Testimony of Michael D. Benge
before the House International Relations Committee
Chaired by the Honorable Benjamin A. Gilman,
November 4, 1999.
My name is Michael D. Benge. While serving as a civilian Economic Development Officer in the Central Highlands of South Viet Nam, I was captured by the North Vietnamese during the Tet Offensive on January 28, 1968. I was held in numerous camps in South Viet Nam, Cambodia, Laos and North Viet Nam. I was a POW for over five years, and spent 27 months in solitary confinement, one year in a "black box," and one year in a cage in Cambodia. I served for almost 11 years in Viet Nam. I was released during Operation Homecoming in 1973. I am a Board Member of the National Alliance of Families for the Return of America's Missing Servicemen. And, I am a POW/MIA activist; that is, I am one who is actively seeking the truth regarding the fate of our Prisoners of War and Missing in Action.
I was not tortured by the Cubans, nor was I part of the "Cuban Program." There were 19 American POWs that I know of who were tortured by the Cubans in Hanoi during the Vietnam War. These brave men include Colonel Jack Bomar and Captain Ray Vohden, who will testify, and also Commander Al Carpenter, who is with us today. They named their torturers "Fidel," "Chico" and "Pancho." The torture took place in a POW camp called the Zoo, and the Vietnamese camp commander was a man they called the "Lump." He was called that because of the presence of a rather large fatty tumor in the middle of his forehead.
No, I was not tortured by Cubans in Vietnam, but I was interrogated by the "Lump," and a person who appeared to be a Latino and who spoke a few words of Spanish to the "Lump" during my interrogation in the early part of 1970. Upon my return to the U.S., I was shown a picture taken in Cuba of the "Lump," who was with an American anti-war group. Yes, it was the same person who had interrogated me in 1970. I was told by a Congressional Investigator that he was the man who was in charge of funneling Soviet KGB money to American anti-war groups and activists, such as Jane Fonda. After researching my paper, this made more sense, for who would be better suited to liaison with the Cubans. This was my first piece of the puzzle.
I decided to research the "Cuban Program" after repeated claims by the Administration, Senators John McCain and John Kerry, Ambassador Pete Peterson, and members of the Department of Defense (DOD) that the Vietnamese Government was "cooperating fully" in resolving the POW/MIA issue. This is far from the truth.
If the Vietnamese communists were fully cooperating as purported, they would have told us the true fate of the 173 U.S. servicemen who were last known to be alive and in the hands of the North Vietnamese communists. They would have helped us resolve the fate of over 600 American servicemen who were lost in Laos, of which over 80% were lost in areas under the total control of the North Vietnamese. If the Vietnamese were fully cooperating, we would not be here today, for they would have revealed the names of the Cubans "Fidel," "Chico" and "Pancho," who were responsible for the torture of 19 American POWs; beating one so severly that it resulted in his death.
Upon their return to the U.S., the POWs in the "Cuban Program" were told by our government not to tell of their torture by the Cubans, but they resisted, as they had in the "Cuban Program, and some broke the silence. Regardless, the "Cuban Program" was swept under the rug by the U.S. Government.
Thus, I chose to research the "Cuba Program"--one segment of the POW/MIA issue--to prove my point that the Vietnamese communists were not fully cooperating as purported. I first produced a draft paper in 1996 for presentation at the annual meeting of the National Alliance of Families.
Commander Chip Beck, who at that time was with the Department of Defense POW/Missing Personnel Office (DPMO), became interested in my research, and tried to find out what DPMO knew. He was basically told by DPMO to back off. Congressman Bob Dornan also became interested. He held hearings, and requested that DPMO provide them with their analysis of the Cuban Program. A compilation was presented, and Mr. Robert Destatte from DPMO testified as to his and DPMO's analysis. Commander Beck also testified; after which, he was told by DPMO that his services were no longer needed.
