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US POWs and MIAs in Laos - A Trip to the Vieng Xai and Sam Neua Caves


PAL
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It's not strictly a US battlefield, a museum or a monument, but sort of all three, so apologies if this is not the right forum to post this.

 

The below is a link to an article I wrote about a recent trip to the Vieng Xai caves in Houaphan Province, in Northern Laos, where US POWs were held by the Pathet Lao and NVA, during the Vietnam War, in a cave complex near the Vietnamese Border.

 

It is still incredibly remote and inaccessible, and only partly open to the public.

 

David Hrdlicka and Charles Shelton were just two of the POWs held in these caves, and none were ever returned.

 

I have also included a lot of photos in the article: http://peteralanlloyd.com/back-part-2/are-there-any-vietnam-war-era-pows-still-alive-in-laos-a-trip-to-sam-neua-and-vieng-xai-caves/

 

Peter

 

 

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I have a POW/MIA bracelet I have worn for years. The name on it is SFC Glen Oliver Lane he went missing in Laos in 1968. I think about him often I wonder what his final hours were like were the quick or did he end up as a prisoner. Great article. Eric

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Great article ! Those caves are huge. The excuse our government giving for the "Walking K and USA" sign is shameful. I believe the government left POW's behind. God bless them all and keep them.

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I worked with Colonel Shelton's son (an Air Force Chaplain) at Keesler AFB in the early 1980's on the POW/MIA committee for the base...I can't count the number of times he would say he got information that his dad was coming home soon, which of course never happened. Colonel Shelton was carried by the DoD as "Captured" to ensure that there was always one guy they could keep looking for and keep the POW/MIA issue alive...but eventually Mrs. Shelton asked them to declare her husband dead....I think it was the next day after his status was changed from MIA to Missing, Presumed Dead, that she took her own life.

 

 

 

 

Mark sends

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I have a POW/MIA bracelet I have worn for years. The name on it is SFC Glen Oliver Lane he went missing in Laos in 1968. I think about him often I wonder what his final hours were like were the quick or did he end up as a prisoner. Great article. Eric

I just read up on him. He was a SOG guy lost in some seriously heavy combat. As most will know, SOG teams in Laos and Cambodia found themselves caught up in some extremely hazardous situations.

 

I just posted a first interview on the forum with a SOG veteran, Jim Bolen, about his own incursions into Laos and Cambodia (below). He was doing what Glen Lane was also doing in Laos when he was lost.

 

http://www.usmilitariaforum.com/forums/index.php?/topic/187715-the-jim-bolen-sog-interviews-part-1-across-the-fence/

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Maybe some of the veterans of the 1980s can "confirm" this, I talked to a SF vet from the 80s and said they trained for a "rescue" mission, and it was aborted x2. Said they had sterile uniforms * jungle fatigues " that were dyed black. Anyone hear of this?

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Peter I enjoyed your article. I have never heard of the Walking K, would you please explain this "highly classified" symbol and exactly were it is in the photo? As someone taking a semi-critical approach to the claims of others, I am surprised that you say "Can I prove it? No. But I have no doubt about it at all."

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Peter I enjoyed your article. I have never heard of the Walking K, would you please explain this "highly classified" symbol and exactly were it is in the photo? As someone taking a semi-critical approach to the claims of others, I am surprised that you say "Can I prove it? No. But I have no doubt about it at all."

Thanks.

 

The Walking K is believed to be that large eroding symbol below the letters "USA". By the time the CIA and DIA picked up on it, a year after the photo had been taken, it - and the "USA" lettering - had eroded away completely.

Re my own opinion as expressed in the article - the article is highly opinionated, chronicling not only my own visit to the caves, and my personal reaction to them, but also my own attempt to cut through decades of competing claims, political minefields and white noise for and against the existence of POWs left behind in Laos (or not).

 

In the end there will never be a smoking gun, just - for me anyway - an opinion based on a balance of probabilities.

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What is the story about "walking K" ?

 

Where did it come from and what does it mean ?

 

Why did they use this ?

It was seen on the ground by a satellite over Sam Neua Province in Laos. The speculation is that it was made by someone wanting to attract attention from the air.

