Captain John T. McDonnell




                 Name: John Terence McDonnell
                            Rank/Branch: O3/US Army
                            Unit: A Battery, 4th Battalion, 77th Artillery
                                  101st Airborne Division
                           Date of Birth: 14 December 1940
                           Home City of Record: Ft. Worth TX
                           Date of Loss: 06 March 1969
                           Country of Loss: South Vietnam
                           Loss Coordinates: 161346N 1075822E (ZC177968)
                           Status (in 1973): Missing in Action
                           Category: 2
                           Aircraft/Vehicle/Ground: AH1G

Source: Compiled by Homecoming II Project 15 May 1990 
from one or more of the following: raw data from 
U.S. Government agency sources, correspondence with 
POW/MIA families, published sources, interviews.

SYNOPSIS: Capt. John T. McDonnell was the 
aircraft commander of an AH1G helicopter 
from A Battery, 4th Battalion, 77th Artillery, 
101st Airborne Division operating in 
Thua Tien Province, South Vietnam. On March 6,
McDonnell's aircraft was the flight leader in 
a flight on two aircraft on a combat mission.
During a firing pass, McDonnell's aircraft was 
observed receiving enemy ground fire. The aircraft 
disappeared into an overcast and crashed into a
mountain side. The area was searched, but McDonnell 
could not be located.
His pilot, Lt. Ronald Greenfield, was found and 
medically evacuated. Lt. Greenfield could recall 
nothing from the point of impact to the following

During the search, McDonnell's helmet was found with no trace of 
blood along with pieces of equipment. It appeared that McDonnell's 
seatbelt had been unlocked and that he had left the aircraft on his 
own power. During the search effort, numerous deserted enemy 
positions were located indicating that Capt. McDonnell might have 
been captured. The search continued for three weeks without success.

McDonnell was not a green soldier. On a previous tour 
of Vietnam then-2LT. McDonnell was attached as an artillery 
expert to Detachment A324, 5th Special Forces Group. It was at 
this time, on May 25, 1965, that he was awarded the Army Commendation 
Medal with "V" device for Heroism. At that time McDonnell was an advisor 
to South Vietnamese paramilitary forces at Thanh Dien Forest, Republic 
of Vietnam. A fellow team member had been killed by a sniper, 
another had been wounded. A third was missing. McDonnell's 
tactical advice and bravery enabled the team to successfully 
complete their search for the missing team member in the 
face of intense enemy fire.
There is every reason to suspect that McDonnell 
may have been captured. His fate following is a 
matter for speculation. Returned POWs would say that
those who resisted most strongly were the most 
tortured and deprived. To a man, those 591 Americans 
who returned home at the end of the war cooperated
at some point, in some way, with their captors. They 
all agree it is not a matter of whether a man can 
be broken -- but only how long it will take.
Only a few were known to hold out to the end...
and unfortunately, for them, it was the end. 
A few were known to have been literally tortured 
or starved to death for their resolute refusal to 
cooperate. McDonnell's training and background may 
put him in that category. We may never know for sure.
Nearly 2500 Americans were lost in Southeast Asia 
during our military involvement there. Since the 
war in Southeast Asia ended in 1973, thousands of 
reports of Americans still in captivity have been 
received by the U.S. Government. The official policy 
is that no conclusive proof has been obtained that is 
current enough to act upon. Detractors of this policy say
conclusive proof is in hand, but that the willingness or 
ability to rescue these prisoners does not exist.
McDonnell, if one of those hundreds said 
to be still alive and in captivity,
must be wondering, "Where ARE you, America?"
Where are we, America, when the life of even 
one American is not worth the effort of recovery? 
When the next war comes, and it is our sons lost, 
will we then care enough to do everything we can 
to bring our prisoners home?
                     PROJECT X
                                SUMMARY SELECTION RATIONALE
RATIONALE SELECTION: The other crewmember survived 
the aircraft crash and was subsequently found and 
medically evacuated. All signs indicated CAPT. McDonnell 
left the aircraft under his own power. No correlated reports of
Capt McDonnell's death have been received since the incident date.
                    REF NO: 1402 21 Apr 76
                   CASE SUMMARY
1. (U) On 6 March 1969 CAPT. John T. McDonnell, 
aircraft commander, and lLT [blank] pilot, 
were aboard an AHLG helicopter, #67-15845), 
as flight leader in a flight of two aircraft 
on a combat mission in the vicinity of grid
coordinates (CC) 170 960 in South Vietnam. 
During a firing pass over the
target area, CAPT. McDonnell's aircraft: 
was observed receiving enemy ground fire. 
The aircraft disappeared into an overcast and 
crashed into a mountain side. At about 1500 hours 
the following day the wreckage of the aircraft was located 
in the vicinity of (CC) 177 968. The area was searched, however, 
CAPT. McDonnell could not be located. LT [blank] was found and medically 
evacuated, but he recalled nothing of the incident from the time of 
impact to the following morning. CAPT. McDonnell's helmet was found,
(without a trace of blood), along with other pieces of equipment. It
appeared that CAPT. McDonnell unlocked his seat belt and left the aircraft.
During the search efforts, numerous deserted enemy positions were located
in the area, indicating that CAPT. McDonnell could have been captured. The
search continued without success through 26 March. (Ref 1)
2. (C) On 24 July 1973 a rallier reported that 
he had observed two U.S. Prisoners of War on 
three occasions. The prisoners was said to be officers
who had been captured by the NVA 2,nd Division in 
Quang Province. 
The POWs allegedly were collaborating with the 
division's political and military staff officer 
in a proselytizing effort directed toward U.S. soldiers. 
The rallier made no positive identification of 
CAPT. McDonnell's photo, but stated that his photo looked 
very similar to the POW who wore a large ring.
(Information in this report correlated to CAPT. McDonnell.) (Ref 2)
3. (U) CAPT. McDonnell's name and identifying data 
were turned over to the Four-Party Joint Military 
Team with a request for any information available. 
No response was forthcoming. In August 1973 JCRC 
proposed a Casualty Resolution Operation at this 
site. American consul, Da Nang, responded that he 
believed that because of nearby enemy activity, 
it would be "somewhat imprudent" to conduct an 
operation at this site "at this time." 
