My Encounter with Robert Garwood, Part I

Part I of a Two Part Series

This narrative is about my personal experience with Robert (Bobby) Russell Garwood, PFC, USMC, DD. This story, as painful as it has been for me, is written for and dedicated to the many people who served our nation in the Vietnam war. There are many people still today who believe our nation abandoned our servicemen and women after the hostilities between North Vietnam and the US officially ended. For those people who still believe, who still search for loved ones who never returned home, I hope one day they find the answers they deserve.


These are the known facts about Robert:

In the summer of 1965, 19 year old Marine PFC Robert Russell Garwood served as a staff driver for the G-2 Intelligence section of the Third Marine Division in Da Nang, South Vietnam.

On September 28, with just 10 more days to complete his tour in Vietnam, Robert Garwood left the base and subsequently fell into the hands of the Viet Cong. During the remainder of the time US Forces were actively involved in South Vietnam, Robert was spotted by U.S. Prisoners Of War (POW) in various camps. Robert Garwood was not among the POWs sent back to the US when POWs were repatriated after hostilities between the US and North Vietnam was concluded.

On 9 February 1979 the U.S. State department was informed that on 1 February, Mr. Ossi Rahkonen, a Finnish national who worked for the World Bank headquarters in Washington, had been passed a note in the Thang Loi (Victory) Hotel in Hanoi by PFC Robert Russell Garwood, USMC.

PFC Garwood subsequently returned to the United States and subsequently tried by military court martial under articles of the UCMJ. ON 5 February 1981 PFC Garwood was found guilty on five specifications:

  1. That he served as an interpreter for the enemy.
  2. That he was camp “mole” and informed on his fellow American POWs to the VC and NVA;
  3. That he interrogated US POWs about military topics, including planning for any escapes;
  4. That he helped indoctrinate POWs and suggested that they “cross over” to the enemy as he had done
  5. That he had served as a guard for the enemy over his fellow US POWs.

He was ordered reduced to Private (E1), given a dishonorable discharge from the USMC, and forced to forfeit all back pay and allowances of almost $150,000.

On 3 June 1985 the Court of Military Appeals upheld Garwood’s court-martial conviction for offenses committed from 1965 – 1969. On 2 December 1985 the Supreme Court announced that it had declined to take the case of United States v. Robert R. Garwood. Case closed. (1)

What Robert actually did during the years he was in Vietnam has been the subject of extreme controversy ever since his return. There is more controversy surrounding events he has been involved in since returning to the U.S. But what is not controversial is what happened during my personal encounter with him.

In October, 1999, Robert Garwood and his wife Cathi purchased the house next door to mine in the small town of Gautier, Mississippi. Without knowing anything about him other than he was a new neighbor and recent widower, I welcomed him and treated him as a friend. Within two years, Robert would destroy my marriage, attempt to smear me with the most vile lies I’ve ever been a victim of, and generally turn my life upside down.

(1) References:

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