WASHINGTON — After decades of denials, the Chinese have acknowledged burying an American prisoner of war in China, telling the U.S. a teenage soldier captured in the Korean War died a week after he "became mentally ill," according to documents provided to The Associated Press.
China had long insisted that all POW questions were answered at the conclusion of the war in 1953 and that no Americans were moved to Chinese territory from North Korea.
The little-known case of Army Sgt. Richard G. Desautels, 18, of Shoreham, Vt., opens another chapter in this story and raises the possibility that new details concerning the fate of other POWs eventually might surface.
Chinese authorities gave Pentagon officials intriguing new details about Desautels in a March 2003 meeting in Beijing, saying they had found "a complete record of 9-10 pages" in classified archives.
Until now, this new information had been kept quiet; a Pentagon spokesman said it was intended only for Desautels family members.
The details were provided to Desautels' brother, Rolland, who passed them to a POW-MIA advocacy group, the National Alliance of Families, which gave them to AP.
In a telephone interview Thursday, the brother said he did not follow up on the information he got in 2003 because he did not believe it.
He was not aware that it marked the first time China had acknowledged taking a U.S. POW from North Korea into Chinese territory or burying an American there.
Two months after the March 2003 meeting, the Pentagon office responsible for POW-MIA issues sent Rolland Desautels a brief written summary of what a Chinese army official had related about the case.
"According to the Chinese, Sgt. Desautels became mentally ill on April 22, 1953, and died on April 29, 1953," the summary said.
It added that he had been buried in a Chinese cemetery, but the grave was moved during a construction project "and there is no record of where Desautels' remains were reinterred."
on the net
Pentagon's POW-MIA office: www.dtic.mil/dpmo/ index.htm