In 1967-68 I was assigned, after recovering from an injury in Vietnam, to a company in Camp Zama, Japan. As the first sergeant, my duties were to oversee soldiers who were treated for their wounds in the hospital and released to me for rehabilitation/reconditioning to include psychology work-ups and mental evaluations to determine if they could return to Vietnam to complete their tour of duty.
I was required to conduct a daily head count, holding counts three times a day. When I would conduct these head counts I was always missing several soldiers, all white. I didn't understand why; during the ensuing counts, I was told not to re-call the names of those missing from the earlier head counts. Then I began to question why: I was told that the white soldiers were "defecting" and if this became known, with all the draft-card burning demonstrations back in the United States, it could cause embarrassment to the president or the American government.
This letter is being written to set the record straight. There are some missing-in-action brave men who gave their lives for this country. I just don't think that we should allow those men who cowardly defected to be counted with those brave men. In my opinion this is a travesty in the worst sense. I am appealing to those American families: You know who you are. Tell the American people you know where your sons are, won't you? Please, it is way past time. It will be difficult, but you can do it.
Blacks did not defect because there was no place to go, where they wouldn't stick out like a sore thumb.
Joseph Diggs Sr., Augusta