Congress. House Foreign Affairs Committee.
American Prisoners of War. Washington, D.C. GPO, 1973.
SuDoc No.: Y4.F76/1:P93/4/973/pt.4
Date(s) of Hearings: May 23, 30, 31, 1973
Congress and Session: 93rd - 1st
African-American Representative Charles Rangel of New York testified before the House Foreign
Affairs Committee on May 31, 1973 to express his concern about some of the characteristics of
returning prisoners of war. He noticed that the majority of those returning were primarily
officers, primarily white, and had been shot down while running bombing missions over North
The front line troops however, who were at greater risk of capture, were largely absent from
the POW's being released back to the United States. Many of these enlisted men were
"...The Defense Department has been concerned only with officers who were shot down while on
bombing missions over North Vietnam and has neglected the fate of those soldiers, mostly foot
soldiers, mostly enlisted men, and to a great extent blacks, who were captured or otherwise
disappeared while involved in ground combat in the south."
While Representative Rangel recognized that many of the prisoners would come from the north,
where most of the POW's were Air Force officers and pilots as opposed to foot soldiers in South
Vietnam, he called on President Nixon and the Department of Defense to investigate the matter.
AMERICAN PRISONERS OF WAR AND MISSING IN ACTION IN SOUTHEAST ASIA, 1973
Thursday, May 31, 1973
House of Representatives,
Committee On Foreign Affairs
The subcommittee met at 2:10 p.m., room 2200 Rayburn House Office Building Hon. Clement
J. Zablocki (chairman of the subcommittee) presiding.
Mr. Zablocki. The subcommittee will please come to order.
We resume this afternoon the third and final day of the subcommittee's hearings on the
question of American POW's and MIA's in Southeast Asia.
As indicated at the outset of this series of hearings, one of the subcommittee's primary
objectives is to determine what is being done on behalf of the more than 1,300 men who
are still listed as missing in action.
Although the Vietnam peace agreement provided specific procedures for the resolution of
the status of those cases, there is ample evidence to indicate that those provisions are
not being complied with.
The primary responsibility on this question, lies with the Department of Defense. We
have, therefore, invited Dr. Roger Shields, Assistant to the Assistant Secretary of
Defense for International Security Affairs and Director, POW/MIA Affairs, to share with
us his insights into this issue.
However, to the extent that the matter involves diplomatic negotiation, the Department
of State is involved as well and we have, therefore, invited Mr. Frank Sieverts, Special
Assistant to the Deputy Secretary of State, to also appear before the subcommittee this
Before hearing those two gentlemen, however, we are pleased to welcome before the
subcommittee our colleague, the Honorable Charles Rangel of New York.
Congressman Rangel has a deep and abiding interest, in one important aspect of the
POW/MIA question. We are anxious to hear his views.
Congressman Rangel, if you will proceed, please.
Together with his New York colleagues Congressman Rangel conducted an ad hoc meeting
on the POW question in New York last weekend.
STATEMENT OF HON. CHARLES B. RANGEL,
A REPRESENTATIVE IN CONGRESS FROM THE STATE OF
Mr. Rangel. Thank you, Mr. Chairman, for the opportunity you have given
me today to come before you and the other distinguished members of this subcommittee to
discuss my deep concern with the failure of our Government to fully account to the American
people for all the men who served our Nation so valiantly during the war in Southeast Asia.
As I have watched the return of American prisoners of war from Vietnam I have been struck
by the fact that the overwhelming majority of these returning prisoners are officers and
that an even greater majority are white.
As a black American I have asked why there have been so few black prisoners in the
returning group. I have been particularly disturbed by the absence of black faces in
the happy scenes of welcome portrayed on the television sets; during the course of the
Vietnam war I was aware of the disproportionate percentage of blacks who were serving
as infantrymen in the front lines of combat in the jungles of Vietnam.
You will recall, I am sure, the protest which arose from the black community over blacks
having to fight and die in disproportionate numbers for a society which refuses to give
them the full respect and opportunity here at home.
From my experience as a combat infantryman in Korea I know that it is the front line
troops, predominantly enlisted men, who are most subject to capture by the enemy. Why
have there been so few blacks and so few enlisted men among the returning prisoners of war!
Figures given to me by the Department of Defense show that the 771 prisoners of war
returned to date, only 194, or 25 percent, were enlisted men.
Given the fact that in Vietnam, as in every other war, enlisted men in the Armed Forces
predominated, especially as ground combat troops, this low percentage of enlisted returnees
I have attempted to obtain statistical information from responsible officials in the
Department of Defense in response to the question I have raised, but the information I
have received does not answer the central question: Where are the ground troops, the
enlisted men, who were captured by the enemy during more than 8 years of involvement by
American ground forces in Vietnam?
