Thursday, March 1, 2018

Former Prisoners of War Recognition Day ceremony

Former Prisoners of War Recognition Day ceremony
When: Saturday, April 7, 2018
Time: 10:00am - 11:00am
Location: New Hampshire State Veterans Cemetery
The Dept of NH Veterans of Foreign Wars, Auxiliary, and the NH Chapter of the American Ex-Prisoners of War
 cordially invite you and your family and friends to the annual Former Prisons of War
Recognition Day ceremony in the Chapel that starts at 10:00am.

Who is Mike Benge?

Just heard from an old friend who has stood at the vigil with us many times...

Bob:  Great to hear from you.  I'm happy to hear that you're still at it and come June it will be your 30th anniversary.  I well remember when I joined you for the remembrance.  Us Hard Corps types will never forget.  I'm still active in the issue in spite of the government's opinion.  Attached is a paper (still in draft) I wrote on the POW//MIA situation and presented at last year's National Alliance of Families annual meeting.  I wrote it for inclusion in the book I'm writing on my memories.  It's a sad tale"

Semper Fi Brother.  Mike.

So who is this Mike Benge?....


Name: Michael Dennis Benge
Rank/Branch: U.S. Civilian
Unit: Agency for International Development
Date of Birth: 6 August 1935
Home City of Record: Oregon
Date of Loss: 31 January 1968
Country of Loss: South Vietnam
Loss Coordinates: 124049N 1080235E (AQ800030)
Status (in 1973): Released POW
Acft/Vehicle/Ground: Ground
Refno: 1008

Other Personnel in Incident: Betty Ann Olsen; Henry F. Blood (both
captured); Rev.Griswald (killed); Carolyn Griswald (daughter of
Rev.Griswald, survived first attack, died of wounds); Rev. Zeimer (killed);
Mrs.Robert Zeimer (wounded, first attack, evaded, survived); Rev.&
Mrs.Thompson; Miss Ruth Whilting (all killed)
Source: Compiled by Homecoming II Project 30 June 1990 from one or more of
the following: raw data from U.S. Government agency sources, correspondence
with POW/MIA families, published sources, interviews. Updated by the P.O.W.
NETWORK 1998 with material from Michael Benge.  2017
SYNOPSIS: Michael D. Benge was born in 1935 and raised on a ranch in eastern
Oregon. After college at Oregon State, he applied to the CIA, because he
wanted to travel the world. CIA told him to try the Agency for International
Development (AID). AID sent him to International Voluntary Services (IVS).
After two years in Vietnam with IVS, Benge transferred to AID and served as
an AID agricultural advisor. By the time of the Tet offensive of 1968, he
had been in-country five years, working almost the whole time with the
Montagnards in the highlands. He spoke fluent Vietnamese and several
Montagnard dialects.

On January 31, 1968, Benge was captured while riding in a jeep near Ban Me
Thuot, South Vietnam. Learning of the Tet offensive strikes, Benge was
checking on some IVS volunteers who were living in a hamlet with three
companies of Montagnard rebels who had just been through a lot of fighting
as the NVA went through the Ban Me Thuot area. His plan was to pick up the
IVS "kids" and then go down to pick up some missionaries in the area.
Benge was captured a few miles from the Leprosarium at Ban Me Thuot. This
center treated anyone with a need as well as those suffering from leprosy.
It was at the Leprosarium that Rev. Archie Mitchell, Dr. Eleanor Vietti and
Daniel Gerber had been taken prisoner in 1962. The Viet Cong regularly
harassed and attacked the center in spite of its humanitarian objectives.
During the Tet offensive, the Viet Cong again tried to wipe out the
Christian missionary influence in Dar Lac Province, and over a three day
period attacked the hospital compound several times.

Betty Ann Olsen was born to Missionary parents in Bouake, Ivory Coast. She
had attended a religious school and missionary college in Nyack, New York.
Curious about the way the other part of the world lived, she went to Vietnam
in 1964 as a missionary nurse for Christian and Missionary Alliance, and was
assigned to the Leprosarium at Ban Me Thuot. Henry F. Blood was a missionary
serving as translator and linguist for Wickcliff Translators at the

During one of the earlier attacks on the hospital compound, three staff
homes were destroyed, one housing Rev. Griswald, who was killed, and his
grown daughter Carolyn, who survived the explosion but later died of her
wounds. During the same attack, Rev. and Mrs. Zeimer, Rev.and Mrs. Thompson
and Miss Ruth Whilting were trapped and machine gunned. Only Mrs. Zeimer
survived her 20-30 wounds and was later evacuated to Cam Ranh Bay. Blood and
Olsen escaped injury for the moment.

