hanoi has made it clear that it holds only men who parachuted into or crashed in North Vietnam and that the PRG, Pathet Lao and FUNK (the Cambodian Liberation Front) are holding their own prisoners.”

This statement contradicts the actual language used by North Vietnam in responding to inquiries about prisoners and those believed to be prisoners. The names of several hundred men submitted to North Vietnam have been returned by Hanoi with the notation that the men were “never captured in North Vietnam.” (Emphasis supplied.) Similarly, in listing men who are held as prisoners in North Vietnam (the Kennedy-Fulbright list, for example), Hanoi has said the list constitutes the names of “all of the men captured in North Vietnam.” (Emphasis supplied.) This wording ... captured in, and never captured in ... has appeared repeatedly in numerous quasi-official communications from North Vietnam, and has given rise to speculation that men captured elsewhere (by the V.C., Pathet Lao, etc.) may have been transferred to North Vietnam. In any event. Hanoi has never said, as Mrs. Weiss suggests, that it “holds” only men who have parachuted into or crashed in North Vietnam. There is ample evidence that men and women (including representatives of the news-media as well as military personnel) captured in Laos and Cambodia, have been turned over to North Vietnamese regulars for interrogation and confinement.

________________


WHY HAVE SOME LISTED POW’S NOT WRITTEN?

Mr. Zablocki.  I have one further question, Mr. Stockstill. The information which you have developed for us on the nature of the list is very interesting. Yet it is not clear how the Committee of Liaison could compile a list which would include the names of men who have not written their families, as those who had. Have you any comment?

Mr. Stockstill.  Well, I think it is quite apparent, Mr. Chairman. I don’t know that this is the reason, but I think it is quite apparent that, as Mrs. Weiss said, this list came along in June, sometime. Between December, when her committee was formed, and June is a substantial period of time, and during that period of time I am sure that there were many families throughout the United States who were saying to their local press, “We have not received a letter and yet we know that our husband or our son is a prisoner.”

The reason they know, of course, is because they received this information from some of the men who have been released, so it would have been easy, I think, for Mrs. Weiss to simply add to the list the {p.405} names of any men who had been identified in this way. I don’t know that she did that.

I don’t say she did it. I do say it would have been easy to do.

VIEW ON CONGRESSIONAL RESPONSE TO POW’S

Mr. Zablocki.  As you know, the representatives of the League who testified here on the opening day of the hearings were very critical of the Congress for inaction on the POW issue. I would like to ask you, Mr. Stockstill, do you share that viewpoint and, if not, what have you done to communicate another point of view to wives as others of the American prisoners of war and, if you agree with that, if you share that viewpoint, what can this subcommittee do in the future to alleviate the situation of the POW’s?

Mr. Stockstill.  Mr. Chairman, I have heard you propound that question before, of course, and I always found it very difficulty to try to think of something new that you could do. I think the Congress, in many respects, particularly during the past year, has been very responsive. No one has been more responsive than this subcommittee, of course, because you are the only subcommittee of the Congress which has conducted continuing hearings on this very crucial issue.

But, if you want to know what you could do, I think the only suggestion I have to make is one that has already been made before the committee and yet I think it is still one that has a great deal of validity. There has been a proposal introduced in the Senate, I think perhaps also in the House, to create a joint congressional committee with jurisdiction over this particular issue.

I know that at the time this was first voiced that you expressed the opinion that this committee already was doing all it could in this area.

Now, the one thing I think that makes the difference perhaps is that in the many years that I covered the Congress as a reporter, I found that congressional staffs were always terribly overburdened, that members of the committees are always terribly overburdened and I think it would be very helpful if there was such a committee created, because then there would be a special staff that could devote its time and energy to this specific problem to the exclusion of everything else. And in the past when the Congress has created select committees or joint committees of this nature, they have done very effective work and I think that this idea still has some merit.

RELEASE OF 1,600 NORTH VIETNAMESE POW’S

Mr. Zablocki.  One final question I have and I really expected my colleague, Mr. Findley, to ask this. You undoubtedly have heard of his suggestion, Mr. Stockstill, that arrangements be made to release unilaterally 1,600 North Vietnamese prisoners of war held in South Vietnam, release them to return to North Vietnam, or wherever they desire to go.