During the existence of JCRC, the hostile threat 
in the area precluded any visits to or ground 
inspections of the sites involved in this case.
4. CAPT. McDonnell is currently carried 
in the status of Missing.
                        (U)- REFERENCES USED:
                        1. RPT (U), AVHAG-CC, 12 Apr 69.
                        2. RPT (C), Saigon, RVN FVS 32,810, 24 Jul 73.
The next time someone asks you to 
name one American serviceman left behind
in Southeast Asia, name just one.... 
Look them straight in the eye and say
Capt. John T. McDonnell, United States Army,  
Last known duty station Vietnamese Prison Camp 
Location Ba To, Quang Ngai Province, South Vietnam.
Last seen in mid to late February 1973,  
and he was not alone!  
Five (5) American NCO's were held at the same 
location with Capt. McDonnell.
If you want the facts, 
if you want the details 
and evidence proving 
Capt. McDonnell was 
left behind !!!!
Continue reading and 
be prepared to be
so reads a Defense Intelligence Agency 
message sent to USDAO SAIGON VIETNAM
on June 15, 1973. Only evidence of 
American POWs left behind in Vietnam
would warrant a message of 
"Urgent Political Sensitivity." That was the
situation facing DIA in June of 1973.
On April 10th, 1973, two days before 
Assistant Secretary of Defense Dr.
Roger Shields declared all the 
POWs home or dead, a North Vietnamese soldier
defected to the south. The defector, 
who held the rank of "aspirant and was
commanding officer for the 157 Co. 21st Bn,2nd Div," 
provided stunning information that 
six (6) American POWs remained in a POW camp in 
Quang Ngai Province. He had seen the six (6) 
Americans as recently as late February 1973.
The source, interviewed by U.S. 
investigators on May 22nd, 
(remember this date, it's important) 
described the six (6), as an American 
"Captain" and 5 NCOs The source never 
got a good look at the NCOs and could 
provide no descriptions. 
However, the source did provide a detailed 
description of the "Captain." 
The source said he saw and conversed with 
the Captain, on four (4) separate occasions 
between August 1972 and February 1973.
110900A Jun 73 -- From the Department of 
Defense National Military Command Center: 
"In August 1972, Source entered an MR-5 POW Camp.... 
Source contacted members of the 12th Artillery Bn (NVA) 
who were at the POW Camp location to study the operation 
of captured 105 MM Howitzers.  Their instructor was a
captured American Artillery Officer... 
who was captured (estimated 1968-1969) by the 
459th Sapper Regt. in Binh Dinh  Province. The POW was
forced to give artillery instructions under threat of 
execution. In addition to the officer, there were five (5) 
American NCOs referred to as sergeants and 200 ARVN POWs.... 
The Americans were segregated from the ARVN POWs. Source
only caught a glimpse of the five NCOs and thus could 
provide no information concerning them. Source, however, 
conversed with the Artillery Captain on four different 
occasions, from August 1972 until late February 1973."
"Source stated the American officer was 
approximately 75 inches tall, with
blue eyes and blond hair. He had a high 
bridged nose and was thin but had a large 
frame. The artillery Captain had a small 
mole on the upper portion of his left lip 
and a scar approximately 1 1/2 inches long 
behind his left ear.
Subject had two tattoos- one on his right 
forearm... the other on his upper left arm.... 
The American was married and had one girl 11 
and one boy aged 5. 
Source states that on the four occasions he 
conversed with this Captain, a Sr. LT. Hinh MR-5 
interpreter, assisted him. 
Source states the Captain was from Texas, 
the same place where President Johnson lived, 
and from source's imitation of the sound of his 
name it may be inferred that the officer's
first name was John (sic)...."
According to the source the POW 
"was forced to give artillery instruction
under threat of execution." 
We would assume that the 5 American NCOs in camp
with the "Captain" faced the same threat of  execution, 
if the "Captain" failed to cooperate.
"...Source shown DIA Photo Book... 
and stated that the shape of the face of
photo no. W052 (James J. Wright) was similar 
to the Captain's. Source later indicated that 
Photo No. C166 (Phillip S. Clark, Jr.) looked 
more like the Captain, and could possibly be 
the same individual. Source  claims that
according to [NAME] the communists considered 
releasing the ARVN prisoners in Nhon Loc District 
in late February 1973, but could not do so due to heavy
fighting in the area. When asked about the Americans, 
[NAME] claimed they had not been released yet because 
they were "needed" and added they would
probably have to be taken North before being released."
June 13th, 1973 -- the Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA) 
narrowed down the identity of the Captain to one of two men. 
They were Captain John T. McDonnell and Sgt. Glenn E. Tubbs, 
both of the United States Army.
June 15th, 1973 -- the DIA issued their message regarding 
After declaring all the POW's home or dead,
the Department of Defense faced a unique crisis. 
A first hand eyewitness provided a detailed 
description of an American POW alive in Quang Ngai
Province in February 1973, and he was not alone.
In DIA's words, "Analysis of the descriptive 
data of the "American Captain" has produced 
two candidates. Although neither fits the description
perfectly, both have enough of the reported 
characteristics that their photographs should be shown 
to the source. The two individuals are M133
(McDonnell J.T. Capt., USA) and T046 (Tubbs, G.E. E5, USA)... 
Both families are being interviewed to determine what 
tattoos and scars the individuals may have had. Sgt. Tubbs 
is known to have had one tattoo on each arm. It is
not known whether Capt. McDonnell had tattoos. The scar 
behind the left ear fits Capt.. McDonnell. It is not known 
if Sgt. Tubbs had a similar scar."
July 1, 1973 -  Dept. of Army Staff Communications Division - 
Message discusses a photo identification by the source. 
The document reads "Source on two occasions selected photo 
L035, Page A391, as closely resembling the American, he 
spoke to prior to rallying GVN. He stated POW has gray or light
hair, but facial features in L035 closely resemble POW in question."  
The message also discusses efforts to "surface other sources 
from Ba To area, to develop additional information."
