Why has the U. S. government refused to release documents on prisoners of war?
ITEM June 1991 America sees Bore Yeltsin acknowledge in a television interview that American POWs from the Vietnam War. World War II. and the Korean War had been transferred to Soviet labor camps and that some might still be alive.68
Within two days, the news media were explaining that Boris Yeltsin had probably just misspoken. In fact, his acknowledgment had first been made in writing to the U. S. Senate’s Select Committee on POW-M1A Affairs.69 And the U. S. government had long been in possession of some 11,700 reports about the more than 2,000 American men still missing in action from the Vietnam War – including 1,400 firsthand live sightings.70 In Korea, more than 8,000 men were missing in action and another 559 were unaccounted for as prisoners of war.71 Secretary of State John Foster Dulles was aware of numerous reports of American prisoners of war from Korea in Soviet custody as early as 1954.72
Was there a cover-up? Was it just by the media? And if so, why? There does appear to be a cover-up, but not by the media alone. Just months before, army colonel Millard A. Peck, originally put in charge of investigating such findings after his stance that there was no cover-up,73 came to the conclusion that there was. He found that officials in the National Security Council, State and Defense departments were taking each lead and, instead of pursuing it, "finding fault with the source. . . The mind-set to debunk is alive and well.’’74 He was so frustrated he resigned, protesting that his office was being used as a "toxic waste dump to bury the whole mess out of sight and mind in a facility with limited access to public scrutiny.’’75
Colonel Peck knew the risk he was taking. He asked immediately for permission to retire from the army “so as to avoid the annoyance of being shipped off to some remote comer, out of sight and out of the way.”76
Why this cover-up? Closing the case on POWs and MIAs helps Americans to return to peaceful lives after the war. After World War II, the Korean War, and the Vietnam War, the VS. government declared all prisoners of war and men missing in action dead It refused to release documents on POWs and MIAs. We can understand the desire for this, but it reflects a greater willingness to make our own lives peaceful than to make sure that the men who preserved our freedom and peace are alive.
Now consider this: had these MLAs and POWs been 10,000 of our mothers, daughters, and sisters would we not have intuitively known it would be impossible for the country to heal until every last lead was pursued? It would have been such a political issue in World War II that we would never have considered a cover-up following the Korean or Vietnam wars.
Our caring so little about men’s lives always hurts more than men: children have grown up recalling their dads only from pictures on night tables in their mothers’ bedrooms, and women have not known whether to bury their husbands psychologically or await the next phone call.