What is your view on this proposal?

Mr. Stockstill.  I don’t know the political implications of that, Mr. Chairman, but I certainly view the idea in the same way Mr. Findley does. However, I think it is important for the subcommittee to re- {p.406} member we have already released far greater numbers of prisoners than the North Vietnamese have released.

We have repatriated over 250 North Vietnamese, including about 200 sick and wounded and a very substantial number of North Vietnamese civilians and fishermen.

RELEASE OF CIVILIAN PRISONERS

Mr. Zablocki.  I have noted that some people in the room had smiled or snickered when you stated that the South Vietnamese, I presume, or the allies or the United States, have released fishermen. Of course, they were civilians. To your knowledge, have any civilians who have been captured, not combat troops—I say “civilians”—by North Vietnam or the NLF, and released under any circumstances?

Mr. Stockstill.  Not from North Vietnam, no, Mr. Chairman.

Mr. Zablocki.  Thank you, Mr. Stockstill.

VIEW OF “PROPORTIONAL REPATRIATION” PROPOSAL

Mr. Bingham.  May I ask a question?

Mr. Zablocki.  Yes.

Mr. Bingham.  I thank you.

Mr. Stockstill, I really am interested in your proposal with regard to your statement that you would concur with the idea that the Americans would announce withdrawal to take place after the prisoners have been released. You realize, of course, that what that involves is asking the other side to trust us, while we are not prepared to trust them. And I think earlier—

[Applause.]

Mr. Bingham.  Earlier you indicated that each side was mistrustful of the other. I wanted to ask you if you are familiar with the resolutions submitted by Mr. Leggett and others which call for setting a date and then for proportionate withdrawals of troops?

Mr. Stockstill.  I am familiar with the proposal.

Mr. Bingham.  How do you feel about that proposal?

Mr. Stockstill.  I feel the proposal has some merit.

Mr. Bingham.  Thank you.

Mr. Zablocki.  Thank you, Mr. Stockstill, and on behalf of the subcommittee I want to thank you for appearing before the committee.

Mr. Stockstill.  Thank you, sir.

Mr. Zablocki.  It is the Chair’s understanding the spokesman for the veterans’ group will be Mr. Larry Rottmann, if he will take the stand please.

Identify yourself, Mr. Rottmann by name, your address and your rank while you were in Vietnam and station or location while in the service, length of service, and whatever particular information you desire for the record.


The balance of this hearing is on a separate webpage.

The unscheduled testimony of Larry Rottmann (Vietnam Veterans Against the War), pages 406-423.

  CJHjr


 

Source: Photocopy of the printed hearings (cited below).

By CJHjr: Scanned, converted to text (OCR: FineReader 7.0), formatted (xhtml/css), links, text {in braces}, text beside a green bar (   ), text in yellow boxes, bold-face, bold-italics, highlighting, added paragraphing (for ease of reading) marked with this trailing paragraph symbol: ¶ .

SuWho? SuDoc CIS   DL

This document: April 20 1971 hearing {3207kb.pdf}, pages 353-423, at 353-406, U.S. Congress, House Hearings, American Prisoners of War in Southeast Asia, 1971 (U.S. Congress 92-1, House Committee on Foreign Affairs, Subcommittee on National Security Policy and Scientific Developments, Hearings, March 23, 24, 25, 30, 31, April 1, 6, 20 {vvaw}, 1971, 9+583 pages) {SuDoc: Y 4.F 76/1:P 93/4/971/PT.1, CIS: 71 H381-9, OCLC: 15634210, LCCN: 77612471, WorldCat}. Witness: Larry Rottmann (Vietnam Veterans Against the War), April 20 1971, pages 406-423. Complete hearings (omitting appendixes II and III, pages 479-583).

See also:

The first Phoenix hearings: Vietnam: Policy and Prospects, 1970: Hearings on Civil Operations and Rural Development Support Program (U.S. Congress 91-2, Senate Committee on Foreign Relations, Hearings, February 17, 18, 19, 20, and March 3, 4, 17, 19, 1970, and Appendix, 7+750 pages) {SuDoc: Y 4.F 76/2:V 67/17, CIS: 71 S381-2, OCLC: 119418, LCCN: 76610214, DL, WorldCat}.

