Report: East Germany Held U.S. POWs
Dec. 26, 1992
TACOMA, Wash. (AP) _ East Germany claimed in 1967 to have five or six U.S. servicemen captured in Vietnam and offered to swap them for two Soviet spies held in the West, a newspaper reported.
The trade, which never took place, is detailed in State Department telegrams from Washington to East and West Germany and other locations, The Morning News Tribune reported Friday.
The Pentagon has said there is no firm evidence that North Vietnam ever sent any American prisoners of war to East bloc countries.
According to recently declassified State Department records, the newspaper said, the swap was to be brokered by Wolfgang Vogel, an East German lawyer who arranged the return of many prisoners from communist control during the Cold War.
Vogel's West German partner, a man identified only as Stange, proposed the swap to U.S. officials in 1967, according to the records. According to the offer, five or six American aviators were then in a hospital outside East Berlin.
In exchange for the POWs, the East Germans demanded the ''Krogers,'' apparently Helen and Peter Kroger, Soviet spies then imprisoned in Britain.
But the United States was dubious American POWs were really in East Germany and sought more information. The East refused to provide details such as names or serial numbers, the records said.
In addition, Britain refused to trade the Krogers and the communists rejected trades for other spies or for Vietnamese prisoners in U.S. hands, the report said. British officials reportedly swapped the Krogers in 1969 for one of their own men held by the Soviets.
Vogel has refused to discuss details of the deal, saying they would appear in his forthcoming book.
Lee Quang Khai, a Vietnamese defector, was quoted by the newspaper as saying that some U.S. POWs were sent to hospitals in East bloc countries for treatment.
''Some critical cases we could not treat in Vietnam, so those men were sent to Eastern bloc countries and then they would be returned to Vietnam,'' said Lee, an 11-year-veteran of Vietnam's Foreign Ministry now seeking political asylum in the United States.
But on Thursday, Hong Nguyen Thi, spokeswoman for the Vietnamese delegation to the United Nations, repeated previous Vietnamese denials that any American POWs were sent to East bloc countries or kept in Vietnam after the war.