Two days later, on February 1, 1968, as Olsen was preparing to escape with
the injured Griswald, she and Henry Blood were captured during another
attack on the hospital.

For the next month or so, Benge, Blood and Olsen were held in a POW camp in
Darlac Province, about a day's walk from Ban Me Thuot, and were held in
cages where they had nothing to eat but boiled manioc (a large starchy root
from which tapioca is made).

The Vietnamese kept moving their prisoners, hiking through the jungles and
mountains. The camp areas, swept very clean of leaves to keep the mosquito
population down (and the ensuing malaria threat), were clearly visible from
the sky. Once, Benge reports, an American aircraft came so close to the camp
that he could see the pilot's face. The pilot "wagged his wings" and flew
away. The Vietnamese, fearing rescue attempts and U.S. air strikes, kept

For months Olsen, Blood and Benge were chained together and moved north from
one encampment to another, moving over 200 miles through the mountainous
jungles. The trip was grueling and took its toll on the prisoners. They were
physically depleted, sick from dysentery and malnutrition; beset by fungus,
infection, leeches and ulcerated sores.

Mike Benge contracted cerebral malaria and nearly died. He credits Olsen
with keeping him alive. She forced him to rouse from his delirium to eat and
drink water and rice soup. Mike Benge describes Olsen as "a Katherine
Hepburn type...[with] an extra bit of grit."

In the summer of 1968, the prisoners, again on the trail, were left exposed
to the rain during the rainy season. Hank Blood contracted pneumonia,
weakened steadily, and eventually died in July. (July 1968 is one of the
dates given by the Vietnamese - the other, according to classified
information the U.S. gave to the Vietnamese through General John Vessey
indicates that Mr. Blood died on October 17, 1972. Mike Benge says Blood
died around July 4.) Blood was buried in a shallow grave along the trail,
with Olsen conducting grave-side services.

Benge and Olsen were kept moving. Their bodies were covered with sores, and
they had pyorrhea from beri-beri. Their teeth were loosening and gums
infected. They spent a lot of time talking about good meals and good places
to eat, planning to visit their favorite restaurants together when they went
home. They moved every two or three days.

Benge and Olsen were moved near Tay Ninh Province, almost to Da Lat, then
back to Quang Duc Province. Olsen was getting weak, and the Vietnamese began
to kick and drag her to keep her moving. Benge, trying to defend her, was
beaten with rifle butts.

Just before crossing the border into Cambodia, Olsen weakened to the point
that she could no longer move. Ironically, in this area, near a tributary to
the Mekong river, fish and livestock abounded, and there was a garden, but
the food was denied to the prisoners. They were allowed to gather bamboo
shoots, but were not told how to cook it.

Bamboo needs to be boiled in two waters to extract an acid substance. Not
knowing this, Olsen and Benge boiled their food only once and were beset
with immobilizing stomach cramps within a half-hour; diarrhea soon followed.
Betty Ann Olsen weakened and finally died September 29, 1968 (Vessey
information indicates this date as September 26), and was buried by Benge.
Finally, Benge was taken to Cambodia, turned over to the North Vietnamese,
and another long, grueling trek began. Benge, however, had made his mind up
that he wouldn't die. He treated his ulcerated body by lying in creeks and
allowed small fish to feed off the dead tissue (a primitive debridement),
then caught the fish and ate them raw. He caught small, green frogs and
swallowed them whole. He did everything he could to supplement his meager
food ration.

By the time he reached the camp the Vietnamese called "the land of milk and
honey" his hair was white and he was so dehydrated and emaciated that other
POWs estimated his age to be over seventy years old. He was, at the time,
only thirty-three.

After a year in Cambodia, Benge was marched north on the Ho Chi Minh Trail
to Hanoi. He spent over three years in camps there, including a total of
twenty-seven months in solitary confinement. Upon his return, he verified
collaboration charges against eight of his fellow POWs, in a prosecution
effort initiated by Col. Theodore Guy (this action was discouraged by the
U.S. Government and the effort was subsequently abandoned.) Mike Benge then
returned to Vietnam and worked with the Montagnards until the end of the

The Vietnamese have never attempted return the remains of Henry Blood and
Betty Olsen. They are two individuals that the Vietnamese could provide a
wealth of information on. Since they pride themselves on being
"humanitarians," it would not be in keeping with this image to reveal the
horror Olsen and Blood endured in their hands. It is not surprising, then,
that the Vietnamese have not publicly told their stories.

