Monday, January 6, 2014

Vietnam War POW-MIA Joint Casualty Resolution Center Located At Barbers Point Patrol Wing Two Headquarters

Vietnam War POW-MIA Joint Casualty Resolution Center Located At
NAS Barbers Point Patrol Wing Two Headquarters
by John Bond

Great News!

Ewa Field Battlefield Determination of Eligibility (DOE)

 by the National Park Service in Washington, DC

NAS Barbers Point holds a special place in Cold War - Vietnam Era history with the JCRC POW-MIA mission office located at then Navy Patrol Wing Two headquarters Facility 972.
The Joint Casualty Resolution Center was a unique organization in the annals of American military history and in 1976 was moved to Hawaii after Saigon, the capital of South Vietnam, fell to North Vietnamese troops.

This quiet, peaceful looking building was actually secret Facility 972 at NAS Barbers Point.

Today the area is known as Kalaeloa under HCDA State administration and the still Navy owned historic building has been left empty for use by thieves and homeless to loot and graffiti up.

The JCRC operated from Building 972, Patrol Wing Two HQ, NAS Barbers Point, under the command of US Army Special Forces which had begun the process of becoming a joint force military and civilian operation that would attempt to account for and settle for many American families one of the most contentious issues of the Vietnam War: Was every American Prisoner of War or Missing In Action remains held in South East Asian POW camps being located and returned as soon as possible?

High level communications traffic between the Defense Intelligence Agency, JCRC, Secretary of State, CIA, CinCPac, Secretary of Defense and the National Security Council, now declassified, shows the special importance and political sensitivity the POW-MIA issue had for decades.  

Many books and popular movies, especially during the 1980's, kept the POW-MIA question very much alive, and most especially so by families and relatives of lost military combatants still not accounted for. To this very day the resolution of MIA (Missing in Action) remains a sometimes heated topic and with investigations that question the expense and effectiveness of the agencies involved. 

Books, articles, blogs and studies range in opinions from a largely accomplished mission to a complete cover up of what may have really happened after the war officially ended.

Why was the JCRC operation moved to Facility 972 at NAS Barbers Point?
The answer is apparently that Building 972, headquarters for US Navy Patrol Wing Two, was already set up as a very secure, Top Secret Cold War facility and the JCRC could remain low-key in an office area on the first floor of the building with direct secure and encrypted communications to the White House, CinCPac and still on going operations in South East Asian countries. It was also a very good location to deploy special teams from and communicate with them based on time and distance.
The now very historic Cold War Patrol Wing headquarters building was constructed in 1958 in an area that had once been the headquarters of Ewa Mooring Mast Field, attacked on December 7, 1941 by Japanese planes. A now famous painting shows a front gate MP firing at a Mitsubishi Zero very near where Facility 972 was built. The flag pole location of the original Marine Corps airfield was duplicated about 25 yards away in front of the 1958 built Patrol Wing headquarters.   

Patrol Wing headquarters in 1958 was a vital part of a direct link with NORAD (North American Air Defense Command) that connected the US Navy commander of the EC-121 Pacific Distant Early Warning squadron during one of the most intense periods of the 1960's Cold War era. The subsequent Navy Cold War mission at Facility 972 was for P3 Orion Anti-Submarine Warfare – Intel patrol squadrons of the 60’s through 90’s at NAS Barbers Point.
The Joint Casualty Resolution Center (JCRC) operations, which had a first floor window view looking directly out at the patrol wing headquarters flagpole was of top importance to several US presidents and many members of congress in the 70's through 90's. The Barbers Point JCRC command post in Facility 972 was directly linked to CinCPac, the White House and special operations teams in SE Asia.
Entire national political campaigns, as well as local campaigns, were greatly influenced by the POW-MIA issue during that period of time. This was a huge emotional and somewhat divisive national political issue as well, and of deep personal interest to President Ronald Reagan. The subsequent progress made by JCRC was cited as a reason to normalize relations with North Vietnam which he supported. President Bill Clinton in 2000 made the first ever visit to North Vietnam and gave a speech at a MIA crash excavation site in Hanoi. Many Vietnam veterans also came back on tours.
Saigon fell on April 30, 1975, marking the final end of the Vietnam War and forcing JCRC to leave.
Lt. Col. Charles Beckwith, a US Army Special Forces officer served as Commander, Control Team "B" with the Joint Casualty Resolution Center from 1973 to 1974, seen in the above photo inset. He is credited with the creation of Delta Force, the premier special operations unit of the U.S. Army in November 1977. The Joint Special Operations Command (JSOC) was established in 1980 on his recommendation to ensure joint forces interoperability and tactics.

