The Frank Olson Legacy Project

“U.S. Knew in 1953 North Koreans Held American POW’s”

 

 

 

 

By PHILIP SHENON

The New York Times
September 17, 1996, Tuesday


 

 

Note:
In Congressional hearings Jan Sejna emphasized that within the Eastern Block countries the story of the fate of the American POWs used in mind control experiments was not merely “top secret;” it was a “state secret.”

 

Newly declassified documents show that the United States knew immediately after the Korean War that North Korea had failed to turn over hundreds of American prisoners known to be alive at the end of the war, adding to growing speculation that American prisoners might still be alive and in custody there.

The documents, obtained from the Dwight D. Eisenhower Presidential Library and other Government depositories by a Congressional committee, show that the Pentagon knew in December 1953 that more than 900 American troops were alive at the end of the war but were never released by the North Koreans.

The documents may only deepen the mystery over the fate of Americans still considered missing from the Korean War. In June a Defense Department intelligence analyst testified that on the basis of ''a recent flurry'' of ''very compelling reports,'' he believed that as many as 15 Americans were still being held prisoner in North Korea.

While not dismissing the analyst's report entirely, the Defense Department has said it has no clear evidence that any Americans are being held against their will in North Korea, although it has pledged to continue to investigate accounts of defectors and others who say they have seen American prisoners there.

The North Korean Government has said it is not holding any Americans. A handful of American defectors are known to live in Pyongyang, the North Korean capital, and some are believed to have appeared in North Korean propaganda films.

The documents were obtained by the House National Security subcommittee on military personnel. Congressional investigators said much of the information was confirmed by a former military aide to President Eisenhower, Col. Phillip Corso.

In a statement prepared for delivery before the House panel on Tuesday, Colonel Corso, who is retired, said, ''In the past I have tried to tell Congress the fact that in 1953, 500 sick and wounded American prisoners were within 10 miles of the prisoner exchange point at Panmunjom but were never exchanged.'' Panmunjom was the site of peace negotiations between the United States and North Korea that ended with an armistice on July 27, 1953.

One of the documents obtained by the House subcommittee, a December 1953 memo that had been on file at the Eisenhower Library in Abilene, Kan., shows that the Army believed at that time that 610 ''Army people'' and 300 Air Force personnel were still being held prisoners by the North Koreans, five months after a prisoner exchange between the United States and North Korea.

The memo said that President Eisenhower was ''intensely interested'' in the fate of ''the missing P.O.W.'s,'' and that he had wanted to make sure ''everybody was doing all they could about it.''

Al Santoli, a Congressional investigator who helped gather the documents, said the House subcommittee would explore the possibility that some of the American prisoners reported missing in 1953 were the same Americans reportedly sighted in recent years in North Korea.

He said that the intelligence information released by the Eisenhower Library had been declassified at the request of the subcommittee, and that it showed that the Eisenhower Administration ''was trying to do what it could to get the prisoners back'' short of war.

Historians of the Korean War have suggested that the Eisenhower Administration chose not to make public much of its intelligence on the issue of missing Americans for fearing of whipping up a war hysteria among Americans who would have demanded that the prisoners be returned home.

''In a nuclear age, Eisenhower could not risk telling the Russians or the Chinese that we're willing to go to all-out war to get our prisoners back,'' Mr. Santoli said.

The hearing Tuesday of the subcommittee will include potentially explosive testimony from a Czech defector, Jan Sejna, who now works for the United States Defense Intelligence Agency.

Mr. Sejna, a former Czech defense official, had access to information about medical experiments carried out on American prisoners of war by Russian and Czech personnel in a hospital in North Korea during the war. Mr. Sejna had described experiments in which American prisoners were drugged in a program to ''develop comprehensive interrogation techniques, involving medical, psychological and drug-induced behavior modification.''

At the end of the testing, the Americans were reportedly executed.




…experiments in which American prisoners were drugged in a program to ‘develop comprehensive interrogation techniques, involving medical, psychological and drug-induced behavior modification.’…
At the end of the testing, the Americans were reportedly executed.