Getting Past Not Knowing What Happened to Maj. Morgan Jefferson Donahue

INTRODUCTION

Many people have asked me questions over the decades similar to this one: “How did you and your father and mother live with the pain and heartache of not knowing what happened to Morgan, particularly after you trying so hard to determine his fate? Aren’t you lodged in a hell that has not come to resolution in 48 years?”

Not knowing what happened to a beloved family member certainly is a burden that no heart should have to bear. Ask any psychologist, psychiatrist, minister, priest or rabbi. The pain of not knowing is pervasive and relentless and builds over time to almost unbearable levels. It just constantly gnaws at you. The heart escalates to absolute elation when there is a possibility of hope and it utterly collapses to anguish and desperation when such hope vanishes.

The pain of not knowing my brother’s fate was especially intense because my father and I came to realize that with the U.S. Government having abandoned the POWs he and I were responsible for determining Morgan’s fate.

The purveyors of the lie that there were no live POW-MIAs after Operation Homecoming in Vietnam and Laos had no grasp whatsoever of the amount of pain and suffering they caused the families and concerned citizens.

The United States Government’s commitment to eliminating the Live POW-MIA issue was pervasive and relentlessly. It destroyed my mother and father. It also came close to destroying me. In this Post #8 I will tell you about how my mother and father were hammered by the  tragedy and how I survived it to live to this day.

BACKGROUND TO THE FAMILY DONAHUE

My father was born in New York City in 1918. His childhood was impoverished but he made the best of it that he could. At age 14 he lied about his age to get accepted into the New York National Guard. He went on to win a Presidential appointment to West Point through sheer initiative. However, he could not enter his second year because of his terrible grades, which he attributed to sports and social events (euphemist for “women”). He needed two years of college to get into the Army Air Corp flight school – becoming a pilot was his compelling desire in life – so he enrolled in the University of Mississippi. Can you imagine a New York City kid at Ole Miss?

After getting two years of college under the obligatory belt he was accepted to Army Air Corp flight school and became a pilot, then trained as a bomber pilot. His unit was assigned to Tampa, Florida, and my father was part of the first flight group to land at the MacDill AAC base there. The mayor of Tampa hosted a reception in honor of the new pilots. He met my mother-to-be at the Mayor’s reception and they soon eloped to northwest Florida (she became Shirley Morgan Donahue). Subsequently, he was transferred to Long Beach, California, where he spent all of WWII in the AAC Ferrying Command flying aircraft to the fronts in the war. Morgan was born in Cedars of Lebanon hospital in Los Angeles in 1944.

At the end of WWII my father became a Captain for Eastern Airlines based in Miami, FL, where I was born in 1946. Six weeks after I was born my father left Eastern and moved to California to re-join the Army Air Corp, which officially became the United States Air Force in 1947. Behind this move was the Government’s commitment to fund his education, which it did. My father earned Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees at Stanford University while also studying at the University of California, Berkeley. During this time he flew as much as he could, principally flying Navy aircraft out of Moffat Field.

Morgan and I at his graduation from the Air Force Academy

Morgan and I at his graduation from the Air Force Academy

 

For Budd, his AAC and USAF career was the epitome of achievement in life considering his humble childhood and teens; serving his country, receiving an education, flying, meeting beautiful women, career advancement, global travel and more. He mandated that his two sons become USAF pilots as well and drilled it into our hearts and minds from birth onwards. Morgan very much followed our father’s mandate and graduated from the Air Force Academy in 1967 (the 21st “Blackjack” Squadron). His and my careers to come were pre-determined by my father. He knew no other way for Morgan and me.

I started out confirming the mandate as Morgan did. I had one year of high school in Montgomery, AL (Maxwell AFB), where my father had been transferred again. After three years he would be assigned to Wiesbaden Air Force Base in Germany. That one year in Montgomery (Sidney Lanier High School) included Army ROTC, and I absolutely excelled at it, earning the Superior Cadet award above all others in the Corps including the senior officers. Morgan had become 3rd in command over the ROTC, and I stomped him in my first year. I led the annual Army awards parade. My father was the proudest man alive, and he confided in me that if I kept it up I was destined to be Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

However, moving to Wiesbaden for the balance of my high school education somehow unwound my intention of becoming a military aviator. It was like the divine scheme of things saying to me, “We have other plans for you.” I became disenchanted with a military career and I actually started bagging the entrance exams for USAFA, West Point and Annapolis. I just wanted to get through a university and do something other than be a military pilot. Needless to say, my father was hugely disappointed in light of my vastly auspicious start in ROTC. Our relationship became very estranged and we did not rebuild it until Morgan was lost.

2nd Lieutenant Morgan Donahue’s first assignment post-aircraft training and post-survival training was as a C-I23 “Provider” navigator based at Tan Son Nhut Air Base in Saigon. This was a big disappointment because he was hoping to become a back-seater on at F-4. The C-123B aircraft in the Vietnam War typically had two navigators. Morgan’s companion navigator at Tan Son Nhut was 2nd Lt. Scott Albright (John Scott [Scottie] Albright II). Morgan and Scotty were roommates at the Air Force Academy for at least 2 years. They became deep friends and together with other USAFA friends undertook various wild endeavors including stealing the U.S. Navy Academy’s goat in Annapolis, Maryland. They took the stolen goat from to the Air Force Academy in Colorado ahead of the Navy-Air Force game. The goat was paraded at the game much to the humiliation of the Navy. On the way to getting the goat from Annapolis, MD, to Colorado Springs, Colorado, the goat was lodged at Budd and Shirley’s home in Alexandria, VA, for a short while.

Scotty’s father was an Air Force Colonel based at Clark Air Force Base in Luzon, Philippines. Clark was the headquarters for the USAF in Asia. As a senior Air Force personnel officer there he was able to secure transfer for Morgan and Scotty to fly the Ho Chi Minh Trail over Laos based in Nakhon Phanom, Thailand. Getting out of their non-combatant flying – Morgan and Scotty referred it hauling pigs, goats and chickens – was exactly what Morgan and Scotty wanted to do, and Col. Albright fulfilled their desire. Morgan and Scottie were assigned to the 606th Special Operations Squadron of the 56th Special Operations Wing.

Morgan while in active duty with the Air Force in preparation for Vietnam

Morgan while in active duty with the Air Force in preparation for departure to Vietnam and Laos

On December 13, 1968, the blessing of Morgan graduating from USAFA became a curse. Morgan and Scottie were lost, less than 5 full months of flying the Ho Chi Min Trail, and declared MIA on the basis of the pilot who had bailed out from the aircraft seeing at least one other parachute descending in the moonlight. Interestingly, Morgan conveyed to Budd before his disappearance that the C-123’s viability for the mission was increasingly questionable. Thus began the saga of finding out what happened to Lt. Morgan Jefferson Donahue. 

Budd and Shirley were completely, utterly distraught, and Budd was in Vientiane within days of the MIA declaration trying to get the facts of what and how the incident happened and whether Morgan had survived as the pilot did. Budd had retired from the Air Force and now was head of Security at the Air Force’s Eastern Missile Test Range headquartered in Cocoa Beach, FL. The Test Range extended across the Atlantic and Pacific oceans in support of all military and all non-manned launches. Budd was able to move through all that traffic and get contacts, and the era of relationship-building in Laos and Thailand began.

The Family’s Love

The four Donahues were closely knit, which is typical of military families. However, I believe our closeness was exceptionally high because of my father’s admonition that his sons become military aviators. I cannot imagine the pain he endured knowing that his admonition – which Morgan wholeheartedly embraced – had a role in his fate. Morgan and Budd were deeply bonded whereas I had become the beer-drinking, partying college kid who was on the sidelines to them. They certainly loved me, but I was not at all in their communications loop. However, I deeply loved Morgan and was exceptionally proud of him, so I thoroughly embraced an obligation to find out what happened to him.

My father and I pursued the search for Morgan; as I mentioned in prior posts. When the Paris Peace Accords were signed and subsequently no Laos POWs came home during Operation Homecoming we were stunned beyond belief. We were crushed. In the two years after that Laos fell to the communists and the POW-MIA issue was left unaddressed, the pain for the Donahue family accelerated in light of the fact a senior Pathet Lao official had told Budd and Shirley in person before the end of the War that the Pathet Lao were holding “tens of tens” of US POWs and would return them when the hostilities in Laos ceased and a treaty was signed between Laos and the USA.

From my previous posts you should have an idea of the effort that Budd and I put into finding out what happened to Morgan Donahue. Over the years, we were met with a vast array of disappointments virtually all of which were the result of the United States Government’s efforts to block us and not allow us to succeed in finding Morgan and other POW-MIAs. Given the Government’s pervasive and intensive blocking of my father’s and my efforts on virtually every front, it was as if the U.S. Government had become the enemy and the Laotians and Vietnamese were mere by-standers, waiting for the USA to fulfill its promise. I cannot tell you how much additional pain this caused us because the whole family deeply loved our country; a depth that goes, even still for me today, to the point of chauvinism. Harsher still, my father had built his life and career on the U.S. Government and the military until Morgan was lost.

How does one survive such pain? It destroyed both my parents, much as it has many other POW-MIA families. They could not withstand the Government’s assault against our efforts. It was and is still official USG policy that all the POWs came home in Operation Homecoming and that no live POWs were left behind. Thus, the Donahues must be stopped on all fronts lest they find Morgan or another POWs because that would have proved the USG left him and other POWs behind. My father and I contacted what must have been thousands of private individuals, refugees, government and diplomatic personnel, and others while appearing in hundreds of newspapers and TV shows in Asia, the United States and Europe trying to get to the bottom of the POW-MIA issue and Morgan’s fate. We did so to inform the public about the fraudulence of the USG’s claim that all the POWs came home.

I know that the U.S. Government also told the Laotian Government not to deal with Jeff Donahue and my friend, Bill Shemeley. We encountered this in person.

The USG produced and still produces lipservice on the POW-MIA issue, declaring “The US will never leave another serviceman behind” and honoring the POW-MIAs in various events focusing solely on the return of remains. I have been invited to every USG annual POW-MIA event. Most recently, I sent an email to the senior USAF general in charge of the 2014 event which stated (1) my questions at previous events which were solicited in writing by the staff were never, ever answered, and (2) if the USG ever going to assign some resources to the live POW-MIAs. My letter to him was not the kindest thing I ever composed and he immaturely came back to me reiterating the policy and how it was unacceptable of me to having accused a senior US general as being uninformed about the POW-MIA issue given there are so many troops in the field searching for remains. I couldn’t believe a multi-starred military officer could be so uninformed, I doubted he’d even read one of the great books on the subject, that 2016 efforts were 100% fixated on searching for bodies.

Transcending the Loss

Please note that I did not cite the real names of the doctors quoted below in order to protect them. The events and situations are real. 

My total commitment to finding Morgan and incessantly being blocked by the brick wall of reality ultimately caused my life to collapse. In late 1977, while I was living in New York (mentioned in Post #1) and working at Chemical Bank, I was overwhelmed by serious traumatic anxiety. My world just folded up, and I was in dire mental straits, plagued with fear and uncertainty about myself and my job.

I took up jogging in Central Park thinking my lack of exercise was the problem. I also went to multiple doctors who did innumerable tests. All the tests were negative. Finally, I was referred to Dr. Michael Johnson at Columbia University Hospital. He was a cardiologist and after two meetings with him he told me, “Mr. Donahue, you don’t need any more tests. Physically, you are fine. What you need is a psychiatrist. Here is the one I suggest, Dr. David Miller.”

Telling me to see a psychiatrist was the wrong message to tell the son of a military officer. I shared what Dr. Johnson said with my father, who responded, “You’re a tough guy. You’re a Donahue. You sure as hell don’t need a psychiatrist. Donahue’s don’t go see shrinks.” Hence, I ignored Dr. Johnson’s guidance  regarding Dr. Miller and ramped up my jogging in Central Park. My traumatic anxiety seemed to retreat.

However, about a month later the traumatic anxiety came back with vengeance, and I was worse off than ever. The fear of landing in the Bellevue Hospital psych ward was overwhelming me. I went back to see Dr. Johnson’s and he asked, “Mr. Donahue, did you go to see Dr. Miller?” I said, “No, sir.” He then said, “Then I cannot help you. You have to see Dr. Miller.”

Dr. Miller’s office was on Park Avenue just before Union Square. I was working downtown and living in 61st Street between Lexington and 3rd Avenue, so he was pretty convenient. I went to see him and found him to be a compassionate and brilliant man but not in alignment with my issue. However, I decided to stick with it. Incidentally, Drs. Miller and Johnson were only about 4 years or so older than I and already were top physicians in their professions.

After the 5th or so session Dr. Miller said to me, “Mr. Donahue, you are suffering traumatic anxiety because you believe what happened to Morgan should have happened to you.”

My response to that was, “Dr. Miller, there is no way that could be the case. Forget it. I don’t believe that; it’s b.s.” He said, “O.K., but let’s move ahead. And so we did, for a year of sessions, sometimes two sessions a week.

A year later, Dr. Miller said to me, “Mr. Donahue, the problem here is that you believe what happened to your brother should have happened to you.” I looked at him intensely, and a powerful sensation came over me from my tips of my toes to the top of my head. I burst out crying. Dr. Miller and I knew this was an instantaneously healing. I then said good bye to him, thanked him profusely for healing me, walked across a church across Park Avenue, cried some more, and went home.

He had closed the loop and it took a year of psychotherapy for me to grasp this.

I then knew I was transcending the brick wall. I knew I was now to cease banging my life against the wall and instead transcend it by going around it, which is what I did and what I do to this day. The USG was no longer my enemy in terms of there being live POWs. It was and is just an entity in my life that has no control or influence over me.

About another month or two after my healing, another dimension to transcending the brick wall occurred. It was late one evening and I was on my bed polishing my shoes as I usually did. I felt the toe-to-head sensation and looked up and there was my brother about eight feet away brightly lit in white heavenly garb and appearance. He did not communicate with me. He just appeared, and his appearance probably lasted no more than a second or so before he disappeared.

This happened again several nights later when I was driving home from the train station in Katonah, NY, to Ridgefield, CT. My brother appeared again, seated next to me, again in brilliant white light and garb! He appeared probably no more than a second or so. I remember both episodes vividly.

I had no idea what was happening to me and I was in Dr. Miller’s office the next day, understandably. After expressing his deep sympathy, he said something very close to this: “Mr. Donahue, what happened to you is called a wraith experience. In your case, this is Morgan’s spirit communicating with you. The message his spirit is communicating is that he is dead and you committing your life to finding him is holding him back from him progressing through the sidereal celestial realm to his ultimate destiny. He wants you to cease devoting your life to him. He also knows that you love him incessantly.”

In many ways, Dr. Miller saved my life and gave me a new life such that I transcended the brick wall and live life free of the deep, psycho-spiritual encumbrance of fixation and devotion to Morgan and the POW-MIA issue. The guilt – the deep traumatic anxiety – was released. Going forward, I could experience my transcendence and live my life as an observer of Morgan and the POW-MIA issue without destroying myself. I no longer would be comprehensively and pervasively imprisoned by both. That made me a better advocate of the issue and my advocacy of the truth being told.

And so it is. My heavens, all I have to say is how little we truly know about the mind and spirit…

I send deep peace and love to all of you,

Jeff

Note: Morgan was promoted to Major from 1st Lieutenant per standard MIA standard procedures.

