Letter to the Editor
The Washington POST
1150 15th Street NW
Washington, D.C. 20071
RE; Congressman Dornan's "FREE FOR ALL" remarks May 20, 1995
I wonder if Congressman Dornan knows the facts of "Robert McNamara's heartbreaking MIA legacy" as he tosses that into an attack on Mary McGrory for her earlier Outlook item, "The McCain Mutiny of April 30, 1995? Isn't it about time someone put the POW/MIA cards on the table and ended that sordid game?
Has he ever had his staff check with the District of Columbia for a copy of the "Articles of Incorporation of the National League of Families of American Prisoners and Missing in Southeast Asia" issued under the provisions of the D.C. Nonprofit Corporation Act on the 28th day of May, 1970? (copy enclosed) If he has not done this, he may wish to know that the incorporators of "the League" on that date were Maryanne K. Brockley, Ronald A. Jacks and Charles W. Havens III, and not any of the ladies of the League of Families, itself.
In the book "The Missing Man" by Capt. Douglas L. Clarke, USN of the National War College, 1979, we read,
"From its inception, the League had been given sound advice by its original volunteer legal counsel, Charles Havens,III, a former Department of Defense lawyer."
This is the same Charles Havens who was one of the original incorporators of the League in 1970. According to Pentagon records, Havens worked in the Office of the Secretary of Defense, Robert McNamara, as General Counsel to Paul Warnke who was McNamara's Assistant for International Security Affairs, (where Les Gelb worked putting together "The Pentagon Papers") as early as the Fall of 1967 and at least until the Fall of 1973.
However, it is important to note that during 1970, Havens was listed as Vice President and General Counsel of the Reinsurance Association of America. As such he played a most important part in the organization and guidance of the activities of the League of Families. Why should that be? What is the interest of the insurance business in the League of Families? The reason becomes obvious, when one considers the true impact of the Missing Persons Act.
Again citing the National War College book, "The Missing Man," on the application of "The Missing Persons Act:"
"While in a missing status, a serviceman draws his full pay and all the allowances in effect at the time of loss-such as combat pay, and flight pay. In addition he is promoted with his peers, and all of his income that is not paid to his wife is placed in a savings account that pays 10 percent interest. The difference between the benefits available to an MIA wife and those paid to the widow of a KIA (killed in action) is immense.
"While parents, even if they are primary next of kin, seldom receive any of their son's pay while he is in a missing status--since they are not usually dependents--they stand to inherit a substantial amount when their son is declared dead. Some of the estates of single MIA's are approaching a quarter of a million dollars, (1979 data) and growing at 10 percent per annum above the yearly pay and allowances. In August 1976, when 795 men were listed as MIA, it was estimated that the Government was paying $9 million more annually in benefits to MIA families than would be the case if the men were declared dead."
Now you see where the Reinsurance Association of America comes in. Almost all servicemen have life insurance policies. As long as the serviceman is not legally dead, his family continues to pay the monthly premium on his policy; and, as long as that same serviceman is not dead, the insurance company does not have to pay the principal amount of the policy. As the years roll by, the policy becomes "paid up," and the insurance companies benefit on each policy. By 1970 these were becoming important statistics when it is known that no less than 2,600,000 men served in Vietnam, and no one could then estimate how many would become POW's or MIA's before that long war was over. The insurance losses could have been staggering; and now that this formula has been devised there may be no losses, and the formula will, of course, be employed in future conflicts.
It will be seen then that the group of wives, for the most part, who came up with the concept of the League of Families provided the public facade for the working interests behind the League. Things were not quite as they seem.
I received a call from an old friend, a General in the Pentagon, during April 1970. He knew that I was then Vice President of a bank in Washington, D.C. He told me about the Pentagon's plans for this "League of Families." He knew that, as a Military Air Transport Squadron commander, I had served in Vietnam during 1952-1954, and that I had had nine years of experience in the Pentagon from 1955-1964, and earlier military experience with POW's during WWII, and during the Korean War. He asked me to serve as the Financial Advisor to the planned League; and as his "Eyes and Ears" for developments. I agreed.
During May 1970, I attended a "Get Acquainted" party at the Offices of the Reserve Officers Association building on Capitol Hill. There I met most of the people who were active in the creation of the League along with the wives who had been called together by Mrs. Sybil Stockdale from San Diego, CA. for this organizational meeting.
Shortly thereafter I received a letter from the Chairman of the Board of the League, Mrs. James Bond Stockdale and the League's National Coordinator Mrs. Iris Powers asking me "to help as one of their advisors." There was no reference whatsoever to the call I had received from the Pentagon, and the letter (copy enclosed) informed me:
"Our league is composed of--and its headquarters staffed by--family members only. We have limited funds and no paid staff.
I accepted their request, attended the first several years' meetings regularly, and remained close to the League for 15 years.
Shortly thereafter, I received a September 8, 1970 letter (copy enclosed) from the Reinsurance Association of America signed by their "Vice President and General Council" Mr. Charles W. Havens. He was a personable, able and hard working man. I never learned from him that he worked in the Pentagon for McNamara, Warnke, Shields and others in ISA. I did not know then that he had been an incorporator of the League, nor had I known anything about the interest of the insurance industry in the League.
Although the League had emphasized that it was "non-profit, non-partisan" and that it was "being financed by the families themselves and by contributions from concerned individuals and organizations," it became clear that this precocious League was well connected and that its role had been carefully orchestrated. In my capacity as Financial Advisor I processed a League of Families budget for its first year at $1,065,400. That speaks for itself.
Another active supporter of the League of Families was William J. Baroody, President of the American Enterprise Institute for Public Policy Research. Loy Henderson, Paul McCracken and Milton Friedman served on that A.E.I. Advisory Board. At almost the same time the League was being formed, the A.E.I. commissioned Charles Havens to write a detailed legal analysis on the subject of "The Prisoner of War Problem" as a public policy issue before the 91st Congress: Second Session, dated December 28, 1970.
This was followed in January, 1971 by a long and detailed legal treatise, again by Charles Havens, "Release and Repatriation of Vietnam Prisoners" that appeared in the American Bar Association Journal of that date.
This is no place to document more fully the birth and growth of this unusual POW/MIA organization in the hands of its true sponsors and strongest supporters. Obviously we all sympathize with those who have lost loved ones in that long and pointless war in Southeast Asia; but that is not today's concern. For twenty-five years now the American public has been kept in the dark about this most unusual organization and its many off- shoots. In fact the public has been led to believe a "cover story" that is fabricated. Meanwhile, billions of dollars of American business potential in Indochina have been forfeited as a result of government policies stemming from this POW/MIA intrigue.
Since the Congressman has seen fit to throw the subject into the arena one more time, it might be well for him to move for a meaningful Congressional investigation of this creative episode in the drama of our fifty years involvement in Indochina.
L. Fletcher Prouty Colonel, U.S. Air Force (Ret'd)
NOTE: to the POST. I believe that after these decades of fantasy we all share a deep obligation to the public to get the ball rolling on this subject, and this might be as good a time to do it as any. It you wish to publish this, as is, you have my permission. If you would rather have it broadened for more elaborate purposes, I can do that... or help others you may wish to select to do that. I believe this subject should not be permitted to continue as it has been for the past quarter century. There will be more "Vietnams." Is this the way the POW/MIA situation should be handled then? I think not.