Russian Memoir Says
US GIs Kept In Siberian
Labor Camps
WASHINGTON ( - Pentagon investigators say they have obtained the memoir of a Russian emigre and former prisoner who claims that dozens of American servicemen from World War II and the Korean War were detained in Siberian labor camps in the former Soviet Union.
The assertions, while not confirmed, appear to support, and in some important respects strengthen, a case the Pentagon has been building for several years: U.S. servicemen in the 1940s and 1950s were silently swallowed up in the U.S.S.R.'s brutal Gulag system of forced labor, never to be heard from again.
"There has to be something to this," said Norman Kass, who helped translate the unpublished personal memoir from Russian and interviewed the author on behalf of the Pentagon agency in charge of prisoner of war and missing personnel affairs.
Kass said in an interview that the information fits a pattern of anecdotal reports received during the 1990s that American servicemen were seen in remote labor camps.
He is executive secretary of a U.S.-Russian commission that has pursued the matter since former President Boris Yeltsin disclosed in 1992 that Soviet forces had taken a dozen U.S. airmen captive in the 1950s after shooting down their planes. The commission meets periodically, and its staff has done extensive research and interviewed Russian veterans.
The Kremlin has backtracked on Yeltsin's statement and challenged U.S. officials to find proof. Armed with the Russian emigre's memoir, the Pentagon hopes to persuade the Russians to provide access to archives at numerous former Siberian labor camps where U.S. servicemen were said to have been held.
"We're not expecting an easy time," Kass said.
When Kass disclosed the memoir's existence at a meeting of the U.S.-Russian commission last November, the Russians were skeptical but agreed to study it, a U.S. summary of the proceedings said.
The memoir is exceptional because it provides names of individual servicemen.
For example, it identifies by name 22 men said to have been held in late 1951 at the Kirovskij mining camp near the Kamenka River in the sub-Arctic pine forests of the Krasnoyarsk region. The memoir's author cites secondhand accounts of area residents seeing the prisoners, "wearing bare threads and half-frozen," being led from the Kirovskij camp along a road to an undetermined destination - "a dead-end."
A witness described as the daughter of the manager of a nearby town told the author that on Christmas Day 1951 she saw "frostbitten prisoners being led and driven like cattle by the NKVD," the former Soviet internal security agency. "They did not speak Russian. They only said `American, American,' and `eat, eat.' They wanted food," the author quoted the woman as recounting to him.
Kass said that although the events described by the author have not been independently verified, he believes the man is credible. Kass said the man's identity and his present country of residence are being kept secret for his protection, but there is no question that he spent many years in the Gulag network of forced labor camps. The man, now in his late 70s, was exiled to Siberia and worked as a permafrost engineer in the early 1950s near the Kirovskij mining camp where the 22 Americans were said to have been held.
The 22 names were provided by a woman who the author said worked in the Kirovskij camp during the winter of 1951-52. The author said she had the men write their names on scraps of newspaper with pieces of a pencil she sneaked into the camp's toilets, then put the paper in a jar and buried it.
In the translation from Russian, only one of the 22 names can be matched with a missing American servicemen. He is listed in Army casualty records as Chan Jay Park Kim, a Hawaiian of Korean descent.
Kim was a private first class in the 24th Infantry Division's 34th Infantry Regiment, captured by North Korean forces on July 8, 1950. On that day, the 34th Infantry collapsed in its defense of the town of Ch'onan south of Seoul, giving the advancing North Korean army entry to most of the rest of southern Korea.
According to Pentagon records, fellow members of the 34th Infantry who survived captivity in Korea told Army debriefers that once he became a POW, Kim tried to mask his ethnic background by using the name George Leon. It is that name which appears among the 22 on the list from the Soviet labor camp.
Army casualty records list Kim as having died in Korea in January 1951, but his body was not recovered.
The author of the memoir says that he saw only one American in the Gulag. That was in January 1953 at a camp called Rybak far above the Arctic Circle, and a prisoner described as a demolition expert appeared at a mining operation where the author was dispatched to handle a technical problem.
"He also openly identified himself as a citizen of the United States of America, Allied Officer Dale," the author wrote. He said he was not allowed to talk to the man.
Another section of the memoir describes the fate of 10 members of a 12-man crew of a U.S. Air Force B-29 reconnaissance plane, which was shot down by Soviet forces over the Sea of Japan on June 13, 1952.
American search and rescue teams recovered no remains from the plane, and in July 1956 the U.S. government appealed to Moscow for information about the crew. The State Department note said an officer believed to have been a member of the crew was seen in October 1953 in a Soviet hospital north of the Siberian port of Magadan. The Soviets replied that no American servicemen were on Soviet territory.
The Russian emigre said that in the 1980s he was told by an associate with extensive experience in the far eastern reaches of Siberia that he had learned the names of two of the captured B-29 fliers: "Bush and Moore."
The B-29's commander was Maj. Samuel Busch. A crew member was Master Sgt. David L. Moore.
The memoir indicates that Busch and Moore were killed - possibly beaten to death - in the Siberian city of Khabarovsk, apparently a short time after their capture. Eight surviving crew members were put in solitary confinement in a prison in Svobodnyi, a city northwest of Khabarovsk near the Chinese border, it said.
Charlotte Busch Mitnik, a sister of Samuel Busch, said in an interview that the memoir "reinforces what I believe" happened to him and jibes with unconfirmed rumors her family heard shortly after her brother's capture.


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