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Ted Sampley, Rabble Rouser

Matt Schudel

Ted Sampley may not have been a household name, but he certainly made life uncomfortable for a lot of people who were. Check out the Post's obituary of Sampley, who was an activist for the POW/MIA cause and much more. the first obit outside his home state of North Carolina

Sampley was something of a gadfly, but that benign term doesn't begin describe him. It's like calling Attila the Hun a little rough around the edges. Sampley obviously had a great deal of charm and was described in his hometown paper (Kinston, N.C.) as having "one of the biggest hearts of anyone I have ever met" and, inevitably, "a heart of gold." Sampley may not have been an admirable person, in many ways, but he was certainly interesting to write about.

Sampley's political activism grew out of his commitment to the MIA cause. Despite overwhelming evidence that few if any U.S. servicemen were still alive in Vietnam by the mid-1980s, Sampley was convinced that many men had been left behind. He occasionally went back to Vietnam, Cambodia and Laos and was sometimes arrested for illegally crossing borders. As far as I can tell, he never found a single soldier or pilot alive, but he did successfully challenge the Pentagon on the identity of the "unknown soldier" in the Tomb of the Unknowns at Arlington National Cemetery. Using service records, maps and other documents, Sampley pieced together evidence that the unidentified serviceman was an Air Force pilot named Michael Blassie, who was shot down over North Vietnam in 1972. In 1998, the Pentagon confirmed Sampley's research through DNA analysis.

In the 1980s, Sampley was one of the founders of Rolling Thunder, the motorcycle caravan that comes to D.C. once a year as a tribute to and reunion of sorts for Vietnam vets and the POW/MIA cause. Author Susan Katz Keating, who has written a book about the POW question, "Prisoners of Hope: Exploiting the POW-MIA Myth in America" (1994), has some personal, thoughtful and even amusing comments on Sampley on her blog.

Sampley was proud of his 10-year career in the Army and of being a member of the Green Berets. He had two tours of combat duty as a foot soldier in Vietnam -- though I couldn't find any evidence that he was actually in Vietnam while he was with the elite Green Berets. He remained combative and not a little angry for the rest of of his life. He had an abiding love of publicity and, judging from his cantankerous, contrarian nature, he didn't care how he got it.

I suspect he wouldn't mind if we used a few other adjectives to describe him: Ted Sampley was arrogant, combative, mean-spirited, rude, nasty, underhanded, outrageous and slanderous. He was a rabble-rouser of the right-wing fringe, and he reveled in the notoriety he received by rattling the gilded cages of the politically prominent.

As detailed in the obituary, Sampley chained himself to the White House fence and once delivered bamboo cages to the front lawn of White House chief of staff Donald Regan. He also blocked National Security Council director Frank Carlucci's driveway with 1,800 boxes -- "care packages" for MIAs and POWs Sampley believed were still alive. Even more notoriously, Sampley launched malicious, misleading and downright mendacious campaigns against political figures he didn't care for, most notably two decorated Vietnam veterans, John Kerry and John McCain.

He used all the usual trite arguments against Kerry (whom he called "Hanoi John") that the Swift Boat crew trotted out in the 2004 presidential campaign -- in short, Kerry's opposition to the Vietnam War made him an apostate beyond redemption. But Sampley was especially annoyed by McCain. He drummed up all sorts of weird suppositions, insinuations, innuendo and false assumptions about McCain -- who spent five years in North Vietnam as a prisoner of war -- and basically accused him of being a Soviet agent. It's breathtaking and bizarre, but Sampley seemed to love being provocative more than he loved a scrupulous adherence to truth.

He strikes me as someone who fits the description of a blustery, if erratic small-town lawyer: often wrong, but never in doubt.

Oh, one more point. Sampley often described Kerry as a "Socialist Democrat." It's always amusing when people get red in the face about "socialism" or "socialized medicine," then seek treatment in government-run hospitals and clinics. Sampley died at 62 at a veterans hospital in Durham, N.C.

