March, 2016 Volume 1, Issue 1
Inside this issue:
Matejov Update : Baron 52 * 19 New POWs—revisited *Hrdlicka Petition
*Jerry Kiley’s New Publication * Commentary:Family Experience
* Final Thoughts—Lynn
On February 5th, the 43rd anniversary of the shoot down of flight Baron 52, the family of USAF Sgt. Joseph Matejov and the rest of the crew of Baron 52 were finally given a voice. The Matejov Family has spent over two decades questioning, researching and investigating the crash that the DoD claimed took the lives of the entire crew of eight on February 5, 1973 in Laos. After finally excavating the site in 1992, the government officially accounted for this eight-man crew symbolically burying the few recovered bone shards in a comingled grave at Arlington National Cemetery in March of 1996.
With the unrelenting help of a team of attorneys and strong long-term support of his congressional representatives from the State of Wyoming, just last month the Matejov’s legal team was finally able to formally present their evidence to DPAA officials and USAF officers in the hopes of changing Joseph Matejov’s classification from KIA to MIA. The Matejov’s believe that Joseph was prematurely changed from an MIA status to KIA, in part, due to the political climate at the time of the crash which occurred within days of the Paris Peace Accords. Going further, some of the most compelling evidence of the backenders’ possible survival was not even shared with the decision makers in 1973.
The Baron52 crash site was excavated in November of 1992 recovering 23 -29 bone fragments (depending on the report), half a tooth, and a pre-molar reportedly belonging to Sgt. Peter Cressman.
Yet, today, while the DoD considers this case resolved, much of the almost irrefutable evidence was left sitting quietly in dusty old reports that had long been forgotten. Joseph’s mother, before her death, passed the torch to Joe’s brother John who has spearheaded this odyssey and his dogged tenacity is certainly what has brought the Baron 52 case to where it is today.
Their presentation focused on the fact that the change in status from MIA to KIA lacked evidentiary support, was contrary to Air Force regulations, was the product of political and policy imperatives, and, indeed, was contrary to the best available evidence at the time. One of the more glaring omissions was the fact that the USAF Commander responsibly for making the classification was not made aware of certain communication intercepts from just hours after shoot down that referenced four captured prisoners or “air pirates.”
It is worth stating that Baron 52 was the only air loss during the February time frame in Laos. The rationale for the change in status also incorrectly assumed the plane plunged vertically to the ground, and, perhaps most importantly, discounted the fact that the pararescuers who entered the site four days after the crash plainly saw the pilots’ bodies in the nose of the plane, but saw absolutely no sign of the backenders in the rear sections of the plane, although they did see that the rear cargo door was missing.
Once the status change was made and Joseph and the others were made KIA, their names were ordered to be removed from the POW/MIA lists, and they effectively became ghosts – no one any longer was looking for them. Additionally, in June of 1973, then Deputy Secretary of Defense William Clements issued a directive stating, “… that all actions which recommend reclassification of military personnel from missing in action to captured status be submitted to me for approval.” It goes without saying that there were no such reclassifications approved by Clements in the months following the end of the Vietnam Conflict.
Furthermore, the Matejov Team unearthed a 1991 report developed by a Senate Select Committee investigator that not only were intelligence resources available in 1973 in Laos not tapped in the Baron 52 case but that military personnel, “ … may have been actively prevented from doing so by the CIA station in Vientiane, Laos.” Clearly the political climate at the time was a factor in missteps that plagued the full accounting of this USAF reconnaissance crew.
One of the more intriguing parts of the Baron 52 case is that fact that in 1992 when the crash site was officially excavated three dogtags were found and a fourth belonging to Joe Matejov was found on the surface in almost pristine condition. However, in 2010, U.S. officials reported to the family that they were approached by a villager claiming to have bones and a dog tag belonging to Joseph, which DPMO said was believed to be authentic.
John commented that, “The point discussed in the presentation was ..”If this tag was “believed to be authentic” by analysts in 2010, how then does this speak to the analysts declaring that all died in the crash site back in 1973? How does a dog tag then show up as having been dug up somewhere else by a villager?”
There was also compelling evidence that some of the crew could have indeed parachuted out or escaped from the aircraft after crash-landing based on the artifacts found at the site. For example, researchers recovered only enough rings to account for four survival kits, suggesting four were missing; no pieces of radios were recovered; and parachute parts recovered could not account for the likely extra chutes on the plane. When evaluating the bone fragments, various CIL-HI lab personnel had more questions than answers. They concluded that based on the bones found that they may only represent one crew member, and CIL-HI was unable to DNA test any of the fragments, or even conclude with certainty that the shards were from human bone. Clearly, there is strong evidence that at least some of the Baron 52 crew survived the crash.