Vindication for Those Who Never Gave Up

As of early January 2016, I have 7 posts. Please start with the first post (#1) at the bottom of the posts and then read your way up to #7. That sequence is very important for grasping the following 6 posts.  I anticipate I will issue #8 in February. Thank you very much.

A top-security National Security Council (NSC) document released during the summer by the CIA vindicates all of us who have known for decades that live POW-MIAs were abandoned in Vietnam and Laos by the U.S. Government on the heels of Operation Homecoming in April 1973. The document proves the U.S. Government knew live POW-MIAs were left behind and concluded it was unable to do what it would take to bring them home. By classifying all the vital documents and not telling the truth, the U.S. Government authored a cover-up.

The top-secret document is A Report on US-Vietnamese Talks on POW/MIAs During the Nixon, Ford, and Carter Administrations, prepared by Paul Heer of  the CIA and submitted to Richard  Childress of the National Security Council (NSC) on September 23, 1985. It cites how and why, under three presidents, the U.S. Government failed in regards to the live POW-MIAs. To those of us who have known the truth of the POW-MIA issue all along , there is now a level playing field between us and the U.S. Government for the first time ever.

The document cites Presidents Nixon and Ford as having had good intentions in seeking to resolve the live POW-MIA issue. However, the  USG’s staunch fixation on dealing with the North Vietnamese/Socialist Republic of Vietnam solely on “humanitarian” grounds, and North Vietnamese/SRV’s staunch demand for war reparations (most notably the $3.25 billion), discussions between the two governments never went anywhere. Eventually, the POW-MIA issue was subordinated by President Carter to other global diplomatic priorities including the normalization of relations with the SRV. From then, the POW-MIA issue was just buried deeper and deeper to what it is today.

The NSC document affirms the USG simply gave up on the POW-MIAs and that the POW-MIA issue transitioned from an honest, but inept, effort to account for them to a cover-up that endured.

For all us who have committed countless days, months, years and decades for this truth to finally get told is an extraordinary thing. We prevailed despite the Government’s relentless enforcement of its policy that all the POW-MIAs came home after Operation Homecoming. However, we pursued the truth and never gave up. We have proven the Government’s policy ever since the 1970s was not the truth.

It’s so tragic that it chose its route by making the lie the policy. All it had to do was tell the truth and do something viable to bring the missing men home. Instead, it chose the path of least resistance and just kept the truth away from the American public.

The document was declassified in 2009 for what appears to have been internal USG purposes. It was not made accessible to the public until June of this year when the CIA lost its appeal against declassification of its documents in a Washington, D.C. court.

The document was supplied to me by Mark Sauter, author of multiple POW-MIA books. He is cited in my previous posts. His most recent book, American Trophies, co-authored by John Zimmerlee, is extraordinary.

Please note that the document has its shortcomings. For example, Mr. Heer was a CIA employee and – in my interpretation – was watering down his report to protect the Agency. For example, the Nhom Marrott issue is not cited at all (see post #5) despite it being a live POW-MIA issue in Laos that the CIA was actively pursuing. Also, the CIA had thousands of documents – still classified – pertaining to POW-MIA sightings, many of which were and are live sighting reports. In the report, the CIA is telling the truth while protecting the un-truth. And, the report does not address the fact that the truth was pervasively kept from the American public.

What is happening to the National Security Council document and other documents is the consequence of the CIA losing a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) appeal under a federal judge’s ruling in Washington, D.C. The FOIA case had been underway for over a decade led by Roger Hall, a number of his backers, and AIM (Accuracy in Media). Roger’s efforts are why the documents are being released. For decades many of us and Roger have said that the only way to get the truth told about the POW-MIA issue is to declassify the documents held by the CIA and DIA and now the NSC and NSA. It is happening, at last, thanks to Roger.

The document was prepared and submitted to the National Security Council (NSC) and circulated to the CIA and other government entities. The NSC is responsible for planning and developing national security policies and presenting them to the President for his consideration. The National Security Agency (NSA) exists to gather intelligence and execute those policies. In other words, the NSA does the NSC’s dirty work. The NSC is an extremely low profile U.S. Government entity.

At the end of the day, the USG, from Presidents Carter through Clinton, sacrificed the POWs in favor of normalizing relations with Vietnam, which Clinton did in 1995. During President Carter’s administration, the POW-MIA issue had become a serious encumbrance on foreign policy. The USG simply forfeited its duty to those who unselfishly served, including Morgan Jefferson Donahue.

Please also note that part of pages 18 and 19 are still classified in the Heer NSC Report. They could pertain to the Nhom Marrott episode regarding live POWs in Laos (see Post #6) which is entirely possible, especially since Heer was a CIA employee.


JEFF DONAHUE’S PERCEPTIONS

As I have stated before, when you lose a war you have no leverage and, hence, no bargaining chips. And, when you compound the loss with a failure to deliver on your commitment, e.g. the $3.25B promise to fund Vietnam’s reconstruction and development, you dig yourself even deeper into the hole. This is exactly where the USG found itself. On top of that, the SRV’s intransigence on the POW-MIA issue prompted the USG to block Vietnam’s entry into the World Trade Organization, which just further soured the hopes for some productive dialog between the two. The USG eventually approved the SRV’s application to the WTO, and the WTO General Council eventually approved Vietnam’s WTO accession.

Despite having no leverage and no bargaining chips, the USG incessantly kept trying to get the Vietnamese to deal with the USA on a humanitarian basis. From the 1960s onward the U.S. appealed to the Vietnamese for the POW-MIA issue to be treated as a humanitarian one separate from the conduct of war. However, the word “humanitarian” does not even exist in the Vietnamese language and there was no way in the world that the North Vietnamese were not going to deal with the U.S. on that basis alone. The French experience with their POW-MIAs and North Vietnam proves that. Concomitantly, how in the world are you going to bring someone to practice being “humanitarian” when you are busy bombing their country and killing their troops and population? The U.S. did not learn and it failed to understand that when something doesn’t work you try something else.

1966-1Moreover, the United States Government accepted the U.S. prisoner lists presented by the North Vietnamese ahead of Operation Homecoming even when the U.S. knew the North Vietnamese lists were incredibly insufficient, including the list for Laos; see my previous post. And, don’t forget, the North Vietnamese never declared American servicemen as POWs. Rather, the North Vietnamese designated them as “war criminals,” which obviated North Vietnam’s obligations under the Geneva Conventions, including for POW-MIA. In addition, the U.S. accepted Vietnam’s declaration in 1977 that there were no live POWs in Vietnam. Of course, Vietnam had no other option than to say there were no live POW-MIAs. Because economic aid was out of the question, Vietnam could not declare, “Well, we held some back and we’re turning them over as a gesture of good will.” Vietnam would have become a global pariah if it have said that and been subjected to the scorn, opprobrium and contempt by the world. With Vietnam wanting to play on the world stage, there was no way they were going to let that happen.

The secret Nixon letter was intended as an incentive for the North Vietnamese to deal with the U.S. on the POW-MIA issue. When it shortly became clear to the North Vietnamese that the U.S. was not going to deliver on its promise, the North Vietnamese became even more intransigent, and that mindset prevails to this day. They never budged an inch, and they do not even speak about the POW-MIAs then and today.

Guess what? Communist Vietnam was willing to discuss the POW-MIA issue with me because I gave them a proposal that satisfied both sides’ requirements: for the Vietnamese, war reparations (especially the $3.25 billion); for the USA, resolution of the POW-MIA issue. The Vietnamese were willing to talk to me but not to the United States Government. Who put all of this together in the first place? I did. See my Post #1 focusing on North Vietnam’s invitation of me to Hanoi in 1975. [Post #1 is at the bottom of the list of 7 Posts.]

Now that I have connected all the dots, I am overwhelmed.

RELEASING ALL THE DOCUMENTS

The judge’s ruling applies across the CIA’s board and is not limited to the NSC document. However, the CIA is not rushing to Roger’s front door with wheelbarrows full of now-declassified documents. Rather, the CIA likely will delay the document releases as much as possible. Also, the “national security” document classification will be invoked as often as possible. The federal judge opined that the CIA was constantly hiding behind that classification all along. Indeed, the NSC document was buried in the CIA’s public record chest and it took a lot of hunting to find it: Notice of Orders of Judgment In the Case Against the CIA.

If you want further information as to how and why the POW/MIA issue came to be after Operation Homecoming you should read this extremely important document as well: POW/MIA Accounting Deserves Full – Not Selective Accounting, which was written testimony by Roger Hall and submitted to the Senate Armed Services Committee on April 2, 2009.

For over 40 years the U.S. Government has had exclusive dominion over the POW-MIA documents and has released them only at its discretion. Its rationale for not releasing key documents always has been its need to “protect security assets” and “sources and methods”. The war was over 40 years ago and the USA was a big-time loser, and the CIA still is declaring it needs to protect antiquated assets and sources and methods? If the CIA is running its current operations as it did back then, we’re all in trouble.

As I and many others have cited, the only way to get the full story about the POW-MIAs and the war is the release of all documents from all U.S. Government agencies pertaining to it. This includes, but is not limited to, the DIA, CIA and NSC. Why doesn’t the USG just disavow the policy-lie and get on with dealing with the Vietnamese on some field that will work for both sides? All of the USG’s efforts are limited to the search for remains because it is fixated on its fraudulent policy that all the POW-MIAs came home at Operation Homecoming.

Also Roger’s additional report, Belated and Withheld Intelligence on American POWs, is just one of thousands of USD documents that Roger has gone through over the years. Many affirm Vietnam’s intransigence regarding the USG’s misguided insistence that the POW-MIA issue was a humanitarian one. This ultimately was fatal to the live POW-MIAs.

Here is a link to the full District Court ruling on the suit for Roger Hall, AIM and others to be awarded attorneys’ fees. https://s3.amazonaws.com/s3.documentcloud.org/documents/2168075/roger-hall-v-cia.pdf. I note that the CIA did attempt an apology to the Court when Roger, AIM and others with them were trying to secure some reimbursement for their fees in pursuing the litigation, “The CIA accepts some responsibility for the unnecessarily protracted nature of this ligation.”


IN SUMMARY

If anyone tells you all the POW-MIAs came home during Operation Homecoming and the US Government has confirmed it since then, just say something to the effect of, “The US Government has relentlessly not told you the truth about the POW-MIA issue and will stop at nothing to get you to believe all the men came home. However, there are plenty of documents to prove that live POWs were left behind including multiple formerly classified U.S. Government documents. Read them for yourself.” You know the truth and the USG has been dedicated to the untruth since 1973.

Roger Hall has an almost unbelievable array of experiences in multiple FOIA confrontations with the CIA. I am certain we will be getting some updates from him. For now, my deep gratitude goes to him and his colleagues, and hopefully the same applies to you.

At the end of the day, Vietnam knows what happened to the POW-MIAs it held back after Operation Homecoming. That is the basis on which we need to deal with Vietnam going forward. I will be offering some suggestions in a future post and I believe that, today, we actually have leverage we previously forfeited.

I send peace and regards,

Jeff

Reaching Out in Vientiane…

My previous post focused on the relationship my father built with Royal Lao Army Gen. Vang Pao and the role they played in the CIA’s secret incursion into Nhom Marrott, Laos in 1982 based on information Gen. Vang Pao had received on live POWs and conveyed to my father. The incursion was seven years after the end of the war. It also was about a relationship I built in Laos with a subordinate of Gen. Vang Pao after the end of the war.

This post is about other relationships my father and I forged during the Laotian war including [1] individuals employed by the CIA and deployed in the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) to fight the communist Pathet Lao and the North Vietnamese, [2] individuals in the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) and the International Control Commission (ICC), which as international humanitarian organizations were promulgating peace in Laos and supporting the 1974 International Agreement on the Declaration on Neutrality of Laos), [3] individuals in the U.S. military and the U.S. State Department, [4] pilots in the Royal Lao Air Force, and [5] my special relationship with Gregory Rodgers at the Vientiane School for the Blind. Please note that the USA did not sign the International Agreement; rather, it agreed to honor it.

I am certain you will find this post interesting. For those of you reading my Blog for the first time (this is Post #6), please start at Post #1 (bottom post) and work your way up to #6.

For those of you who wish to see what I look like and how I present myself in the POW-MIA issue, please see the TV videos of David Houston’s recent 2-part interview with me. David is a distinguished Reno-based lawyer who interviewed me on his weekly TV show Lawyers, Guns and Money. To see the videos on YouTube, click here; the second interview immediately follows the first.


Background to the Evolution of the POW-MIAs in Laos

The political and military history of Laos in its 19th and 20th centuries is incredibly complex. I wanted to present recent Laotian history prior to and during the 1960s and into the 1980s because they directly involved the POW-MIA issue. However, even that became cumbersome. I therefore produced the following abbreviated summary. Sufficed to say that the key players in the late 1960s and through the end of the Lao war in 1975 were the anti-communist Royal Lao government backed by the USA, and the pro-communist Pathet Lao (Neo Lao Hak Sat) which for all practical purposes was the communist North Vietnamese in disguise. It was the North Vietnamese army who with backing from Russia and China conducted the successful war against the Royal Lao government and the USA while calling the victory a Pathet Lao undertaking.

Between 1973 and 1975 the Laotian landscape saw a relentless North Vietnamese onslaught. Immutable, the countryside was falling into Pathet Lao hands thanks to the USG’s cessation of support in 1974 for the ineffectual and corrupt Royal Lao government and army. Clearly, the USG saw what happened in South Vietnam would happen in Laos. The landscape also saw an array of agreements and treaties between the two sides ostensibly aimed at ending the war but in reality accomplishing nothing. Of particular note was the Provisional Government of National Union, which was to be operationalized by the Lao Agreement and Protocol, represented by the Vientiane Side and the Lao Patriotic Front (the political arm of the Pathet Lao). Also, there was the Joint Commission to Implement the Accords, which included the Regulations on the Exchange of Military Personnel Captured or Detained During the War and on the Gathering of Information About the Missing in Action (MIA).

Knowing the Royal Lao government would fall, the USG commenced a withdrawal of  all USG personnel in Laos except a small remnant group at the embassy. The USG completed its withdrawal into mid-Summer 1975. The period March-May 1975 was particularly sad because the withdrawal was a near panic. In a sidebar circus, in 1974 the Royal Lao and Pathet Lao even formed a pseudo-coalition government although the war still was underway.

While all the agreements and documents always were impressive on paper, they were just intended to accelerate Laos’ collapse and the withdrawal of the USA. Much as the North Vietnamese knew they would win the war in Vietnam and used the Paris Peace Accords to accelerate the USA’s exit from South Vietnam, the North Vietnamese used the various agreements and accords among the USG, Pathet Lao, Royal Lao and international agencies to do likewise in Laos. As I put it, “The communists will sign an agreement with you and give you lots of promises and commitments. Then, you will stand hopelessly aside as they deliver precisely none of their promises and commitments, including accounting for the POWs.” With the North Vietnamese totally in control of all Pathet Lao operations and strategy going back to the 1940s, it was perfectly obvious that Vietnam was the template for Laos.

The hat I snatched one of the Prince’s guards at Wattay.