Olsen and Blood are among nearly 2500 Americans, including several
civilians, who are still unaccounted for, missing or prisoner from the
Vietnam war. Since the war ended, over 10,000 reports have been received
concerning these missing Americans which have convinced many authorities
that hundreds are still alive in communist hands. While Blood and Olsen may
not be among them, they went to Vietnam to help. They would not turn their
backs on their fellow man. Why has their own country turned its back on

copyright 1977 Captain and Mrs. Frederic A Wyatt (USNR Ret),
Barbara Powers Wyatt, Editor
P.O.W. Publications, 10250 Moorpark St., Toluca Lake, CA 91602
Text is reproduced as found in the original
publication (including date and spelling errors).
Captured: January 28, 1968
Released: March 5, 1973
From 1956 through 1959 I served in the Marine Corps. After I competed my tour
of duty, I returned  to Oregon State University and completed my studies in
Mechanical Technology in Agricultural Engineering. I served with the
International Volunteer Services (the forerunner of the Peace Corps), in
Vietnam from 1963 to 1965, as an advisor in education and agriculture. I
joined the Agency for International Development (AID), in January 1965 and
returned to Vietnam to work chiefly with the Montagnards (an aboriginal people
of the Malayan-Polynesian extraction living in the western highlands). Here I
acted as a civilian economic and community development advisor to the Darlac
province chief. During this period I  was named the adopted son of a tribal
chief and his wife. The brass bracelets given to me by the Montagnards were
removed when I was captured. However, since my return I am again wearing the
Three years later on January 28, 1968, while attempting to group people for
evacuation, I was captured by the North Vietnamese in South Vietnam. For five
silent years I endured forced marches through South Vietnam, Laos, and
Cambodia, into North Vietnam. I was tortured by the hands of the Communists
for my "bad attitude". While in captivity I was kept in solitary confinement
for 27 months. At intervals I was forced to maintain a difficult position on
my knees with my hands over my head for between 11 and 16 hours at a time. If
I dropped my hands I was beaten. While marching for several months, I had only
a small amount of rice and salt to eat. Perhaps once or twice a month I
received a tiny portion of  monkey or lizard meat. I ate anything I could pick
up or catch, small crabs, frogs, minnows, bugs, etc. If caught doing this I
was beaten so I swallowed them raw when no one was looking.
About two months after I was captured I came down with cerebral malaria.
During this period of  time  I was delirious for thirty-five days and suffered
periodic blindness. No medical assistance was offered. As a  result of
malnutrition, I began suffering from beri-beri, scurvy, jungle ulcers, loss of
hair, and loose teeth.  From 160 my weight decreased to less than 100 lbs. As
I marched through Cambodia and Laos I passed an endless stream of North
Vietnamese uniformed soldiers walking South and supplies being trucked from
Port of Sianookville, Cambodia and from Hanoi In Cambodia and Laos there were
rest camps every four hours along the trail flying the North Vietnamese flag.
The 85 men held captive with me would never had been taken prisoner if the
U.S. had struck the safe havens in Cambodia prior to the launching of the Tet
offensive in 1968. The only reason the P.O.W.'s  were released was because the
Americans eventually bombed Hanoi.  I was taken all the way to Hanoi. In the
early part of December 1969,1 spent about two months in  a camp in Laos
somewhere around Highway 9. I was then trucked into Hanoi and taken to a camp
outside of the city. At this location I was put into solitary confinement for
the next year, seeing no other American. I was kept in an isolation hut, where
they had sealed off all of the ventilation holes allowing no air. The walls
were painted black with coal dust and cement. There was no light. I had
contact with no one else. The room was filled with mosquitoes and flies. There
was one hole in the back of the hut which allowed little or no air to come in.
Only rats! And frequently I had eight or ten of them with me. My well was
right outside the hut. About fifteen yards uphill they had placed a cesspool.
Everytime it rained the water turned brown with pollution.
The free people of South Vietnam learned the nature of the North Vietnamese
communists in 1968  when they invaded Hue. The systematic massacre that
followed belied the N.V.A.'s persuasive propaganda. First they murdered
thousands on their lists of opponents or neutralists. Then they turned on the
pro-communists and student groups whom they did not consider reliable. Then as
they retreated they killed anyone they thought might have witnessed the
wholesale slaughter. Two missionaries, with whom I was imprisoned, told of
seeing six other missionaries, in Ban Me Thuot, gunned down in cold blood as
they emerged from bunkers with their hands over their heads. Two women
missionaries in Laos were tied inside grass huts by the NVA and burnt to
death. In another area three villages were overrun by the North Vietnamese and
they drove the women and children into a ditch and burnt them alive with
I was elated when I first learned of the peace talks. However, even with peace
and my return home I continue trying to awaken the people in the U.S. and
elsewhere about many facts of the Vietnam war.  I am very concerned about the
American, South Vietnamese and third country prisoners of war who are still
held by the North Vietnamese. We have documented proof of 53 Americans whom
the North Vietnamese had captured and used for propaganda purposes. There has
been no accounting of them on any of the POW or MIA lists. I feel that the
North Vietnamese may use the remaining prisoners to justify to their people
their claim of winning the war.
I am happy to have been home to rejoin my mother, father, and sister even for
such a short period of time. At present I am still a bachelor and have
returned to college in the Philippines for my M.S. degree in community
development. I returned to South Vietnam for four months to see my many
friends. I shall again return to work again with the Montagnards in Vietnam if
"The Tide Doesn't Turn Red." Unlike many others, my going to Vietnam wasn't
just "Doing My Thing". I still feel that I have a commitment. A commitment
that "they too might have the freedom of choice, of beliefs and political
It was great to return to America and be back in a country, even with all its
social ills, where one can enjoy the freedom of speech, the freedom of
thought, and the freedom of political choice in the free world, things that
are unknown to those, still in the lands where I was held as a POW.