The Matejov’s also were fortunate to find a former Vietnam pilot, Ralph Wetterhan, trained in crash investigations, to serve at their technical expert with regard to the crash analysis and communication protocols during the war. They credit his expertise with much of the crash site analysis that appeared in the presentation. The later portion of the presentation focused on this analysis and evidence of survival.
These are just some of the highlights of the incredible detail that went into this impressive two-hour presentation. We would like to thank John Matejov for sharing the PowerPoint slides of the presentation with us to allow us to share specifics with you here. According to John, they were pleased with how the presentation turned out and now they wait to hear back from the Air Force. We sincerely hope that the findings of the DoD are favorable to the Matejov’s who have gone above and beyond to ensure that their brother’s life and sacrifice is properly honored and respected.
In closing, while preparing this article, John Matejov asked that we specifically thank the late Lynn O’Shea who passed away in December of 2015 for her legacy of research. The Matejov’s as well as the rest of the Baron 52 crew owe much to Lynn as she was instrumental in finding the SAR logs that detailed what the search and rescue team found a few days after the shoot down at the crash site.
We will certainly keep you updated on the decision in this case in future newsletters when it is made public. As John likes to say, “more news at eleven.”
Comments: We are in awe of their inextinguishable desire and hope that this case inspires other families of the missing to do their own research, their own investigation to ensure that their missing loved one is honored just as Sgt. Joseph Matejov was honored on February 5, 2016. As we have seen here, it is worth mentioning that often times families or close friends are much more motivated to finding the truth and will often go that extra miles for that missing lead that for multiple reasons, the Department of Defense simply refuses to.
The 19 New POWs : Revisited
Research & Analysis:
Now that the DoD has officially reported that the new Defense Prisoner of War Missing Personnel Accounting Agency (DPAA) is at “full operational capability” (FOC) we would like to see some of the important research that their predecessor DPMO simply refused to investigate finally given the attention it deserves. One of the most compelling and highly ignored pieces of research are what are commonly known as “The Tourison Memos” or “The 19 New POW cases.”
In summary, as part of his work on the investigative team for the 1992 Senate Select Committee on POW/MIA Affairs, DIA Senior POW/MIA Analyst Sedgwick Tourison wrote two memos, one dated July 22, 1992 and the other dated August 2, 1992. Collectively the two memos reference 19 men who were in an MIA status, never classified as POWs, and who the Vietnamese were finally acknowledging were held into captivity. In JTFFA message traffic in the two year prior to writing the memos,
Tourison states the Vietnamese named each of these 19 men as having been held into captivity.
When Lynn O’Shea uncovered these documents, she began notifying the families of these 19 men to see if they were aware of this find. None had ever been made aware of these documents and were anxious to share them with DPMO. It is important to note that these documents, generated from the 1992 Senate Select Committee were never part of the individual men’s case files. Therefore, the families began addressing the Memos to DPMO and the response was lackluster at best. Instead of attempting to glean new information about the 19, DPMO instead did a character assassination on Mr. Tourison.
They attempted to pass him off as the crazy old uncle that everyone tolerated because he was family. It’s important to note that Mr. Tourison had been working the POW/MIA issue since the time of the war and served as a Senior Analyst in DIA’s POW/MIA section. He also authored two books on his time in Vietnam.
When specific family members asked about the Memos, they were given multiple stories. One was told that they had no idea where the message traffic was and had no idea what Tourison used to generate the Memos while another was told that DPMO had looked at the message traffic that Tourison used and came to a different conclusion. When asked to see the message traffic, they were told that it was classified. When the family member told the then Assistant Director of Research and Analysis that that was impossible because for over a decade DPMO had been telling them that there were no longer classified documents in their case. Not having an answer, the DPMO staffer simply turned and walked away.
The salient point here is that in each of these 19 cases, Mr. Tourison used the same phrase, “Vietnam has now acknowledged holding XXX into captivity.” Shortly after discovering the Memos, we contacted Mr. Tourison and spent a significant amount of time with him over the years. The take-away here is this, he told us that the simple fact that he used the word “acknowledge” told him that the message traffic was specific and concrete. He would not have used such a strong word if there messages contained foggy or inconclusive evidence.
The handling of these documents by DPMO underlines an aspect of the reorganization of DPAA that many family groups supported, the inclusion of a ombudsman of sorts that would function as a third party and be an arbitrator between families and the DoD when disagreements on procedure, analysis or identifications presented themselves.
While this idea was initially taken into consideration at the time, it never moved beyond the point of conversation. There is still time for DPAA to reconsider this option and we’re sure many families would welcome this concept as part of their promise of culture change within the accounting community.
