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US POWs and spies – Czech style

Hana Catalanova, Vaclav Eminger, Zdenek Valis, PhDr

October 2004


Journalists reporting from within the secret services should above all answer a question to themselves, whether they do not only serve as instruments of so called intelligence games. An example of this are also the articles in MFDnes daily (Czech newspaper) about the issue of an investigation into the fates of American prisoners of war from the Korean and Vietnam wars which are served to the readers – as an eked out porridge – by Messrs J. Gazdik and L. Navara.

The last but one article from the series of their culinary art is called “Mystery of an American Spy Living in Prague” (Oct. 16, 2004). The US Army sergeant who deserted to communist Czechoslovakia in August 1965 and asked for asylum there, Glen Roy Rohrer, is presented here as a very significant and important person in the espionage field. Who knows the basics of secret services, especially the American ones, has to give a smile at the claims that this sergeant from a polygraph was a prominent intelligence officer. This can only be thought up by authors of sci-fi or by authors who uncritically take over the period terminology of the then State security (“the most valuable American intel officer”). He was, of course, debriefed as any other defector, and he provided the “knowledge” (i.e. name, description, rank and family background) in regards to the regular personnel of American military intelligence service. His activities “in the socialist camp” were, however, already revealed to Americans by Jan Frolik and Ladislav Bittman, former officers of the Czechoslovak intelligence service. After this deconspiration, Rohrer was in the end also introduced to the Czechoslovak public in a television program in the winter of 1968. But even afterwards he was used in “psychological games” against Americans. “Active measures”, carried out by StB (State Security), and based on Rohrer´s information, were to be amplified by his alleged prior co-operation, i.e. co-operation before his actual desertion behind the iron curtain. Tangible evidence is a paperback from 1976 (!) by Magnet publishing house, called “Naked Sphinx – Story of American Intelligence Service Officer Glen Roy Rohrer”, where, for a higher credibility of the “testimony”, Rohrer´s service ID cards were copied in order to show that Rohrer used to work with American military intelligence service. But not one of these “propaganda highlights” was of Rohrer´s free and voluntary decision, both were under the meticulous stage direction of the StB in the effort to maximally discredit Americans in the eyes of the Czechoslovak public. Therefore, the information from other sources were also “passed” to Rohrer, who then presented these as his own knowledge or experience. So his stay in the communist state was not such a big secret after all. But what is not mentioned again, and what the public would be more interested in, are the facts such as what was this sergeant actually doing in Prague, who did he work for and who was his leading/control secret agent, how much of the taxpayers´ money was provided for his cover during all those decades. Undoubtedly, he gradually had several of such “control secret agents”, he was also used by Soviet KGB, GRU and German Stassi. Rohrer also thoroughly informed LtCol. Milan Dufek, an StB physician and psychiatrist at the Criminalistic Institute of Public Security, about a detailed method of American investigators on the use of a polygraph. By doing so, his chances of getting to know the future Czechoslovak secret agents before their planting abroad were virtually eliminated. The Czechoslovak taxpayers paid the expenses connected with him (apartments, later even his high wages of a state police officer, SNB, in the rank of a Captain, a new car every three, four years, etc.) His “bodyguard/minder” didn´t even leave his side on his deathbed last year in spring, and conscientiously took care of Rohrer´s cremation.

Glen Roy Rohrer alias Jan Vesely alias Jan Vedra also lived all those years in fear. He was very scared already in 1968 – scared of being exchanged for Jan Sejna, for example… The Czechoslovak secret services “had him over a barrel”.

Just how many of such “turncoats” were there, and how many are still alive – fearing the exposure? (CR is a member state in NATO!) If there are only about twenty of them in the Czech republic, we are still paying…

There is one particular thing very strange in the Rohrer´s case. Although the alledged democratic system in CR is already 15 years old, the military intelligence service still keeps “secrets” of its communist predecessor – the practice of releasing the names of its co-operators and relevant information from the communist past doesn´t relate to it (The Czech Parliament yet again granted the military intel services a pardon, as if the crimes were done only by the State Security personnel). The calling upon an intelligence “professionality” is an opus of false tones – a person of Jiri Giesl can serve as a good example!

All these matters could, resp. should be uncovered by the officially set up Office of documenting and investigating the crimes of communism of the Police of the Czech republic (UDV). But what has been investigated so far? If the result of of many years of investigations should be in the published collections Securitas Imperii No. 8 (General Jan Sejna – Subject of Military Intelligence Interest) and No. 9 (Activities of Czechoslovak Institutions in SE Asia During Korea and Vietnam Wars) – then this result is more than very unassuming, even a poorly poor one. Coming to terms with the past cannot be achieved without getting to know it! But it has to be a true knowledge, without false and intentional interpretations of the historical sources or by their perpetual concealing! Otherwise an unlimited forum for blackmail and corruption will keep on flourishing (see, for example, the cases of false security clearances on the highest levels). In Rohrer´s case we also cannot omit other – purely human – dimensions; e.g. it seems that it isn´t true that Rohrer didn´t have any relatives, as it is claimed in the article in MFDnes. And his relatives, if any, have an uncontestable right to know even his darker parts of life, especially when the “evidence” of relevant testifying value has been preserved (and surely found).