July 11, 1973 -  Major C.W. Watson adds a comment 
to the above referenced message which states: 
"Photo #L035 is of LTC Carter Luna, USAF, lost 10 Mar '69'
over Laos (XD028815). For source to have seen Luna in grid 
square BS, the POW would have had to have been moved several 
hundred KM SE from his loss location - something which 
experience has shown was simply not done. 
Photo of McDonnell in DIA photo book does not resemble 
photos in OACSI files but does have similarities with 
LTC Luna's photo. OACSI is sending additional photos of 
McDonnell and Tubbs (another Army Candidate) to 
USDAO Saigon for possible ID by source."
Photographs of Capt. McDonnell, provided to the 
National Alliance of Families, do show a passing 
resemblance to the photo of LTC Luna in the 
Pre Capture Photo Book. It should also be noted 
that LTC Luna's photo appears on page A391, 
Captain McDonnell's photo appears on page A390. 
Both pages face each other.
U. S. search teams operated in the area from 1600 hours (4 P.M.) 
March 6th to March 12th. They found no sign of Capt. McDonnell. 
On March 7th, at approximately 1330 hours (1:30 P.M.) American 
search teams located Lt. Greenfield, near the downed helicopter. 
Lt. Greenfield was seriously wounded and had no memory of events 
after the crash.  Examination of the downed helicopter revealed 
that Capt. McDonnell's seat belt and harness were open and placed 
neatly on the seat. Search teams located McDonnell's helmet.
There was no sign of blood in the helmet. Also located at the crash 
site were maps, weapons, and survival equipment. According the 
"JTF-FA Narrative" presented to the Vietnamese in 1989, 
this suggests "he either had to quickly flee the area or was captured."
Sgt. Glenn Tubbs was a rifle man on a Long Range Reconnaissance 
patrol. During a river crossing, Sgt. Tubbs lost his grip on the 
safety line. The current was strong and he was swept away. Search 
efforts were complicated when helicopters received enemy fire. 
Early records list  Sgt. Tubbs loss location as South Vietnam.  
The actual loss location, corrected years later, was Cambodia.
"Recently, we spoke with Pamela Tubbs, wife of 
Sgt. Glenn Tubbs. She remembers being contacted 
by the Army in mid 1973. She was asked to provide
additional photos and a detailed physical 
description of her husband. When we asked her if 
she knew why they were requesting this information, 
she said she was told it would help with identification 
should remains be recovered.
She was never told of a possible live sighting."
"Mrs. Tubbs confirmed her husband did have a 
tattoo, on the right forearm. Official 
documentation obtained by the National 
Alliance of Families shows that the tattoo 
described by the source does not match Sgt.Tubbs. 
Mrs.Tubbs also confirmed that Sgt. Tubbs did 
not have a scar behind the left ear. Based on 
the information we provided her, she does not 
believe the "Army Captain" could be her husband."
Both Captain McDonnell and Sgt Tubbs are from 
Texas and married. Capt. McDonnell has three 
children. Sgt. Tubbs has two. The physical 
description fits Capt. McDonnell, with one 
possible discrepancy. There is no record of
Capt. McDonnell having tattoos.
It is interesting to note that in discussing 
descriptions involving tattoos, official documentation 
indicates that many servicemen acquired tattoos while
in service, and therefore official records may not be 
accurate in this matter. As one analyst wrote, 
regarding another investigation; 
" Files should not be considered foolproof because 
service members might not have entered all tattoos." 
Therefore, the presence of a tattoo or tattoos should
not negate a sources information. Records available 
to the National Alliance of Families confirm 
Capt. McDonnell has a scar, as described by the source,
behind the left ear.
In addition to the physical description, 
the first name, the time frame of capture, 
rank of the POW, the fact that the POW was 
an ARVN advisor and artillery officer all 
match Capt. McDonnell. It should be noted 
that Capt. McDonnell was on his third tour 
of duty. His first two tours were served
with the Green Berets as an ARVN advisor.
In reviewing this material one must remember that 
all four conversations were conducted through an 
interpreter. Minor errors of translation may have
occurred regarding the number of children. It 
should also be remembered that the number of children 
is a minor detail which the source may have been
confused. It is critical to remember that all major 
facts relating to the American "Captain" correlate 
to John McDonnell.
Under ordinary circumstances the absence of a tattoo 
on each arm would raise concerns as to our conclusion, 
that Capt. McDonnell was the POW in Quang Ngai,if it 
were not for one additional fact.  This was not the first
sighting of Capt. McDonnell in captivity.
This first sighting provides a physical description 
almost identical to the description of the "Captain" 
in the Quang Ngai POW camp. The Joint Casualty
Resolution Center correlated that report to 
Capt. McDonnell, also.
February 16th, 1973 -- another North Vietnamese 
rallied to the GVN. This source was a former 
NVA sergeant. He served as squad leader with the 
5th Company, 14th Antiaircraft Battalion NVA 2nd 
Yellow Star Division. A report, generated by the 
Central Intelligence Agency on July 24th, 1973, 
provides a firsthand observation of two 
U.S. Prisoners of War with the North Vietnamese 
Army 2nd Yellow Star Division in Laos, on three
different occasions, between May and July of 1971.
The first sighting took place "in early 
May or June 1971 when he saw the two
POWs eating lunch with personnel of the 
Military Staff and political offices, 
North Vietnamese Army (NVA) 2nd Yellow 
Star Division [word unreadable] 
Doan 2 Sao Vang, at the 13th Commo-Liaison Station 
(WD876558),33rd Binh Tram, NVA 559th infiltration 
line (Doung Day 559) in Savannakhet
Province Laos. 
He observed them for about 30 minutes."
"The second time source saw the same POWs 
was for about two minutes in July 1971."
"The third time he saw the POWs was for about 
ten minutes in July 1971,while POWs were 
sitting in a hut in the division's base camp 
area."  The source was told that the POWs 
"had been captured by the NVA 2nd  Division 
in Quang Nam Province, South Vietnam.
Source Observed the POWs the first time from 
at a distance of about two meters. Both were 
Caucasian, one was about 30 years old, about
1.8 meters tall, and weighed about 90 kilos. 