Tuesday, February 27, 2018

Congressional Actions


H. RES. 129 PASSES HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES:  On February 12th, the US House of Representatives passed this important resolution by a vote of 411 – 0, sending a unified message to the American people – including our Armed Forces serving today and our veterans, as well as foreign nations.  Introduced by Representative Sam Johnson (R-TX), a returned POW from the Vietnam War, His strong message on the Floor of the House occurred almost precisely 45 years after he and America’s other returned POWs were released from many years of captivity in Vietnam.  Passage of this resolution reflects true bipartisan, non-political support for the humanitarian accounting mission.

It is now the US Senate’s turn to act.  The identical measure was simultaneously introduced in the US Senate by Senator John S. McCain (R-AZ) as S. RES. 61.  Non-partisan, non-political passage by the US Senate would further reinforce our country’s support for achieving the fullest possible accounting for those who serve our nation – past, present and future.  That needs to happen quickly


1st Session
S. RES. 61
  Calling on the Department of Defense, other elements of the Federal
      Government, and foreign governments to intensify efforts to
  investigate, recover, and identify all missing and unaccounted-for
                    personnel of the United States.

Write, call, or email congress urging bipartisan support for US priority on accounting for America’s unreturned veterans.
To find your Representative go to:
To find your Senator: 

Save The Date ~ Freedom Ride

Freedom Ride

"As an American asked to serve, I was prepared to fight, 
to be wounded,to be captured and even prepared to die, 
but I was not prepared to be abandoned." 

(Former POW Eugene "Red" McDaniel - Source: 

Faith and Trust ..... 
We must never Forget

Save The Date!

Freedom Ride ~ June 14, 2018 

25th Anniversary of the Freedom Ride 
30th Anniversary of the Vigil 

Hesky Park "The Rock" Meredith, NH 

”Ride to the Rock”



February 26, 2018

1,600 Americans are now listed by DoD as missing and unaccounted-for from the Vietnam War: Vietnam - 1,253 (VN-458, VS-795); Laos–292; Cambodia-48; Peoples Republic of China territorial waters–7.  (These numbers fluctuate due to investigations resulting in changed locations of loss.)  The League seeks the fullest possible accounting for those still missing and repatriation of all recoverable remains.  Highest priority is accounting for Americans last known alive. US intelligence indicates some Americans known to be in captivity in Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia were not returned at the end of the war.  In the absence of evidence to the contrary, it must be assumed that these Americans could still be alive, and the US Government should not rule out that possibility.

