Hundreds of U.S. servicemen were killed in captivity during the Vietnam War, mostly in the heat of battle but some from torture, according to an American researcher who had rare access to Hanoi’s war archives.
Theodore Schweitzer said Thursday that four years of studying Vietnamese documents and interviewing officials convinced him Hanoi did not hold back prisoners in 1973, when the U.S. pulled out of the war.
After the Paris peace accords, Hanoi returned nearly 600 American POWs but the fate of many others remained a mystery. Speculation that Hanoi kept some as hostages or slave labor persists even today.
The United States still lists 1,621 as missing in action. Although the two countries are about to open liaison offices in each other’s capitals, Washington says Hanoi must cooperate fully in clarifying the fate of the missing before full diplomatic relations can be established.
A just-published book, “Inside Hanoi’s Secret Archives: Solving the MIA Mystery,” written by Malcolm McConnell on the basis of Schweitzer’s research, argues that American prisoners who didn’t come back died in captivity.
Some were killed while resisting their captors or trying to escape, the book quotes a senior Vietnamese colonel, Pham Dkuc Dai, as telling Schweitzer.
Others were executed because they were too badly wounded to be moved, or were beaten to death by angry peasants in areas heavily bombed by the Americans. Still others died in U.S. raids.
Dai and a second senior officer confirmed that a small number were tortured to death but gave no figures.
One of the most dramatic passages of the book is a quote from the second officer, identified by the apparent pseudonym of Lt. Col. Nguyen Van Thi.
“We killed many American prisoners in cold blood. They were tortured to death in prison, or simply killed outright from fear they would try to escape,” Thi is quoted as saying.
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