He had a heavy build, a pink complexion, a
long face, short brownish blond hair, a 
receding hairline, a high straight nose, brown 
eyes, white regular teeth, a round mouth, and 
a red mole under his lower left lip. He was 
wearing a green NVA uniform consisting of a
short-sleeved shirt and trousers. He was also 
wearing a white metal "Seiko" wrist watch and 
a large gold ring with a red ruby on his left hand."
"In about October 1972, servant (sic) NAME, 
a radio operator in the NVA 2nd Division, 
told Source that the two POWs had been sent 
to North Vietnam. (According to JCRC 
"no correlation could be made on the second 
POW cited in the report.")
With regard to the first POW, JCRC stated in the 
"Field Comment" -- "Records indicate that source 
probably observed Capt. John T. McDonnell, USA
(JCRC Nr. 0176).... 
There is an indication that McDonnell may have been captured.... 
McDonnell's description follows: 
age in 1971 was 31, 
height: 1.77 meters; 
weight 75 kilos' 
hair; brown; 
race; Caucasian 
wears white silver Seiko 
watch and large ring on
left hand.
A photo of Captain McDonnell wearing such a 
ring was provided to the National Alliance of 
Families by the McDonnell family.
JCRC re-contacted the source. He was shown 
McDonnell's photo "mixed with 15 other 
photographs. However source was unable to 
make an identification. Then he was shown 
McDonnell's photographs. After five minute 
of study, source said that the photograph
looked very similar to the POW who wore the ring,
except that his hair was longer and that his nose 
was long and nostrils were less pronounced. He 
said that the shape of the face, the eyes, and the 
mouth were similar to the man in the photograph, 
but stopped short of making a definite 
identification because of the difference in the 
hair style and nose."
It is important here that we remember Major C.W. Watson's 
comments regarding photos of Captain McDonnell. 
Major Watson stated; "Photo of McDonnell in DIA
photo book does not resemble photos in OACSI files."
By June 20th, 1973, the Army was busy contacting 
men who served with Captain McDonnell, in an 
effort to obtain additional information regarding scars and
tattoos. There is no indication of such an effort 
regarding Sgt. Tubbs.
April 23, 1976 -- The next record, available to us, 
comes in a report compiled by the Joint Casualty 
Resolution Center. The report is titled "Project X." 
"Project X" was a study to "evaluate the possibility 
of any of the unaccounted for being alive. The 
conclusion reached is: There is a possibility that as 
many as 57 Americans could be alive...."
Among the 57 Servicemen mentioned in "Project X" is 
Capt. John T. McDonnell.
The Case Summary on Capt. McDonnell cites the 1971 
sighting of McDonnell stating "information in this 
report correlated to Capt. McDonnell." There is
no mention of the 1972 - 1973 sightings in Quang Ngai."
A Joint Casualty Resolution Center Biographic 
report, as 2 Oct 1986 summarizing Captain McDonnell's 
loss incident, makes no mention of the  Ba
To sighting. Of the Lao sighting the Biographic report 
states "The rallier made no positive identification 
of Capt. McDonnell's photo, (sic)  but states
that his photo looked very similar to the PW who wore 
a large ring.
(Information in this report correlated to Capt. McDonnell)."
In the late 1980's the name of 
John McDonnell 
was placed on the "Original
119" Vessey  Discrepancy List.
What was the significance of being on the 
"Original 119" Vessey  Discrepancy List? 
In a November 15th, 1989 letter to then 
Congressman Bob Smith, General John W. Vessey Jr. 
writes "The discrepancy cases I presented to the
Vietnamese were those in which Americans were known 
to have survived the incident in which they were 
involved. We believed they came into Vietnamese
hands and probably were prisoners of the Vietnamese. 
These individuals did not return during Operation 
Homecoming in 1973, nor were their bodies returned 
in the intervening years and no explanation was 
provided by the Vietnamese. Because these cases may 
shed light on the fate of an American serviceman 
believed to have been alive after his loss, they 
are the priority of our efforts."
On April 25th 1991, Kenneth Quinn, then 
Chairman of the Administration's POW/MIA 
Inter Agency Group testified before the 
Senate Foreign Relations Subcommittee on 
Asian and Pacific Affairs. In response to 
a question from Senator Alan Cranston, 
Mr. Quinn stated "In terms of actually 
conducting investigations on the ground, 
General Vessey has focused on 119 discrepancy
cases, which is to say those cases, which 
represent, from looking at all the information 
we know about them, represent the greatest 
possibility that the men involved might still 
be alive. We had evidence that they were alive
after the incident occurred where the plane was 
shot down or they were lost on the ground and 
we don't know what happened to them and what 
their fate was."
"So those represented to General Vessey 
the possibility where it is most probable 
or most likely that they might still be alive."
Statements by General Vessey and Mr. Quinn 
re-enforce our position that Capt. McDonnell, 
listed as an "Original 119" Vessey Discrepancy 
Case, was alive in February 1973.
The United States Government possessed strong 
evidence placing John McDonnell in captivity. 
That evidence shows John McDonnell alive in 
February 1973. With the exception of "Project X," 
we were unable to locate any information or 
intelligence dated after July 1973. In fact, as 
demonstrated by Project X, the 1972- 1973 
sighting was not even considered in the
evaluation of John McDonnell case. Why?
1992 - JTF-FA all but ignored the two sightings 
in case narratives, presented to the Vietnamese.  
Of the three JTF-FA Narratives us, dated,
August 1989, July 1990, and Jun 1993, only the 
July 1990 Narrative mentions the 1972-1973 sighting. 
None mentions the 1971 sightings, in which JCRC
concluded " that source probably observed 
Capt. John T. McDonnell."
JTF-FA ignored the strong evidence of John McDonnell's 
capture. They ignored evidence of his imprisonment and 
survival along with five (5) enlisted men.
Instead, in 1992 JTF-FA chose to interview witnesses 
supplied by the Vietnamese. All claimed to have 
witnessed the helicopter crash. None, however, saw 
Captain McDonnell. None witnessed his capture. None 
witnessed his death or participated in his supposed 
burial on March 7, 1969.
September 30, 1992 -- In their field activity 
report JTF-FA said, of the Vietnamese witnesses, 
"Although none of the witnesses actually took 
part in the capture and burial of the American, 
they all provided hearsay information that he died 
while being escorted probably to the Tri Thien Hue
Military region Headquarters..." 