With the release of DPMO's compilation and analysis, and the declassification of additional documents related to Cuba's involvement in Vietnam, I reassessed this information. In the DPMO compilation, there were memoranda stating that the CIA had identified Cuban military attaches Eduardo Morjon Esteves and Luis Perez Jaen with backgrounds that seemed to correspond with information on "Fidel" and "Chico" provided by returned POWs. Reportedly, Esteves served under diplomatic cover as a brigadier general at the United Naions in New York during 1977-78. Documents indicate that the FBI and DIA were "tasked" to ID these people; however, neither the CIA, the DIA, nor the FBI could produce a decent picture for identification by the returned POWs. It makes one wonder as to their level of effort.
Nonetheless, just from my reading the documents in the DPMO compilation, I found the profile of a man that that seemed to match almost perfectly the POWs' description of the Cuban called "Chico." However, this profile also partially fit the POWs' characterization of "Fidel." The profile was that of Major Fernando Vecino Alegret.
On August 22, 1999, the Miami Herald published an article on the "Cuban Program" based partially on my report. However, the reporter got it wrong and said that I believed Raul Valdes Vivo, the DGI agent attached to COSVN (ref. my submitted report), might be "Fidel." Independent of my report, a Cuban exile in the Miami area identified Fernando Vecino Alegret as "Fidel," based on information emanating from contacts within the exile community and Cuba. He also produced a picture of Alegret that was subsequentially identified by Col. Hubbard, who said he was 99% sure he was "Fidel." Alegret is now Cuba's Minister of Education, and Fidel Castro has issued a denial that Alegret was ever in Vietnam. However, DIA documentation in DPMO's compilation proves otherwise.
In Mr. Destatte's testimony, he claims he "was never responsible for any investigations or analysis related to the "Cuban Program." "Responsible" is the key word here that Mr. Destatte parses.
The Administration and the Department of Defense POW/Missing Personnel Office (DPMO) has mastered the art of obfuscation. I grew up on a farm in the West, and I used to try to catch greased pigs at the county fair, and I can assure you that trying to pin down DPMO to truthful facts is sometims much more difficult than trying to catch a greased pig.
Mr. Chuck Towbridge of DPMO is also implicated as participating in the investigation and analysis; however, it has never been revealed who was in fact in charge. One would hope that someone at DPMO is in charge.
Mr. Destatte testified to DPMO's conclusions and that the "Cuban Program" was nothing more than a program "to provide instruction in basic English to PAVN [North Vietnamese Army] personnel working with American prisoners."
I have taught English to Vietnamese, and have been tortured by the Vietnamese, and I can tell the difference between the two. One might conclude from Mr. Destatte's testimony that neither he nor Mr. Towbridge know the difference. I can also read English and understand what I read. One might also conclude that they may have a problem here too. Perhaps they should have taken basic English instruction from the Cubans.
Mr. Destatte also had the audacity to testify that the Vietnamese high-command was unaware that the Cubans were torturing American POWs, and it was stopped once they found out. However, it is crystal clear from the POW debriefings, as well as the Air Force Intelligence Analysis, that the "Cuban Program" was sanctioned by the Vietnamese. This then leads one to ask, "How did Mr. Destatte reach his conclusion?"
Mr. Destatte reached his conclusion by asking North Vietnamese communist Colonel Pham Teo, who told Destatte he was in South Viet Nam in 1967-68 and knew nothing of the "Cuban Program." However, he had heard rumors that it was an English language instruction program that had "gone awry." Mr. Destatte testified that the Vietnamese explanation "is...fully consistent with what we know about the conduct of the Cubans in question."
Evidently, Destatte chose to believe a Vietnamese communist colonel over American POWs who had been brutally tortured in the "Cuban Program" and had clearly stated in their debriefings that the Vietnamese were well aware of and participated in their torture. Destatte choses to believe a member of a draconian regime, which had systematically murdered 70-80,000 political prisoners after they took over power in Vietnam in 1975, and who had broken every agreement ever made with the U.S. and South Vietnamese governments.
What bewilders me, as it should you, is that Destatte's superiors at DPMO had the audacity to let him testify before Congress to this foolishness. This exemplifies the quality of DPMO's investigation and analysis of the "Cuban Program."
