According to an internal study suppressed by military officials, the Pentagon’s effort to account for tens of thousands of American G.I.s missing in action from foreign wars is so inept, mismanaged and wasteful that it can be described as dysfunctional, if not a “total failure.” Among the missing are an estimated 73,661 service members from World War II, Korea and Vietnam.
The report was obtained by the Associated Press after Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests for it by others had been denied.
The report paints a picture of a military-run group called Joint POW/MIA Accounting Command (JPAC), headed by a two-star general, as woefully inept and even corrupt. The decades-old pursuit of bones and other MIA evidence is sluggish, often duplicative and subjected to too little scientific rigor. JPAC is digging up too few clues on former battlefields, relying on inaccurate databases and engaging in expensive “boondoggles” in Europe.
Ironically, it was JPAC’s leaders who had authorized the study of its inner workings. But when the report was presented last year, JPAC’s then-commanding general, Army Maj. Gen. Stephen Tom, disavowed it and suppressed the findings. Now retired, Tom nevertheless banned the report’s use “for any purpose,” saying the probe went beyond its intended scope. His deputy concurred, calling it a “raw, uncensored draft containing some contentious material.”
But the current JPAC commander, Air Force Maj. Gen. Kelly K. McKeague, says he would not dispute those who say his organization is dysfunctional. In a telephone interview last week from his headquarters in Hawaii, McKeague said, “I’d say you’re right, and we’re doing something about it.” Changes “under consideration” may include consolidating the accounting bureaucracy and putting its management under the Joint Chiefs of Staff in Washington.
The internal report by Paul M. Cole, never meant to be made public, is unsparing in its criticisms:
- In recent years the process by which JPAC gathers bones and other material useful for identifications has “collapsed” and is now “acutely dysfunctional.”
- JPAC is finding too few investigative leads, resulting in too few collections of human remains to come even close to achieving Congress’s demand for a minimum 200 identifications per year by 2015.
- Some search teams are sent into the field, particularly in Europe, on what amount to boondoggles. No one is held to account for “a pattern of foreign travel, accommodations and activities paid for by public funds that are ultimately unnecessary, excessive, inefficient or unproductive.” Some refer to this as “military tourism.”
- JPAC lacks a comprehensive list of the people for whom it is searching. Its main database is incomplete and “riddled with unreliable data.”
- “Sketch maps” used by the JPAC teams looking for remains on the battlefield are “chronically unreliable,” leaving the teams “cartigraphically blind.”
JPAC’s ineptness has prompted John Molloy, Executive Director of RELEASE Foundation POW-MIA, to write the e-mail below to General W. Montague Winfield, Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Prisoner of War/Missing Personnel.
July 8, 2013
Dear General Winfield,
It would appear that reporters have finally endeavored to uncover and report on the underlying deceit by the federal government in the effort to obtain a full accounting of America’s missing military personnel and the federal government (DOD) having knowingly conspired with our enemies in their efforts to deceive those of us: family members, veterans and concerned citizens who sought resolution of the POW MIA issue.
During the many years we had attended the DPMO meetings and listened to the ramblings of certain of your predecessors, we could not help but realize that the effort to bury the POW issue was obvious. We could not help but feel after listening to some dissertations that DPMO and JPAC would not have welcomed the return of a live POW during one of their digs as it would have been preferable if he were dead and treated as an MIA and had his remains uncovered. The implication is obvious. Col. Peck honorably resigned realizing the whole operation was smoke and mirrors. Other individuals in DPMO and its predecessor organization did their utmost to debunk evidence for both political and personal reasons (relationships with North Vietnamese both marital and business). Elected officials such as John Kerry and John McCain, made every effort to undermine the efforts of POW activists for years.
In past years listening to your predecessor, DASD Newberry opening dialogue, I could not help feel that it was designed to put all the listeners to sleep so that they would appear bored and disinterested. In his address in 2011 he bragged that the increased DPMO budget would allow the purshase of additional tables to enable the forensic anthropologists at CILHI to potentially increase their ability to identify the number of remains to 200 per year. My sarcastic reply was that in theory all the remains recovered could then be identified by 5076AD or thereabouts. The whole problem is that we have continually been deluged by government generated effluvia, designed to placate us and make it appear that much has been accomplished. Also I am convinced that Russian General Shimanoff would have assisted in providing information on American POWs in Russia until one of our retired general officers referred to him as ‘the butcher of Checnya’. Negating Shimanoff eliminated a potential source and in retrospect his actions in Checnya may have been justified.
We know that American Prisoners of War and Missing in Action have been abandoned for political expedience since World War I. It is my contention that at the end of World War II, had the United States government forced the return of those American prisoners who had been taken prisoners by the NAZIs and appropriated by the Russians, the Cold War would never have occurred and the US would have been the only superpower. Unfortunately, there were many communists and communist sympathizers in the US government (McCarty Chronicles by Robert Pelton) affecting our policies and they still are. Consequently, many career oriented officials and appointees just go along to get along and are not committed to uncovering the truth (Missing Presumed Dead by William Dumas). You have been provided with copies of An Enormous Crime by Rep William Hendon and Beth Stewart Esq. and Unwanted Dead or Alive by Robert Pelton).
It may be the with this current news that chickens may be coming home to roost, and you as the current head of DPMO are in an unenviable position. You have an opportunity to disclose the truth, too many of American prisoners have died waiting for it, as have patriots: Ted Sampley, John Holland and Nguyen Kim Ban, Col ARVN.
National Vietnam & Gulf War Veterans Coalition
Executive Director, RELEASE Foundation POW-MIA
H/t my friend Robert K. Wilcox
Dr. Eowyn is the Editor of Fellowship of the Minds and a regular contributor to The D.C. Clothesline.