U.S. knew North Korea held Americans after end of the war, documents show House subcommittee investigating reports of live POWs there


WASHINGTON -- Newly declassified documents show that the United States knew immediately after the Korean War that North Korea had failed to turn over hundreds of American prisoners at the end of the war, adding to speculation that Americans might still be in custody there.

The documents, obtained from the Dwight D. Eisenhower Presidential Library and other government depositories by a congressional committee, show that the Pentagon knew in December 1953 that more than 900 American troops were alive at the end of the war but were never released by the North Koreans.

The documents may only deepen the mystery over the fate of Americans still considered missing from the Korean War. In June, a Defense Department intelligence analyst testified that on the basis of "a recent flurry" of "very compelling reports," he believed that as many as 15 Americans were still being held prisoner in North Korea.

While not dismissing the analyst's report entirely, the Defense Department has said that it has no clear evidence that any Americans are being held against their will in North Korea, although it has pledged to continue to investigate accounts of defectors and others who say they have seen American prisoners there.

The North Korean government has said that it is not holding any Americans. A handful of American defectors are known to live in Pyongyang, the North Korean capital.

The documents were obtained by the House National Security subcommittee on military personnel. Congressional investigators said much of the information was confirmed by a former military aide to President Eisenhower, Col. Phillip Corso.

In a statement prepared for delivery before the House panel today, Corso, who is retired, said: "In the past, I have tried to tell Congress the fact that in 1953, 500 sick and wounded American prisoners were within 10 miles of the prisoner exchange point at Panmunjom but were never exchanged." Panmunjom was the site of peace negotiations between the United States and North Korea that ended with an armistice on July 27, 1953.

Pub Date: 9/17/96

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