On Friday, 17 September 1996, Congressman Bob Dornan, Chairman of the Subcommittee on Military Personnel of the House National Security Committee, held another hearing on the POW/MIA issue. Testifying under oath were Colonel (Ret.) Phillip Corso, former National Security Council aid and POW issue specialist to President Dwight D. Eisenhower; and Czechoslovakian Major General Jan Sejna, the highest ranking defector ever to come to the US from behind the Iron Curtain. Both men testified from personal, first-hand knowledge they possess about American and allied Prisoners of War taken to the Soviet Union after the Korean and the Vietnam Wars, and what the Russians used them for.
Their testimony was also given to the Senate Select Committee on POW/MIAs in 1992; however, those Committee members, including Senator John McCain, chose to ignore it.
Colonel Corso was the head of the Special Project Branch, Intelligence Division, Far East Command. His duties included being responsible for intelligence and communist activities by the Chinese, North Koreans and Soviets within our prisoner of war camps in South Korea and the enemy camps in North Korea. In 1953, he was a staff member of the truce delegation at Panmunjom and participated in the exchange of sick and wounded prisoners. Further, he was present, met and talked with our returning sick and wounded military men.
During the course of his duties, he learned that the entire operation concerning the treatment and handling of our POWs was supervised and controlled by the Soviet Union. Because the information gathered was so vital, Colonel Corso authored a study entitled: "WAR IN THE POW CAMPS." The crux of this paper was that it was Soviet policy, which they conveyed to their allies, that a soldier taken prisoner is still at war and a combatant. They trained soldiers to be taken as prisoners and then agitate in the camps to keep the POWs in our custody under their control.
According to Colonel Corso's sworn testimony: "The brainwashing and atrocities against American prisoners were conscious acts of Soviet policy. It was used not only on our prisoners, but also on their own people and others under their control." Colonel Corso's information was provided directly to him by our returning POWs. Their testimony documents communist medical experiments (Nazi style) on our prisoners. The most devilish and cunning of these were the techniques used to alter the POWs mind. It was just as deadly as brain surgery and many US POWs died under such treatment. Because of these experiments, many POWs willed themselves to death.
Further, Colonel Corso's findings revealed that the Soviets taught their allies a detailed scientific process aimed at molding prisoners of war into forms in which they could be exploited. Returning POWs who underwent this experience reported the experts assigned to mold them were highly trained, efficient and well educated. They were specialists in applying a deadly psychological treatment which often ended in physical torment. The Soviet approach was a deliberate act of their overall policy which actively rejects, subverts and destroys decent standards of conduct and the whole structure of human values.
After the Korean War ended, Colonel Corso was assigned to the National Security Council to handle virtually all projects relating to US prisoners of war. As part of his duties, he tried to tell Congress the fact that in 1953, 500 sick and wounded American prisoners were within ten miles of the prisoner exchange point at Panmunjom, but were never exchanged. Ironically, he was not asked even one question regarding this event!
The intelligence reports he gathered while the Chief of the Special Projects Section relating to US personnel being taken to the Soviet Union were compiled from many sources: Chinese and North Korean POWs, agent reports, Nationalist Chinese reports, our guerrillas, NSA intercepts, defectors and from our own returning POWs. The most compelling reports dealt with trainloads of 450 POWs each. Two of these trainloads were confirmed over and over, the third was not as certain. The final figure of POWs shipped to the USSR was "confirmed 900, and another 450 possibly." The bulk of these sightings were at Manchu-li, on the border of Manchuria and the USSR. This is where the rail gauge changed and the US POWs had to be transferred across a platform to a waiting train going into the Soviet Union. He, in point of fact, discussed all this information, including the number of POWs transferred, directly with President Eisenhower while he was a member of his NSC.
Colonel Corso closed his testimony by saying: "By some flashback in time, I wish you could have been present with me at the prisoner exchanges in Korea in 1953 and looking into the faces of those sick and wounded prisoners - Americans and allied soldiers - as they came across in the exchange. If you had witnessed their sacrifices and what they had suffered by the communist hands, you would not be a critic or skeptic today."
Major General Sejna, by reason of his long-standing position as the First Secretary of the Party at the Ministry of Defense and Chief of Staff to the Ministry of Defense, was privy to all information pertaining to those US and Allied POWs who fell into Communist hands.
In 1968, the General was forced to choose between following instructions from Moscow and doing what he felt was best for his country. The Soviet Union was preparing to invade Czechoslovakia, and he chose to alert the Czech leadership of their plan. After learning arrest was immanent, he fled to the US consulate in Trieste where he requested political asylum. Two days later he arrived in the United States.
General Sejna testified that to understand events of interest today, it is essential to understand that back then the main mission of all organizations in the Soviet empire was to destroy democracy and bring people everywhere under the yoke of communism. To this end, the Soviets wages political and intelligence war upon the free world. These were waged according to a very detailed and complex strategic plan which involved infiltration of government and press, sabotage, subversion, deception, narcotics trafficking, and many other activities all designed to destroy competing social systems. The primary targets were all industrialized countries, and the most important enemy was the United States.
General Sejna said: "I know, because I was there. In the 1950s and early 1960s I was in charge of the Defense Council secretariat. From 1964 on I was first secretariat at the Ministry of Defense. In my various official capacities I was constantly meeting with Soviet Officials, receiving instructions, and relaying those instructions on to various Czech agencies and departments. I was in the process of responding to Soviet directions in about 1956 that I first became aware of the use of American and South Korean POWs by Soviet and Czech doctors."
He went on to testify: "I certainly would not pretend to know what happened to all the missing POWs, but I do know what happened to many of them. In brief, hundreds were used in Korea and Vietnam as human guinea pigs. The POWs were used as bodies for training military doctors in field medicine - for example, treating serious wounds and conducting amputations. The POWs were used to test the effects of chemical and biological warfare agents and to test the effects of atomic radiation. The Soviets also used the American GIs to test the physiological and psychological endurance of American soldiers. They were also used to test various mind control drugs. All of this was to ascertain how different drugs, chemicals and biological agents, as well as radiation, affected different races and cultures differently."
The General continued: "While what I have just said describes what happened in Korea, I want to point out that the same things happened in Vietnam and Laos during the Vietnam War. The only difference is that the operation in Vietnam was better planned and more American POWs were used, both in Vietnam and Laos and the Soviet Union. On several occasions my office was responsible for organizing the shipments of POWs and their housing in Prague before they were shipped to the Soviet Union. I personally was present when American POWs were unloaded from planes, put on buses whose windows were painted black, and then driven to Prague where they were placed in various military intelligence barracks and other secure buildings until they were shipped to the Soviet Union."
Between 1961 and 1968 when he defected to the US, General Sejna estimates at least 200 Americans were shipped to the Soviet Union through Czechoslovakia. Further, it is his strong belief that others were shipped to the USSR through North Korea and East Germany. In addition to POWs going to the Soviet Union, he knows that many were given to the Chinese by the North Koreans during the Korean War and by the North Vietnamese during the Vietnam War.
General Sejna concluded by saying I will never forget the written directions on the original Soviet order that started the operation in 1951. It said that the operation was to be conducted in such a way that "no one would ever know about it."
At the conclusion of the hearing, Colonel Corso responded to a question about the fate of those POWs who were taken to the USSR, aptly and forcefully when he emphatically stated: "Congressman, I am 81 years old and I am alive. Our POWs from Korea and Vietnam are still alive. What are you going to do to bring them home?"