The impression I have received from public utterances by Department of Defense officials
and from the difficulty I have encountered in obtaining the information I have sought is
that the Defense Department has been concerned only with officers who were shot down
while on bombing missions over North Vietnam and has neglected the fate of those soldiers,
mostly foot soldiers, mostly enlisted men, and to a great extent blacks, who were captured
or otherwise disappeared while involved in ground combat in the south.
Is the Defense Department prepared to say that the Vietnam war was solely an air war and
that the only American soldiers taken by the enemy were the pilots who flew over the North?
In Korea, ground combat invariably meant the capture of infantryman, most of whom were
enlisted. We had 8 years of ground combat in Vietnam involving more than 2.5 million
American troops and I cannot believe that in this period the enemy was able to capture
only 194 enlisted men.
My experience in Korea and the experience of previous wars indicates to me that the full
story of our prisoners of war and missing in action has not been told. I have repeatedly
called upon the Pentagon to undertake an immediate investigation of the fate of those
soldiers who have not yet been accounted for and who appear to have been forgotten for
the convenience of the U.S. military.
Instead of initiating the investigation I requested, the response of the Defense Department
has been an attempt to write off as quickly as possible the 1,359 soldiers who remain, at
this date, listed as missing in action.
About a month ago, it was rumored that the Defense Department had announced that all of
the missing in action were dead and that an extensive investigation showed that there was
no reason for continued hope that these men might be found alive in some of the remote
areas of Vietnam, Cambodia, or Laos.
It was only an outcry from the thousands of relatives and loved ones of these men that
forced the Defense Department to retreat from this position and to once again state the
possibility that some of these men may remain alive and that, at the very minimum, they
should not be written off as dead without some firm proof of their death.
I understand the Department of Defense has backed off from this posture.
Now we have come full circle and the administration is evidencing its concern over the
fate of the missing in action in its usual cynical manner.
President Nixon now proclaims that we must remain in Southeast Asia through our illegal
and unconstitutional bombing in Cambodia and Laos for the sake of our missing men.
I have called upon the President to go beyond using the MIA's as a cynical excuse for his
bombing policies and to show some real concern for the missing in action by initiating
further negotiation with the North Vietnamese and representatives of the Communist forces
in other areas to obtain further information on the fate of these men. Such a course
will do more to answer the unanswered questions than his manipulation of the emotions of
the American people to justify our continuing warmaking in Southeast Asia.
Even the figures released by the Defense Department on the missing in action do not answer
my central question. These statistics reveal that of the 1,359 men listed as missing in
action, 983 or 72.3 percent are officers and only 376 or 27.7 percent are enlisted men.
These percentages, like those of the prisoners of war, are disproportionately high in favor
of officers, and the discrepancy is even more remarkable in relation to the MIA's than it
is when applied to the POW's.
In my earlier communication with the Department of Defense before those figures were released,
I was told that the MIA figures, being mostly those men captured in the South, would be
predominantly enlisted men. Yet the figures clearly show approximately the same percentage
of officers among the MIA's as were found among the POW's.
After seeing the MIA figures, I can only repeat my demand for an explanation of why the
percentage of enlisted men reported by the Defense Department as prisoners of war and
missing in action is so significantly lower than the percentage of enlisted men captured
or missing in previous wars.
Mr. Chairman. I think it is clear the American people want more than assurance that we
have won "peace with honor" in Southeast Asia. Our involvement for over a decade
in this conflict has been tremendously divisive and has affected this Nation in ways so
profound that I am sure we are still now unable to assess its full impact.
We need to end this involvement not by papering over the questions which remain with patriotic
rhetoric and extravagant wining and dining of the returned prisoners of war, but with an
honest inquiry into the fate of all of the men who served this Nation with honor and
distinction in this unpopular war.
I commend you and this subcommittee for holding these hearings and for assuming congressional
leadership in asking the difficult questions that I believe the Nation wants and deserves to
Mr. Zablocki. Thank you for your statement, Congressman Rangel.
Mr. Rangel. Mr. Chairman, I would like to show you how some of the
information that is being received from the Department of Defense is just incredible to
those of us who have served in combat, regardless of in what crisis. It is claimed that
we have evidence of only three American soldiers killed in captivity.
That is, with over 2 1/2 million soldiers involved in ground combat, the Pentagon is prepared
to say that the enemy killed only three whom they captured.
As I pointed out, when we reach a point that 5,662 blacks were killed in action, how can I
go back to my district and say that only 16 were prisoners of war?
Mr. Zablocki. We will attempt, as we have in the past, to obtain the
answers to the question that you posed. But it would be helpful if you would supply some
data for the subcommittee.