According to the hearsay information the POW 
sustained a leg wound and died the next day. 
Note: Lt. Greenfield suffered a severe leg wound.
Based on the hearsay of 4 Vietnamese the 1993 Narrative 
incorporated the "corroborating hearsay testimony 
concerning the crash of a U.S. helicopter in 1969 and 
the subsequent capture and burial of an American." We 
wonder, would "corroborating hearsay testimony" be 
admissible in a court of law?
In other words, since the Vietnamese witnesses all 
told the same story, it was true.
During Joint Field Activities in conducted in 
April 1998, JTF-FA surfaced witnesses who 
supposedly participated in the burial of 
Capt. McDonnell. The summary reads, in part; 
"witnesses emphatically asserted the location
previously excavated was in fact the burial 
location, but bombing during the war and 
subsequent heavy rains and flooding completely 
wiped out all evidence or remains or an grave site. 
Consequently, the witnesses claimed it would be 
impossible for them to more accurately locate the 
burial site."
Today, the case of John McDonnell is considered 
fate determined. This determination is based, in 
part, on 4 hearsay accounts of Vietnamese witnesses 
who claimed they heard about a captured American, 
who died the next day. JTF-FA routinely ignores 
hearsay information about live POWs.
Yet, in this case they are willing to believe 
hearsay information regarding the death of a POW.
A POW, who by their own records and correlations, 
was alive in February 1973.
One must wonder, if these same four Vietnamese 
provided information that Capt. McDonnell was 
in the Quang Ngai POW Camp at Ba To, would JTF-FA
investigators be so willing to believe them.
In a memo dated 23 August, 1994, we get a glimpse 
of how a "determination of fate" is made. In the 
case of Capt. McDonnell, the memo reads; 
"JTF-FA did not agree with DPMO, argued there was 
sufficient information to confirm fate." 
In the end, the "panel voted 3 - 0 to confirm fate."
We were pleasantly surprised to find that 
someone at DPMO realized there was enough 
evidence to keep this case open. However, 
that analyst was overruled.
In the end, DPMO management prevailed, along 
with JCS and JTF-FA and voted 3- 0 to confirm 
fate. It is our opinion that when in doubt, 
the presumption should be in favor of the POW 
and the case in question should remain open.
Instead, cases are routinely stamped 
"fate confirmed" in spite of evidence
and objections.
The  National Alliance of Families, 
believe that based on the information cited 
above, there can be only one conclusion. 
Capt. John McDonnell was alive as a 
Prisoner of War at least until February 1973. 
We further believe that Capt. John McDonnell 
survived in captivity, as the Nixon 
Administration was declaring him, and the 
5 NCOs with him, dead.
They  believe that this case is ample evidence 
that the Vietnamese government is not 
"cooperating in full faith" on the POW issue. 
How many other cases, like this, are ignored?
They  have been unable to locate any documentation 
that would indicate a follow-up on the 1972-73 
sightings. They  have found no record of attempts to
investigate the MR-5 Prison Camp, referred to by 
the source. They have found no indication of any 
intelligence gathering efforts by the intelligence
agencies of the United States government. And, sadly 
They  have found no record of an official inquiry of 
the Vietnamese regarding the 6 POWs held at the 
Quang Ngai POW Camp.
However, DPMO states, in a memo dated 9 July 1998, 
that "our records indicate that the source was 
re-interviewed several times in 1973." Requests, by 
the McDonnell family, for copies of these reports 
remain unanswered.  The United States and the 
Vietnamese Government must be held responsible for the
fate of John McDonnell and the 5 NCOs with him.
Additionally, we are extremely concerned about 
the misrepresentation of information on this 
case contained in the February 14, 1996 - 
Comprehensive Case Review issued by Defense 
POW/MIA Office and in letters from DPMO dated
17 April 1998 and 9 July 1998..
Of the 1971 live sighting, the Case review describes 
it as "A wartime source reported observing 2 U.S. POWs in 
1971 in Laos. He reported the POWs were collaborating with 
the NVA. He picked a photo of Capt. McDonnell as possibly
resembling one of the POWs he observed. Correlation to case 1402 
is based solely on the tentative photo ID. It is highly 
unlikely that Capt.. McDonnell was seen two years after 
his incident in Laos. The source was very hesitant
in picking out a photo of McDonnell."
September 11, 1999   Bits N Pieces - Part Two
In a letter dated 17 April 1998, 
a Defense Casualty Liaison Officer stated;
"In 1973 the Joint Casualty Resolution Center 
correlated the report to Captain McDonnell 
based primarily on the jewelry described in 
the report. During a re-interview the source 
was shown Captain McDonnell's photograph
mixed with those of 15 other missing servicemen, 
but he was unable to make a
positive identification."
The actual document states that the source 
would not make a positive ID based on photos 
because of length of hair and nose. Those who 
have reviewed the pre-capture book of American 
servicemen, Prisoner and Missing, will agree 
that, many of the photos are of poor quality.   
Clearly, Major Watson recognized the problem 
with the photo book, in 1973. Shadowing could 
account for a difference in the length of a nose. 
Certainly, a POWs hair length would very likely 
change, in captivity.
The Comprehensive Case Review ignored the 
physical description of the POW and JCRC's 
own comments which read: ""Records indicate 
that source probably observed 
Capt. John T. McDonnell, USA (JCRC Nr. 0176)...."
Of the 1973 live sighting the Case review 
describes it as "A different source reported 
observing 6 POWs in an MR5 POW camp. The 
personal details provided for one of the POWs 
superficially matches McDonnell. However, there
is no conclusive evidence to suggest he was ever 
a POW in MR5 given his loss in Thue Thein."
The information provided in that second 
live sighting, of February 1973, is far 
from superficial.   Judge for yourself.
Category        John McDonnell      Ba To POW - as described by source 
First Name      John                John
Rank            Capt./Arty          Capt./Arty 
Captured        March 6, 1969       Captured 1968 - 1969 time frame 
Loss Location   Thua Thien          Binh Dinh
Height          70"                 75" 
Weight          175 lbs             described by source as thin
Hair            Light Brown         Blond
Eyes            Hazel               Blue 
Scars           behind left ear     behind left ear
Tattoos         unknown             2 
Home of Record  Texas               Texas 
Married         Yes                 Yes 
# of Children   3,  sons 11 & 9     2, daughter 11, & son 5 Daughter 8
Long discussed within the POW/MIA issue 
was information regarding a  press
conference held in Saigon in June 1973. 