The hat I snatched from one of the Prince’s guards at Wattay

In August 1975 certain civil units of the Pathet Lao peacefully occupied Vientiane under the pseudo-coalition government. However, the PL did not take control of the country; rather, the PL/NVA continued to take other parts of the south by force, rigorously defeating the pathetic Royal Lao army and air forces. I was at Wattay Airport at this time when the leader of the Pathet Lao, Prince Souphanouvong, returned to Vientiane for the first time in decades to participate in the pseudo-coalition government. Prince Souphanouvong became President when Laos finally fell on December 2nd, which is when King Savang Vatthana abdicated and the pro-western Prime Minister, Prince Souvanna Phouma, resigned. Laos became the Lao People’s Democratic Republic (now the Lao People’s Revolutionary Party). By this time, the USA presence was long gone.

CIA Contacts in Laos

The most prominent career CIA individuals assigned to USAID-Laos read like a who’s-who of international intrigue. Most notably were Tony Poshepny (“Tony Poe”) and Edgar (“Pop”) Buell – the two were my contacts – and Ted Shackley (“The Blond Ghost”) and Jack Shirley – both my father’s contacts. Their profiles and histories are in various books and Wikipedia which make fascinating reading of how the CIA operated and how operations have changed since then. These men and all CIA operatives were as committed to fighting communism as intensely as they could be, but their disenchantment became clear as the USA progressively lost the war in Laos. Ted Shackley became the CIA’s Associate Deputy Director of Operations from 1976 to 1977 and published a book, Spymaster, My Life in the CIA.

Pop Buell among the Hmong lecturing a Hmong officer

Pop Buell among the Hmong

Ted Shackley – CIA Master Spy

Ted Shackley – CIA Master Spy

If a CIA employee was lost to the communist Pathet Lao or North Vietnamese he was forever lost to the USA as well. His status in Indochina was disavowed by the USG. This is what he signed up for – no questions asked. I wonder how many hundreds of CIA personnel were lost in Laos. I have heard there were 250 to 500 in aircrew alone. Only the CIA knows, and isn’t telling despite the war ending over 40 years ago.

Amusingly, I sometimes met with Tony and Pop at a favorite CIA/USAID watering spot in Vientiane, the Purple Porpoise. I also had come to know a bar-fly there, Monty Banks (whose name is a play on Mountebank – a person who deceives others, especially in order to trick them out of their money). Monty sent tapes to my home at the time in Ridgefield, CT, that I hoped would give me information about Morgan and other POW-MIAs. However, they were so Purple Porpoise alcohol-saturated that I never could make sense of them.

A young Tony Poe

A young Tony Poe

Tony was never to be taken lightly. He even offered his Hmong tribesmen cash rewards for every ear of a Pathet Lao soldier they killed. He also sent bags of ears to the US embassy in Vientiane to prove his body counts. However, so I was told, he had to cancel the offer when ear-less children started showing up in Hmong villages.

CIA operational staff including Pop and Tony Poe were evacuated in March – May of 1975 because they were prime Pathet Lao targets and the complete Pathet Lao takeover of Laos was certain. I subsequently stayed in touch with Pop and Tony. I communicated with Pop in Thailand, Australia and the U.S., and I also communicated with his sister in the U.S. I visited Tony multiple times in Thailand where he had retired after the war. Many CIA/USAID employees were completely dissatisfied by the U.S. failure in Laos and a number of them retired or set up shop in Thailand rather than coming back to live in the USA. My hope was that Pop’s and Tony’s dissatisfaction regarding the U.S. failure in Laos would encourage them to tell me something concrete about the POW/MIAs. I note that the panic from Laos in 1975 included an estimated 40,000 Hmong who crossed into Thailand.

Tony Poe – back right; Jack Shirley – front-right, at a bar in Bangkok

Tony Poe – back right; Jack Shirley – front-right, at a bar in Bangkok after the war (others unidentified)

Pop and Tony Poe gave me multiple veiled hints about the POW-MIAs over the years but never any facts I could work with. I have to give them credit for their unswerving commitment to their CIA employer and the U.S. Government. Spilling the beans was (and is) something they signed up not to do, and is something they religiously did not do.

 

 

Helping My Father and Me

Sadly, the outcomes with the heads of the International Committee of the Red Cross (the ICRC – Dr. Jurg Baer and Mr. Werner Blatter), and the International Control Commission (C.R. Gharekan), and others were identical to Tony’s and Pop’s. The ICRC and ICC Directors were sympathetic but it became clear that they could not help me or my father despite them saying very kind things about our search effort. Dr. Baer generously conveyed some letters to Morgan via the Pathet Lao representative in Vientiane, M. Soth Phetrasy (whom I will have more about in a very important future Post). My father and I did not know if Morgan was alive but even asking the letters to be delivered would enhance the POW profile with the Pathet Lao. Sadly, the ICRC and ICC Directors could travel to Sam Neua (Pathet Lao headquarters) when permitted from Vientiane and Sam Neua/Vieng Xai, and I was told by one of my contacts that Mr. Blatter said he had seen American POWs in the caves in Vieng Xai, the Pathet Lao operations base near Sam Neua. However, Mr. Blatter never said that to me or my father.

The Vientiane School for the Blind

Another – and infinitely more useful – relationship was the one I built with Gregory Rodgers of the Vientiane School for the Blind. My then wife, Dianne Donahue (formerly Dyan), and I first visited him in 1973 at his home and at the school on multiple occasions. He had developed the school from scratch into a highly acclaimed entity. The school for the blind children was a lovely and totally out-of-place compound on the Mekong. At his lovely home in another part of Vientiane Gregory had an array of Laotian treasures that seemed to surpass those of the Lao National Museum. He and I kind of bonded. Dianne and I became benefactors of the school, and he embraced my search for my brother. As best I could tell, he knew just about everyone of importance in Laos including senior government officials. I was absolutely elated to have met him. He also shared with us a closet filled with communications equipment which he used to communicate with whomever across Laos. I did not engage with his personal activities and how he accumulated his wealth in Laos, but I felt I was better off not knowing. As a hint, one of the entities funding the School was USAID, and we all know what the CIA was funding elsewhere in Laos.

Gregory and I stayed in touch by writing and telephone. He was dedicated to tracking down Morgan, and he periodically sent me written updates on what and how he was doing. He gave me locations and times of his activities in the countryside and where he thought Morgan might be held. He was in regular radio communication with his people in the Lao countryside.

Very sadly, my communication with Gregory collapsed completely in March 1975 when he and the rest of the westerners exited Vientiane ahead of the pending communist takeover. This was a very painful and tragic experience for me because he was delivering real information about the live POWs in Laos. This included a man from the North whom Gregory trusted for over 15 years and whose veracity was without question. This man showed a picture of Morgan (which I had supplied) to a PL colonel who then identified Morgan as a POW in Sonthay, Laos.

In August 1975 I was contacted by Gregory’s sister in Hong Kong, Helen Hodgson, who told me Gregory had been able to get out of Vientiane in March 1975 and came to Hong Kong. He died of heart failure three weeks later while in Bangkok. She told me the PL had taken all his art, his home and other possessions, and also had closed the Vientiane School for the Blind. She believed he really died of a broken heart. To me, the school was a magnificent entity because it was not only healing the blind children but also teaching things that enabled them to have productive lives such as music and massage. As an anecdote to that, many of the children in the school had scars on both sides of their temples where North Vietnamese soldiers had shot them. The bullet entry points were clean and the exit points messy.

Separately, I note that when Laos fell to the communists, the Pathet Lao and North Vietnamese inflicted great suffering on the Hmong which continues to this day. Prince Souphanouvong, the PL leader who became the first president of the Lao People’s Democratic Republic, even said he would eliminate the Hmong from the earth.

Others Trying to Help Us Find Maj. Morgan Jefferson Donahue

There were other individuals who in particular helped my father and me as much as they could. One was Paul Skuse, a senior USAID police advisor to Lao Police Force. He harvested his network in Laos as best he could to find out what happened to Morgan. He was in close contact with my father from just after Morgan was lost in late 1968 until the US withdrawal from Laos in mid-1975. All I have to say is “God bless him.” He tried very hard. Sadly, his efforts came to a halt too when he was evacuated from Laos.

Another was Robert Myers, Jr., First Secretary of the U.S. Embassy in Vientiane. Robert was obligated to follow diplomatic protocol regarding the POW-MIA issue but he made a serious effort to keep me posted about developments and strategy among the various entities on the POW-MIA issue. In 1973 and 1974, Robert arranged some key meetings for me with representatives of the Pathet Lao (most notably Phoumi Vongvichit, a senior PL officer who became #3 in the government of the new Lao People’s Democratic Republic), North Vietnam (Nguyen Van Khoi), and China (Chao Ho Tien). He also was the individual who introduced us to the International Committee of the Red Cross, the International Control Commission, and Gregory Rodgers.

Another USAID person who had a huge impact on me was Richard Miller, a U.S. Army officer seconded to USAID. He became very supportive and introduced me to a Royal Lao Air Force colonel, Col. Sampson (I cannot use his real name in case he still is alive). He was vastly sympathetic to the fact my brother was lost supporting the Royal Lao government against the communists and that my father and I were trying our hardest to find my brother along with other POW-MIAs.

Col. Sampson engaged several of his pilots to help us. From their unofficial intelligence – our mission was completely off the record – they delineated a PL prison camp that we felt we could penetrate and liberate the POWs there. My next trip to Vientiane in the summer of 1975 was to finalize the mission. We would fly Royal Lao helicopters from Vientiane to a designated site and then travel on foot to the POW site. We would capture the site and bring the US POWs back across the border into Thailand. This was an intense undertaking. Certainly, it was far beyond anything the US Government was doing to bring home missing POWs. The mission was named Operation Big John (what my mother affectionately called my father). I remained close to my phone for several months waiting for it to ring calling me to Vientiane to start Operation Big John. Sadly, the fall of Vientiane meant the loss of Operation Big John, although Richard stayed in touch with my father and me for several years after that.

Dianne and I went to Vientiane in the summertime of 1975 to try and meet with whomever was still there, but we got trapped in the exodus. Our airline tickets for getting out of Laos were absolutely worthless because it literally took gold to exit the country; Vientiane was one of the gold capitals of the world, albeit much less sophisticated. The American Embassy was busy taking care of the USAID remnants and had no time for us. However, Richard Miller had introduced us to a Philippine woman, Adelaida (Ida) Cuevas, who was a working in the USAID/Laos Audit Office in Vientiane. USAID would not secure her release out of Laos because she was not a US citizen. Richard had integrated her thoroughly into Operation Big John before his impending departure, and she was put in control when he exited Laos. The immediate challenge for the three of us, though, was to find a way to get out of the country.

There were so many people fleeing from Vientiane across the Mekong River that it was not realistic for us to join the melee. Instead, Ida suggested we pay a driver enough money to drive us further east to the Mekong where, hopefully, we could pay for a boat to take us across the river into Thailand. The trip toward the river was downright scary because the PL/NVA front was approaching Vientiane and we could hear the guns, artillery and everything else in the distance. When the driver stopped along the Mekong and would not go any further the three of us scurried down the steep hill to the river. The Mekong was approaching its seasonal low – albeit still wide and fast – and we had to descend several hundred feet to get to it. We approached several boats and after being paid handsomely by me, one of them ferried us across in his classic long, skinny Lao boat to Thailand.

Ida knew we should walk until we found some railroad tracks. She knew the Thai railroad came through Nong Khai province and likely came through the town of Nong Khai, which was close to the Mekong. We found the tracks and walked it until it reached Nong Khai. Ida spoke enough Thai to be told there was a train every day going south, but we had missed it and there would not be another one until very late that evening. We caught that train, and after about what seemed at least 12 hours or so, we arrived in the central depot in Bangkok.

Rosemary Conway

There now were no CIA staff who were left behind after the progressive U.S. exit. The U.S. presence was a vastly scaled-back Embassy staff downgraded to Chargé d’Affaires from Ambassador. However, a woman named Rosemary Conway, a teacher at the USAID compound in Vientiane, was arrested by the PL and charged with espionage because the PL considered her a CIA employee. Here is a May 17, 1975, article on from the Seattle Spokesman-Review about her:

Laos Frees US Teacher. Laos communist-dominated government released American Rosemary Conway on Monday after more than two months detention on spying accusations. The Foreign Ministry said this was being done as a “goodwill gesture” toward the United States. 

Miss Conway, a 37 year old teacher from Chicago and Las Vegas, was not available for comment. She was to leave for Thailand on Tuesday.

A note from the Foreign Ministry to the U.S. Embassy said she had confessed to “subversion, espionage, endangering the internal and external security of Laos, inciting to desertion abroad of Laotian Air Force officers with their planes, attempting to spread division among the Lao army and create disorder.”

The US Embassy said, “Whatever statements Miss Conway signed while being detained without formal charges, she is not an agent of the U.S. Government.”

After her release Miss Conway said she had heard multiple conversations among Pathet Lao soldiers about the POWs and Morgan and had seen PL documents citing him as imprisoned by the PL along with other POW-MIAs (she was conversant in Lao). I have not seen a denial or confirmation by the CIA that she was or was not a CIA employee. However, I have seen citations that she passed three polygraph tests affirming what she said about Morgan. When my father met with Miss Conway she was adamant about what she heard and saw.    

As every American who came forward with information about U.S. POW-MIAs, Rosemary Conway ultimately was discredited by the USG. Discrediting contrary voices – that there were live POW-MIAs left behind in Laos and Vietnam after Operation Homecoming – continues to this day. It has included discrediting USG employees, active duty and retired military, Lao refugees, POW-MIA families and concerned citizens, and more. The USG relentlessly enforces the “all the POW-MIAs came home during Operation Homecoming” policy and discredits everyone who speaks to the contrary. Rosemary was an easy target for her USG interrogators because she had no evidence affirming what she had seen while in captivity and because she was unable to withstand the interrogation onslaught.

What a tragic outcome for the integrity of the USA when just the up-front truth would have been the honest and noble outcome.

I also have in my notes Messrs. Don Olson and Del Spier, USAID officers in Vientiane, whose support of my father not only was profoundly appreciated by my father during the war but is also appreciated by me ever since. I was not well integrated into their efforts with my father, so I am not able to adequately describe them. They continued to support my father after the fall of Vientiane but could not do much given the complete Pathet Lao/NVA takeover.

The Obligation to Find the Missing Men is the Families

The USG is not going to engage in the live POW-MIA issue until it sees a live POW. USG policy is that all the POWs came home in conjunction with Operation Homecoming. There are zero USG resources to the live POW-MIA issue; rather, it is focused solely on (1) investigation of crash site remains, and (2) discrediting anyone who had or has information about live POW-MIAs. Bringing home a live POWs thus is the burden of the families and concerned citizens. My father and I discerned that very early in the process, and we lived with it and pursued it from day one. Shifting the burden to the families was another brilliant maneuver by the USG to buttress the policy.

