Accuracy in Media

When we criticized CNN’s infamous Tailwind story charging that U.S. special forces were dropped into Laos in 1970 to kill American defectors with deadly nerve gas, we heard from a few people who thought the story was true because they believed that killing American defectors was given high priority by our military. Only recently we received a letter from a very angry man who attached a chapter of a book that has probably implanted that idea in a lot of minds. The book is Spite House by Monika Jensen-Stevenson, a former producer with 60 Minutes.

The chapter is about a Marine named Bruce Womack, who claims that when he enlisted in the Marine Corps, he was given “a highly specialized course in night operations and survival training given at the Army Military Police School at Fort Gordon, Georgia.” He described this as “a kind of compressed sniper course,” but he was then assigned as a driver in the motor pool at Camp Lejeune until March 1973.

By then peace accords had been signed with Vietnam and U.S. prisoners were coming home, but Womack claims he was given an intensive refresher course in sniping followed by thirty days leave in Hawaii with unlimited expenses paid. Still only a private, he says he was sent to Vietnam and assigned to a camp near the Cambodian border where he became a member of a team whose sole mission was to find and kill American servicemen who had defected to the enemy side. Jensen-Stevenson describes in great detail how Womack and other members of his team carried out their assigned tasks of assassination.

She says that the five-man team was paid as much as $20,000 for each kill. He decided that it had to be a CIA operation because of the generous pay. He claims that he was able to save $29,000 from what he was paid for having helped kill 32 Americans in 90 days. He was then returned to Hawaii where he reverted to driving a truck. He claimed that three of the five men on his assassination team committed suicide within three years after returning to the States.

That is Bruce Womack’s story, and it is easy to see why it makes decent people angry. But all we have is Womack’s word. He claims his service records were shredded as he watched. Those who were on the mission with him are dead, except for one who Jensen-Stevenson does not identify or cite as corroborating Womack’s story.

Jug Burkett’s book, Stolen Valor, exposes phonies who falsely claim to have served in Vietnam earning medals for valor or doing other extraordinary things, some good, some evil. Burkett says Womack never set foot in Vietnam. His records show that he was sent to an army school at Ft. Gordon for training as a prison guard. There, he qualified at the lowest level as a sharpshooter with an M-16, not as a sniper. When he flunked out of the school, the Marines sent him to Hawaii where he drove a truck until he was discharged in 1975, having attained the rank of corporal.

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