During this press  conference, a defector 
provided information regarding POWs not 
released.  Until now little was known about 
what went on during that press conference 
as it was rumored that the story was 
"spiked" at the request of the American Embassy.
That defector was Nguyen Thanh Son, source 
of the sighting of the American
"Captain" and 5 NCOs in Quang Ngai Province 
between August 1972 and February 1973. During 
the Saigon interview, in June of 1973, attended 
by members of the media representing Associated 
Press, United Press International and NBC, Son 
spoke of POWs. To our knowledge there is only 
one record of that interview. It is a short 
Associated Press Article from the Baltimore Sun,
dated June 9th, 1973. In that article, Nguyen 
Thanh Son is represented as a "junior North 
Vietnamese officer" not the "commanding officer 
for the 157 Co. 21st Bn, 2nd Div," as described 
in the DIA message.
Mr. Son spoke of North Vietnamese plans to 
infiltrate the South and discussed a North 
Vietnamese "plan not to launch a general 
offensive until 1976 - before the U.S. 
presidential elections." 
" Right now, they don't want to launch an 
offensive. They're afraid of the reaction 
of  world opinion as well as President Nixon," 
he said.
Perhaps the Nixon resignation in August of 1974, 
allowed the North Vietnamese to move up their time table.
On the subject of POWs Mr. Son, according 
to the AP article, stated "he also believes 
the North Vietnamese are still holding some 
American prisoners in effect as hostages to 
insure that all mines are removed from North
Vietnamese waters and that Hanoi receives 
United States reconstruction money. They want 
to keep U.S. prisoners because there are many 
problems to be settled with the U.S. government. 
They want to keep prisoners in case the
U.S. government launches war again, they 
will have some prisoners."
That quote is followed by standard DoD debunking -- 
"Defense Department officials said they had no 
information from returned prisoners or any other
source to support the defectors claims concerning 
U.S. POWs."   The article went on to say that 
"Mr. Son refused to elaborate further," on the subject
of POWs.
If Mr. Son did not have information deemed credible, 
why did the Defense Intelligence Agency, on 
June 15th, 1973 issue their message of "URGENT
POLITICAL SENSITIVITY." Why did the Embassy in 
Saigon go to extreme lengths to have the story 
killed? The bigger question is why did the media in the
person of UPI and NBC agree and kill the story.
A telegram dated June 11th, 1973, from the 
American Embassy Saigon to the Secretary of 
State Washington D.C., states 
" NVA rallier/defector Nguyen Thanh Son was 
surfaced by GVN to Press June 8 in Saigon. 
In follow on (sic) interview with AP, UPI 
and NBC American correspondents, questions 
elicited information that he had seen six 
prisoners whom he believed were Americans
who had not yet been released. American 
officer present at interview requested news 
services to play down details; AP mention 
was consistent with embargo request, while 
UPI and NBC after talk with Embassy Press Officer
omitted item entirely from their stories."
"Details on rallier's account being reported 
separately (sic) through military channels by 
Bright Light Message today,[word missing]White House."
No where in the Associated Press article 
is the number of POWs mentioned. Nor is 
it mentioned that Mr. Son actually saw 
the POWs over an extended period of time. 
Or that he spoke with one of them on 
4 different occasions. Instead a carefully 
crafted sentence states "he also believes the North
Vietnamese are still holding some American prisoners..."
When questioned about the Baltimore Sun article, 
DPMO stated, in the 17 April 1998 letter; 
"We are not familiar with the referenced newspaper
article." We find that interesting, as the article 
was discovered by a member of the McDonnell family, 
during a routine review of the casualty file, while 
in Washington D.C. for the annual briefings. That's correct!
The article DPMO claims no knowledge of is in 
Capt. McDonnell's Army Casualty file.
Not only do we have our first clear evidence 
of Americans left behind but we now have 
evidence of media complicity in government 
efforts to "play down" details of Americans 
left behind. The U.S. and Vietnamese governments know
what happened to John McDonnell and when it happened. 
Only his family and the American public remain in the dark.
In their 9 July 1998 memo, DPMO discussed 
Nguyen Thanh Son's press conference. 
According to DPMO; 
"Of note, during his first interview this
source never mentioned seeing six American prisoners.... 
It was not until his news conference a few days later 
that the source came up with the story of the six 
American POWs at the MR-5 camp. Following the new 
conference he was re-interviewed, resulting in the 
data reported in IR 6 918 5058 73."
This statement is completely untrue. The information 
contained in IR 6 918 5058 73, regarding six American 
POW was obtained by U.S. officials on May 22, 1973. 
The press conference referred to, was held on June 8th, 1973. 
That is 17 days after the information was acquired by 
U.S. officials.   Records indicated that the information 
released during the press conference was reported back to 
Washington D.C. on June 11th, 1973. That June 11th report
clearly reads; "Place and date of AQN; Saigon, RVN, 22 May 1973."
The DPMO attempt to make Nguyen Thanh Son's 
disclosure of POWs at Ba To look like some 
stunt to draw publicity, is at best incompetent, 
at worst it is criminal.
Almost 25 years later, on November 19, 1997, 
a Freedom of Information Act request filed 
with the Central Intelligence Agency for the 
National Interrogation Center debriefing report 
of Nguyen Thanh Son, was denied. (It is interesting 
to note that in a 17 April 1998 letter, to the McDonnell
family, DPMO claimed no knowledge of National Interrogation 
Center Records, stating; 
"This request is somewhat confusing. 
Although the United States and our 
allies had interrogation facilities 
in Vietnam during the war, they did
not maintain flies on missing 
U.S. Servicemen."  
Again, this statement is misleading, at best.)
According to the CIA, they could "neither confirm 
nor deny the existence or nonexistence of records 
responsive to your request on the basis of Freedom
of Information Act exemptions (b) (1) and (b) (3)." 
(Note: Exemption (b) (1) applies to material which 
is properly classified pursuant to an Executive order 
in the interest of national defense or foreign policy. 