In Closing…

If you do not believe my statements across my Posts that the USG’s policy of all the live POW-MIAs having come home at the end of Operation Homecoming is utterly and totally fraudulent, then beyond the books I have cited for you please just read Bits ‘N’ Pieces,” a monthly publication of the National Alliance of Families of America’s Missing Servicemen – WWII + Korea + Vietnam + Gulf Wars + Afghanistan. Bits ‘N’ Pieces is produced by Lynn O’Shea and Janella Apodaca (produced many years by her mom, Dolores Apodaca) and has a 20-year history of publishing Bits ‘N’ Pieces and the truth. Bits ‘N’ Pieces proves the POW-MIA issue will not go away and the families and concerned citizens will not give up despite the pervasive suffering caused by the USG’s policy. Bits ‘N’ Pieces is a powerful publication. Access the Bits ‘N’ Newsletter at http://www.nationalalliance.org/alliance_files/bits.html and go further to the Newsletter Archives for a history of the Newsletter through this month (July 2015). While all the Newsletters overwhelm me due to the depth and breadth of the Alliance’s research, go to the Newsletters for September 4, 11, 18 and 26, 2004 in particular. There you will find even more comprehensive proof of pervasive evidence of live POW-MIAs being left behind in WWII, Korea and Vietnam and that the USG will stop at nothing to protect the lie. The evidence and the lie carry on to all the Newsletters since then.

My next post will be about Bill Shemeley’s and my involvement with the Phetrasy family in Laos. M. Soth Phetrasy was a senior official in the Lao Patriotic Front government which took control of his country, and he was a revered hero of the Lao revolution. Phetrasy was the Pathet Lao representative who, during the war, said on multiple public occasions, including to my mother and father, that the PL were holding American POWs and would give them to the USA when a treaty was signed between the two countries. Bill and I developed excellent ties with him and his family, and Bill is practically a member of the Phetrasy family.

Separately, in my father’s files I found I letter from my brother saying he had been promoted to First Lieutenant. I did not know it. Morgan was promoted at what appears to be a week before he was lost. He subsequently was promoted to Captain and Major although in MIA status. That was standard military procedure.


Another Book

I have recommended a number of books which are transformative in terms of awareness about the live POW-MIAs being left behind after Operation Homecoming. These were Lynn O’Shea’s Abandoned in Place, Mark Sauter’s and John Zimmerlee’s 2013 American Trophies, and Mark Sauter’s and Jim Sander’s 1993 The Men We Left Behind: Henry Kissinger, the Politics of Deceit and the Tragic Fate of POWs After the Vietnam War.

Another book at the top of the list is Congressman Billy Hendon’s and Elizabeth (Beth) Stewart’s exceptional An Enormous Crime, the Definitive Account of American POWs Abandoned in Southeast Asia. Indeed, if I am not mistaken, An Enormous Crime was on the New York Times Best Seller list shortly after publication. It is a powerful book. If anyone maintains that no POW/MIAs were left behind after Operation Homecoming, this book, too, is all you need to refute his or her misguided belief.

I send you peace and regards dear readers,

Jeff

The Conspiracy Against the Live POWs Grows…

Post #5 is about the relationships my father and I established during and after the Laotian war and what those relationships meant for the accounting of the missing live POW-MIAs. Among the relationships, the most important was my father’s relationship with Gen. Vang Pao, who was the leader of the anti-communist Hmong tribe funded by the CIA. In 1979, Vang Pao gave my father information regarding live POWs who had been moved to Nhom Marrott, Laos, from another location. This information ultimately led to the CIA’s 1981 incursion into Nhom Marrott in search of live POW-MIAs thought to be there six years after the end of the war, the “Nhom Marrott Raid”.

I also will briefly review my relationship-building with Col. Boonleurt Sacocie who was an anti-communist fighter under Van Pao and who after the fall of Laos co-formed the National Liberation Front for the Liberation of Laos (NLFLL – alternatively called the Lao United National Liberation Front, the Lao National United Front, and other names) to perpetuate guerrilla warfare against the victorious communist government.

I have tried to make this post as brief as possible. However, Laotian and Vietnamese history, the war, and the USG’s involvement in it are as complex as anything can be. I ask for your patience while reading the post.

In a future post, I will review the relationship-building my father and I built with certain US personnel in Laos during the war, most notably individuals in the CIA and its shadow agencies including the US Agency for International Development (USAID), Air America, and Continental Air Services/Bird & Sons. Other relationships included individuals in the International Red Cross, the International Control Commission, the US Army, and the State Department. I also built relationships with various Laotian entities during or after the war, particularly the Royal Laotian Air Force (during the war) and the Lao Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Lao Ministry of Health (after the war).

As I have done with previous posts, please let me briefly set the stage by telling you about Vang Pao. However, first I will take the liberty of again strongly recommending Lynn O’Shea’s brilliant book, Abandoned in Place, which was released in 2014 after 25+ years of research and years of preparing the book for publication. Lynn is a nonpareil archival researcher and her book compellingly conveys how and why the live POWs and MIAs in Laos and Vietnam were abandoned. At my last count there are more than 25 books in print on my shelves on the POW-MIA issue on the Vietnam War, Korean War and WWII, and Abandoned in Place ranks at the top alongside Mark Sauter’s and John Zimmerlee’s 2013 American Trophies and Mark Sauter’s and Jim Sander’s 1993 The Men We Left Behind: Henry Kissinger, the Politics of Deceit and the Tragic Fate of POWs After the Vietnam War.

These books and hopefully my posts enable you to refute anyone who is uninformed enough to say that all the POWs came home and that none were abandoned.

General Vang Pao

11pao02_450

Exhorting the Lao troops in his early career.

People familiar with Vang Pao know he was a general in the Royal Lao Army and the leader of the Hmong tribe who so diligently fought the Pathet Lao and North Vietnamese on behalf of the CIA. Vang Pao was the charismatic leader of the mountainous Hmong people and was the only Hmong to rise to the rank of general officer in the Royal Lao Army. He united most of the 18 or so Hmong tribes and was recruited by the CIA to fight the communist/Marxist Pathet Lao and North Vietnamese in the 1960s and 1970s. He did so with his “Secret Army,” also known as the “Hmong Army.” As a mountain tribe and historical adversary of the low-land Laotians, many of whom joined the Pathet Lao, the Hmong tribe was easy pickings for the CIA’s recruitment.

Please remember the 1954 Geneva Accords precluded the U.S. and North Vietnam from deploying military personnel in Laos. The North Vietnamese immediately ignored the Accords by first intervening into the Laotian civil war and then going on from there to win the Indochina war. In contrast, the U.S. complied with Accords by not sending troops into Laos until it did so in the late 1960s and into the 1970s in small, clandestine missions. Those incursions were kept secret until the late 1980s and early 1990s. Thus, when it came to the U.S. trying to stop the massive deployments of troops and material to South Vietnam in the 1960s and 1970s through Laos – via the Ho Chi Minh Trail – it did so using Vang Pao’s CIA-backed Hmong army. The Royal Laotian Army was an ineffective force against the North Vietnamese, and the CIA relied on the Hmong Army and the U.S. Air Force and Naval aviation to stem the incessant North Vietnamese flood through Laos.

Vang Pao’s logistical and ideological support came directly from the CIA. Without that support, Vang Pao would not have been a viable fighting force. Vang Pao was an aggressive combatant against the Pathet Lao and North Vietnamese (the “People’s Army of Vietnam”) and as a result he gained the respect of his US advisers and a steady supply of weapons from the US, duly backed by the USAF and US Naval aviation in addition to the CIA/Air America operations. It is estimated US aircraft dropped more bombs in Laos than were dropped in all of Europe during WWII. Lt. Morgan Jefferson Donahue was lost and declared MIA in Laos on December 13, 1968, on one of those missions over the Ho Chi Minh Trail. Still, the war was lost to the Pathet Lao and its mentor, North Vietnam, because of its virtually unlimited supply of weaponry and troops who fought the Hmong Army and the Royal Laotian Army. After the war, Vang Pao came to the US via Thailand as a refugee with an estimated 200,000-plus followers. Until his death in 2011 in Fresno, CA, he was leader of the Laotian community in the US which is present in many US cites. Many of his followers were so enraptured by him they felt he had supernatural powers. [I wish I had had a CEO boss like that in some of my many CFO incarnations.]

My father had developed a relationship with Vang Pao during the war and stepped it up after the fall of Laos in 1975. Communicating with Vang Pao became easier when he and many members of his Secret Army immigrated to the USA from refugee camps in Thailand. Vang Pao introduced numerous resistance people to my father and me. These men were dedicated to the overthrow of the communist/Marxist government of Laos. Included in among these was the National United Front for the Liberation of Laos (NUFLL), introduced to us by Vang Pao after the end of the war.  One of the heads of the NUFLL was Col. Boonleurt Sacocie. I became point-man with Col. Sacocie while my father was point-man with Vang Pao.

Inevitably, my father and I wound up contributing funding to the resistance movements. That was unavoidable. The funds were intended for them to acquire weapons and other supplies in the Thai black market for the Lao resistance entities under Vang Pao, Boonleurt Sacocie and others. Indeed, my father and I once viewed some of the equipment scheduled for shipment to the resistance in Laos via Thailand.

Boonleurt Sacocie periodically supplied me with updates on the extensive efforts his teams were putting into the POW searches in the Laotian countryside. However, none of the reports gave me what I needed: information on live POW-MIAs. Over time, I came to believe I was just a money pot for the NUFLL, and eventually I terminated his funding. However, the results for my father were substantially different. This was the consequence of his having built a compelling relationship with Vang Pao.

The Nhom Marrott POW Sighting

hmong3

Next to Air America pilot, Fred Cass, in 1961

In 1979 my father received a letter from Vang Pao citing the location in Laos to where US POWs recently had been moved. The new site was a newly constructed prison at Pha Louang, near Ban Kouanphô, containing 18 POWs. Pha Louang came to be known as Nhom Marrott because of its proximity to the town of Naden in the Bank Fai Riven watershed in a remote area of the Nhom Marrott district of Khammouane Province. The district and, indeed, this region of Laos had been one of the hotbeds of hundreds of sightings of American POW-MIAs for years.

The letter from Vang Pao to Budd Donahue originated with Koun Ma Phimmachak, himself a Lao refugee and an officer in Vang Pao’s Hmong Army. Here is the key part of that letter as it was written:

“On the 7-18-79 I have received an information from Mr. Koun Ma Phimmachak who was the leader of Laos resistance in region 3 in Thailand [Region 3 was a refugee camp area in Thailand that he was in] on 3-6 to 10-79. There was an airplane (Arterop 2) which came from Vieng Say Samneua [often cited as Vieng Xai and Sam Neua] and land Khamkeut. Inside the plane, it carried 18 American pilot and 25 Lao former political after that they put he in prison in the cave around Nhom Marat, between Khamkeut and Thakket. The reason why the Vietnam move them from Vieng Say Samneua to Khamkeut because they afraid that the Chinese trip might free the prisoner.”

Sam Neua was the Pathet Lao headquarters during the war and Vieng Xay was the nearby cave complex which was the Pathet Lao’s operational headquarters. Also, China attacked Vietnam earlier in the year, and Laos’ fear about a Chinese incursion into Laos as cited in the letter was valid (Laos’ northern border includes China).

Vang Pao sent the letter to my father rather than to the USG. At that time, many POW-MIA families and many refugees (most of whom were in Thai refugee camps) did not trust the USG on the Indochina POW-MIA issue. The families had been pervasively lied to by the USG since 1973 and most refugees felt their immigration requests to the USA would be discriminated against if they divulged any POW-MIA information (which was true).

Despite the USG’s policy that all POW-MIAs were home, the massive amounts of information from multiple sources regarding live POW-MIAs in Vietnam and Laos kept the DIA and CIA busy. However, in conformity with the policy the DIA and CIA found time to debunk virtually every live POW-MIA sighting except Vang Pao’s. [I know from experience that the DIA and CIA made it impossible for any sightings to be confirmed, which made them easy to refute.] It was not until Lt. Gen. Eugene Tighe was appointed head of the DIA that the POW-MIA intelligence was given its first professional scrub. Gen. Tighe appointed a new deputy, Admiral Jerry Tuttle, who was not knowledgeable about of the POW-MIA issue but who became a very fast learner under Gen. Tighe. Both became committed to an honest resolution of the live POW-MIA. However, they were “experts without portfolio” – while they were reviewing literally tens of thousands of documents on the issue and trying to get to the bottom of them, they were stymied by their superior DIA officers who were committed to the “they all came home” policy. For example, when Gen. Tighe was asked by the Chief Counsel of the Senate Select Committee on POW-MIA Affairs in 1992 regarding his superior officer’s (Admiral Noel Gaylor) reaction to his concern about the growing evidence regarding live POW-MIAs in 1979, Gen. Tighe replied to the Chief Counsel as follows:

“Because I had dealt with Henry Kissinger down through the years over a very long period of time, and I’m not trying to be insulting or anything else, but he was extraordinarily sensitive to the mission he’d been given, to get that war brought to a close. There wasn’t any doubt about it. And I just don’t think he cottoned with any little military guy out in the Pacific about giving him a hard time. I think he thought we were fortunate to get what we got. In other words, these are personal opinions that I really shouldn’t register, but I suspect that he was so thankful to be able to give the President what he asked for that he didn’t want to have anybody giving him a hard time on the issue.”

My father shared Vang Pao’s letter with George Brooks, the League’s Chairman of the Refugee Information Committee. My father thought George was trustworthy and would maintain strict confidentially. My father and I had much respect for George up to that time because of his leadership in the League and his dedicated efforts to bring home the live POW-MIAs. Based on the letter, my father and I intended to create a repatriation effort and rescue the POWs as I had tried in 1975.

Sadly, my father and I were unaware that Brooks increasingly had fallen under the influence of Ann Mills Griffiths, the League’s Executive Director, and that he had given the letter to Ann. In turn, Ann gave the letter to the DIA. While ostensibly she was the League’s chief advocate for the live POW-MIAs, she had become a proxy for the USG on the live POW-MIA issue, guaranteeing no live POW-MIAs. This was tragic because earlier in the issue Ann had been a compelling advocate for the live POW-MIAs, and her efforts were worthy of admiration and respect. However, subsequently in a brilliant maneuver engineered by the Defense Department, she and the League were thoroughly seduced into the anti-live POW-MIA policy and the live POW-MIA issue was more deeply buried in the secret bowels of the DIA and CIA. To accomplish this, Ann was given “Secret” status by the Defense Department, given participation in DIA/DOD meetings, given attendance in trips to Laos for useless DOD for meetings with the Lao government, and more. Regarding the multiple trips for meetings with the Lao government, the Lao government was not about to tell the DOD contingents, “Yeah, we’ve got lots of live POWs. Let us tell you about them.” The same applies regarding the Vietnamese government…

Ann was obligated to provide any and all POW-MIA information she received from whatever source to the DIA including the Vang Pao letter. Similarly, she could not report any government documents to the League’s members and others without the government’s approval. She was enraptured by the status of her authority and her seat at the DOD table and gleefully pursued it. She effectively became the anti-live POW-MIA voice for the League in support of DIA/DOD policy. She was unstoppable as that voice, which was why I stepped down from the League’s Board of Directors and why the League became neutered about the live POW-MIA issue and instead entirely focused (and continues to do so) on returns of servicemen’s remains rather than the live POW-MIAs.