I am neither a trained investigator nor an analyst, but I do know how to research. And I have concluded that at best, DPMO's investigation and analysis of the "Cuban Program" was not up to professional standards, and DPMO's conclusions are shameful! However, they did a great job of obfuscating the issue.
Since the "Cuban Program" was sanctioned by the Vietnamese, what then was the diving force behind it?" According to POW debriefings, supported by CIA and other reports, the "Cuba Program" was part of a Hanoi medical university's "psychological study." It was conducted to obtain full compliance from the American POWs, and to force them to make propaganda statements against the American government and the war in Vietnam. The real reason for the termination of the "Cuban Program" was so "Fidel," "Chico" and "Pancho" could return to Cuba as planned in time to prepare a presentation for the October 18-21, 1968, communist internationale Second Symposium Against Yankee Gonocide In Vietnam. This symposium in Cuba was a continuum of the Bertrand Russel War Crimes Tribunal kangaroo court and dog-and-pony show held in Denmark the previous year.
My paper is based partially on what DPMO gave to Congressman Dornan's Committee, as well as on documents obtained from the DIA and the CIA through the Freedom of Information Act, and it is throughly referenced. I would like to submit a copy of it and the referenced material to the Committee at this time for the record.
However, I have just scratched the surface, but I found enough documents to indicate that there should be a plethora of others related to the Cuban involvement in Vietnam if they are ever declassified as two U.S. Presidents have decreed. I also recommend that this matter be thoroughly investigated by professional investigators, not DPMO analysts.
Besides evidence contrary to DPMO's stated position on the "Cuban Program," the documents I examined reveal:
the possibility that a number of American POWs from the Vietnam War had been held in Los Maristas, a secret Cuban prison run by Castro's G-2 intelligence service. The Cuban who claims to have seen them later escaped and made it to the United States, and was reportedly debriefed by the FBI;
a Cuban Official had offered the State Department to ransom some American POWs from Vietnam, but there was no follow up;
that Cubans, along with Russians, guarded a number of American POWs in Laos;
the Cubans photographed a number of American POWs in Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia;
that besides the "Cuban Program," the Cubans were very heavily involved in Vietnam. They had several thousand "engineers" in Vietnam constructing, repairing and guarding the Ho Chi Minh Trail where a large number of Americans disappeared; the possibility that American POWs were "treated" in Cuban hospitals in Hanoi;
the Cubans had a permenant DGI agent assigned to the COSVN headquarters in Cambodia, the North Vietnamese command center directing the war in South Vietnam. This is a fact not found in the history books on the Vietnam War. He was assigned there on the insistance of Rauol Castro, the head of Cuba's military and the brother of the real Fidel. This fact belies Mr. Destatte's testimony that "the Soviet and Cuban governments did not successfully dictate policies or actions to the North Vietnamese government;"
two unrelated documents telling of American POWs being taken from Vietnam to Cuba; the Cubans were also actively engaged in subversive activities, infiltrating a number of communist youth into the U.S., and were funneling KGB money through Vietnamese communist agents to antiwar groups and individuals in the U.S.; as recent as 1996, the Vietnamese trained Cuban Special Forces to undertake limited attacks in the USA
Instead of hiring analyists at DPMO, DOD should hire some good professional investigators, such as former FBI or police investigators, and some people who know how to do systematic research. However, everytime DPMO gets good ones, it seems to find a way to get rid of them.
My paper raises more questions than it answers, but only history will prove me right or wrong; however, I think I am on the right track. Only through full disclosure by the U.S. government agencies, which were gathering information on the depth of Cuban involvement in the Vietnam war and with American POWs, will we know the truth.
As you can see from my document, the Cubans were heavily involved in the Vietnam War. They were in charge of building and maintaining a good portion of the Ho Chi Minh Trail. Recently, I was invited as a representative of the National Alliance of Families to a briefing at DPMO by its head, Bob Jones. Among things he discussed was his proposal for DPMO to sponsor a meeting between the U.S., Vietnam, Cambodia and Laos to discuss American Servicemen lost along the Ho Chi Minh Trail. I suggested to Mr. Jones that he should also invite Cuba to the conference, for they were heavily involved. He told me that I was rediculous, for the Cubans weren't involved in Vietnam. I recommended to him that he read both the material presented to Congress on the Cuban Program and Raul Valdes Vivo's book.