On page 2 of your statement, you say "About a month ago the Defense Department
announced that all of the missing in action were dead and that an extensive investigation
showed that there was no reason for continuing to hope." Do you have that announcement
of the Defense Department?
Mr. Rangel. We have the announcement that they had changed the previous
decision, that is, that MIA's would not be listed as killed in action. However, as a
result of the hearings that we held in New York, many of the witnesses there testified
– and some that were there have indicated – and some that are here today in
front of your committee have indicated that while their loved ones and members of the family
had heretofore been listed as missing in action, that status has been changed to
presumptively killed in action without any additional evidence being submitted to the family.
Mr. Zablocki. In your statement you said there was a Defense Department
announcement in this connection. Could that have been the announcement by Dr. Shields that
was quoted in the Associated Press story of April 13, 1973, to the effect that they had no
further evidence indicating that there are any more U.S. prisoners still alive?
Mr. Rangel. Mr. Chairman, the stenographer would indicate that I changed
the wording of that to indicate that this had been rumored, but I still stuck to the written
statement as to the report that the Department of Defense has changed that. But I did make
a change as I went through the testimony because I had no evidence to substantiate that the
initial declaration had been made even though my office does have information to indicate
that the decision was to hold out longer before —
Mr. Zablocki. We are deeply interested if there was any evidence of such
a statement and we want it for the record.
Mr. Rangel. I will provide to this committee the evidence to show that the
MIA's would be converted to KIA's, that there was a change in policy, that even today they
are converting MIA's to KIA's without any additional evidence.
[The material referred to follows:]
[From the Washington Post, May 21, 1973]
U.S. Is Ruling 200 MIAs Dead
(By Kenneth J. Braddick)
San Francisco, May 20 (UPI) – The Pentagon, working with what it says is new intelligence,
is reclassifying as killed up to 200 American servicemen listed as missing in Vietnam.
A top Defense Department official disclosed the major review of the missing in action rolls at
a private meeting with representatives of the families of missing men at Oakland, Calif., last
week, according to women at the meeting.
Brig. Gen. Russel G. Ogan, director of prisoner of war and missing in action affairs at the
Pentagon, is quoted as saying that about 50 men previously listed as missing have been
reclassified as killed since April 10.
Another 150 cases are "pending" and the files of other men will be reviewed, the
general is reported to have told the meeting with members of the National League of Families.
When the Vietnam cease-fire was signed in Paris last Jan. 27, 1,363 Americans were listed as
missing in action in the two Vietnams, and neighboring Cambodia and Laos.
On orders of President Nixon, a joint casualties resolution center has been set up in Thailand
to hunt out any possible traces of missing men and clarify their status. An American team has
been in North Vietnam twice to inspect the grave sites of 23 men the Communists said died in
Kathlyn Seuell, the wife of Air Force Capt. John Seuell, said in Tucson, Ariz., that she had
been told by a Pentagon official she declined to identify that the military did not expect to
get into North Vietnam to search for missing men. Her husband was shot down in an area the
United States now has access to, she said, and "there's no excuse for their not finding
the wreckage and learning what happened."
"It's obvious that they're going to change the men's status a few at a time," Mrs.
Seuell said. "They won't declare 1,200 men – some of whom may still be alive
– to be killed in action in one day."
Sam Dunlap, whose son, William, has been on the MIA list for four years, said he and other
families have been told by Pentagon officials that all men listed as missing in action will
be changed to killed in action within a year.
A Defense Department spokesman said the approximately 50 changes for missing to killed was a
result of information that had been gathered since U.S. military involvement came to an end
"We have access to information sources that we did not have before," the spokesman
said. "Prisoners of war provided information that we were not able to get before."
Because fighting is still going on in Laos, Cambodia and some parts of Vietnam, he said,
"There are areas we simply haven't got access to. We hope to get in there."
[From the New York Times, May 22, 1973]
The Missing in Indochina: No Evidence Any Live
Bangkok, Thailand, May 21 (AP) – There is no indication that any Americans listed as
missing in action in Southeast Asia are still alive, the general in charge of locating them
The Pentagon has listed 1,300 Americans as missing in action and has declared 1,100 others
dead, although their remains have not been recovered.
Brig. Gen. Robert C. Kingston, who heads the Joint Casualty Resolution Center, a 175-man unit
charged with locating crash sites and graves and recovering the remains of Americans lost in
Indochina, said his men had inspected three crash sites in South Vietnam, but he refused to
disclose whether any remains had been found. Reliable sources said, however, that none were
The information about findings at crash sites would be communicated through regular military
channels to the next of kin of the men involved, General Kingston said. He explained that
relatives of men lost in air crashes often knew where their planes went down through
correspondence with other men in the units.