Exemption (b) (3) applies to the Director's statutory 
obligations to protect from disclosure intelligence 
sources and methods,  as well as the organization,
functions, names, official titles, salaries or number 
of personnel employed by the Agency, in accord with 
the National Security Act of 1947 and the 
(1A Act of 1949, respectively;)
While we have no documentation to prove it,  
we believe it possible, that Nguyen Thanh Son 
was working for the United States Government as a
"Controlled American Source" (CAS). That might explain 
the "defection" of an NVA officer after the signing of 
the Paris Peace Accords. Perhaps his defection was 
actually an extraction. This would also explain the CIA 
denial of our FOIA based on "... Director's statutory 
obligations to protect from disclosure intelligence 
sources and methods, as well as the organization,
functions, names, official titles, salaries or number 
of  personnel employed by the Agency..." Since Nguyen 
Thanh Son spoke publicly of his defection and the 
intelligence information he provided, denial based on 
protection of source and methods is ridiculous. Denial 
of the debrief is also in direct violation of two 
Presidential Executive Order signed by Presidents Bush and
Clinton to declassify all POW/MIA related material.
On April 12th, 1998, the Central Intelligence Agency 
denied our FOIA appeal. The Agency Release Panel 
determined that the CIA "must neither confirm nor
deny the existence or nonexistence of any records.... 
Such information, that is, whether or not any responsive 
records exist, would be classified for reasons of national 
security.... the fact of the existence or nonexistence
of such documents would relate directly to information 
concerning intelligence sources and methods..."
Is this document truly classified for reasons 
of national security or is it classified 
based on national embarrassment?
During the 1997 government briefings, 
held in Washington D.C., representatives 
of Army Casualty and the Defense POW/MIA 
Office were presented the information 
relating to Nguyen Thanh Son. Also provided 
was the name of the camp interpreter. The 
family requested that an effort be made to 
locate these men for the purpose of a re-interview. 
The response of the DPMO's representative was an 
incredulous "you mean you want us to do a
live sighting investigation?"
Information was also requested on the live 
sighting report from Laos and the reason 
John McDonnell was among the 57 missing 
servicemen evaluated as "possibly alive" 
by the Project X study.
The response came in November of 1997. According 
to DPMO the first sighting, in Laos was a fabrication. 
They came to this conclusion, stating "JCRC analysts 
believed one of the POW's described was Captain McDonnell. 
They apparently based this belief upon the physical 
description and the source's agreement that one of the POWs 
resembled a photo he was shown of Captain McDonnell. 

Aside from the identity of the alleged POWs, in looking at the
substance of the sources claims our analysts question the validity of the
information. At the heart of the report, and most particularly suspicious,
is the source's claim that the two American POW officers were clad in PAVN
uniforms, wearing wearing "Seiko" watches and gold rings..."   In conclusion
DPMO stated "Based upon the information contained in the report, DPMO
analysts have not correlated it to any American and view it as a fabrication
on the part of the source."
However, in 1973, JCRC stated in the "Field Comment" -- 
"Records indicate that source probably observed 
Capt. John T. McDonnell, USA (JCRC Nr. 0176).... 
There is an indication that McDonnell may have been captured....
McDonnell's description follows: age in 1971 was 31, height: 1.77 meters;
weight 75 kilos' hair; brown; race; Caucasian; wears white silver Seiko
watch and large ring on left hand." In 1986, JCRC maintained its position
that "information contained in the report correlated to Capt. McDonnell."
No mention was made of "Project X."
Of the 4 sightings reported by Nguyen Thanh Son, 
DPMO stated "In regard to the analyst notes 
comparing Captain McDonnell with Army Sergeant Glenn
Tubbs, the notes refer to a scar behind Captain McDonnell's 
left ear, but do not list any tattoos."
Ignored is the fact that two independent sources 
provided almost identical descriptions of a POW, 
whom we believe the evidence shows is Captain John
As of this date, DPMO has deemed both source 
reports as fabrications.Requests to have 
Nguyen Thanh Son and the camp interpreter, 
Sr. Lt. Hinh,located and re-interviewed 
were denied. In the words of DPMO, 
"The camp where Lt. Hinh allegedly 
worked didn't exist at the time and 
location cited by the source, thus 
the existence of the interpreter is moot."
The Camp - DPMO insists that the camp we believe  
existed in the Ba To area of Northwestern 
Quang Ngai Province was not operational in 1973.  
Yet, CIA "Intelligence Information Cable" 
#314/03268-73, distributed 10 April 1973,
the very day Nguyen Than Son rallied, states, 
in part; "As of early March VC Prisoner of 
War Camp centered on BS3128 was located in 
Kontum Province to the West of Gia Vuc in Ba 
To District, Quang Ngai Province. 
This camp held both GVN Military and civilian 
official prisoners from Quang Ngai Province.

This camp was subdivided into eight compounds. 
Some of the prisoners, the total number of 
whom is unknown, were used as laborers on nearby
agricultural production sites. The camp 
was managed and guarded by a staff
of about (unreadable)5 people."
Another CIA "Intelligence Information Cable" #311/01523-73, 
distributed 6 April 1973, discusses activities in the 
Sa Huynh area during the period 28 January - 15 March 1973. 
The cable states the camp held "Government of Vietnam (GVN) 
prisoners who had been captured at Sa Huynh in Duc Pho
District Quang Ngai Province, during late January and 
early February 1973.
On three different occasions between 28 January and 
14 March POW's arrived at the POW camp. The first group, 
consisting of 83 Prisoners, arrived at the POW camp 
on 29 January 1973. The second group, consisting 
of 100 POWs arrived on 2 February. En route to the 
camp two POWs from this group were shot and 10 died 
from injuries. The third group, which included 80 
prisoners arrived on 13 February...."
During his Press Conference, Son stated that; 
"the Viet Cong's Provisional Revolutionary 
Government plans to establish its capital in 
South Vietnam in Ba To district of Quang Ngai 
Province, about 20 miles northwest of Sa
In the limited reports available to us, Nguyen Thanh Son 
describes the Ba To camp as housing 200 ARVN military 
(GVN Military), who were housed separately from the 
American POWs. According to Son the American NCOs 
were required to grow their own food. Growing their 
own food might indicate "agricultural production sites,
" described in the CIA "Intelligence Information Cable,"
distributed 10 April 1973.