I was brought up with old fashoned values. My mother taught me at a young age that no matter how hard you search for the truth, you won't find it unless you want to.
We are not seeking revenge. We will leave that issue to the courts. We are also not seeking to get someone fired, we leave that up to you to judge. We are only seeking an honest accounting for the POW/MIAs. We, like every American should, only seek honest answers from our government and its representatives, and competent investigations as to the fate of the POW/MIAs so that their families might find closure to their long suffering grief.
Ignorance? Arrogance? Disinterest? Lack of caring? Incompetence? Obfuscation? I rest my case.
Michael D. Benge
2300 Pimmit Dr., #604-W
Falls Church, VA 22043
Ph: (703) 875-4063 (W)
(703) 698-8256 (H)
For efforts in rescuing several Americans prior to capture, he received the State Department's highest award for heroism and a second one for valor. He also received three of South Viet Nam's highest medals for civilians.
Cuban War Crimes Against American POWs
During the Vietnam War*
Cuban officials, under diplomatic cover in Hanoi during the Vietnam War, brutally tortured and killed American POWs whom they beat senseless in a research program "sanctioned by the North Vietnamese."(1) This was dubbed the "Cuba Program" by the Department of Defense (DOD) and the CIA, and it involved 19 American POWs (some reposts state 20). Recent declassified secret CIA and DOD intelligence documents, obtained under the Freedom of Information Act, reveal the extent of Cuba's involvement with American POWs captured in Vietnam. A Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA) report states that "The objective of the interrogators was to obtain the total submission of the prisoners..."(2)
According to former POW Air Force Colonel Donald "Digger" Odell, "two POWs left behind in the camp were 'broken' but alive when he and other prisoners were released [1973 Operation Homecoming]. ... They were too severely tortured by Cuban interrogators" to be released. The Vietnamese didn't want the world to see what they had done to them."(3)
POWs released during "Operation Homecoming" in 1973 "were told not to talk about third-country interrogations. .... This thing is very sensitive with all kinds of diplomatic ramifications."(4) Hence, the torture and murder of American POWs by the Cubans was swept under the rug by the U.S. Government.
The "Cuban Program"
The "Cuban Program" was initiated around August 1967 at the Cu Loc POW camp known as "The Zoo", a former French movie studio on the southwestern edge of Hanoi. The American POWs gave their Cuban torturers the
names "Fidel," "Chico," "Pancho" and "Garcia." The Vietnamese camp commander was given the name "The Lump" because of a fatty tumor growth in the middle of his forehead.
Intelligence and debriefing reports reveal that testing "torture methods were of primary interest" of the "Cuban Program." The Cuban leader of the "Cuban Program" ["Fidel"] was described in debriefing reports as "a professional interrogator," and a second team member was described as looking like a Czech ["Chico"]. "The Cubans has (sic) the authority to order NVNS [North Vietnamese] to torture American PWs [POWs]." The Vietnamese "catered" to the Cubans.(5)
According to a 20 January 1976 deposition, Marge Van Beck of DIA/DI, Resources and Installation Division, MIA/PW Branch, states that she was told by the "Air Force that the CIA had identified FIDEL."(6) Since the CIA and the FBI has not released all documentation relevant to the "Cuban Program", there were no copies of any photographs accompanying the Defense Department's September 11, 1996, report to Congress, Cuban Program Information.(5)
Several other documents corroborate that the CIA analysts identified two Cuban military attaches, Eduardo Morjon Esteves and Luis Perez Jaen, who had backgrounds that seemed to correspond with information on "Fidel" and "Chico" supplied by returning POWs.(7) Reportedly, in 1977-78, Esteves served under diplomatic cover as a brigadier general at the United Nations in New York and no attempt was made to either arrest or expel him.(8)
However, unless the Cubans were overconfident, it is highly unlikely that those who participated in the "Cuban Program" would have used their actual names when they went to Vietnam, since it is standard practice in undercover operations to use new identities. According to an expert on Cuba, "Fidel's" profile fits that of Cuban Dr. Miguel Angel Bustamente-O'Leary, President of the Cuban Medical Association. [DPMO's compilation lists a Professor Jose Bustamante, who was the president of the Pan-American Medical Confederation.] Dr. Miguel Bustamente is said to be an expert at extracting confessions through torture and he was compared to Nazi Dr. Joseph Mengale.(9)
"Chico's" profile fits that of Major Fernando VECINO Alegret, described in two intelligence reports as being "un-Cuban in appearance makes [sic] one wonder if he was a Cuban, or a block officer (possible Czech) in Cuban uniform." "He has studied in the USSR," and "...his Spanish...does not sound like Cuban Spanish." He was active in the Rebel Youth Association (AJR) and Union of Young Communists (UYC).(5b) His background would give him a natural tie-in to the international communist youth training center and the Vietnamese interrogation center in Cuba. It would also explain the observation of and participation in the "Cuban Program" by young Vietnamese officer trainees (see below).