If details are revealed prematurely, this would "get the next of kin very anxious,"
he said. "We are not going to announce whether we found remains or not."
General Kingston said that the North Vietnamese had been "extremely cooperative."
He said he expected the United States would get approval to carry out operations in
Vietcong-held territory, although the Provisional Revolutionary Government had not yet
Mr. Zablocki. We will pursue that of course.
One page 1, would you please amplify on your statement regarding the impression that you
have received from public utterances by Department of Defense officials and about the
difficulty you have encountered in obtaining the information you have sought. Your
statement charges that the Defense Department has been concerned only with white officers
who were shot down while on bombing missions over North Vietnam and has neglected the fate
of most of the foot soldiers, and to a great extent blacks, who were captured or otherwise
disappeared while involved in ground combat in the South.
Would you please amplify and could you supply some defense.
Mr. Rangel. Yes; I can do that.
Mr. Zablocki. That is a serious statement, you know, and we would like to
have it substantiated.
Mr. Rangel. I will. Again the record would indicate as I gave my statement
that I omitted "white," not that it is really that important, but I really did not
want to have the Chair disturbed over color rather than the fact that we were dealing with
American fighting men.
The truth of the matter is that the statement did come from Dr. Roger Shields, whom I
understand will be testifying before this committee today, that the type of war in which
we were engaged in Southeast Asia allowed only for the prisoners to be taken in the North
– those people who were a part of the U.S. Air Force – and so that way any
ground troops were confined to combat in the South.
So looking over the list of the prisoners of war, were we find that 75 percent of those who
have returned were Air Force personnel, one reaches a conclusion that this was what we were
negotiating for in winding down the war. Basically, we received U.S. officers involved in
bombing raids rather than having the negotiations involve the ground prisoners of war. The
statistics are just jolting as they show the large discrepancy which is involved in who came
home and who went over there.
We have figures to show, and these come from the Department of Defense, that 41,003 enlisted
men were killed in action in Southeast Asia during the 8-year involvement. Only 4,955
officers were killed in action, which brings the total to close to 46,000.
Yet, we find when we are dealing with prisoners of war – that is, those who were not
killed and those who are not missing – we find it is entirely reversed, and only Air
Force officers or 75 percent of the prisoners of war are officers.
So mustn't you join with me in concluding that, where we find 90 percent of our killed in
action, enlisted men, and 75 percent of our prisoners of war, Air Force officers, obviously
there is a large group unaccounted for?
Mr. Zablocki. I must agree with you that there is a large number
unaccounted for, and that is the purpose of having these hearings. I would like to ask
one final question.
In testimony received from returnees, and we have had officers as well as an enlisted man,
they expressed the view that there are no missing in action or prisoners of war in Southeast
Asia at this time that they believe are alive. They hold little hope that we will have any
Their views are based on their own personal experience; on how they were treated and others
were treated while they were captured.
What is your particular view of that possibility?
Mr. Rangel. You certainly can't get any better expertise on this subject
matter than those members of the Armed Forces who were actually engaged in combat in Southeast
Asia. There is very little doubt in my mind that we may not have any more prisoners of war,
at least in South Vietnam.
Mr. Zablocki. May I add that I did not ask the question because I am
pessimistic, or that we shall flag in our efforts to try to see that we will have a full
accounting of our MIA's.
Mr. Rangel. But my problem, Mr. Chairman, is, if in fact we must reach
that conclusion, then certainly the American people and this Congress must have some evidence
on which this conclusion was based. Because if we find that 46,000 men were killed in action
– and no one is disputing that – and such a small handful of people were actually
captured by the enemy, then it means this enemy did not take prisoners and did in fact kill
those people who wanted to surrender. If in fact they did take prisoners, they killed them
I think that the American people should know exactly the nature of the enemy we were dealing
with before they are asked to invest the money in rebuilding the nation of the so-called enemy.
Mr. Zablocki. I totally agree with you. I agree we must not spend 1 dime
in rehabilitating the enemy's country or to repair the damage without having a full accounting
of our MIA's to our satisfaction.
Mr. Rangel. What really bothers me, Mr. Chairman, is how people representing
the United States of America can sit down at a negotiating table with the so-called enemy and
accept the facts as they relate to missing in action and prisoners of war, statistics which
they give, and then come back and report to the American people that there are no more
prisoners of war and that we have a very little hope for the missing in action.
This should be based on an investigation and evidence that has been found by our country
before we can actually give this type of information to those that still have some little hope.
Mr. Zablocki. Thank you, Mr. Rangel.