Thoughts on the military and military activities of a diverse nature. Free-ranging and eclectic.

Saturday, February 14, 2004

This is coolbert: Prisoners left behind in the aftermath of the Vietnam War. This was a hot button item for many years even after the war ended. Some expeditions were mounted to SE Asia in the forlorn hope of finding American prisoners alive. And refugees from Vietnam would from time to time report sightings of American POW's years after the war ended. There are several scenarios that play out here. One is from the French era, one from the American.

At the time the French agreed to abandon the war in Indo-China, they also at the time realized that this would result in abandonment of some of their troops caught in an impossible situation. These were Frenchmen of the GCMA units. GCMA was roughly equivalent to the U.S. Green Berets of the subsequent second Indo-China war. Dropped by parachute into very remote areas to organize the hill tribesmen [montagnards] to conduct guerilla warfare against the Viet Minh. In this they were very successful. But, when the French began to withdraw from SE Asia, these guys were in such remote areas, they could be gotten out. And this was known to all. In 1956, two years after the fighting in SE Asia was supposed to have ceased, the French radio monitors, according to Bernard Fall, heard a French voice on the radio. The voice said, "you bastards, you left us here to die. The least you could have done is sent us ammunition so that we could die fighting as men." And that was that. It was a member of the GCMA, still surviving and fighting in the remote areas of Vietnam and Laos. About the same time, the Viet Minh army newspaper reported that in fighting under difficult conditions, they had killed 300 Frenchmen and captured about 100 more. These were the GCMA men. Now, the reference to the difficult conditions the Viet Minh encountered is a veiled reference to the heavy casualties that they suffered. And of all those GCMA men in Nam two years after the war ended, only one managed to escape. One man walked 500 miles to safety, and was able to do so because he could speak many of the dialects of the hill tribesmen and could obtain food and shelter from them. Of those 100 Frenchmen captured, what happened to them? Well, no one knows. Other than from time to time during the American presence in Vietnam, rumors would persist of Frenchmen spotted in forced labor units in North Vietnam.

Now, even after the American withdrawal from Vietnam, rumors still persisted that Americans had been left behind and were being held by the communists. These rumors persisted for years after the war ended. Now, what is a possible source of these rumors? Well, it is a known fact, that at the end of the U.S. presence in Nam, about 1000 deserters were being harbored by certain persons in the Cholon [ethnic Chinese] quarter of Saigon. Being kept alive by funds remitted by their parents through wire transfer. The U.S. gov knew about this but was unable to apprehend these deserters. Just prior to the fall of Saigon in 1975, deuce and a half trucks with loudspeakers rambled through the Cholon district, announcing that the deserters should come out of hiding, as the commies were approaching and they would be in grave peril. Rather, "return to the U.S. side and take your chances." Not one deserter did so. What happened to these guys after the communist takeover? Well, I bet the results were not pretty. I cannot believe these guys were not rounded up by the communists and put to hard labor, and maybe even executed over time. Starved, beaten, shot, worked to death. Their plight must have been harsh.



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