- WASHINGTON (www.nandotimes.com)
- 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Kass, who helped translate the unpublished personal memoir from Russian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
- 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
- "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,
- 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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