Moscow, Russia. The government of the Russian Federation turned over information on five missing pilots shot down over Vietnam many years ago. It is unclear if this is a one time gesture of good will or an ongoing program of information sharing between both nations intelligence communities.
Russia has given the US declassified archival information about five American pilots who were captured in Vietnam in the 1970s, News Front reports, citing the Deputy Chief of the Defense Ministry of Russia for Perpetuating the Memory of those Killed in the Defense of the Fatherland, Andrei Taranov.
Taranov did not mention the names of the prisoners, nor did he specify whether the Americans were captured by Vietnamese or turned over to Russian state security in that era for interogation.
The message was received with “great enthusiasm and appreciation” by members of the National League of POW/MIA Families of the Vietnam War. Earlier, the Russian delegation participated in the annual meeting of the League, at which the work of the Russian-American Commission for Prisoners of War and Missing Persons was discussed, as well as plans for the coming years.
Taranov noted that after the meeting the US announced its readiness “to develop mutually beneficial cooperation in every possible way” in matters of establishing the fate of prisoners of war, which has not always been the case with some American administrations.
During the Clinton era, little to no effort other than public show acts were conducted for media photo ops. American press neither demanded accountability after the fall of the Soviet Union and it was not pressed with the Yeltsin government.
Most of the American POWs were pilots. As noted by Interfax, the cabin of an American aircraft that had been shot down in 1972 in Vietnam had earlier been stored at the Moscow Aviation Institute.
In 2002, Deputy Nikolai Bezborodov, then Deputy Chairman of the Defense Committee, did not rule out the possibility of “transferring American military pilots captured in Vietnam to the Soviet Union.” At the same time, he noted, “there is no evidence of this”.
The Vietnamese did not recognize the Americans as Prisoners of War, since North Vietnam and the United States did not formally fight. Americans talked about torture upon returning from captivity. The fates of many Americans lost in foreign wars are still unknown, decades later.