RIP 11/17/2014

Name: John T. Downey
Branch/Rank: CIV
Unit: CIA
Date of Birth:
Home City of Record:
Date of Loss: 29 November 1952
Country of Loss: China
Loss Coordinates:
Status (in 1973): Returnee
Aircraft/Vehicle/Ground: Acft
Other Personnel in Incident: Richard Fecteau, returnee - see updates

Source: Compiled by P.O.W. NETWORK from one or more of the following: raw
data from U.S. Government agency sources, correspondence with POW/MIA
families, published sources, interviews and CACCF = Combined Action
Combat Casualty File. Notes below are "sourced" and taken from numerous
articles. Updated 2014.


This article appeared in an unknown newspaper in March of 1973.

China releases U.S. fliers John T. Downey. a CIA agent shot down over
China in 1952, arrived in New Britain, Conn.  March 12 after he had been
released  by Chinese authorities that day.

Three days later, two U.S. airmen imprisoned in China after being shot
down during missions in the Indochina war were released.  They were Lt.
Cmdr.  Robert J. Flynn, 35, of Colorado Springs, Colo., shot down Aug.
21, 1967 aboard an A-6 in southern China and Major Philip E. Smith. 38,
of Roodhouse, Ill., shot down Sept. 20, 1965 over Hainan Island near the
Gulf of Tonkin when his F-104 veered off course.  Flynn and Smith
crossed the border into Hong Kong and were flown to Clark Air Force.

Downey had been flown via Clark Air Force in the Philippines and
Elmendorf Air Force Base in Alaska in order to be with his mother, who
was suffering from a stroke in a New Britain hospital. His impending
release had been announced  March 9 by Ronald L. Ziegler, White House
press Secretary, who said Premier Chou En-lai had agreed to free Downey
earlier  than planned after being informed by the U.S. of his mothers
illness.  Ziegler also said China would Flynn and Smith March 15.

At a March 13 news conference in New Britain, Downey said he looked on
his 20- year imprisonment as "to a large extent wasted," adding: "I
don't see that it benefited anybody."

Downey noted that during his first eight or nine months in jail he was
questioned closely by his captors and that he "revealed about every bit
of information I had."

Asked about the Chinese people, be said be felt sympathy for them in
some respects" and they were "more behind their government than I
dreamed  would be possible."

                                                  [adamsck1.txt 08/01/91]
 by Dennis Adamscheck

... Americans were also held in China after the Korean War, as bargaining
chips to gain political favors.  Joseph King and Walter Enbom were returned
in 1957.  Steve Kiba, a 1955 returnee, stated "While a prisoner of the Red
Chinese after the Korean War, I saw over fifteen Caucasian prisoners.  These
fifteen men are in addition to John T. Downey and Richard Fecteau, with whom
our B-29 crew spent three weeks.  (December 7 to 28, 1954).  I reported
these sightings to our Air Force Intelligence, the CIA and the State
Department upon my return to freedom.  Their reaction was one of
indifference and I was admonished to forget not only the fifteen, but also,
Downey and Fecteau.  It was suggested that perhaps I had imagined that i had
seen these men."

Richard Fecteau was returned in 1971 and John Downey in 1973, over 19 years
after Steve Kiba had reported seeing them in captivity in 1954....

                                                             [ADAMSCK3.TXT 08/05/92]
by Dennis Adamscheck

... The government's idea of "good politics" is playing a game with the
lives of captive U.S. servicemen and the emotions of family members. What is
frightening is a conspiracy of this nature among governmental offices would
have had to originate from the top.  Five U.S. Presidents, Nixon, Ford,
Carter, Reagan and Bush, knew that American citizens had been left behind in
communist captivity.  President Bush, having been in charge of the CIA,
would have been most knowledgeable.  Consider the following: CIA agents
Richard Fecteau and John Downey were seen in a Chinese prison camp by Steve
Kiba, and airman shot down during the Korean War.  When Kiba was released by
the Chinese in 1955, he told the CIA, the State Department and Air Force
Intelligence about Fecteau, Downey and many other Americans he had seen in
the nine prison camps he had been held captive in, in China.  Kiba said
their reaction was one of indifference and he was admonished to forget the
many he had seen, especially Fecteau and Downey.

