A Brooklyn autograph dealer has bought documents which he says show that Richard M. Nixon, acting as a private citizen, traded gold bullion with Viet Cong soldiers for five American prisoners of war during a secret mission in 1964, it was reported Friday.
The sale and other details about the documents was reported in the Pen and Quill, a magazine published by the Universal Autograph Collectors Club.
The account included a thank-you note from Nixon to a soldier, Sgt. Hollis Kimmons, who served as his bodyguard in Vietnam. Kimmons said he signed an agreement saying that he would not disclose any information about the incident for 20 years, the article reported.
"It is unquestionably Richard Nixon's handwriting," confirmed Gerald Stodolski of Paul C. Richards Autographs in Templeton, Mass., who said the documents were sold earlier this month for $2,500 to "a major, well-known U.S. collector" whom he declined to identify.
The documents showed that Nixon, then in private law practice after losing the California gubernatorial election two years earlier, went to Saigon in the spring of 1964 and met with a Viet Cong lieutenant to negotiate the exchange, the article said.
Nixon, escorted by Kimmons, reportedly traveled by Army helicopter to Phouc-Binh, where he met with a Father Wa who acted as a go-between in the prisoner exchange. The next day, Nixon traveled to An-Loc and negotiated a deal exchanging bricks of gold bullion for the five POWs, the report said.
'Rustled Out of Jungle'
Later that day, the helicopter crew reportedly flew, without Nixon, to Phumi-Kriek, a village just across the Cambodian border, carrying a box loaded with gold bars. The five prisoners were "rustled out of the jungle" by their captors once the delivery of gold was completed, the article reported.
The story could not be independently verified, although Nixon was in Southeast Asia at the time. Kimmons could not be reached for comment Friday.
Kimmons reportedly had to burn his clothes and destroy film and other evidence of the trip. Army records of Kimmons' activities show gaps for the period that he spent on the mission with Nixon, said Herman Darvick, president of the Universal Autograph Collectors Club, who wrote the magazine article.