Today I have this story by Russian reporter Mikhail Moshkin. The headline reads:
Ukraine to unlock the secret of American deaths in Vietnam
The lede: the Ukrainian government has signed an agreement with the U.S. to locate and question those Ukrainians still among the living, who fought in Vietnam on the Soviet side. The hope is that these old brains might still harbor some faint memories of lost American soldiers. Including those fabled prisoners still languishing in cages deep in the jungle [sarc]. Or, at the very least, they might remember some old grave where they saw American bones being buried.
Is this an actual thing? Moshkin wonders. Or is the Ukrainian government just trying desperately to suck up to America in any way it can? [Hint: the correct answer is #2.]
In either case, a memorandum has been signed between Ukraine’s Ministry for Veteran Affairs and the American Defense Ministry section that deals with POWs and MIAs. This was announced last Friday by the Ukrainian side.
The Ukrainians have promised the Pentagon that they will seek out and find elderly veterans of the Soviet armed forces currently resident in the Ukraine. Looking specifically for those veterans who took part in the Vietnam War during the years 1959-1975, or who were stationed in Vietnam during the years 1975-1986.
Now, it is no secret, although it was supposed to be a secret at the time, that the Soviet Union was an active participant of the Vietnam War. On the side that later came to be known as THE WINNERS.
Namely: The Soviet Union sent teams of specialists and “advisors” to assist the North Vietnamese and Viet Cong armies. Which contributed to the war effort and helped the Vietnamese win.
The Ukrainian segment of the Soviet contingent, the Ukrainian Vietnam vets, so to speak, have their own caucus within the overall Ukrainian Veterans Organization. Their website is here. It contains a treasure trove of photographs and articles with titles like:
- We defended Hanoi!
- Vietnam withstood and emerged victorious!
- In honor of the 55th Anniversary of the victory!
Strangely, I don’t see any articles therein with titles such as “Oh, what did we do?” or “We were on the wrong side!” which would be the position of the current Ukrainian government. No, the Ukrainian Vietnam Veterans website is a rather bouncy thing, with interesting photographs and exuding the joy of victory in a war well-fought. Little do these gentlemen know that real Ukrainians only celebrate losers and must remain in a constant state of mourning.
Anyhow, these are the veterans who are to be questioned by the Ukrainian military as to their fading memories. According to the Ukrainian newspaper Strana.ua, “The veterans will be questioned as to whether they have any information about military operations in which American troops were captured or disappeared without a trace.” Sadly, there are only a few dozen of these heroes still among the living. Nor have these guys been consulted, nor responded to the promises given, on their behalf, by the Ukrainian government. Oh, I am sure they would be willing to help, if they could. If finding some old bone out there in the jungle might bring peace and closure to some family somewhere, why not? It’s just that nobody asked them. Yet.
Moshkin interviewed Vietnam specialist Evgeny Kobelev, who works at the Institute for Far East Studies, for the Russian Academy of Sciences. Kobelev believes that the Americans are just making up a problem that doesn’t exist: Already back in the 1980’s the Vietnamese handed over all the POW’s they had as a component of the Paris Peace Accords of 1973. They have been no authenticated cases, nor any plausible evidence, that any prisoners still remain, Rambo movies notwithstanding.
As for the “disappeared without trace”, well those do exist, and number around 2600 soldiers and officers of the United States armed forces.
Kobelev’s colleague, Vladimir Mazyrin, also offered his opinion to the reporter: Once relations between the U.S. and Hanoi resumed, the MIA issue was top of the agenda for the Americans. Starting in 1992 American search groups scoured the jungles of Vietnam, and also Laos and Cambodia. Their searches brought some success: As of 2008 the number of missing remains had gone down to 1741. By 2010 the American State Department officially announced that the remains of 1310 people still remained in a “Not found” state.
These remaining remains are now in play, which brings us back to our lede. By binary logic, these missing bones are either (1) buried somewhere in an unknown place, or (2) never buried. Although some diehards insist that some of these men are still alive and locked up in cages somewhere.
The current government of Vietnam employs a pragmatic foreign policy and seeks to cooperate with all nations, including the U.S. and the Russian Federation. Previously, according to Mazyrin, the Vietnamese had requested Russian assistance to help them search for American MIA’s. Probably in the hope that if they could cough up some bones, the Americans would quit harping on this issue.
How are Russians supposed to help? Indeed, the Soviet veterans who served in Vietnam over 40 years ago, would have seen these American GI’s only through the sights of their rifles. However, there is always the hope, that, for example, a Soviet ground soldier might remember how, and where, he shot down an American “Phantom” or “Skyraider” with his portable rocket launcher. Or at least indicate the quadrant where it fell.
Next: The “secret war” that wasn’t so secret…
[to be continued]