Fortunately, the Vang Pao letter became highly visible within the DIA and CIA, with thanks largely for General Tighe and Admiral Tuttle and their teams. Indeed, Tuttle authorized the formation of the PW/MIA Interagency Group (IAG) in late 1979 to investigate the issue. The IAG gained stature and credibility in the intelligence community as a result of its extensive work. The IAG’s investigations went far beyond the Vang Pao letter and onto thousands of other refugee POW-MIA sightings since 1975, including new CIA field reports about POW-MIA sightings, National Security Agency reports (NSA – sometimes called “No Such Agency”), reports from Thai intelligence and special operations, and reports from numerous other sources. The CIA finally initiated satellite surveillance on Nhom Marrott. Also, in October 1979 U.S. officials interviewed Koun Ma Phimmachak, the source of the Nhom Marrott intelligence, in a refugee camp in Thailand. Phimmachak not only repeated his earlier information he sent Vang Pao but also added more details to it.

In 1980, the Army Chief of Staff formed the 1st Special Forces Operational Detachment (SFOD) to plan for a possible rescue mission of live POW-MIAs in Nhom Marrott, including reconnaissance and surveillance teams. Nhom Marrott had worked its way up the Joint Chiefs of Staff. More sighting information continued to roll-in, and the preparation for an incursion was diligent. About this time, though, it was determined that the CIA was withholding and not issuing some reports, including from sources considered “generally reliable sources.” Also, it became clear the CIA already had begun to conduct its own human source intelligence operations in the Nhom Marrott area. Indeed, the CIA deemed the Vang Pao letter, all other sources of information that the IAG had systematically compiled, and the CIA satellite information so viable that it assembled its own clandestine team to go to the Nhom Marrott site from Thailand and (1) affirm whether there were in fact any POWs there, and (2) get photographic and secure other intelligence on the site and the POWs if there.

Thus, there were two arms of the USG both chasing the live POW-MIA issue. However, a dispute arose between the DIA and the CIA as to who would be in charge of the recon into Nhom Marrott. The DOD/JSOC had diligently prepared for the raid – extensively trained, expertly equipped, and experienced in country operations. The CIA’s team, in contrast, was formed in Thailand, did not have a single American on it, and was comprised solely of Thai and Lao nationals who had no recon experience, no clandestine training and inadequate equipment. They were a group of inexperienced Lao utterly the wrong choice for the mission. The team’s leader, Houm Pheng Insisiengmay, was a confidant of the CIA and was someone the CIA had great faith in. As bureaucracy and the CIA’s original ownership of Laos during the war would have it, JSOC was told to step down. Needless to say the JSOC team, which was ready to launch, was crushed by the decision.

Although the recon mission now was in CIA control, JSOC continued to prepare for the rescue (quoted from Abandoned in Place):

“[JSOC] Mission Planners selected a training site in Tinian in the Marianas Inlands. To explain the movement of men and equipment, they needed a cover story. Under the codename “Vagabond Warrior,” mission planners began an anti-terrorism exercise to cover activities in the Marianas. On Tinian, they would build a full-scale model of the Nhom Marrott camp to practice their assault on the camp. Also underway were plans by the Pacific Command (PACOM) to process an unknown number of POWs en route and return them to the United States.”

The CIA operations dragged on and on and the recon mission was not launched until 1982! By this time, all components of the mission were completely compromised security-wise, and the team was a dismal failure; again, see Abandoned in Place. All the key documents about the mission remain classified to this day. Key documents were not even shared with the DIA. The CIA refused the JSOC’s request for access to the recon team and refused to provide detailed reports of the recon team’s efforts. At the end of the day, the CIA’s team generated the solution the CIA wanted: there were no sightings of American POWs in Nhom Marrott. The JSOC, Gen. Tighe, Adm. Tuttle and many of their subordinates knew the truth would have likely produced a different outcome had the JSOC conducted the recon.

In contrast, can you imagine if a SEAL team had be sent in instead of the Laotian nationals?

Live POW-MIA advocacy within the DIA and CIA subsequently succumbed to the anti-POW-MIA contingents, especially following Gen. Tighe’s retirement in 1981 and Admiral Tuttle’s reassignment just before the Nhom Marrott mission. A decade later, the live POW-MIA issue was seriously further encumbered by the formation of the Senate Select Committee on POW/MIA Affairs in 1992. The Committee itself was a front for the normalization of relations between Vietnam and the USA (more about that in a future post). Today, despite the evidence, there is not a single live POW-MIA advocate in the DIA and the CIA. However, there is growing public awareness of the truth of the issue including yours, dear reader of my Blog. Immutably the truth will be known by tens of millions of people and the live POW-MIA issue will be honorably resolved.

An Anecdote

I was visiting my mother and father in Cocoa Beach, Florida, when one evening the doorbell rang. I went to the door and much to my surprise two individuals introduced themselves as FBI agents, with identity and they asked if Vincent Donahue was home. I said, “He is. I will get him.” My father came to the door, introduced himself as retired USAF Col. Vincent Donahue, and asked, “How can I help you?” The senior of the two FBI agents introduced himself, and my father invited them in. Following some minimal formalities, the senior agent said, “Mr. Donahue, the US government is aware you are providing funding to an entity that supports the overthrow of a government of a foreign country recognized by the United States. That is against the law. If you do not cease and desist immediately you will be jailed.” The two agents then dismissed themselves, got in their car, and left.

The threat of being jailed was an extraordinary slap in my father’s face. He had served over 29 years in the USAF (Army Air Corps in WWII) and currently was head of global security for the USAF Eastern Missile Test Range headquartered at Cape Kennedy Air Force Station, the military’s equivalent of Cape Kennedy. He was an employee of Pan America World Services there. Pan American World Services was the prime contractor for the USG on non-manned launches while manned launches were the domain of NASA. All Vincent J. “Budd” Donahue was doing – as I was doing – was trying to find Lt. Morgan Jefferson Donahue, whose government had steadfastly abandoned him and the other POW-MIAs. It also was yet another affirmation that the USG was watching the Donahues and was dedicated to our mission’s failure.

Separately, here is a link to an article on Vang Pao that presents both sides of him – the fearless leader of the Hmong on one hand and the opium grower to the world using Air America for distribution on the other. Knowing something about the subject, I believe the CIA continuing to keep the documents on Laos secret is affirmation of its involvement in the opium trade.

http://www.theguardian.com/world/2011/feb/22/vang-pao-obituary

In the mid-2000s, Vang Pao was arrested for plotting to overthrow Laos’s communist regime. Sound familiar? The charges were later dropped. I was advised this precluded the rest of his sons and daughters (estimated at 30+ of them in total) from entering the various US military academies. I do not know how many did before the arrest.

A thought to ponder: if the truth about the POW-MIAs having been left behind alive in Southeast Asia had been told rather than lied about by the USG from the get-go, then my blog and all the books – and all the families’ and friends’ suffering to this day – would not have happened and a different POW/MIA outcome would have happened. The USG took the easy way out just after Operation Homecoming: declare all the POWs/MIAs were home. This was rather than the difficult route: admit that Laos and Vietnam have POWs and negotiate hard until we get them. If only we had leaders with such courage…

Jeff Donahue in Service to Ross Perot and the POW-MIAs

This post deals with an episode that is still hard for me to believe 26+ years later.

I will commence with setting the stage as I have done with the 3 previous Posts. You also will see I introduce the term, “live POW-MIA issue,” as distinct from the POW-MIA issue in general.

New readers to my Posts should commence with Post #1, which can be found at the bottom of Home Page (or use the link) and then read upwards through Posts #2 and #3.

During the second half of the 1980’s I developed a cordial relationship with H. Ross Perot. It was not an extensive relationship in large part because I was in Hong Kong far away from Ross’ base of operations in Texas. However, I was aware of his involvement in the POW-MIA issue and he was aware of mine. As I, he believed many hundreds of American servicemen were left behind after Operation Homecoming in February-March 1973. Ross was dedicated to the live POW-MIAs during and after the Indochina war and he advocated for them relentlessly. In 1969 during the war, for example, he filled an airplane with tons of supplies for the POWs in Hanoi. The North Vietnamese blocked his flights but the global publicity generated by his attempt resulted in better treatment of the POWs. Another example is his subsequent post-war visit to the SRV to discuss the POW-MIA issue as a private individual.

Ross always was very kind to me when our paths crossed, particularly during the Washington, D.C., meetings of the National Alliance of Families for The Return of America’s Missing Servicemen – World War II – Korea – Cold War – Vietnam War. [The National Alliance has since added the Gulf Wars and Afghanistan.] Please note this is not The National League of Families of American Prisoners and Missing in Southeast Asia, a USG-backed organization whose Board I had the misfortune of serving on periodically in the 1970s and 1990s – and I believe in the 1980s. The Department of Defense pre-empted the National League in the early 1980s and ever since then the League has operated under the suzerainty of the DoD. That will be the subject of a future post. I consider the DoD’s domination of the League one of the great tragedies of the Indochina War because it precluded the League from pursuing the truth. The truth, and bringing home the live POW-MIAs, should have been the League’s sole purpose.

Ross’ commitment to the live POW-MIAs was mirrored by Ronald Reagan when he was Governor of California. Governor Reagan was a strong live POW-MIA advocate during his first presidential campaign and he promised to get to the bottom of the issue if elected. When Governor Reagan was elected President, Ross held him to his promise. President Reagan then appointed Ross to the Foreign Intelligence Advisory Board with a mandate to investigate the live POW-MIA issue. However, the Defense and State Departments aggressively lobbied President Reagan and Congress to abandon his advocacy of the live POW-MIAs on the fraudulent basis that all the POWs were returned during Operation Homecoming. President Reagan, sadly, succumbed to the pressure and withdrew his support of Ross. Instead, he appointed General John Vessey as his official Special Emissary to the SRV on POW-MIA affairs. He also advised the SRV that General Vessey was in charge of the relationship. Ross was, in effect, shut out of any government involvement in the live POW-MIA issue despite of his extensive knowledge of the issue, his dedication to it, and his good relationship with the SRV. General Vessey’s appointment carried over into the Clinton administration, and the live POW-MIA issue became even more deeply buried in the bowels of the DIA and the CIA.

During the Clinton administration, Congressman Billy Hendon (R-NC) formally proposed the creation of the Perot Commission to investigate the live Indochina POW-MIA issue but it was not adopted by the House, again thanks to the intervention of the Defense and State Departments and certain other Congressmen. The resolution for the Perot Commission cited an interesting statistic: “73 percent of the American people believe the North Vietnamese are still holding American prisoners of war.”

Leading the charge on multiple fronts against Ross was George Herbert Walker Bush. Bush had been head of the CIA and had a long-standing sour relationship with Ross because they were on different sides of the live POW-MIA issue from the get-go. That relationship only got worse over time. Not only was George Bush the least likely advocate of the live POW-MIAs but also he was instrumental in the disenfranchisement of Ross on the issue. Also, Gen. Vessey was the quintessential Defense Department insider, having served as Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and he was a lock, stock and barrel anti-live POW-MIA issue man. Ross was ring-fenced by the anti-live POW-MIA contingent, and he left Washington a saddened man. He got his revenge, though, when he ran for president on an independent ticket. Ross’s presence in the 1992 election was instrumental in George Bush’s defeat. In speaking briefly one evening with Ross I very much got the impression he entered the 1992 presidential race to get even with George Bush.

There is no doubt Ross had a penchant for confrontation. There is a plethora of information on that in the Internet. This was a trait that did not serve him well in dealing with the USG, especially the politicians and the anti-live POW-MIA elements in the DoD, the State Department, and the anti-POW-MIA contingent in Congress. Ross clearly could not box in that weight class. In some respects, he was his own worst enemy despite having a heart of gold regarding the live POW-MIA issue.

Ross was dedicated to getting to the truth of the live POW issue despite the USG’s relentless commitment to burying the issue and have it never, ever darken the USG’s footsteps. Beyond the abandonment of the American servicemen, Ross also publicly decried the CIA’s secrecy regarding the war in Laos and the CIA’s staunch resistance to de-classifying documents pertaining to the war there. That secrecy in part was based on the Agency’s need to bury the history of its drug smuggling operations in Laos to finance the war there. Also, Ross engaged in private discussions with Vietnamese officials in the late 1980s, including a private visit to Hanoi in 1987. Furthermore, it is cited that he secured agreement with the Vietnamese Foreign Ministry in 1990 for him to be Vietnam’s business agent should diplomatic relations with the USA ever be established. Along the way, Ross built up a reservoir of soured relations between him and the USG.


In the spring of 1988, I was briefly visiting my then ex-wife (Dianne Donahue) in San Francisco on my way back to Hong Kong from meetings at Union Carbide’s world headquarters in Connecticut. While we were married, Dianne was an absolutely dedicated and unselfish supporter of my involvement in the POW-MIA issue and she participated in innumerable POW-MIA events, several trips to Laos, and many private Jeff Donahue-POW/MIA initiatives in a variety of countries. It was profound support.

While I was visiting Dianne she received a call from a man who identified himself as Ross Perot and asked to speak with me. This was before viable cell phones and I have no idea how he got Dianne’s home phone number, particularly when Dianne and I were divorced. She gave the phone to me, and I said, “Good day, Ross. This is Jeff.” After exchanging pleasantries, Ross said something to the effect, “Jeff, I’ve got something I need your help with.” I rejoined, “I will be glad to help. Please fill me in.”

Ross then said something to the effect, “Jeff, I’ve got something going on in China. I know you know a lot about China and how to get things done there. I want you to meet a 3-man team coming from Texas to Kunming, China, and help them accomplish their mission. They will be leaving for China in 2 days. Please arrange to get to Kunming as quickly as possible and team-up there with them.”

I left San Francisco the next day and when I got to Hong Kong I immediately booked air travel to Kunming via Guangzhou. I told no one in my office other than to say, “I’m exhausted and need some time off.” I told no one I was going to Kunming.

Kunming is the capital of Yunnan Province in southwestern China, directly above the northernmost provinces of Vietnam (Lai Chau, Lao Cai, Hà Giang and Cao Bang) and the northernmost provinces of Laos (Phongsali and Long Namtha). Kunming was not commercially developed as it is today. Indeed, there was only one decent hotel (2-star equivalent, speaking euphemistically) in the city, the Green Lake Hotel, named after a renowned lake in the city. That was where I was to meet the team from Texas. The city itself was very rustic with a lot a hand-driven and donkey-driven carts on the streets. Kunming is a vastly different city today, as are so many other China cities. Even the Green Lake Hotel has been rebuilt into a modern facility.

The only material Western presence in Kunming was during WWII when it was one of the terminus points for the famous “Hump” flights from Burma to China by the U.S. Combat Cargo Groups.

Early the next morning the 3-man team called on me and at breakfast we dove deeply into the mission. [I am withholding their names, as it is the appropriate thing for me to do.] The mission was to send two members of the team by train to the China-Vietnam border where a USAF F-105 fighter pilot was in a prison just inside the Vietnamese border. He would be released and handed over to them across the border. It was clear that a great deal of planning had gone into this and that a number of people on both sides of the border had been well compensated (again, speaking euphemistically) to ensure the transfer. The pilot had to be retrieved from the prison, taken to the border, and handed over to the two team members on the China side. The pilot would then be brought to Kunming by train and we would alert Ross that the transfer was complete. It was up to him to make the transfer public when he thought the time was right.

We spent the next day and evening meticulously studying the plan to make sure the transfer plan was in order. We also went to the local market to buy clothing and some supplies for the pilot. And, we purchased the train tickets for the team and the pilot.