 

There is an excellent, if long, discussion about symbols, numbers, codes, figures seen on the ground in Laos and Vietnam

over the years, allegedly by POWs wishing to attract attention to their plight, here, which is actually an excellent 'de-bunker' website, but very well written, researched and thought-provoking:

 

http://www.miafacts.org/ssc%20report/sec%2014.htm

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439th Signal Battalion

It was seen on the ground by a satellite over Sam Neua Province in Laos. The speculation is that it was made by someone wanting to attract attention from the air.

 

There is an excellent, if long, discussion about symbols, numbers, codes, figures seen on the ground in Laos and Vietnam

over the years, allegedly by POWs wishing to attract attention to their plight, here, which is actually an excellent 'de-bunker' website, but very well written, researched and thought-provoking:

 

http://www.miafacts.org/ssc%20report/sec%2014.htm

 

PAL,

 

I don't know if you have ever seen or consulted Craig Roberts' (History Channel Narrator, Vietnam Veteran, Law Enforcement etc.) work, "The Medusa Files," but he makes the case that POW's and MIA's that were lost specifically in Laos and Cambodia were used as bargaining chips by the Communists after the war because 1) The CIA ran a secret war there and the region was supposed to be off-limits and 2) the US government deliberately left them behind so as not to expose this fact and to get out of Southeast Asia for good.

 

This is just as good a theory as any.

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PAL,

 

I don't know if you have ever seen or consulted Craig Roberts' (History Channel Narrator, Vietnam Veteran, Law Enforcement etc.) work, "The Medusa Files," but he makes the case that POW's and MIA's that were lost specifically in Laos and Cambodia were used as bargaining chips by the Communists after the war because 1) The CIA ran a secret war there and the region was supposed to be off-limits and 2) the US government deliberately left them behind so as not to expose this fact and to get out of Southeast Asia for good.

 

This is just as good a theory as any.

I think they were held for reparations negotiations which were never took place.

 

BUT it is also possible that they were just held by local gangs after the US pullout, over whom the Pathet Lao and - after the fall of Laos to the communists in 1975 - the Laotian government had absolutely no control and very little, if any, knowledge.

 

Even today the Lao aren't in possession of their own country - the south is increasingly beginning to resemble Vietnam with the seemingly-unchecked influx of Vietnamese - people, businesses, language, signs and whorehouses. I'm not necessarily criticising the Vietnamese for that - they do what they can get away with, and in Laos they can seemingly get away with anything!

 

I have no doubt it was the same after the war - in the mountains, up in the jungle and along the Vietnamese border.

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  • 2 months later...

Very interesting. Thanks for posting this here Peter. I too think some of our servicemen were left behind after 1975, I hope not in the hundreds as I've ead about elsewhere.

 

What a crime...

 

-Derek

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  • 1 month later...
airborne1968

For all POW MIA cases in Vietnam they are broken into two main categories: Last know alive and MIA. For the MIA cases (approx. 1900), in every case the circumstance of loss from prior to the incident, the details of the incident, and the information derived through investigating the incident details the "last know location" of the individual or, more accurately, his remains.

 

For those last known alive (about 50 to 100), the government has information detailing the circumstance of the individuals capture and subsequent activities and movements during his captivity leading up to when the "last known alive" individual died in captivity.

 

In all cases, investigations attempt to find the remains of these individuals. There are approx. 700 cases involving pilots or personnel over water that were lost "at sea" that will likely never be found because they were over water. There are no cases indicating an individual was left behind alive. I believe there are only 2 or 3 cases where the last known alive events are not corroborated and I think these are in Laos and Cambodia.

 

Now for the part that no one ever thinks of...the deserters and collaborators that remained in country into 1978 who make up almost all MIA sightings. Their sightings became so problematic for the Peoples Republic of Vietnam that they even asked these individuals to leave the country and they did. You can find them in the US, Australia, New Zealand, and neighboring countries.

 

How do I know? Not only did I wear a bracelet with a name on it, I investigated over 275 MIA cases and helped to resolve some 50 of these cases and helped to bring some of our boys home.

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