According to POW debriefing reports, "The Lump" told a group of POWs that the 'Cuban Program'...was a Hanoi University Psychological Study."(5c) [Also see section on Vietnamese and Soviet Bloc Research on American POWs]
The torture and murder of American POWs in Vietnam by Cubans ets an unconscionable precedent and is in direct violation of the Geneva Convention on Prisoners of War that the North Vietnamese communists signed.
"Fidel" called one of the American POWs the "Faker". However, he wasn't faking it. He was one of the three American POWs who had already been beaten senseless by "Fidel" and his cohorts.
The sight of the prisoner stunned Bomar, he stood transfixed, trying to make himself believe that human beings could so batter another human being. The man could barely walk; he shuffled slowly, painfully. His clothes were torn to shreds. He was bleeding everywhere, terribly swollen, and a dirty, yellowish black and purple from head to toe. The man's head was down; he made no attempt to look at anyone. He had been through much more than the day's beatings. His body was ripped and torn everywhere; "hell- cuffs" appeared almost to have severed the wrists, strap marks still wound around the arms all the way to the shoulders, slivers of bamboo were embedded in the bloodied shins and there were what appeared to be tread marks from the hose across the chest, back and legs. Fidel smashed a fist into the man's face, driving him against the wall. Then he was brought to the center of the room and made to get down onto his knees. Screaming in rage, Fidel took a length of rubber hose from a guard and lashed it as hard as he could into the man's face. The prisoner did not react; he did not cry out or even blink an eye. Again and again, a dozen times, smashed the man's face with the hose. He was never released.(10)
Air Force ace Major James Kasler was also tortured by "Fidel" for days on end during June 1968. "Fidel" beat Kasler across the buttocks with a large truck fan belt until "he tore my rear end to shreds." For one three-day period, Kasler was beaten with the fan belt every hour from 6 a.m. to 10 p.m. and kept awake at night. "My mouth was so bruised that I could not open my teeth for five days." After one beating, Kasler's buttocks, lower back, and legs hung in shreds. The skin had been entirely whipped away and the area was a bluish, purplish, greenish mass of bloody raw meat.(11)
The "Cuban Program" was evaluated by two of the Department of Defense POW/Missing Personnel Office's (DPMO) chief analysts Robert Destatte and Chuck Towbridge. In an email to Commander Chip Beck, an intelligence officer who at the time was working at DPMO, Destatte said he had concluded that the "Cuban Program" was nothing more than a program "to provide instruction in basic English to PAVN [North Vietnamese Army] personnel working with American prisoners."(12) According to Destatte, it was an English language program that had gone awry.
Destatte also has the audacity to claim that the Vietnamese were unaware of the "Cuban Program," and it was stopped once the Vietnamese found out that "Fidel" and the others were torturing the American POWs. However, the evidence that Destatte studied in compiling the report to Congress belies his assertion. It is very clear from the POWs' debriefing reports that the camp commander, "The Lump", guards and various other Vietnamese cadre were present during torture sessions.