Unfortunately, before their departure the team had run low on cash. The Chinese and Vietnamese border policemen demanded more compensation (a form of extortion) and we had no alternative other than to pay. Thus, the team and I did not have enough cash to cover everything including the increased compensation, the supplies, the tickets, and various other things we had to purchase. The shortfall put us in a real bind. However, when walking around Kunming earlier I had noticed a small card in a window in a bank which said something to the effect “Foreign Checks Accepted with Gold American Express Card.” I went in the bank – I did not speak Mandarin and none of the staff spoke English – and wrote a personal check and showed them my American Express Card. Much to my surprise, they promptly gave me $1,000 in Yuan Renminbi. To this day I am grateful to American Express.

That evening we said good-by to two of our team members who departed by train. Given the train schedule, the third team member and I anticipated the return of the other two members with the pilot the next morning.

By the middle of the next morning the third team member and I were quite nervous because the other team members and the pilot had not showed up. I was in my room when there was a knock on the door. I opened the door quickly hoping to meet the team and the pilot or at least get an update. To my surprise a Chinese man in a suit introduced himself as “Mr. Du” with the Yunnan State Security Service. He gave me his card with exactly that on it. I will never forget his introduction because he was all of 5 feet tall and I was looking down at him, and he spoke passible English.

Mr. Du then said, “You are in China in violation of your tourist visa status. You are under arrest. Give me your passport and your plane ticket. Do not leave the hotel.”

Of course, my anxiety immediately went through the roof. I had no passport, no plane ticket, no knowledge of what had happened to the team, and what was going to happen to me. No one except Ross Perot even knew I was in China. Moreover, the hotel would not permit me a phone call to Hong Kong or the USA. During this time, I did not see the remaining team member who had not gone to the border.

For the rest of that day I stayed in my room except for meals in the dining room (meager at best). I continued to dwell in a state of high anxiety. In the late morning of the following day, Mr. Du knocked again and said, “Pack your bag.” He waited for me and then said, “Come with me.” I asked him about my colleagues but he ignored me. He took me downstairs and into a waiting military jeep with two armed guards. I worked up the courage to ask him where I was going and much to my surprise he said, “Hong Kong.” We drove to the airport where one of the guards pointed to a waiting China Airline plane and told me to get on. He handed me my passport and ticket.

As soon as I got to my apartment in Hong Kong I headed for the liquor cabinet.


To this day I do not know what happened to the team. Certainly, the mission did not succeed. I believe the mission’s failure was inevitable given the leaks along the way as well as the array of Chinese and Vietnamese border staff who had to be compensated.

I never asked Ross about the mission. I felt it was as painful for him as it was anxiety-inducing for me. My strong suspicion was that upon learning about the mission and terminating it, the Chinese government escalated it to the American Embassy in Beijing. From there, it went to Winston Lord, then Ambassador to China, who intervened to have the team members and me released. Winston and Ross had a good and long-standing relationship. Winston Lord’s intervention, though, is my best guess. I am certain all of the team got out of China since they were US citizens.

Interestingly, in the run-up to the 1992 Presidential election a TV reporter for one of the scandal-focused TV programs was waiting at my doorstep when I got home from work one evening. He brought a cameraman with him. He introduced himself and said he had heard of some kind of  overseas foray backed by Ross Perot and that I had participated in it. He felt it would be a powerful story for an election year. He begged me to go public with it, with him hosting the story. I persistently said, “No,” and emphatically closed the door on him and and went inside. He knocked for the next 15 minutes and I ignored him. The next morning, I had to step over him to get to my garage because he had slept on my doorstep hoping I would change my mind. [You are welcome, Ross.]

I welcome any insights or perspectives from Ross at any time.

Post #5 will be out shortly. It will be a short one.

And I now address you directly, dear readers and friends: I would be vastly grateful for your sharing my blog with your friends, colleagues and others. “Please” is my operative word. Getting these Posts out to the public is the only way we will get the truth of the live POW-MIA issue told rather than being lost to history. When you share it with them, please ask them to start reading at Post #1 at the bottom (Post #1) of the 4 Posts. Please help us secure more thousands of readers in the 60+ countries now reading it. Recommending it to current or retired military and State Department individuals will be vastly appreciated.

Thank you very much!

Jeff

Targeting Jeff Donahue – Now the State Department’s Turn…

This third post of my blog, www.jcdonahue24.com, pertains to another dimension of the United States Government’s (USG) efforts to preclude me from finding out what happened to my missing brother, Maj. Morgan Jefferson Donahue, who was declared Missing in Action over Laos on December 13, 1968. Specifically, this post deals with how in 1988 the U.S. State Department intervened with the Laotian government to keep me from entering the country to look for my brother and other missing servicemen. I was able to circumvent the State Department and re-enter Laos in early 1990, but I lost valuable time in the interim.

Please note that Posts #1 and #2 of the blog are immediately below this Post #3. I encourage you to read Posts #1 and #2 before this Post #3 if you have not already.

As I did with Posts #1 and #2, allow me to set the stage for this post, please.

I had undertaken multiple initiatives in Laos in 1973-1975 on the heels of my father’s initiatives which commenced with his first visit to Laos within a week of my brother’s loss. I had been active in the POW-MIA issue since early 1969 but did not enter Laos for the first time until 1973. The Laotian war was still underway in Laos after the signing of the Paris Peace Accords in January 1973 but it was time for me to go despite the risk. Indeed, I was in Vientiane two days before the pro-western government fell to the communist Pathet Lao in December 1975. Getting out of Laos at a time my airline ticket suddenly was worthless (gold was about the only way to get out) was another adventure, but that is for a future post.

The Paris Peace Accords proved utterly fraudulent in a matter of a few minutes after their signing on January 23, 1973, as I have cited in Post #1. As best I can reconstruct the press conference on the heels of the signing, Henry Kissinger said, “We have peace in Indochina,” or something to that effect. North Vietnam’s Chief Delegate to the Accords, Le Duc Tho, stepped to the podium and said something to this effect, “Mr. Kissinger is mistaken. We have peace in Vietnam. If Mr. Kissinger wants peace in Cambodia and Laos then the United States will have to sign peace accords with those countries.” Moreover, North Vietnam had every intention of violating the Accords and conquering South Vietnam. Unification of the two Vietnams was its sole objective and the Accords were a way of accelerating the process. In addition, North Vietnam produced its fraudulent Laos POW list to mollify the USG.

It is easy to understand why Mr. Tho declined the Nobel Peace Prize – he knew exactly what North Vietnam was doing in signing the Accords, and he did not want to be part of an incredibly bogus prize.

Among other initiatives, some of my early trips to Laos prior to the country’s fall to the communists in December 1975 concentrated on accumulating intelligence on the locations of American POWs and working with Royal Lao Air Force personnel to conduct a repatriation mission encompassing POWs at what appeared to be a particularly valid Lao prison camp location. After the fall of Laos and the collapse of my repatriation efforts, my efforts turned back to intelligence gathering and to building relationships with Lao refugees in Thailand, and also with the Lao communist government because continued access to the country was essential to me.

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While living in Hong Kong in 1988 I established a Non-Governmental Organization (NGO), which I named Friends for Humanitarian Assistance to Laos (FFHATL), as another way of accessing the Laotian countryside. My dear friend, Bill Shemeley, of New Milford, Connecticut, joined me as co-head of FFHATL, and he registered FFHATL as a 501(c)(3) organization in the USA. Bill was a former Combat Medic with the First Infantry Division in Vietnam and later pursued a career in the medical device field. In May 1988, I went to Vientiane and presented FFHATL to the Lao Ministry of Health (including to the Minister of Health) and FFHATL’s proposal to send medical supplies to Laos from the USA for distribution to the Lao countryside. FFHATL would provide the medical supplies. The supplies would be shipped to the Ministry of Health and then I would come to Laos with my FFHATL colleague (Bill Shemeley) to supervise their distribution to the countryside. [Bill and I were seeking to have the supplies distributed to the remotest part of the country, especially the Northeast.] The FFHATL proposal was ecstatically received by the Ministry. Indeed, it was the most emphatic invitation to a country I ever have received.

While with the Ministry of Health I also raised our desire to build medical dispensaries in the countryside. We discussed location, construction design, training, resupply, equipment, supplies and supervision. The Ministry made it perfectly clear that the dispensaries had to be constructed according to requirements for the Laotian countryside and not according to U.S. design and construction which the Ministry deemed vastly inappropriate and not usable. The local people would not accept them – “not simple and not open.” We then tentatively established August for the next visit.

The state of medical care in the Lao countryside was sub-rudimentary and totally shocking. The further one got from Vientiane the worse it got. The ability of FFHATL to help the country was unequivocal.

Through FFHATL, Bill raised approximately three-quarters of a million dollars’ worth of donated and purchased medical supplies in the USA which we shipped to Vientiane at my expense and distributed to the Laotian countryside under the auspices of the Lao Ministry of Health. In effect, the Ministry of Health became Bill’s and my official sponsors for visas and for going into the countryside. The Ministry of Health was effusive in its gratitude for the supplies.

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As agreed with the Ministry of Health, Bill and I scheduled the trip for July 1988 (a revised date). We went to the Laotian Embassy in Bangkok to pick up our visas, which was standard operating procedure. Shockingly, the visas were denied even though I had previously confirmed our visit by phone with both the Ministry of Health and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. I got on the phone to the Foreign Ministry in Vientiane to straighten out the visa problem but could not resolve it due to an undecipherable response from them. Without the visa, Bill and I were stuck in Bangkok in a futile and dismaying situation, so he went back to Connecticut and I went back to Hong Kong. Bill did leave the latest edition of the medical text, Merck Manual at the Lao Embassy in Bangkok with the request that it be sent to the Ministry of Health in Vientiane.

Back in Connecticut, Bill sent the latest USA medical shipment to the Ministry including new high technology items such as disposable skin staplers, staple removers and training manuals.

Bill and I were frozen out of Laos for the time being. In 1989, though, a dear friend of mine in Hong Kong, Mary Reynolds, pointed out an article to me in a local Chinese newspaper that a Chinese business group was organizing a trip to Vientiane in January 1990 to introduce Hong Kong businessmen to Laos. Mary suggested there was no harm in joining the trip because if Bill and I got into Laos we could go to the Lao Ministry of Health and hopefully get the visa problem resolved. Mary applied for me and Bill to join the group. We got the visas in short order, and Bill and I met in Bangkok and went to Vientiane. God bless Mary!

After settling down in Vientiane, Bill and I went to the Ministry of Health and contacted the officials there with whom we had been working since 1988. Our conversations always were characterized by mutual respect. They were absolutely shocked, though, when Bill and I walked in the door.

After the usual formalities and the Ministry’s expression of gratitude for the medical supplies, the discussion turned to the subject of Bill’s and my access to Laos under the Ministry’s sponsorship. The senior Ministry individual was candid. He said, “Dr. Donahue, we are grateful for all you have done for Laos but you have a problem with your government [my emphasis] and there is nothing we can do. We cannot influence the Ministry of Foreign Affairs on this. You must resolve the problem with your government for FFHATL to continue its mission in Laos.”

Bill and I went back to our hotel and excogitated on strategies. We decided we had no choice other than to go to the U.S. Embassy and try to resolve the issue. [The USA closed its embassies in Vietnam and Cambodia in 1975 but never closed the one in Laos.] I detested going to the Embassy because the personnel there, as everyone else in the State Department, embraced the USG’s lie that all the POWs came home during Operation Homecoming and that anyone concerned about the POW-MIA issue was wasting his or her time even caring about the POW-MIAs. However, we did not have a Plan B and we therefore went to the Embassy, introduced ourselves to the Marine security guards at the front gate and then at the entrance to the Embassy building, and told him we wanted to meet with the Ambassador. The security guard said there was no Ambassador, just a Chargé d’Affaires named Charles Salmon. [The Embassy not having a full Ambassador often characterized Lao-USA relations in those days.] I said, “That’s fine, can we meet with him?” The guard said he would go see. He came back in a few minutes and said Mr. Salmon would see us in his office, and he escorted Bill and me there.

In his office, Bill and I introduced ourselves and our FFHATL mission and what we had done for Laos. We told him of the visa problem and I told him that we could resolve the issue by giving the Ministries of Health and Foreign Affairs a letter from the Embassy advising them that FFHATL was a USA-based charitable organization in good standing. We requested the letter. Mr. Salmon said, “Let me check with Washington. Please come back this afternoon.” Bill and I thanked him and promised to come back at 2:00 p.m. Needless to say, Mr. Salmon was not knowledgeable of Bill’s and my involvement in the POW-MIA issue.

Bill and I went back to the Embassy and were escorted into Mr. Salmon’s office by two Marine guards who attended and experienced what happened when Bill and I went into Mr. Salmon’s office.

Mr. Salmon was waiting for me and the second I entered his office he literally ran and confrontationally shoved his face in my face and screamed, “How the hell did you get in this country? How did you get in this country? I demand to know how you got in this country? How did you get a visa?” Bill and I remained completely polite and cordial in spite of Mr. Salmon going ballistic. Indeed, his behavior was making the Marine guards fidget, and I was concerned that Mr. Salmon was so riled up that he was going to have a stroke.

Realizing Mr. Salmon had been sanction in the interim by the State Department in Washington, D.C. about Jeff Donahue and his search for his brother I had but one rejoinder: “Mr. Salmon, I’ll tell you why I am here. My brother was flying over Laos killing people. I am in Laos saving people.” Mr. Salmon then said he would never, ever give us the letter we requested.

Mr. Salmon’s hostility affirmed he had been disciplined by his superiors in Washington. A top USG mission – keeping Jeff Donahue out of Laos – had failed. Indeed, knowing that the POW-MIA issue was the sole domain of the USG, it had gone so far as to tell the Laotian Ministries of Foreign Affairs and Health that I should not be allowed in the country and should be denied a visa. This is why the Ministry of Health said, “Dr. Donahue, we are grateful for all you have done for Laos but you have a problem with your government [my emphasis] and there is nothing we can do. We cannot influence the Ministry of Foreign Affairs on this. You must resolve the problem with your government for FFHATL to continue its mission in Laos.”

As an affirmation of the State Department’s intervention in my and Bill’s personal affairs that lead to our being denied visas in July 1988, in June 1988 Bill received a phone call from the U.S. State Department inquiring about his upcoming trip to Laos. It now was unequivocally clear the State Department was listening in on Bill and me and FFHATL. Bill learned that the then-Chargé d’Affaires at the U.S Embassy, Harriet Isom, had met with the Lao Ministry of Health in May sometime after my visit to discuss a U.S.-based charitable entity, AmeriCares, building dispensaries in the Lao countryside. [AmeriCares is a large U.S. charity that has strong ties to the State Department.] This caught the Ministry off-guard because another charitable organization (FFHATL) already had a plan for building dispensaries in the countryside. Ms. Isom pressed further, and the Ministry gave her Bill’s and my details. The State Department subsequently convinced the Ministries of Health and Foreign Affairs that Bill and I should not be allowed in Laos. [The record says I met Ms. Isom at a social event in Hong Kong and that I brought up the subject of FFHATL and the State Department’s intervention in my personal affairs. She accused me of being a one-issue man. My response should have been, “Dear God in Heaven, what is wrong with that when it comes to caring about the POW-MIAs in Laos? Unfortunately, respite the record, I do not recall meeting her at the event.]

