A local Vietnam veterans group Friday turned over to the Defense Intelligence Agency two photos that they believe may show an American soldier held prisoner in Southeast Asia.
Bob Kukak, spokesman for the 15-member Vietnam War Veterans of Southern California, said the pictures were passed to his group through a network originating in Thailand, although he declined to be specific about the people involved. Kukak’s group was also responsible earlier this summer for unearthing a photo of three other alleged prisoners of war that gained national attention.
“We really want to differentiate between these photos and that earlier one though,” Kukak said. “In that instance, the families of all three said, ‘Yes, that’s them.’ In this case, we don’t have that.”
Although one of the photos came with the name of a missing American soldier attached, Kukak said the man’s family examined the picture and said it was not of him. Kukak declined to identify the family.
“I’m not qualified to make that kind of decision, and, although this may cost my group some credibility if they are not real, we decided that (the potential it might establish that an American is being held prisoner) outweighs the threat of credibility loss,” Kukak said. “We’re not looking for publicity, believe me. This photo, whether I think it’s real or not, needs to get out there where people can see it.”
One of the photos, in black and white, shows a dark-haired, bearded man wearing a vest, plaid shirt and what appears to be a backpack. He is standing, hands on hips, near what appears to be a simple stick fence.
Kukak said he is skeptical of its authenticity because it seems unlikely to him a POW would have access to a backpack.
The other photo, shot in color, shows what appears to be the same man holding a newspaper in front of an odd, speckled red background. Kukak said the second photo is even more suspect because of its “colored-in look,” signaling the picture may have been doctored.
Kukak, who served in Vietnam in 1968 to 1969, said the photos have been relayed to the government, national wire services and local newspapers.