II and Korean War POWs with respect to both mortality and morbidity. A resurvey of the former POWs began in March 1965. This study provided investigators with an unwelcome reminder of the ephemerality of paper records when, in 1965, an entire carton of records was discarded as trash by the night janitorial staff of the MFUA's downtown Washington office. After more than two days of excavation efforts at the Fairfax Sanitary Land Fill in Virginia, Beebe's staff gave up the search. Soldiering on, the agency continued the study throughout the mid-1960s, sending a mail questionnaire to its cohort of 2,500 POWs. The questions in the mailing, targeted to determine mental adjustment as well as physical well-being, were compared with those of an equal number of combat veterans who had not been captured.111

In a 1967 letter from staff statistician M. Dean Nefzger to Gilbert Beebe (in Japan on his rotation for the Atomic Bomb Casualty Commission), Nefzger noted that work on the POW study was "proceeding apace." The data had been collected, the index work completed, the mortality information coded, and the questionnaires analyzed. However, response rates for the questionnaires remained relatively low, around 70 percent, in part because of questions of the confidentiality of key information that was required from the Internal Revenue Service and the Social Security Administration. Problems with these agencies were endemic for the rest of the decade, suggesting the limits of the low-profile agency's ability to cut through Great Society-era red tape. Nefzger and those who followed him on the project turned increasingly to private organizations for help with the crucial matter of locating veterans who had lost contact with the Veterans Administration or who refused to respond to questionnaires.112

By offering the use of their mailing lists to the agency for name and address comparison and by frequent mention of its activities in their regular newsletters, veterans organizations proved of great assistance in helping the MFUA locate people in the sample of whom the VA had lost track. However, these organizations also gave the POW study an emotionally charged atmosphere, perhaps not well suited to the scientific method. For example, the American Defenders of Bataan and Corregidor wrote angrily to CEVFUS Chairman MacMahon to inquire why so few members of its organization had been targeted by the MFUA's series of surveys. Seymour Jablon responded for Dr. MacMahon, explaining the concept of "targeted surveys," which would approach only a statistically significant percentage of the entire World War II POW cohort. Still, the MFUA's relationship with this and other veterans organizations remained problematic. In general, learning how to deal with the emotional and political responses to its studies became increasingly important for the agency. By 1969, Gilbert Beebe was noting in correspondence that the POW study was "controversial at the level of federal legislation and VA policy, and any data that we generate are very likely to be used, even abused." 113

The MFUA's study of 16,000 veteran twins, another long-term study, gained momentum in the mid-1960s. At first it suffered from the death of study director



The National Academies | 500 Fifth St. N.W. | Washington, D.C. 20001
Copyright © National Academy of Sciences. All rights reserved.
Terms of Use and Privacy Statement