Destatte also professes, "The Vietnamese explanation is plausible and fully consistent with what we know about the conduct of the Cubans in question..."(12) And how had Destatte reached his conclusion? Destatte asked the North Vietnamese communists, and this is what they told him! These are the very same people who broke every agreement they made with the United States, and who systematically murdered over 80,000 political prisoners after the communist takeover of South Viet Nam in 1975. A military historian once told Commander Beck not to underestimate "dumb," and Beck said Destatte would have to be brain-dead, however, to be that dumb.(13)
It is evident that DOD's analysis of the "Cuban Program" is incomplete for it did not examine the possible link to a Hanoi University research study, nor was there any investigation of Cuba's role in maintaining the Ho Chi Minh Trail where numerous American servicemen were captured. In early 1999, DPMO's chief, Bob Jones, told members of the organizations representing the families of POW/MIAs that he had proposed a meeting among Vietnam, Laos and Cambodian officials to discuss the fate of American POW/MIAs. The author, representing the National Alliance of Families, suggested that Cuba should also be invited to participate, since they were responsible for the "Cuban Program" as well as for maintaining a good share of the Ho Chi Minh Trail where many servicemen became MIA. Jones retorted that my suggestion was ridiculous for there was no evidence that the Cubans were ever involved. ["See no evil, hear no evil, speak no evil," author.]
Other Cuban Involvement With POWs
Documents reveal that Cubans not only tortured and killed a number of American POWs in Vietnam, but may have also taken several POWs to Cuba in the mid-1960s. The POWs, mostly pilots, were reportedly imprisoned in Las Maristas, a secret Cuban prison run by Castro's G-2 intelligence service. The source of this information reportedly was debriefed by the FBI; however, this debriefing report was not in DPMO's report to Congress, and no evidence has surfaced that there was any other follow up.(14)
One intelligence source reportedly interviewed "Fidel", "Chico" and "Pancho" after they returned from Hanoi to Cuba and said they claimed that their real job was to act as gate-keepers to select American POWs who could aid international communism.(16)
According to a DIA "asset", Hanoi made "a political investment in all cases where prisoners [could] be ideologically turned around in order to someday serve its designs in behalf of international communism."(17) This is corroborated by several other intelligence reports. One, a CIA briefing memo, reveals that "As of September 1967 [redacted] a great deal of proselytizing of American pilots was being carried out in an effort to try to convince them to go to other communist countries as advisors. [redacted] This was disclosed during an official Party briefing [redacted]. The North Vietnamese claimed the communist countries needed the advice of American pilots to counter any attack which the U.S. might make against the communist countries."(18) This was the same time period that the "Cuban Program" was in full operation.
DPMO's analyst Bob Destatte wrongly concluded that the "Cuban Program" was terminated by the Vietnamese in August 1968 because of "Fidel's" excesses in torturing the American POWs. This is far from the truth, for the Vietnamese communists routinely continued to torture American POWs in other camps long after the "program" was terminated.
Besides being part of a medical study linked to the University in Hanoi, Cuba was carrying out an aggressive propaganda campaign and other subversive activities against the U.S. According to the Cuban paper El Mundo, in August 1968, Professor Miguel A. D'Estafano, who headed the Cuban Solidarity with Vietnam Committee, "prolonged his stay in the DRV to complete a program with various organizations and institutions to collect extensive information that can serve as the basis for the second symposium against genocide in Vietnam..." According to POW debriefings, a Cuban (presumably D'Estafano) showed up at the Zoo during that time and "Fidel," "Chico" and "Pancho" left with him. Their return was timed so they could prepare a presentation for the communist internationale Second Symposium Against Yankee Genocide in Vietnam held in Cuba, October 18-21, 1968.(19) There, films and tapes were shown of the research on American POWs in the "Cuban Program" that served to boost the morale of the communists that the war in Vietnam was being won.(1) [Similar to the Bertrand Russell War Crimes Tribunal "kangaroo court" and "dog and pony show" held in Denmark in July 1967.(20)]
"Fidel", "Chico" and "Pancho" weren't the only Cubans who were involved with American POWs. As part of their propaganda program, Dr. Fernando Barral, a Spanish-born psychologist, interviewed Lt. Cmdr. John Sidney McCain Jr. (now a U.S. Senator) for an article published in Cuba's house-organ Granma on January 24, 1970.(21) Barral was a card-carrying communist internationale residing in Cuba and traveling on a Cuban passport.