It is our sincere hope that now, with the new DPAA at FOC, and coupled with the promises of transparency and working more closely and positively with families, that DPAA will give these important documents the attention they rightly deserve.
Comment: Sedgewick Downey Tourison, Jr. passed away on December 31, 2012 after a long battle with Agent Orange related diabetes. Leave it to Wick to leave this place on New Year’s Eve. He is sorely missed and we are thankful for the time we had with him.
Some may have already been made aware of the Change.org petition that Carol Hdrlicka, wife of USAF Col. David Hrdlicka, started last week to push for presidential attention to the POW/MIA issue. Carol, always a staunch supporter of the issue, the families and the plight to get our missing men home spearheaded this effort. Carol has been involved in all levels of the issue and her husband David’s case is one of the more high profile cases. After David was shot down over Laos and taken prisoner, he was photographed and was mentioned in newspaper articlesand even seen by the Soviet press in captivity.
Carol maintains a website dedicated to David and their family’s story. You can visit that site here.
“David has been well documented alive and in captivity. There has been no credible evidence that David has died which the government agencies admit to the fact they have no evidence that David died. There have been live sighting reports on David in the 1990s.”
Please sign this petition (here) and forward on to your entire address book. When 100,000 signatures are received, the White House must act on this petition. This type of public pressure is what Carol feels is needed to get the attention of the White House. Thank you in advance for your help!
Betrayal: Prisoner of War and Military Veterans
Well-known POW/MIA and Veterans activist, Jerry Kiley has penned a book entitled, Betrayal: Prisoner of War and Military Veterans. In it Jerry chronicles his 30-year journey as an activist and Veteran fighting to make the voices of the missing and the forgotten heard. We will let Jerry tell you about the book in his own words;
“Betrayal has grown into something more. It has become a glimpse into the United States government’s betrayal of the living American prisoners of war left behind after WWI, WWII, the Korean War and Vietnam. The first betrayal I experienced was coming home to find Americans’ hatred of Vietnam Veterans, but even worse was the outright rejection from our fellow Veterans of previous wars. Since my awakening, I have seen the systematic betrayal of Veterans through the government’s lies about the effects of Agent Orange, the denial and cover up of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, the characterization of Gulf War Syndrome as an individual mental problem and numerous violations of the promise to provide quality healthcare to men and women following their honorable service to our country.”
If you would like to a copy of Jerry’s book, it is available on Amazon.com, you can find the link here. We would love to hear your thoughts and comments on the book once you have read it. Thank you Jerry for your efforts on behalf of the missing and your fellow Veterans.
Commentary: Family Experience
Among family members there are different experiences. Some have loved ones who were known to be dead but whose remains
were never recovered, some were known to be held captive and their fate is still unknown, while others still may know nothing at all.
Often times passion runs deep, be it family member or an activist who is invested in a case and is working closely with the family in the hopes of finding answers. Although not knowing is certainly the hardest part, what can be worse even still is when the agency that claims in their press releases or statements before Congress that they consider this the most hallow of missions yet rarely do they show it in their actions, their tone or their demeanor.
This is the true “culture change” that is needed within the new DPAA. Developing logos, website and photo opportunities is for the rest of the country, not the families or activist.
When families bring the news of important documents, like the Tourison Memos, to the attention of the Department of Defense and their first reaction is to debunk, deny and defuse the potential within a document or eye-witness information, how are the families suppose to interpret those kinds of actions? With each and every reorganization the DoD tells families to trust them, that this time they are going to get it right, this time they will fix all the ills, etc. One has to question how an agency can repeatedly ask the same group of people to trust them while that trust is rarely reciprocated.
We recently heard someone describe their trust issues with the DoD this way— Imagine you are in a relationship, one that is supposed to instill trust, faith and cooperation yet one party repeatedly fails you. With each instance of loss of trust and faith, the guilty party asks you to trust them, just one more time. With each new time, the level of trust and faith is weakened just a bit more than the last. So, our questions for the DoD is how much faith should we have left? What specific efforts are being made to ensure, once and for all that the “culture change” is not just a misnomer? Hopefully we will see that change in June at the Annual Meetings.
When people pass away, it seems that only then do we truly realize the impact they had on our lives and the important role they filled, almost seamlessly. In the past few months, many of us have realized that life without Lynn O’Shea is like walking through the desert without a compass. The loss of her friendship coupled with her amazing leadership are being felt through out the POW/MIA community.
The main purpose of this newsletter will be to continue Lynn’s work, to ensure that all she did is not lost. We are very thankful for the support of Lynn’s family and their willingness to give us their permission to use the title “Abandoned in Place” as a way to honor and remember such a special lady.
If you ever have any questions or even newsletter ideas, feel free to contact us at
Happy St. Patrick’s Day, Lynn !