What Happened to American POWs Kept Behind After the Korean War


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What Happened to Maj. Logan?

Air Force Major Sam Logan was captured in 1950. The Soviets even distributed a picture of him in communist custody. He never came home.

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How Do We Know the Communists Kept American Prisoners After Korea?

Numerous US intelligence reports during and after the war  -- from Soviet officers to refugees -- documented the movement of American POWs out of North Korea to China and the Soviet Union. For example, Army intelligence confirmed and monitored secret prison camps  in China -- no Americans returned from them. Hundreds of prisoners held in North Korean camps the communists did acknowlege  -- such as Sgt. Richard Desautels, above -- were not released at the end of the war. In the years since, information about their survival in Russia, China and North Korea has continued to emerge.
The General in Charge Admitted US POWs Were Kept Back



 "I was in a quandry. The question to me was, 'How do you get these people back without pointing a gun at the communists?' When you have no gun threatening the Reds, there is no way to demand and enforce compliance from them," said General Mark Clark, Commander-in-Chief of UN and US forces, seen here signing the truce that ended the Korean War.

The Pentagon Wanted Covert Action to Recover Them After the War

The US Government Asked Moscow to Give Them Back
In 1954, the U.S. Embassy in Moscow delivered a note to the Soviet government asking it “to arrange their (U.S. POWs taken from Korea to the Soviet Union) repatriation at the earliest possible time.” The Soviets responded by denying they had the prisoners.

So Why Isn't the US Government Doing More to Find These Lost Heroes?

By 1955, the US government had in large part determined it could never recover the lost men. “The problem becomes almost a philosophical one," concluded a then-classified 1955 Pentagon memo. "If we are ‘at war,’ cold, hot or otherwise, casualties and losses must be expected and perhaps we must learn to live with this sort of thing. If we are in for fifty years of peripheral ‘fire fights’ we may be forced to adopt a rather cynical attitude on this (the POWs) for the political reasons.”


Today's Pentagon POW/MIA effort focuses mostly on recovering remains of those known killed since WWII, an important task it does well. This involves determining where to look for the remains of missing (almost always those our former enemies claim were killed in battle during the war) and then recovering and identifying them.


There is no appetite for a relentless effort to trace those men known to have been kept after Korea. The Pentagon can expect no real help from the Russians, Chinese and North Koreans. And there is no pressure from the White House or Congress.


Imagine what the American leaders of 1953, not to mention the prisoners and their families, would think, especially given the cordial relations America has granted Beijing and Moscow, and the very food to keep alive many North Koreans, without ever requiring the truth about our lost heroes.

Declassified U.S. government records and other intelligence demonstrate that -- despite decades of official denials from both sides -- the communists secretly held U.S. prisoners during and after the war. Reports continued of their survival in North Korea, China and the Soviet Union following the war. What happened to them? The U.S. government owes these brave men and their families a relentless, high-priority effort to uncover the truth.

Take Sgt.Richard Desautels (picture at top). A known POW in a North Korean camp, he feared his Chinese captors would keep him, telling a fellow U.S. prisoner: "(I)f he should disappear to make inquires concerning his whereabouts with the proper military authorities...." When asked by America what happened to him, the Chinese in 1956 claimed he'd "escaped" during the war (they said the same about another GI who was a double amputee). For decades both China and the Pentagon insisted there was no evidence Sgt. Desautels had been secretly shipped to China.

Examples of the attitudes of the Pentagon and Chinese (the Russians have been little better): In 1990, Defense Intelligence Agency Deputy Director Rear Admiral Ronald Marryott provided a written statement to Congress concerning American prisoners in North Korea that stated “there are no intelligence indicators that U.S. personnel from the Korean conflict were not returned to U.S. control at the end of the war.” He went on to state that the Soviet Union and China had also been under intense US intelligence scrutiny for many decades. “I believe this scrutiny would have likewise revealed at least a hint of American prisoners held in either country had they been taken there. Again, no such evidence has ever surfaced,” he stated. He was in sync with the Chinese government, which in 1992 claimed: “The Chinese side settled the issue of American prisoners of the Korean War long ago…None of the POWs under Chinese control was transferred to a third country or to the Chinese territory.”

Then in 2003, Beijing admitted he'd been taken, but said he'd soon died of "mental illness" and China had lost his body (coincidentally, in a place wartime U.S. intelligence indicated was a trans-shipment point to Siberia.) Beijing even conceded it still had a classified file on the Sgt. But the Pentagon has failed to get that file or the full story about Desautels -- or hundreds of other Americans reported to have suffered similar fates.