The second Phoenix hearings: U.S. Congress, House Hearings: U.S. Congress, House Hearings, U.S. Assistance Programs in Vietnam (U.S. Congress 92-1, House Committee on Government Operations, Subcommittee on Foreign Operations and Government Information, Hearings, July 15 {a.m., p.m.}, 16, 19, 21, and August 2 1971, 4+362 pages) {SuDoc: Y 4.G 74/7:V 67/4, CIS: 72 H401-3, OCLC: 235387, LCCN: 71616178, DL, WorldCat}. Ensuing report: U.S. Assistance Programs in Vietnam (U.S. Congress 92-2, House Report No. 92-1610, House Committee on Government Operations, October 17 1972, 5+107 pages) {SuDoc: [Y 1.1/8:]92-2:H.RP.1610, Serial Set: 12976-6, CIS: 72 H403-19, OCLC: 540690, LCCN: 72603272, WorldCat} {Full text: pages 1-46 2.4mb.pdf, pages 47-97 2.8mb.pdf, pages 99-107 501kb.pdf, omitting page 98 and repeating page 107, instead, at the start}.

The third Phoenix hearings: Nomination of William E. Colby to be Director of Central Intelligence (U.S. Congress 93-1, Senate Armed Services Committee, Hearings, July 2, 20 {a.m., p.m.}, 25, 1973, 3+186 pages) {SuDoc: Y 4.AR 5/3:C 67/3, CIS: 73 S201-27, OCLC: 800312, LCCN: 73603022, DL, WorldCat}. Witnesses: William E. Colby, Robert F. Drinan, Samuel A. Adams, Paul Sakwa, David S. Harrington, Kenneth B. Osborn.

Vietnam Policy Proposals: Hearings on nine proposed items of legislation to end the U.S. war in Vietnam (U.S. Congress 91-2, Senate Committee on Foreign Relations, Hearings, February 3, 4, 5, and March 16, 1970, 5+405 pages) {SuDoc: Y 4.F 76/2:V 67/16, CIS: 71 S381-7, OCLC: 78825, LCCN: 74606991, DL, WorldCat}.

National Veterans Inquiry on U.S. War Crimes in Vietnam (Citizens’ Commission of Inquiry on U.S. War Crimes, Washington D.C., December 1-3 1970), transcript, 117 Congressional Record 4238-4271 (U.S. Congress 92-1, March 1 1971, Permanent Edition (red bound)) {SuDoc: X.92/1:117/PT.4, ISSN: 0883-1947, OCLC: 05058415, LCCN: 12036438, GPOCat, LL: paper, microfiche, DL, WorldCat}. Witnesses: Robert Bowie Johnson Jr., Mike McCusker, Daniel K. Amigone, Greg Motoka, Kenneth Barton Osborn, Norman Kiger, Gail Graham, Steve Noetzel, Edward Murphy, Daniel Alfiero, Louis Paul Font, Robert Master, Peter Norman Martinsen, T. Griffiths Ellison, Ed Melton, Chuck Hamilton, Lee Meyrowitz, Gordon S. Livingston, Greg Turgeon, Richard Altenberger, Bob Connelly, Robert Lifton, Chaim Shatan, Donald Engel, Gary Thamer, Steven Hassett, Kenneth Campbell, Sam Rankin, Phillip Wingenbach, Tod Ensign, Larry Rottmann, Robert Osman.

Winter Soldier Investigation (Vietnam Veterans Against the War Inc., Detroit Michigan, January 31, February 1-2, 1971), transcript, 117 Congressional Record 9947-10055 (U.S. Congress 92-1, April 6 1971, Permanent Edition (red bound)) {SuDoc: X.92/1:117/PT.8, ISSN: 0883-1947, OCLC: 05058415, LCCN: 12036438, GPOCat, LL: paper, microfiche, DL, WorldCat}; 117 Congressional Record E 2825-2936 (U.S. Congress 92-1, April 6-? 1971, Daily Edition (green bound)) {SuDoc: X/A.92/1:117/???-???, ISSN: 0363-7239, LCCN: 80646573, OCLC: 02437919, GPOCat, LL: paper, microfiche, DL, WorldCat}.

