Captain Is Dedicated to Prisoners' Return
Capt. Eugene R. Guild, U.S. Army (ret.), has a few close friends in his home town of Glenwood Springs, Colo.
Townfolk shy away from him. He's a distinguished looking man, clean in habits and speech, but his neighbors would feel a little more at ease if he'd pack up and settle somewhere else.
The conservative element is afraid that the 82-year-old retired Army combat officer is going to give their town a bad name. That he enjoys an occasional day running river rapids in a tiny rubber life craft doesn't particularly offend them. That's a harmless little idiosyncrasy.
But they are bothered by his "rabble-rousing," his continuing fight with the U.S. government over its unwillingness to admit the possibility that more than 3,000 U.S. servicemen may today be prisoners of the Red Chinese. And its timid refusal to take positive, strong action.
Yesterday, I reported how the government recognized, with some reluctance, that Communist China could be holding as many as 450 U.S. soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines from since the days of the Korean war.
Capt. Guild sets the figure at 3,141. This he arrived at by taking the number of servicemen (4,735) still unaccounted for after the war and subtracting the number of remains which the Chinese finally were pressured into returning to U.S. authorities (1,550), plus 44 others who were later established as dead.
The Chinese claim they have no more bodies. They refuse to admit knowledge of ever having held any of the missing men in question.
"The U.S. government is still asking the Chinese about the fate of the 450 whom they've established were at one time or another in the hands of the Reds," the captain told me yesterday. "Over the years I've compiled evidence as strong, or stronger, on dozens of the others."
The captain, in a voice disarmingly soft, continued:
"But instead of adding to their list as more information comes to light, the government is backing down, soft-pedaling the issue.
"The Communists have a habit of secretly holding prisoners. A few years ago, after keeping 289 Spaniards for 11 years and denying it all the time, they suddenly released them. They've done the same with Italian and German prisoners.
"The Italians claim that the Russians still have 63,000 of their men. The Germans set their figure at 300,000."
Today, Capt. Guild heads a loose organization known as "Fighting Homefolks of Fighting Men," made up of 1,000 relatives and friends of still missing GIs. He gets no salary. In fact, much of his pension check goes into his crusade.
"We gather information and we try to keep public interest alive on the issue," he told me. "The government's attitude is (1) they're dead, or (2) there's nothing more we can do about them than what we're doing now, short of war.
"This, naturally, scares the public because none of us want war.
"What the government doesn't point out is that there's a middle ground.
"Instead of wasting postage on perfumed diplomatic notes and keeping men in Warsaw and Panmunjom making token protests," Guild continued, "the U.S. could use severe economic and diplomatic pressures.
"We, as a nation, could generate worldwide opinion and force the Reds into accounting for the missing men."
Cute Game of Bum Steer
Capt. Guild shook his head. "But we don't. Instead, our government officials deliberately misinform and mislead the men's kin. In the case of an Army captain, they actually withheld the information that the Chinese admitted having the soldier as a prisoner. They withheld the facts from the captain's father.
"Mothers of some of the missing who have been too persistent in their pleas to Washington have actually been visited by the FBI. I've had post office inspectors come around to see me.
"These men," the captain, who, himself, lost a son in Korea, concluded, "proved their loyalty on the battlefield. Now it's time for the U.S. government to prove its loyalty."