The public's 70's weariness with the Vietnam War changed into a politically charged 80's issue.
Hollywood chimed in on the POW-MIA issue with not critically acclaimed but none the less very popular 80’s action movie hits with Sylvester Stallone’s Rambo (with additional sequels) and Chuck Norris’ Missing in Action, (with additional sequels) which featured heroic Vietnam vets returning on special missions to liberate POW’s that “America has forgotten.”
The Background History of the Joint Casualty Resolution Center
In 1973, there were approximately 1,500 Americans still unaccounted for in Vietnam, more than 500 in Laos, and about 80 in Cambodia. Another 425 were lost over water off the Vietnamese coast. Unfortunately, not since the release of 591 American prisoners of war during "Operation Homecoming" in 1973 has an American -- whose fate was unknown to the U.S. -returned alive from Southeast Asia.

American POW's celebrate aboard a USAF C-141 after being released from Hanoi prisons.
The Paris Peace Accords of 1973 intended to establish peace in Vietnam and end to the Vietnam War. The agreement was signed on January 27, 1973. One of the protocols to the Paris Peace Accords made provision for a Four-Party Joint Military Team (FPJMT) to carry on the search and accounting for missing individuals and came into existence in early 1973. The FPJMT remained in place in Saigon until the eventual fall of the Government of the Republic of Vietnam on April 30, 1975, at which time all special US operations were withdrawn to Thailand.
The US delegation of the FPJMT was a group of less than twenty military personnel from all services, including specialists in international law and history, individuals familiar with negotiation techniques, plus an array of interpreters, translators, and support personnel. While the FPJMT constituted the negotiating element of the US effort, another entity, the Joint Casualty Resolution Center (JCRC), was created as the operational element.

American remains being transported from Hanoi airport back to Hawaii in 2003
The JCRC was a unique organization in the annals of American military history.
Activated in Saigon on 23 January 1973, its first commander was Brigadier General Robert Kingston, a hard-driving US Army infantry officer with considerable background experience in special operations who wanted JCRC field teams to be US Army Special Forces.

The JCRC field unit was to have a predominantly operational role -- carrying out field searches, excavation, recovery, and repatriation activities negotiated through the politically oriented FPJMT.
The JCRC mission was to assist the Secretaries of the Armed Services to resolve the fate of those servicemen, approximately 2600,  still missing and unaccounted for as a result of the hostilities throughout Indochina.

This JCRC field unit was commanded by Lt. Col. Sully Fontaine a WW-II OSS veteran

Kingston personally interviewed each volunteer, accepting those whose talents matched a list of personnel skills previously drawn up by planners at CINCPAC in Hawaii as the Paris negotiations were concluding. The JCRC roster, with an initial authorization of approximately 140 troops, was heavily loaded on the side of field search teams that Kingston knew could deploy quickly. 

Brig. Gen. Kingston described the fourfold JCRC mission as:
“peaceful, open, and humanitarian in nature: Resolve the status of U.S. personnel missing in action; Resolve the status of U.S. personnel declared dead whose bodies have not been recovered; Locate and investigate crash and grave sites; and, Recover and identify remains."