Little fragments about the crimes of communist police and secret services are coming out in the open as a serial novel. American officers searching for their missing POWs in the Czech republic do not have an easy task. From the Czech side, instead of a good co-operation, they more or less face strong efforts to refute Jan Sejna´s statements given under oath before the American Congress Committee in 1992 and 1996. And these efforts are truly remarkable! (see MFDnes, October 27, 2004, Gazdik, Navara – US Army is looking for its missing in CR). Prokop Tomek and other staff of UDV maintained and still keep on stressing that “there are no proofs”. But these have to be searched for, it is not good enough to just re-write the disinformative and propaganda StB information from the file “Honza” (StB file on Jan Sejna), and other then intentionally fabricated documents. We do not want to prompt those officially most competent, but a great deal of questions could be cleared and answered with a proper research of, for a common mortal, inaccessible material of military intelligence and counter-intelligence, not to mention classified archives of Pankrac Prison, Psychiatric Hospital Bohnice, Central Military Hospital Stresovice, documents on the activities of Soviet advisors in the territory of former Czechoslovakia, and also Military Medical Faculty with the well-known Research Institute in Hradec Kralove surely has its still uncovered “secrets”. Or, is it better to wait until all the participants of the then commited crimes against humanity die or maybe put an end to their lives? Messrs journalists (in this case namely Gazdik and Navara) presents in the daily press only that what they learn from so called official sources. Their investigative activities themselves stay in this case very much neglected. Recently it is more than relevant that the “inheritance” after communist military intelligence starts to be dealt with, and by doing this contrary to claims that lives of former communist agents, who in great many cases started to work for our democratic army, would be endangered.

It is no secret at all that Soviets used for their monsterous intentions and activities their vassal colonies. They highly valued the services of Czechoslovak and East-German intelligence agents. The end justified the means and it still does till this day. Therefore there is no reason not to believe Sejna´s claims! Besides, these are supported with the statements of other eyewitnesses who cannot be discredited as easily. There are memories of Dan Pitzer (US POW in Vietnam, 1963-1967) who, with another two POWs (Jackson and Johnson), was supposed to be transferred by a Czechoslovak airliner from Cambodia to Prague. They boarded this plane in Phnom Penh with two Soviets and two Cubans who were supposed to “mind” them during the flight. From Prague the flight was to continue to Moscow. The well-known left activist Tom Hayden participated in this operation from the start – from Prague. At that time Hayden didn´t have a US passport because the authorities took it away from him for anti-American activities. He was staying in Czechoslovakia for a longer period of time, co-operating with communists. The mentioned Czechoslovak airliner had stopovers for refueling in Bombay and Kuwait, and Soviets and Cubans always hid the prisoners during this time at the WC. Dan Pitzer managed to secretly slip a note to the man who came to spray the aircraft against insects. This note said: We are three Americans without passports or identification in a communist plane. And luckily it got to the right hands. During another stopover in Beirut, Lebanon, an American airforce officer Art Beaton entered the plane and asked prisoners and Hayden to step out of the aircraft. They were saved! Tom Hayden was later arrested. (Al Santoli, To Bear Any Burden).

Now, who gave the orders to fly from Prague for these three US POWs and what fate was prepared for them in Prague and Moscow? And what about the person of Tom Hayden? What “program” did he have during his stay in Czechoslovakia? And what false documents was he provided with by communist secret services, and how much money did this, fortunately unsuccessful operation cost?

Another testimony supporting Sejna´s claims comes from a political prisoner Vaclav Eminger:

“During my meeting with American Majors Kevin Smith and Jean MacIntyre (1999) I told them that in early 50s I was a direct witness to a stay of the US POWs in the Pankrac prison in Prague. I met a group of 5-6 US POWs inside the building of the Ministry of National Security. I happened to get into this building of “the Ministry of Fear” about three times, always called for a conversation with then Minister Ladislav Kopriva. He used to be my fellow prisoner in a German concentration camp Dachau, and our conversations concerned both past and present. I took the oportunity and asked him who were these people who spoke English and, because guarded, are prisoners. Kopriva told me that these were Americans, and that he had nothing in common with this matter, and that it fell under the competency of then Minister of Defense, Alexej Cepicka. My question to him why weren´t they in a military prison Kopriva answered that the military prison had been closed down. Later I learned from Lt. Soukup (warden who looked after the Americans) that they were locked in Block C. This was in the basement where a place of execution was situated sometimes later. Soukup spoke with me frankly, as with one of the concetration camps fellows. He himself was in a German concentration camp Mauthausen during WWII. According to him, there were about 90 American prisoners in Pankrac prison. The above mentioned I already told the current American investigator, Major Michael K. O´Hara, during our meeting in Prague. After some negotiations with director of the prison administration Kamila Menclova, Major Kevin Smith and I, accompanied by prison chief´s deputy Sekyra, went through the places I wanted to show to the American officer.”

The prison excursion also included a place in the former building of the Ministry of National Security – the basement of Block C, where there were the mentioned cells with American prisoners, and later it was a place of execution; the initial place of execution in the prison yard behind an old prison hospital and death cells for those condemned to death. All this, together with V. Eminger´s testimony, has been recorded with a movie camera.

Additional testimonies supporting Sejna´s claims were provided by other American citizens, for example, LtCol. Phillip Corso, Dr. Charles Mayo, Henry Cabot Lodge, Col. Delk Simpson, Sgt. Steve E. Kiba, Robert Dumas and many others. The presence of US POWs in Soviet GULAGs was even confirmed by Boris Jeltsin during his visit to the USA in 1992. The presence of Soviets during interrogations of US POWs in Korea and Vietnam was also confirmed. Further more, Soviets also confirmed the participation of the third countries which are, for the time being, protected by classified documents. For how long? It is only a matter of time … and money. The truth will come out in the end – and for many it will not be pleasant at all.