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.
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.
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.
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).