Captain Richard Rees, a JCRC field team leader killed in an ambush while leading an MIA recovery
After South Vietnam military force reductions the headquarters was moved to Bangkok, Thailand and Brig Gen. Kingston returned home in December 1973. The Joint Casualty Resolution Center conducted no more ground operations in South Vietnam and his immediate successor was mainly tasked with the retrieval of the remains of U.S. POWs who died during captivity in North Vietnam.
In May 1976, JCRC moved to Building 972, PatWing 2 HQ, NAS Barbers Point, Hi
After the fall of Saigon on April 30, 1975, JCRC initiated moving their Bangkok headquarters to Building 972, Patrol Wing Two Headquarters, NAS Barbers Point in May, 1976 and began a close relationship with the US Army Central Identification Laboratory (CIL) which had also been relocated from Thailand. Army Lt. Colonel Joe Harvey was in command of JCRC at this time.
The JCRC case records were inherited from another little-known military unit in Vietnam which was the Joint Personnel Recovery Center (JPRC). The JPRC, which was a SOG element (MACV Studies and Observations Group -SOG), was a highly classified, multi-service United States special operations unit which conducted covert operations prior to and during the Vietnam War. They were responsible for recovering downed airmen and allied prisoners from enemy territory and had collected considerable information and numerous files on those individuals who had disappeared. SOG missions were so sensitive that they weren't declassified until the 1990's.
With the establishment of the Joint Casualty Resolution Center, the old JPRC files constituted a logical starting point for JCRC to expand and update these files, beginning immediately with the debriefing of all POWs released during Operation Homecoming in February and March of 1973.
As of July 1973, approximately 1,300 men were officially missing in action throughout Indochina (the two Vietnams, Laos, and Cambodia). More than 1,100 more were officially declared dead. Those figures changed constantly in response to new information.
Another name change- JCRC becomes JTF-FA and moves to Camp Smith, HI

Undergoing various changes in name and budgets, JCRC evolved to JTF-FA and finally JPAC
In Jan. 23, 1992 JCRC became Joint Task Force – Full Accounting (JTF-FA). With a much larger budget due to continuous public and congressional demands, JTF-FA was established to systematically seek out information related to the more than 2,000 Americans missing in Vietnam, Laos, Cambodia, and China. Based at Camp H.M. Smith in Hawaii, the unit's Detachment 2 (Det 2) established in late 1991 in Hanoi was the only American government agency in Vietnam at that time.
As JTF-FA came into existence, a covert operation run by the Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA) revealed that the North Vietnamese had thousands of pictures of U.S. POWs and MIAs in the archives of the military museum in Hanoi. Many of those pictures were of dead last-known-alive individuals that either died at the incident site or in the captivity of the North Vietnamese.
Confronting the Vietnamese with the pictures somewhat surprisingly resulted in the beginning of more open cooperation by them, ultimately leading to the lifting of the trade embargo on Vietnam, establishment of full diplomatic relations and reforms in the Vietnamese economy which benefited the all of Vietnam and Saigon, renamed Ho Chi Minh City under the North Vietnamese.
Yet Another name change- JTF-FA becomes JPAC and moves to Hickam AFB, HI
In 2002, the Department of Defense decided that accounting efforts for all past conflicts would be best served by combining JTF-FA and CILHI into a single, cohesive organization. Thus, on October 1st, 2003, the Joint Prisoners of War, Missing in Action Accounting Command, better known as JPAC, was established and headquartered on Hickam Air Force Base, Hawaii in the old Fort Kamehameha Army coast artillery area of the air base.
 Special detachments are sent out to investigate crash sites and look for any possible MIA remains.
 Investigations also continue into WW-II crashes such as this B-24 in New Guinea.
 A helicopter crash site in Laos being investigated with the help of local assistance.
 Laos site with a very careful sifting of dirt to look for very small objects that may be ID clues.
 If successful, a family may finally have the satisfaction of having their loved one's remains recovered and sent back home from a foreign battlefield where they died many decades ago.
JPAC is currently having a new facility built at Hickam AFB (JBPHH)

SOME JCRC NOTES (There are many on the web):
Kingston at the JCRC, Thailand 1973
Full Accounting