On Bill’s and my 1990 visit, the Ministry of Health told us a dispensary had been built by AmeriCares but was built with USA designs and some materials and therefore was completely worthless. The Ministry opined, “We told them so…”

If either the State Department, Mr. Salmon or Ms. Isom surface to refute my confrontation with Mr. Salmon and Bill’s and my prohibition on entering Laos, please remember that I have (1) three witnesses to the confrontation with Mr. Salmon, and (2) and a host of State Department communications affirming the Embassy’s dialog with the Lao Ministries of Foreign Affairs and Health regarding me, Bill and FFHATL.

Bill and I told the Ministry of Health that the problem with our visas had been resolved, and we subsequently were able to re-enter Laos and oversee the distribution of the medical supply shipments through 1992. On one trip we were given a tour of the main hospital and were asked if FFHATL could secure some badly needed large equipment. We said we would do our best.

Along the way, Bill and I also funded the creation of a tourism company in Phonsavan, Xiangkhoang Province, operated by a local partner. And, we later undertook a study for the Lao Ministry of Tourism regarding the tourist potential for the Plain of Jars. This study was assimilated into the Ministry’s application to UNESCO for the Plain of Jars be declared a World Heritage Site, which it was. That undertaking also took Bill and me to Sam Neua and the cave-headquarters of the Pathet Lao during the war in Viengxay in northeast Laos close to the border of Vietnam. Some of the caves were thought to hold US POWs during the war but Bill and I could discern no evidence of that. The caves had been thoroughly scavenged by indigenous people after the war.

Here is an exceptional article from the Washington Post dated January 2, 1994, regarding the fate of some of the POWs in Laos: http://articles.latimes.com/1994-01-02/news/mn-7768_1_pathet-lao. Despite the substance of the article, to this day the State Department has but one response enshrined in USG policy: all the POWs came home during Operation Homecoming and there is no evidence to the contrary. How sad that the State Department and the Defense Department so vigorously lie about that rather than tell the truth. Instead, they conduct a rigorous policy of distortion, obfuscation, misrepresentation, misinterpretation, hypocrisy and deceit all to protect the policy.

Should the State Department be excogitating further on the POW-MIA issue and my involvement in it,  I humbly request the State Department have the CIA release all documents – including State Department and DIA correspondences and communications regarding my brother and other POW-MIAs – that remain secret and are held secret in the bowels of the CIA and DIA to this day (assuming they haven’t been destroyed). Indeed, in light of the CIA and DIA even maintaining secret records to this day – 40 years after the end of the war – while it is telling the world there were no POWs left behind after Operation Homecoming precludes them from telling the truth about anything involving the POW-MIAs.

Post #4 will come shortly. It will involve my father’s and my work with the Lao resistance movements on the POWs and the FBI’s threat to put us in jail for doing so.

Post #5 will be a fun one that involved me going to Kunming, China, in 1989 on behalf of Ross Perot’s efforts to secure the repatriation of an F-105 pilot whom his sources advised was a POW in northernmost Vietnam. I got an extended stay in Kunming under house arrest for that…

Again, I will impose on you with all my heart if you will distribute the link to my blog – www.jcdonahue24.com  – to as many people as you can. Please include military people if you can. They need to know the truth of the POWs-MIAs. The truth will prevail only as more people become aware of the issue. Please tell them to start with Post #1 at the bottom and work their way up to #3.

Thank you so much!

I send peace and regards,

Jeff

Jeff Donahue Gets Targeted

My second post covers the most bizarre incident in my years of involvement in the Indochina POW-MIA issue up to the late 1980’s. I conclude the incident was an attempt by the U.S. Government to get me jailed in Thailand and forever taken out of circulation in the POW-MIA issue. However, I note that I have not yet attempted to prove my assertion such that it will stand up in a court of law. I intend to do so in 2015.

This second post is number 8 in the list of topics I generated for my blog. I apologize for again being out of sequence between post numbers and topic numbers (this is post# 2 and topic #8). Please forgive me again for this out-of-sequence methodology. I will restructure the numbering sequence ahead of the next post.

I appeal to you to read my first post issued in early November (“Jeffrey Donahue Gets Invited to Hanoi) if you have not already before reading this second post. The first post is a superb segue into the second post and also is a short summary of POW-MIA history and my early involvement. Also, if my posts are not brought to the public realm, these other dimensions and truths about the Indochina POW-MIA issue likely will be lost to history.

The first post focused on the SRV inviting me to Hanoi in 1976 for discussions on the Indochina POW-MIA issue and the United States’ promise to pay approximately $3.25 billion in reconstruction and development aid to the SRV as part of the Paris Peace Accords. That promise was kept secret by the Nixon administration from the Congress and the public at large during and after the Paris Peace Accords and it was not until years later and after much SRV consternation did the promise become public.

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By way of background, when my brother was declared Missing-in-Action on December 13, 1968, I joined my father, mother, and many other POW-MIA family members and concerned citizens in keeping the POW-MIA issue front-and-center with the media, Congress, and the public at large. Of course, we all believed there would be a full accounting for the POW-MIAs when the war would come to an end. My father had retired in 1967 (just before Morgan’s loss) after 29+ years in the Air Force. His final Air Force assignment was Deputy Head of the Air Force Security Police based in Washington, D.C. In conjunction with his retirement, he and my mother moved to Cocoa Beach, Florida, where he had accepted the job as Chief of Security for the Eastern Missile Test Range at Cape Kennedy Air Force Station under a contract with Pan American World Services (a division of Pan American Corporation and the owner of Pan American Airlines), which had been the prime contractor to the Cape Kennedy Air Force Station for several decades. He spent another 20 years at the Eastern Missile Test Range.

Using his long career in aviation and military and industrial security, my father was in Vientiane, Laos, within a week after my brother was lost. From then, the long saga began of trying to find out what happened to Morgan and other POW-MIAs in Laos.

Subsequently, when the USG so fraudulently declared that all the POWs had come home in conjunction with Operation Homecoming in 1973, my family and so many other families and concerned citizens knew we had to take things into our hands. That is exactly what we did, and our efforts were motivated solely by the quest for truth.

My future posts will cover many of the initiatives that my father and I undertook in Laos commencing in 1968. This post, however, will deal with one event in 1988 when I was living in Hong Kong, where I had been transferred in 1986 by Union Carbide Corporation from its headquarters in Danbury, Connecticut. Union Carbide, which I had joined in 1978, had moved its headquarters from Park Avenue in New York in a phased transition that pretty much was completed by 1982. [I had joined Union Carbide in 1978.]. In 1986 I was assigned to Union Carbide in Hong Kong as Director – Finance and Control for Union Carbide Asia Pacific. Union Carbide was a very old company and Union Carbide Asia Pacific had operations or multiple operations in virtually every country on the Pacific Rim and Indian Ocean as well.

Living in Hong Kong was a great benefit to me on two fronts. One was my easy access to Thailand and Laos, and I aggressively harvested this access to try and determine my brother’s fate. The other was a superb opportunity to raise the profile of the Indochina POW-MIA issue with the Asian press and media. As one example, I was interviewed at length by Aileen Bridgewater several times on the Aileen Bridgewater Talk Show at Commercial Radio Hong Kong (CRHK). CRHK was a very popular radio station in Hong Kong and Aileen Bridgewater was the leading and long-standing talk show celebrity in Hong Kong. She had been with BBC before Commercial Radio. She has an excellent book, Talk of Hong Kong.

Another example was a full- page lead article about me in the Saturday Review of the South China Morning Post on August 20, 1988. The South China Morning Post (often called the “SCMP” or the “Post”) was the premier English-language newspaper in Hong Kong and was widely read and quoted across Southeast Asia and for that matter all of Asia. No matter what city is was visiting across Asia-Pacific, I could get the Post. The Saturday Review (now the Sunday Morning Post) was the weekend edition – sort of the Sunday New York Times. The Post remains a stellar newspaper to this day, with print, Internet and iPad editions. Other articles about me appeared in other South East Asian press including, as I recall, the New Straits Times (Malaysia), the Straits Times (Singapore), the Sydney Morning Herald (Australia) and Xinhua (China).

I remember one of my friends at the U.S. Consulate in Hong Kong telling me how upset some of the senior Consulate staff were about the Post article because I was will getting so much publicity for an issue the government had tried so hard to put to suppress. The Consulate was a huge operation for the U.S. government and the State Department regarding China, including a huge CIA operation.

In addition to the publicity I was generating across Asia-Pacific on the POW-MIA issue, I was deeply involved in my own private initiatives in Laos going back to 1973. I also was involved in multiple POW-MIA undertakings with other family members and friends in Laos, Thailand and elsewhere. I will post about them in the future. For now, I will convey the details of the bizarre event that was unfolding in my life in Hong Kong.

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I was in my office at Union Carbide Asia Pacific in the New World Center in Tsim Sha Tsui, Kowloon. I believe this was during October 1988 but I am not certain of the date. That morning an American individual called me and said he really wanted to meet me. He introduce himself as having serious involvement in the POW-MIA issue. He asked if we could meet that day, if possible. Being a trusting person and wanting to make any progress possible on the issue, I said I could see him that afternoon if he would come to by office. He said he would be there, and introduced himself as John Mead.

John came to my office and after accepting a glass of water asked me to close my office even though it was a large office and away from earshot. I was glad to accommodate him. He said he was on temporary assignment in Hong Kong on a private matter pertaining to the POW-MIA issue. He said he was a former military officer. He then asked me if he could have my complete confidentiality about what he was going to convey. I gave it without a second thought.

He said he was one of a group of senior retired and active duty U.S. military officers – principally generals and admirals – who after much research had become convinced live POWs had been left behind in Indochina after Operation Homecoming. He said they were going to get to the bottom of the POW-MIA issue and resolve it through unofficial channels such that live POWs would be brought home. Their mission was highly confidential – there was no record of it – and the men already were working behind the channels in the U.S. on their mission

John’s and my discussion was over several hours. He obviously had detailed knowledge regarding my profile in the POW-MIA issue and in the issue itself, and he said he and his colleagues very much needed me to join their group and concentrate on one very important action while the rest of them would concentrate on other important confidential initiatives.

I was anxious to have more details and what I could do regarding operational planning, but I had to break for another meeting and had another evening engagement; I was taking my mother and father – who were visiting from Florida and staying with me – out for dinner that evening. I asked him if he come back to my office the next morning, which he said he would do.

John gave me his card. The front side of his card cited Benestar Investment Limited on Wanchai on Hong Kong Island, and he hand-wrote the Stryker Group in Sunnyvale, California, on the back side. He said he did not want to give me a personal address in Hong Kong because it was imperative he maintain as low a profile as possible. I believed him on that.

The next morning we re-engaged earnestly and in detail in my office. He said the immediate issue was that some of the senior officers in the United States were planning to travel to Bangkok shortly and organize a dialogue with senior officials there regarding a POW-MIA repatriation from Laos. I took the “senior officials” to mean senior Thai military officers. Because I myself had been involved in a repatriation mission with Royal Lao Air Force officers in 1975 in Laos (subject of a future post), such an initiative for John’s colleagues resonated with me.

John said the group already had secured considerable funding for the Thai mission. To move forward, though, the group needed $100,000 to be sent through private channels into Bangkok and not through them. He did not tell me from where the funds would originate, although I assumed they would be coming from the United States. He reiterated there had to have total privacy on this undertaking. They needed me to establish a bank account in Bangkok in my name to which the funds could be transmitted from my personal account in Hong Kong. The funds would be transmitted to my account in Hong Kong and then I would re-transmit them to my account in Bangkok.

I assured him that would be no problem. I had an extensive international banking relationship with Hong Kong Shanghai Banking Corporation (HSBC), and HSBC was my personal bank in Hong Kong as well. I felt HSBC could have a Bangkok account established for me in just a few ways. As soon as the funds were transferred to me at HSBC in Hong Kong, I would have them wired to my newly established HSBC account in Bangkok.

John said it would be imperative that I get to Bangkok immediately when all the funds were received there. I said this was not much of a deal because HSBC could quickly confirm to me receipt of the funds in Bangkok. However, he pushed back because some of the senior officials from the USA already would be in Bangkok by that time and my presence there would be very important. I said I could get to Bangkok quickly because I had some accrued vacation time. As soon ask the funds arrived in Hong Kong and were transferred to Bangkok I would immediately get to Bangkok.

At that time, we disengaged for the evening planning to reconvene the next morning. I went to see my parents, again.

By the time I went to bed that night I was feeling some apprehension for the first time regarding what I was getting into with John. I had been drinking from a fire hose from him for two days. I had agreed with him every step on the way and I had been prepared to do anything he needed me to do. Maybe it was just anxiety surrounding my mission. I knew I need some time to clear my head.

Knowing that I was not to call John at the phone numbers he had given me, I called my secretary the next morning and told her to tell him when he arrived that I would not be in the office during the day and that instead he should come to my home that evening. When he came to the office to meet with me, she told him of the change in plans, and he told her he would come to my home that evening.

It was around mid-day when I decided to then tell my father (who still was visiting from Florida) about John. I had not told him a word until that time. My father dug deeper and deeper. It became perfectly clear that I should have told him everything in the first place. My father had a nonpareil background in military and industrial security encompassing the USAF Office of Special Investigations in the United States and in Europe, the Air Force Security Police, the Eastern Missile Test Range, a Master’s degree in criminology from Stanford, and many other activities including  secondment to Secret Service Presidential for Presidents Kennedy and Carter (which I have proudly displayed in my home). He had exceptional insight into how people think, how they speak, how they carry themselves, what they intend to do, and more.

My father wanted to know about John but knew it was want important to me not to spoil my relationship with him. That very likely would have caused John to head for the exit. We therefore decided that while I met with John in my living room my father would stay hidden in a room adjacent to the living room behind a door where he could listen to the entire conversation.

John commenced by reading me the riot act for not having met with him during the day. He said time was of the essence and that he needed complete assurance that everything was going according to plan. I told him I had a glitch with setting up the bank account In Bangkok but that I expected it to be reconciled in the morning. After about an hour of discussion he left, planning to come to my office the next morning.

When my father came out of his secret listening post he, too, read me the riot act. It had not turning out to be a good day, being read the riot act twice. In his perception, John was a career DIA employee and was leading me into a very deep and dangerous hole. My father could “read” John. This was the consequence of his then  40+ years of security and related work. My father said he would call some of his contacts in Washington, D.C. to see if he could determine who John Mead is, and then he and I would circle the wagons again. Concomitantly, my father was emphatic that he needed me to buy time with John.

When John came to the office the next morning, he was really upset with me. I returned the attitude, and I told him unequivocally that I required being able to communicate with him through a phone number and address in Hong Kong while he was there. I also wanted his home address in the USA. In addition, I required the names of the person I was going to meet with in Bangkok. Moreover, I demanded to know the source destination of the money that was to be transferred to my Hong Kong bank account. John then became uncommunicative and said he needed to speak with his people and would come to my house that evening for more discussions, which I agreed to.

John did not come to my home that evening, nor did he contact me the next day. After several days, I went to the building in Wanchai were his card said Benestar Investment Ltd. had an office. It was a dingy building and had several dozen tiny office-type plaques on the inside wall. Either the Benestar Investment office plaque had been removed or there was no Benestar Investment Ltd. to begin with. Similarly, I could find no Stryker Group in Sunnyvale, California. Also, John’s telephone numbers did not work and neither did his fax number.