Cuans on the Ho Chi Minh Trail
The Cubans were heavily involved in the Vietnam war. Cuba had a very large contingent of combat engineers, the Giron Brigade, that was responsible for maintaining a large section of the "Ho Chi Minh Trail;" the supply line running from North Vietnam through Laos and Cambodia to South Vietnam. The contingent was so large that Cuba had to establish a consulate in the jungle.(22)
A large number of American personnel serving in both Vietnam and Laos were either captured or killed along the Ho Chi Minh Trail, and in all likelihood, many by the Cubans. One National Security Agency SigNet report states that 18 American POWs "are being detained at the Phom Thong Camp..." in Laos, and "...are being closely guarded by Soviet and Cuban personnel with Vietnamese soldiers outside the camp."(23)
Cubans and Other POWs
According to CIA documents Cuban communist party committee members, Cuban "journalists" Raul Valdes Vivo and Marta Rojas Rodriguez, "visited liberated areas of South Vietnam where they interviewed [interrogated] U.S. prisoners of war being held by the Viet Cong."(24) [Many of the American POWs held in the South Viet Nam, were in fact under the command-control of the North Vietnamese's Enemy Proselytizing Bureau, but temporarily farmed-out to Viet Cong.] Rojas told of her "interviewing" American POWS in South Viet Nam at the Bertram Russel mock war crimes tribunal in Denmark in 1967.(20) Photographs of some of the POWs, and related articles, appeared in Cuban and various other communist media. American POWs Charles Crafts, Smith, McClure, Schumann and Cook were among those interviewed and photographed by Rojas and Vivo. This leads one to ask, "Why hasn't DOD pursued questioning Cubans about the fate of American POWs?"
One POW camp holding a large number of Americans was located about 100 km from the Chinese border between Monkai and Laokai, (an area where Cuban engineers were constructing military installations after 1975). According to an intelligence source, "one day the camp just disappeared, guards and all".(25) [also see End Notes]
The disappearance of American POWs near the Cuban facilities at Monkai and Laokai wasn't an isolated incident. American POWs also disappeared in the vicinity of two other Cuban installations. One American POW camp, located at "Work Site 5" (Cong Truong 5) just north of the DMZ, was adjacent to a Cuban field hospital that Fidel Castro visited in 1972. None of the POWs held in that camp were ever released, including black American aviator Lt. Clemmie McKinney. McKinney was shot down in April 1972, approximately the same time as Castro's visit. McKinney's remains were returned on August 14, 1985. The Vietnamese claim that McKinney died in November 1972; however, "A CILHI (U.S. Army Central Identification Laboratory, Hawaii) forensic anthropologist states his opinion as to time of death as not earlier than 1975 and probably several years later."(26) Had McKinney been a guest of the real "Fidel" to be exploited by Castro's G-2 at Las Maristas and later returned to Vietnam?
Another Cuban installation was near Ba Vi, where numerous sightings of "white buffalos" [i.e., American POWs] were made by South Vietnamese undergoing "reeducation" in the North. According to one of the recently returned Vietnamese 34-A commandos, he saw 60 American POWs at the Thanh Tri Prison complex in 1969.(27) Also in the same prison complex were approximately 100 French and Moroccan POWs captured in the early 1950s. Later the French and Moroccans were transferred to the Ba Vi Prison complex near the Cuban facility. There were a small number of American POWs held for a while in a section of the Thanh Tri Prison complex, appropriately dubbed "Skidrow". However, they numbered about 20, not 60, and none had been held with French and/or Moroccan POWs.
The commando's report corroborates numerous other similar sightings; however, DPMO has made a conscious effort to discredit all of these reports--although from unrelated sources and too numerous to ignore.