Wednesday, December 22, 2010


(House of Representatives - May 21, 1998)
[Page: H3733]  GPO's PDF
(Ms. SANCHEZ asked and was given permission to address the House for 1 minute and to revise and extend her remarks.) 
Ms. SANCHEZ. Mr. Speaker, 2 weeks ago the House Committee on National Security unanimously approved my amendment to honor and recognize the former South Vietnamese army commandos who were employees of the United States Government during the Vietnam War
Today, the Members of this House had the opportunity to properly honor those brave men by supporting the Department of Defense authorization bill for fiscal year 1999. 
Last year, the President signed into law legislation that I advocated to ensure that the United States Government honor a 30-year-old bad debt and pay these men who worked for the United States Government the wages they earned but were denied during the Vietnam War. 
These individuals were trained by the Pentagon to infiltrate and destabilize communist North Vietnam.
Many of these commandos were captured and tortured while in prison for 15 to 20 years, and many never made it out.
Declassified DOD documents showed that U.S. officials wrote off the commandos as dead even though they knew from various sources that many were alive in Vietnamese prisons.
The documents also show that U.S. officials lied to the soldiers' wives, paid them tiny `Death Gratuities' and washed their hands of the matter.
For example, Mr. Ha Van Son was listed as dead by our Government in 1967, although he was known to be in a communist prison in North Vietnam. Today he is very much alive and well and living in Chamblee, GA. In my hand I hold the United States Government's official declaration of his death.
Because it was a secret covert operation, the U.S. Government thought they could easily ignore the commandos, their families, friends, and their previous contacts without anyone noticing.
As the Senior Senator from Pennsylvania said in a recent hearing, `This is a genuinely incredible story of callous, inhumane, and really barbaric treatment by the United States.'
In the 104th Congress, this House approved legislation that required the Department of Defense to pay reparations to the commandos.
This bill would have provided $20 million to the commandos and their survivors, an average grant of about $40,000 per commando. It called them to be paid $2,000 a year for every year they were in prison, less than the wages they were due.
President Clinton signed this legislation into law (Public Law 104-201).
However, in April of 1997, the Department of Defense said that the statute was legislatively flawed and the Secretary could not legally make payments.
I then contacted Secretary Cohen requesting the administration's help to correct this error.
The administration responded by supporting inclusion of the funding in the Supplemental Appropriations Bill for fiscal year 1997 (Public Law 105-18)
Last year, I met at a public forum with 40 commandos from my district.
One individual shared with me his story of how he parachuted into enemy territory, was captured, convicted of treason, beaten, thrown into solitary confinement for 11 months, then moved among hard--labor camps for the next seven years.
His story is not unlike countless others. I request unanimous consent to insert into the record one story of this abuse headlined `Uncommon Betrayal' as reported by an Atlantia newspaper recently.
Today, however, I am pleased to provide this Body with this update.
To date, the Commando Compensation Board has been established at the Pentagon; 266 claims have been processed; 142 Commandos have been paid.
All this was made possible because of the commitment of this House.
After years of torture by the North Vietnamese, the callousness of being declared dead by the United States Government, and years of anguish over not receiving their rightful compensation--these brave men now deserve recognition.
The South Vietnamese Lost Army Commandos are finally a step closer to having the United States Government honor their contracts for their years of service to the United States Army.
I am proud that the members of the House had an opportunity to properly honor these brave men
We can not bring those who perished back, but we can give these individuals the dignity and respect that's been so long overdue.
Who supports this resolution?
The State of California American Legion strongly endorses this amendment and I would like to submit the letter from the Department Commander Frank Larson into the Record.
In Commander Larson's letter dated May 1, 1998, he states, `Ms. Sanchez: I'm sure if history were unfolded for all to see it would show that the South Vietnamese commandos, who aided the United States Government in covert actions against the North Vietnamese, were responsible for saving many American lives.'
It goes on to say: `To that end, the same recognition due our soldiers, sailors, marines and airman involved in the Vietnamese Conflict should be afforded to the former South Vietnamese commandos, who so gallantly served and endured.'
It is also supported by: The Air Commando Organization; The Special Forces Organization.
American veterans who fought side by side with the Commandos, come to their defense in letters of support.
I would like to share with you what our soldiers have to say about the commandos.
This letter comes from a special forces NCO:
`Dear Sir: I had the opportunity to work with these men in which they not only risked their lives, but continually put themselves in harms way. * * * We are aware of terrible trials and conditions these men endured for so long and we would like to help * * *'
I would also like to take this opportunity to mention that last year, during POW/MIA recognition day, I had the opportunity to meet with several members of my veteran community.
I had the opportunity to speak with former POWs and family members whose loved ones were taken as prisoners or declared missing in action. Several of the veterans mentioned their support for the Commandos and urged that the Government honor its word.
Today, we gave these commandos what they really wanted, the distinction of honoring their service in the Vietnam War. And on behalf of the 40 commandos residing in the 46th Congressional District of California, I would like to thank the Members of this body for their commitment to honor and to recognize the former South Vietnamese army commandos. 
Mr. Speaker, I submit for the Record a series of documents relating to these former South Vietnamese commandos.