I conveyed the outcome of my search to my father, who had returned to Cocoa Beach, Florida. He told me trying to find John Mead and the Stryker Group thus far was deal-end and that he was burning up some relationship capital doing so. I told him to call that off.

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Who was John Mead, Benestar Investment, and the Stryker Group? I gave up trying because I was getting nowhere and I had other POW-MIA fish to fry. In retrospect, though, I believe he was an agent of the CIA or the DIA and that his tasking was to entrap me into a money-laundering scheme that would have resulted in my immediate arrest in Bangkok when I arrived in Don Muang Airport from Hong Kong. Money laundering particularly if the funds were sourced outside the USA – was and is a high crime in Thailand, and the Thai Policy would have shown no mercy. Given the flagrant evidence against me, there would have been no trial, mercy or appeal. I would not have had any life after that, and it is conceivable I would still be in prison there today. There would have been no Jeffrey Cornelius Donahue in the POW-MIA issue after that, and the Defense Department and the State Department would have been free of me.

The CIA and the Defense Intelligence Agency come to the top of my mind because my deep involvement in the POW-MIA issue, including with the Asian press, had pervasively had earned their enmity. The POW-MIA issue was getting press across Asia-Pacific, and that ran contrary to the interests and policy of the U.S. Government which considered itself as having dominion over the POW-MIAs (and does to this day). I had revivified the POW-MIA issue abroad. Also, I was in frequently in the Laotian countryside, something the USG was trying hard to prevent (this will be explained in Post #3). Furthermore, I had proven the Vietnamese government really wanted to discuss the POW-MIA issue even after the USG sabotaged that opportunity following Operation Homecoming (see Post #1).

Please remember that when someone goes public with a voice contrary to U.S. Government policy then all resources of government are marshaled to defend the policy, even if it is a lie, and refute the contrary voice. The USG has a long and sordid military history of that, and its sordid history has made its way to the public record many times.

I would not be surprised if the USG now seeks to discredit me on all fronts with a compressive defamatory campaign.

My next post will deal with multiple encounters with the U.S. State Department in Laos during some of my initiatives to find out what happened to my brother, Maj. Morgan Jefferson Donahue.

I am pleased to note that my first post has been viewed in 48 countries including the USA. The truth of the Indochina POW-MIA issue is being told.

I wish all of your dreams that come true in 2015.

Great 2015 presents for family and friends are Lynn O’Shea’s profoundly and prodigiously researched book on the Indochina POW-MIA issue, Abandoned in Place, and Mark Sauter’s and John Zimmerlee’s superb book on America’s surrendering of US POWs in North Korea, China and Russia, American Trophies. Also, if you are in the Washington, D.C., area, please visit the exceptional Capt. Rocky Versace Plaza and Vietnam Veterans’ Memorial in Alexandria, VA. The Plaza and Memorial are compelling tributes to the men and women who served (at the Mount Vernon Recreation Center, 2701 Commonwealth Ave., Alexandria).

Jeff

Jeff Donahue Gets Invited to Hanoi – October 1976

As of early January 2016, I have 7 posts. Please start with the first one (#1) at the bottom of the posts and then read your way up to #7. That sequence is important for grasping the following 6. Thank you very much.

I am launching this blog to bring to public awareness certain personal experiences from my 45+ years of involvement in the Indochina POW-MIA issue. I firmly believe you will find my experiences further validate the conclusion that American servicemen were knowingly left behind alive and abandoned in captivity by the U.S. Government at the end of the Indochina War. Experientially, I cannot come to any other conclusion.

Over the years I have shared some of my experiences with a limited number of close friends. Of the ones that are on the public record, most are not well known. Similarly, many of the companion documents that are cited in my posts are not on the public record. Some are, but one would have to be a trained archival researcher to find them.

I anticipate about twenty posts. If you would like a preliminary list of the topics, please go here. It may be the case that subsequent events will result in additional posts.

This blog is intended for people who are willing to be informed about the POW-MIA issue and understand how and why American servicemen were left behind. To be informed requires reading, thinking, and connecting dots. It takes time, and requires living above the surface of the POW-MIA issue. However, knowledge about the issue is freedom because it is a refutation of the ignorant claims of those who believe all the POW-MIAs came home during Operation Homecoming in 1975.

I dedicate this blog to my brother, 2nd Lt. Morgan Jefferson Donahue, USAF, MIA in Laos since December 13, 1968. While in MIA status, Morgan was promoted through the ranks to Major. He was arbitrarily declared KIA by a Pentagon administrative procedure, “Presumptive Finding of Death” – PFOD, during the Carter Administration in 1981. I also dedicate the blog to Bill Shemeley and his dear wife, Kathy, of the POW-MIA Connecticut Forget-Me-Nots. Bill and Kathy were at my side in multiple efforts I undertook to try and find out what happened to my brother and the other POW-MIAs. Finally, I also dedicate the blog to Lynn O’Shea, Director of Research of the National Alliance of Families for the Return of America’s Missing Servicemen.  Lynn’s new book, Abandoned in Place, is simply stunning in its depth and breadth.

Throughout my posts I use the following abbreviations:

  •  “USG” for the United States Government
  • “RV” for the Republic of Vietnam (South Vietnam before the fall in April 1975
  • “DRV” for the Democratic Republic of Vietnam (North Vietnam before the reunification of Vietnam)
  • “SRV” for the Socialist Republic of Vietnam (the reunified Vietnam)
  • “DoD” for the Department of Defense
  • “State” for the U.S. State Department

After the fall of South Vietnam in April, 1975, the South was administered by the Provisional Government of the Republic of South Vietnam (the puppet Viet Cong government) until the Provisional Government and the Democratic Republic of Vietnam were united as the Socialist Republic of Vietnam in July 1976.

I will commence posting with the second item in my topics list, My Invitation to Hanoi in October 1976 to discuss private economic reconstruction and development aid to the SRV in return for an accounting of the American POW-MIAs across Indochina. Multiple links are cited on the documentation behind the invitation, and most of the links are multiple pages.


As background, by the time Saigon fell in April 1975 diplomatic relationships between the DRV and the U.S. had long ground to a halt. While the Paris Peace Accords resulted in fairly comprehensive early contact between the two governments in 1973, communication and progress toward implementing the Accords quickly become encumbered and finally ceased altogether. The DRV’s final victory over the South in 1975 was just a nail in the diplomatic coffin. A multi-year blackout of diplomatic relations and communications between the USG and the SRV already was underway.

History proved the DRV had no intention whatsoever of letting the POW-MIA issue stand in the way of unifying North and South Vietnam. The DRV diligently maintained its single purposefulness throughout the negotiations, and all along the way it followed Stalin’s dictum of “If you strike steel, pull back; if you strike mush, push forward.” Concomitantly, the DRV discerned the USG was as resolute in getting out of the war as the DRV was in reunifying Vietnam. [Watergate was a contributing factor on top of the wide unpopularity of the war in the in the U.S.] Hence, the USG had no leverage whatsoever at the negotiating table in the run-up to the signing of the Accords. Moreover, the DRV knew that once the Accords were signed the USG would be unwilling to re-commit troops and reignite the war despite potential DRV expanded military engagements in the South. As a consequence, the Accords were dead-on-arrival, and they amounted to greatest American diplomatic farce in history. Indeed, the Accords went beyond farcical to fraudulent. In contrast to Kissinger’s acceptance of the Nobel Peace Prize as co-author of the Accords, at least Le Duc Tho had the integrity to refuse the Prize.

Very quickly, despite what Henry Kissinger told the American public and despite the truly fraudulent “Laos POW List,” it became clear the Accords did not extend to Laos and Cambodia. Concomitantly, there was no Operation Homecoming for the POWs in those countries. Furthermore, the USG expected many more POW names to be on the DRV and Viet Cong lists than actually were produced. Finally, the war in Laos, in particular, continued beyond the truce and Operation Homecoming, and B-52 bombing resumed in Laos in March 1975.

In 1976 I was an Officer in the Multinational Cash Management Group (formerly the Foreign Exchange Advisory Service) in Chemical Bank at its 20 Pine Street headquarters in New York City. Chemical Bank was a major money center bank, and it subsequently morphed into J.P. Morgan Chase today by way of a host of M&A transactions spread across Manufacturers Hanover Trust, Chase Manhattan Bank and J.P. Morgan. I watched closed Operation Homecoming in February-March 1973, and I watched closely the collapse of the U.S. presence in Vietnam in April 1975.

In August of 1976, I composed and sent a letter on my Chemical Bank stationery to Phan Hien, Deputy Foreign Minister of the Socialist Republic of Vietnam (see here). In the letter, I told Mr. Hien I represented a group of prominent American businessmen who believed America’s tragic involvement in Indochina (tragic for the United States and for Vietnam) cried for remediation and that we proposed contributing to the rebuilding of Vietnam through a multi-billion dollar privately funded reconstruction and development initiative. In exchange for this private aid, Vietnam would provide a full accounting of the missing American servicemen across Indochina. The link between reconstruction aid and an accounting for the POW-MIAs was unequivocal in my letter.

I never really expected to hear back from Phan Hien, and I pretty much set everything aside. To my great surprise, though, in early October I received a reply from Phan Hien (see here) via the Vietnamese embassy in Vientiane, Laos (mailed in September) telling me to come to Hanoi to discuss my proposal and to secure my visa from the embassy in Paris. I had a very short time to get to Hanoi. Upon reading the letter, I damn near went into cardiac arrest because I had not prepared the draft reconstruction and development plan. I immediately got a letter off to the Vietnamese Embassy in Paris requesting the visa, delivered expeditiously through Chemical Bank’s courier pouch to its Paris branch.

Being knowledgeable on Vietnam’s economy (I had earned a Ph.D. in economics from Florida State University in December 1972) and the economies of Asia-Pacific in general, I then proceeded to draft the plan. After multiple all-night efforts to pull it together, I completed it, printed it and had it bound (see here). By today’s standards it would be judged amateurish; by 1976 standards it was pretty professional. I knew I had done a good job; it was a heroic effort given the time constraint including the travel time I needed to get to Hanoi. I had the benefit of a Congressional staffer who was a friend of the POW-MIA issue (sadly, I have forgotten his name; his first name was “Dale”) and who, sometime before my letter to Phan Hien, had given me some background information on the Vietnamese economy that he had secured from the Joint Economic Committee that was formed in conjunction with the Paris Peace Accord.

The visa arrived from Paris, the travel plans to Hanoi were completed, and I was all set to go – except for one thing. In that era, USA passports prohibited travel to North Korea, Cuba and North Vietnam. In fact, I could have been prosecuted upon my return for going to Vietnam. I had no choice than to explain the situation to the State Department via a gentleman named Frank Sieverts, who was a Deputy Assistant Secretary of State in charge of POW-MIA liaison (among multiple other duties) and appeal to him to be granted a waiver from the prohibition. I had met him on many occasions, and he was not a stranger to me. However, the last thing I wanted to do was bring the State Department into the picture because prior to Operation Homecoming the families were united in their belief that the U.S. Government was doing everything it could to bring home all the POW-MIAs. But, after Operation Homecoming and the debacle whereby President Nixon declared there were no more POWs all that trust evaporated and turned into deep scorn and contempt of the USG by many of us. However, under the circumstances, the only thing I could do was to approach Frank. He intervened within the State Department and after a very hasty trip to the State Department’s office in Rockefeller Center the prohibition was crossed out and a diplomatic waiver was issued to me authorizing travel to Vietnam (see here and here).

I tried to tell Frank as little as I could about my invitation to go to Hanoi, but his job was to probe deeply and get the facts, which he did. After all, one of the great diplomatic stand-offs of the modern era was on his doorstep, and he was obligated to inform his superiors about this highly unorthodox visit to the DRV at the request of its government. One would expect nothing else from him. He was a diligent master of the POW-MIA cover-up.

I left for Hanoi via Hong Kong and Bangkok several days before the arrival date with multiple copies of the plan in hand. The Vietnamese embassy advised I would be met upon arrival by the Vietnamese Foreign Ministry (see here). Bangkok was to be the departure point for Hanoi on a weekly Air France flight.

I will address what came of this initiative in a future post. Right now, here is what my private initiative proved:

The North Vietnamese – eventually having no hope whatsoever of getting the USG to deliver the promised reconstruction and development aid – were willing to speak to a private American citizen about a full accounting of POW-MIAs across all of Indochina in return for private reconstruction and development aid. They understood that. The Vietnamese wanted to talk “POW-MIA” and they wanted the United States to pay up. The fact that they violated the Paris Peace Accords was of no consequence to them; they wanted to move ahead.  My letter was the “stuff” of a deal – they wanted what we wanted and we wanted what they wanted.

Further background on the U.S. Government’s complete unwillingness to deal with the SRV  and the opportunity to achieve a POW-MIA accounting that was forfeited as a result  is in the attached fascinating set of documents from the SRV to the State Department (see here, here and here). A copy of the first set was distributed to member of the Board of Directors of the National League of Families of American Prisoners and Missing in Southeast Asia (I was on the Board) by  Carol Bates, who at the time was the League’s Executive Director. These documents were provided to Ms. Bates by Frank Sieverts.  In one of the articles the USG repudiates any obligation to provide reconstruction assistance.

Importantly, it is critical to note that when I contacted Phan Hien in Hanoi I was complete unaware of the secret side pledge to the DRV by Richard Nixon of “in the range of” $3.25 billion of reconstruction and development aid which was in “Message from the President of the United States to the Prime Minister of the Democratic Republic of Vietnam” dated February 1, 1973, just days after the Paris Peace Accords (see here). That secret pledge had not been revealed to the American public. Indeed, the State Department never admitted the Message’s existence until 1977. Moreover, Henry Kissinger lied through his teeth to the American public when he multiple times said there was no such commitment up into the time with the State Department declassified the document in 1978.  See the New York Times article dated February 2, 1976 (see here).

Separately, I hope my efforts regarding the Message will prompt historians and archival researchers to investigate the shenanigans of a secret document from the President of the USA to the DRV just days after the signing of the Paris Peace Accords. Something does not resonate with that. In connecting some dots, I believe the hastily concocted Message had some purposes that have escaped historical scrutiny. One was an effort to secure a list of POWs captured in Laos because in the few days since the signing of the Accords it had become clear that there was no POW list coming from Laos. However, the meager list of Laos POWs, which was quickly cobbled together, was in fact produced by the Vietnamese and not the Laotians (Neo Lao Hak Sat – the Pathet Lao). There was no list from the Laotians, and the Vietnamese list was fraudulent – they were American servicemen captured in Laos by North Vietnamese and imprisoned in North Vietnam. A second purpose might have been to affirm Nixon’s commitment to pay for the POW-MIAs post-Paris Peace Accords since he knew that the Vietnamese would deliver the goods only if we delivered some money. That was standard Vietnamese modus operandi, and it is in the historical record going far before the deployment of U.S. troops in Vietnam.

Frank Sieverts will be cited in some future posts. Suffice to say he was not the only perpetrator of the abandonment of the POWs. There were many others in DOD, State, and the National League of Families in particular. I still am debating to name names.  I am not vindictive regarding their actions – that is not my nature. They were just cogs in a very big wheel that they had neither the courage nor integrity to challenge. However, the American public should be aware of who they are.

Others have written the how and why, too, and this blog is an adjunct to their research. For a list of their compelling publications, please see here. There are many other great reference materials, and I am sorry I have not cited them all in the link.