Legislative Proposals Relating to the War in Southeast Asia (U.S. Congress 92-1, Senate Committee on Foreign Relations, Hearings, April 20, 21, 22, 28, May 3, 11, 12, 13, 25, 26, 27, 1971, 7+726+12 pages) {SuDoc: Y 4.F 76/2:AS 4/13, CIS: 71 S381-18, OCLC: 198272, LCCN: 79614140, DL, WorldCat}, witness: John Kerry (VVAW: Vietnam Veterans Against the War), Thursday April 22 1971, 11:05am-1:00pm, pages 179-210 {3.1mb.pdf}.

House Ad Hoc Hearing for Vietnam Veterans Against the War (U.S. Congressmen Jonathon Bingham and Paul Findley, presiding, Friday, April 23 1971, Venue: U.S. Congress, House of Representatives), transcript, 117 Congressional Record 13104-13118 (U.S. Congress 92-1, May 3 1971, Permanent Edition (red bound)) {SuDoc: X.92/1:117/PT.10, ISSN: 0883-1947, OCLC: 05058415, LCCN: 12036438, GPOCat, LL: paper, microfiche, DL, WorldCat}. Witnesses: Larry Rottmann, Forest Lindley, Les Johnson, Arthur Egendorf, Kip A. Kypriandes, Phillip Lowley, Vinny Giardina, Michael Paul McCusker, William W. Lemmer, Alex Prim, Robert McLaughlin, Jack Smith, David B. Maize.

Senate Ad Hoc Hearing for Vietnam Veterans Against the War (U.S. Senator George McGovern, presiding, Friday, April 23 1971, Venue: U.S. Congress, Senate, Room G-103 New Senate Office Building), transcript, 117 Congressional Record 15392-15405 (U.S. Congress 92-1, May 17 1971, Permanent Edition (red bound)) {SuDoc: X.92/1:117/PT.12, ISSN: 0883-1947, OCLC: 05058415, LCCN: 12036438, GPOCat, LL: paper, microfiche, DL, WorldCat}. Witnesses: Scott Camil, Vinny Giardina, Melville L. Stephens, Basil Paquet, Joe Nielsen, Dale Granata, Everett Carson, Forrest Lindley Jr., Samuel Miller, David A. Lamenzo, Jon Bjornson, Ken Provan.

Ad Hoc Hearings on Command Responsibility for War Atrocities in Vietnam {copy} (U.S. Congressman Ron Dellums, presiding, April 26, 27, 28, 29, 1971, 9:30 a.m.–12:30 p.m., Venue: U.S. Congress, House of Representatives, Caucus Room, Cannon House Office Building), transcript, The Dellums Committee Hearings on War Crimes in Vietnam: An Inquiry into Command Responsibility in Southeast Asia (New York, Vintage Books, 1972, 13+355 pages) {LCCN: 79039897, ISBN: 0394717678, WorldCat}. Witnesses: Five West Point graduates (Fred Laughlin, Gordon Livingston {Iraq, copy}, Robert B. Johnson, Greg Hayward, Ron Bartek, Michael O'Mera), five former military intelligence special agents and PoW interrogators {to come: omitted from the linked source}, ten former Americal Division members (Gary Battles, Charles David Locke, Terry Mullen, Steve Padoris, Daniel S. Notley, John Beitzel, Guadalupe G. Villarreal, Daniel Barnes, Thomas Cole, William Toffling), overview of air war, pacification, and forced urbanization (John Sack, Kenneth Campbell, Randy Floyd, Elliot L Meyrowitz).

Bertrand Russell Tribunal, “International War Crimes Tribunal” (Stockholm Sweden, May 2-10 1967; Roskilde Denmark, November 20 – December 1 1967).

Tiger Force: “Buried Secrets, Brutal Truths: Tiger Force, an elite fighting unit in Vietnam, left a trail of atrocities in that country that have been concealed from the public for three decades.” (The Blade, Toledo Ohio, October 22 2003, February 15, March 28, April 6, May 2, May 12 2004).

This document is not copyrighted and may be freely copied.

Charles Judson Harwood Jr.

CJHjr

Posted Sept. 26 2004. Updated Feb. 4 2008.

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