President Clinton will ask Congress for legislation to compensate 281 Vietnamese who served the United States secretly during the Vietnam War but were written off as dead after being captured, White House officials said Saturday.
“We are determined to do the right thing by these people,” an administration official said.
The Vietnamese were enlisted by the Central Intelligence Agency between 1961 and 1969 in what turned out to be an unsuccessful effort to infiltrate North Vietnam.
Dropped by parachute or landed on the North Vietnamese coast by small boats, the U.S. agents were captured and spent 20 years or more in prison.
They were written off as dead by U.S. military officers and their presumed widows given a token payment.
Many of the one-time secret commandos are now in the United States and are suing for back pay of $2,000 a year, without interest, for the time they spent in prison. The total sought is about $11 million.
American prisoners of war received full pay while in captivity in North Vietnam.