Paul V. Coates – Confidential File, Dec. 17, 1959
December 17, 2009 | 2:00 pm
We Have Living Dead Living in Red China
Historically, war is a cold fact of life.
And one of its most terrifying aspects is that some men conscripted by their nations to fight are swallowed up and lost in its grisly shuffle.
They're not among the known dead. They're not among the known living.
They're just gone.
After the war in Korea, The U.S. counted its casualties. Among them were 5,866 missing. Slowly, since then, it has whittled the number down.
There were 715 who were later located in prison camps and returned. An additional 1,550 bodies, less than half of them identifiable, were sent back to us by the Chinese. Others, evidence definitely indicated, had died either in action or prison camps. Still others were eventually written off by the U.S. government as "presumed dead."
And it's the last group which has kept the United States talking out of both sides of its mouth ever since.
The government finds it morally and diplomatically embarrassing -- in view of what little is being done -- to admit that more than 3,000 of the missing members of our Armed Forces might today be captives or slaves in Red China.
So it states to the kin of those still unaccounted for that it has no reason to believe they're alive.
Then it complies its own list of 450 missing where there is evidence that the men were taken alive by the Chinese and demands information from the Reds as to their whereabouts, or fate.
U.S. Department of Defense and State Department negotiators are still meeting with Communist representatives at Panmunjom and Geneva. They're still going through the inane formality of questioning an accounting.
The formality's inane because the Chinese don't answer polite requests. They don't speak that language.
Among the cases which the Chinese repeatedly deny knowledge of:
-An Air Force major, shot down on Sept. 9, 1950. The U.S. has proof that he was taken prisoner and held, at one time, in a jail in Pyongyang. Later, the agency "Soviet Picture" released a photograph of him stating that he had been taken prisoner.
-An Army captain whose plane was shot down in October, 1952. Statements from other prisoners of war established that he, too, was captured. He lost one leg when shot down and had his other leg amputated in a Communist hospital a month later.
-An Army private taken prisoner in August, 1950. Several months later, a Communist radio station broadcast a message from him to his mother.
Across the bargaining tables, the Reds denied all knowledge of ever having held these and hundreds of other men with similar documented stories.
They still do today, with the exception of the double-amputee captain. After months of denying his capture, they changed their story to say that yes, they had him and amputated both his legs but he escaped. The double-amputee got out of his hospital bed and escaped.
At a 1957 hearing of the Committee of Foreign Affairs, House of Representatives, strong evidence was brought out that the Chinese Reds had held, and possibly are still holding, the 450 on the government list.
Rep. Clement J. Zablocki (D-Wis.) charged that the U.S. was taking the easy way out by ignoring the possibility that the Chinese were still holding some of these men. He pointed out that the Chinese have denied holding other prisoners, only to release them when certain pressures were applied, or when they felt it would be to their political advantage.
Rendezvous With Oblivion
"How can the United States sit still while 450 Americans are imprisoned behind the Bamboo Curtain?" Zablocki demanded in a floor speech after the hearings. "We can't forget our fighting men or consign them to oblivion . . .
"It would almost appear as if the administration was more anxious to keep news of Communist foul deeds away from the world than to broadcast the fate of these men as a somber warning . . . "
Tomorrow I'll talk to a retired Army man who charges that the number of "GI slaves" the Communists may be holding today is 3,141, not 450.