By our calculations 251 GVN POWs were at the camp 
described in the CIA cable distributed 6 April 1973. 
This is reasonably close to the figure of 200
reported by Nguyen Thanh Son. The cable goes on to 
say; "...The whole camp was located under dense 
jungle foliage to prevent aerial observation, there
was only one trail leading to the camp. The trail 
originated in Nghia Hanh District and 
terminated at the camp...."
Clearly, a POW camp, or camps, existed in the Ba To area. 
Could one of these camps be the camp described by Nguyen 
Thanh Son, as holding 6 American POWs?
On June 9th, 1973, the day the Baltimore Sun Article 
was published, records indicate that the Navy flew a 
reconnaissance mission in the area, we believe the 
Ba To camp was located. The only written reference 
to this mission comes in the form of a handwritten 
note which reads; "Aerial photographs: An area 
[blacked out] photograph, classified [whited out], 
is available in CDD-PT for viewing in  addition those
pictures in the target folder."
Two photocopies of the photographs available to 
us are of extremely poor quality. With no  
experience in photo analysis, we would describe 
these photos by saying they show a large dark 
area (perhaps dense jungle canopy) with 
pinpoints of light escaping. These pictures 
show no evidence, to our untrained eye, of 
a POW camp.  However, this does not mean the 
camp did not exist!
It simply means, as the CIA cable states; "...
The whole camp was located under dense jungle 
foliage to prevent aerial observation..."
DPMO's dismissal of the Ba To camps existence is 
premature. It is a fact that during the war 
U.S. intelligence was unaware of several 
operational POW camps. This was discussed in a 
study done in May 1982 by Colonel Harold E. Johnson USAF. 
The study titled "I will never forget.... 
An Analysis of the POW/MIA Episode in the War in 
Southeast Asia" was done for the Air War College. 
Col. Johnson's credentials are impressive. 
According to his biographical sketch Col. Johnson 
is a "graduate of the USAF Squadron Officer School (1964), 
the Air Command and Staff College (1974), and the Air War
College (1981.)" In addition to his impressive credentials, 
Colonel Johnson has first hand experience with the 
Vietnamese, having spent almost six (6) years as a 
Prisoner of War, in North Vietnam.
Colonel Johnson describes how after the unsuccessful 
POW rescue attempt, at Son Tay on November 21, 1970, 
prisoners throughout North Vietnam were consolidated. 
He goes on to describe what happened about one (1) year later.
Col. Johnson stated "over 200 of us were blindfolded, 
bound and moved stealthily in covered trucks at night. 
We were taken to a camp near the Chinese border at a 
point north and west of Dong Khe. The camp was 
constructed among the Karst ridges and had surrounding 
barbed-wire-tipped walls and building made of solid stone. 
It had been obviously constructed especially as a permanent 
prison facility. 
There was not any surrounding barbed-wire-tipped walls 
and building made of solid stone. It had been obviously 
constructed especially as a permanent prison facility. 
There was not any electricity, and we depended on the 
stream flowing down the mountain for our water supply. 
We named the camp Dog Patch in association with our
mountainous surroundings and primitive living conditions. 
We remained in this camp until January 1973, when we 
returned to Hanoi to be released. The U.S. did not 
know the location of this camp until after the returnee
Col. Johnson discussed the brutal treatment of POWs 
and the constant threat of trial as "war criminals." 
His study also mentions how in 1968, all references 
to trials stopped. Col. Johnson hypothesis as to why 
the Vietnamese dropped their threat of trial against 
the known POWs.
According to the study, Col. Johnson stated 
".... perhaps the communist captors made other arrangements." 
Col. Johnson continued "the Communists could have decided to 
designate certain individual POWs or entire POW camps as
inmates for eventual repatriation. Other POWs kept in camps 
secreted in the hinterlands could have been designated as 
recipients for the proposed trials. All loyal cadres could 
be instructed on the underhanded plans, and further 
references to and emphasis on the subject could be dropped. 

Such a plan would have required meticulous cross referencing 
to insure what released POWs had been in contact with or knew 
each other to reduce possibilities of repercussions about 
those remaining being designated by name and supported by 
specific testimony after the big release." Col.Johnson 
acknowledges this is "pure conjecture" on his part but 
continues "... but it makes sense from my experience in 
looking at it from a Communist viewpoint."
In his conclusion Col. Johnson writes; 
"during annual torture sessions we
call purges, the interrogators were 
always interested in whom you had been
communication with and who else you 
knew in the rest of the camp.  Their
records were fairly complete, so they 
could cross reference the information
to confirm which prisoners knew each 
other. Names of POWs confirmed as alive
at the time a propaganda release was 
made could have designated that group
for eventual release, thereby reducing 
their worth as possible pawns in
special negotiations."
Col. Johnson continued "When I began this study, 
I had a firmly-held personal opinion that all 
the living POWs had been returned or completely
accounted for as a result of the returnee 
testimonies. I do not believe that any more. 

It is my humble opinion, based on my research, 
common sense, personal experience, and a gut 
feeling, that there are still some live Americans 
pigeonholed by the Communist somewhere in Southeast Asia.

Testimony by refugees and other people about live sightings 
of Americans are too numerous and accurately described 
to be complete fabrications. I feel that the 
identification question relating to specific identities having 
to be accurately tied to the reports of live sightings is 
irrelevant. If any non-indigenous personnel are currently 
sighted as groups in captivity there,
the overwhelming probability is that they would 
be Americans. Why should their presence be such a surprise?"
Indeed, why should their presence be such a surprise 
and why should we be surprised to learn that 
"Codeword Classified" information may exist relating
to Capt. McDonnell. A partial index of documents from 
Capt. McDonnell classified file contains the notation 
"This Material Contains Codeword." Could that be a 
reference to Codeword Classified Intelligence on Capt.

Where is John McDonnell?
How much longer must they wait to come home? 
How much longer must our POW/MIA families 
wait for the truth?
  Many notes obtained from The  National Alliance of Families
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