Vietnam established comprehensive wartime and post-war processes to collect and retain information and remains; thus, unilateral efforts by them offered significant potential.  Vietnam has since taken many unilateral actions that are welcome and appreciated, plus announced that there are no obstacles to full cooperation.  Recently, Vietnam has increased implementation of commitments to provide long-sought archival records with relevant, case-related information, thanks in part to improvement of working-level efforts, but primarily due to increased bilateral relations across the board.  The early 2015 League Delegation brought commitments that offered real promise for increased success. First undertaken in northern Vietnam in 1985, joint field operations have dramatically changed and are now much more effective.  Vietnamese officials are participating with greater seriousness and professionalism, achieving increased results, including both US-led Joint Excavation Teams and Vietnamese Recovery Teams (VRTs), led by Vietnamese and supported by a few US personnel.  This formula allows a greater number of teams to “increase the pace and scope of field operations,” as requested by Vietnam since 2009, unless budget reductions interfere.  Due to increased military-to-military cooperation, US Navy assets are now allowed to participate in underwater survey and recovery operations, when requested.  These steps, long advocated by the League, are now coming to fruition and reportedly are raised by US officials at all levels.

After a rough period, joint field operations in Laos are now increasingly productive, even though more difficult than elsewhere.  Accounting efforts had slowed due to Lao Government inflexibility, attempting to over-price payment for helicopter support and denying permission for ground transport to accessible incident sites.  Recently, Laos is showing much greater flexibility, having again authorized an increased number of US personnel in-country simul-taneously, allowing ground transportation to accessible sites, and reaching agreement for contracting a private company to provide reliable, smaller-scale helicopter support to access remote sites.  When helpful, Vietnamese witnesses are also allowed to participate in joint US-Lao operations.  DIA’s Stony Beach POW/MIA specialist is assigned full time in-country, and Lao officials are now approving field investigations outside the confines of scheduled DPAA field operations.  A border dispute with Cambodia that was ongoing when the League Delegation visited over two years ago continues to impede recovery operations in that area.  The League urges officials in Laos and Cambodia to at least temporarily set aside their political disagreement and work trilaterally with the US to proceed on this humanitarian recovery, to end the uncertainty of the families.    

DIA’s Stony Beach Team:  One Cambodia specialist works full time at the US Embassy in Phnom Penh, and research and field operations in Cambodia have received excellent support.  Two Stony Beach personnel for years rotated on temporary duty in and out of Vietnam, collecting information via archival research and interviews of potential witnesses.  DIA has now decided to permanently station one Stony Beach Vietnam specialist in Hawaii and one in Hanoi, to which Vietnam has agreed.  Successive US Ambassadors have strongly supported this important move, and increases in bilateral military relations clearly contributed to overcoming past reluctance.  New US Ambassador to Laos Rena Bitter reportedly supports full use of DIA’s Lao specialist.  It is hoped that ever-expanding bilateral relationships with Laos and Vietnam will mean positive decisions and greater flexibility to expand.  Stony Beach specialists are sorely needed to augment the investigation process while witnesses are still living and able to facilitate locating incident sites for follow-up. 

The greatest obstacles to increased Vietnam War accounting efforts are too few qualified scientists, and unreliable funding that has caused US cancellation of scheduled operations, thus sending negative signals to foreign counterpart officials, especially in Vietnam.  Since over 80% of US losses in Laos and 90% in Cambodia occurred in areas where Vietnamese forces operated during the war, Vietnam’s expanded provision of helpful records, improved and increased archival research, interviews and field operations are the core means to increase accounting results for Vietnam War missing personnel, America’s UNRETURNED VETERANS.   

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

Annual Ex-POW/MIA Vigil

Annual Ex-POW/MIA Vigil in New Hampshire
When: Saturday, September 16, 2017
Time: 10:00 am - 11:00 am 
Where: New Hampshire State Veterans Cemetery, Boscawen, NH
The annual ceremony, hosted by Dept of NH Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW), will be held in the Chapel.
* The United States’ National POW/MIA Recognition Day is observed across the nation on the third Friday of September each year. Many Americans take the time to remember those who were prisoners of war (POW) and those who are missing in action (MIA), as well as their families.


2017 National POW/MIA Recognition Day Friday, September 15th

National POW/MIA Recognition Day will be observed on Friday, Sept. 15, 2017. This annual event honors our missing service members and their families, and highlights the government’s commitment to account for them.  Across the country, local POW/MIA ceremonies are encouraged throughout POW/MIA Recognition Week, culminating with countless events and the national ceremony in Washington, DC, on Recognition Day.  Support for these missing Americans and their families is deeply felt.  America’s POW/MIAs should be honored and recognized, rather than memorialized, with the focus on continuing commitment to account as fully as possible for those still missing.  Strong, united support by the American people is crucial to achieving concrete answers