Fecteau was released to freedom in 1971 and Downey in 1973.  Downey secretly
appeared from his captivity in China with the second to last group of
American POWs who were returned from captivity in Viet Nam on March 12,
1973.  Secret negotiations between China and the U.S. had surely taken place
to accomplish this release.  The DIA and State Department could not have
been part of the negotiations without Presidential knowledge.  Their success
in gaining the release of U.S. government agents is to be applauded.  But
are the many other soldiers, sailors, marines and airmen of no

                                                                        [insi12.95 01/16/96]

... 10. On 10/15/90 Insight Magazine published a story by Susan Katz
Keating, about the Korean war downing on 1/12/53 of Air Force radio operator
Steve Kiba who was not released until August 1955, along with 10 others held
in China. The story also shows a photo of Fecteau who was not freed until


The Bamboo Cage, by Nigel Cawthorn
The Full Story of the American Servicemen still held hostage in South-East

...The CIA were also dealing in drugs to fund some of their operations in
Laos, ....Downey was held until March, 1973, when Nixon finally admitted
publicly that Fecteau worked for the CIA. (3)...

Page 287

St. Joseph (MO) New Press

CIA honors 2 spies who survived imprisonment in China for 20 years

                         By ROBERT BURNS
                         Associated Press

WASHINGTON - On the same day President Clinton arrived to a red carpet
welcome in China last week, two men stood to applause in a banquet room
at CIA headquarters and accepted awards for a very different experience
in China.....

The Honorable John Downey resides in Connecticut where his is a Superior
Court Judge.


US Seeks Chinese Help on Korea MIAs   -- April 8, 1999

 AP Military Writer

   WASHINGTON (AP) -- The Clinton administration wants China to open its
   Korean War-era records in search of clues to the fate of several missing
   Americans, including two pilots apparently killed when their unmarked
   plane was shot down on a CIA covert mission in Manchuria in November


China OKs US Search For Cold War Remains
July 08, 2002

"BBC - Search for 'spy' pilots in China

The US Pentagon is sending a team to north-eastern China to investigate the
possibility of recovering the remains of two pilots who died during a spy
mission 50 years ago....


SEARCHERS will seek CIA pilot's remains
Louisville Courier Journal - Louisville,KY,USA


Searchers will seek CIA pilot's remains
Louisville man's plane shot down in China over 50 years ago

The Courier-Journal

American investigators will search in northeastern China for the remains of
a Louisville pilot killed during a secret CIA mission more than 50 years


Remains are not pilot's in China spy mission
Louisvillian Schwartz shot down in 1952
March 23, 2005

By Sheryl Edelen
The Courier-Journal

U.S. military investigators analyzing materials from the site of a plane
crash in China that killed a Louisville pilot on a CIA mission in 1952 have
identified remains found there as those of his co-pilot.....


June 2010
This first link is an article about Richard Fecteau's
over 19 years in a red Chinese prison.
Lynn man, former CIA agent, recalls captivity in China
For a more detailed article about CIA agents Richard Fecteau
& John Downey, click on the following link:
You will find their story most interesting. 


What a tale, now a film: 2 CIA officers captured by Chinese on secret

Jun 2, 2011 ... WASHINGTON - A CIA-produced documentary about a secret mission
in China, ... The agency plans a public release of the film about two CIA officers captured ...
The Associated Press obtained a copy of the film under the


John Downey Dies; Judge Spent Years As Chinese Prisoner
A renowned Connecticut judge and former CIA agent who had the distinction of being the
longest held prisoner of war in American history died Monday at the age of 84. Those who
knew him said he was a remarkable man, who was accomplished, caring, compassionate and
humble. Chief Justice Chase Rogers said Judge John T. Downey's life story "was perhaps the
most inspirational of anyone I have ever met."....

..... Downey is survived by his wife, Audrey Lee Downey, his wife of 40 years, his brother,
William F. Downey, and his son.

Calling hours will be Wednesday from 4 to 8 p.m. at Wallingford Funeral Home at 809 N. Main St. and a burial Mass will be held on Thursday at 10 a.m. at Most Holy Trinity Church at 84 N. Colony St. in Wallingford.