By Matt Schudel |  May 15, 2009; 12:38 PM ET  | Category:  Matt Schudel
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Socialism at its best. Even in death you won't allow the truth or what others feel about Ted Sampley to be posted. Interesting that the long post and heartfelt commments I left this am are no longer on here. What? It didn't benefit your story to have his ex wife point out what a horrible job you did researching this story and letting everyone know about the EXCELLENT care Ted received in the VA Medical Center in Durham by the top heart surgeons from Duke Hospital?
You really should be ashamed.
Robin Owen Goodman

Posted by: robinowengoodman | May 16, 2009 12:20 PM

I think your article stinks of liberal crap. I knew Ted Sampley for over 20 years. He fought for what he believed in with all his heart. Frankly, I think he was one of the greatest American Hero's of this century. This man would give a homeless man the shirt off of his back. This man would take a homeless person to one of the local restaurants and buy him or her a meal. I have seen him take a veteran that had no home and put him up, feed him, clothe him and then give him a job so he could eventually take care of himself. Keating claimed Ted was a millionaire as did Kerry and McCain, the funny thing is, these people kept their money while Ted put his money back into the movement for Veterans and the ordinary citizen. Ted died basically penniless because he put his money where his mouth was. I'll bet you don't do that sir nor does Keating or Kerry or McCain.

Ted was true to his beliefs and he had integrity. He was taught to fight to win and he did.

OH! and by the way yes he did serve in the Vietnam conflict as a Green Beret. He wore a Rolex Watch with pride that was purchased after he was one of 2 men that came back from a mission into Cambodia by his team. He buddy was blown apart by a mortar round and body parts landed all over Ted. Anyone who says that Ted did not do this is a lying SOB, or has an agenda to discredit Ted, Which one are you?

Stop berating a TRUE AMERICAN HERO and give him the honor he is due. Otherwise I will began to believe you are just another SOB that cannot handle the truth.

Stephen Shehane

Posted by: stephenshehane | May 16, 2009 4:33 PM

Hello Mr. Schudel:

You sound like you have formed an opinion of Ted Lane Sampley and because you are always right, no other opinion or evidence has an ounce of probative value.

Looking over Ted's first wifes post, I have no doubt this message will also be removed, but before I click submit, I will make a copy and send to our national email list along with a link to this page.

1. Ted did what he had to do to get, what still has not been provided, a "Full Accounting" of all missing men & women from the Vietnam war.

2. Re: McCane: Have you ever spoke to Col Ted W. Guy? I assume you have not. Col. Guy was McCanes SRO at the prison camps, who, in 1999 started the JUST SAY NO to JOHN McCane movement based on his assessment of the man and his personal knowledge ( not second hand ).

You can read more ( if you choose to look at the issue with an open mind ) here:

and some what about internment and what it was like in the camps here:

Based on Col. Guy's information ( with some provided by Col. Gordon "Swede" Larson another of McCains SRO's ) Ted Samply was right on target.

McCains own testimony incriminates McCain concerning live sightings where in he mentions he recognized there was a tiny handful of men left behind.

If it's ONE it's not trivial, what if that was you father, brother, uncle, etc..?

To demean a man who served his nation proudly and did what he had to do ( and I see no mention of tactics used by the left, weather under ground, sds, whom ever to bring attention to their causes.. of doesn't that count when you or others like you author a piece ) from his service days to his post service activities shows what kinda cloth some men are cut from.. when he (Ted) has no way to rebut personally.

In fine, Ted had something that was part of his lower anatomy that you sir appear to be missing. I don't thing they have a pill for that problem. You have to be born with guts and ---s.

God Bless Ted Sampley for all he did for our nation and for our PoW/MIA's to insure the best he could that the promise was kept, that NO MAN IS LEFT BEHIND.

You owe your freedom to print your diatribe to men like Ted Sampley and I think you owe his family an apology.

Posted by: EagleII | May 16, 2009 9:02 PM

Please replace Robin Owen Goodman original writing. She was Teds first wife and one you used in your article to try and demean Ted Sampley.

Madison's version of the speech and press clauses, introduced in the House of Representatives on June 8, 1789, provided: ''The people shall not be deprived or abridged of their right to speak, to write, or to publish their sentiments; and the freedom of the press, as one of the great bulwarks of liberty, shall be inviolable.'

To usurp this principle of Liberty is a slap in the face of every name written on any war memorial dedicated to those true heroes, who gave up their lives for this freedom. May they rest in peace.

Posted by: EagleII | May 16, 2009 9:59 PM

# According to The Senate Select Committee on POW/MIA Affairs - Democratic Senator John Kerry of Massachusetts, the chairman, said the committee had gathered information indicating that "some Americans remained alive in Indochina after Operation Homecoming" in 1973, when North Vietnam handed back 591 prisoners. ( Remember Kerry? - He was for it - before he was against it!) and found proof of PoW/MIA's in SEA before he (paper shred the evidence) couldn't find any?

# Major General Oleg Kalugin, former head of counterintelligence for the KGB, who was forced to resign in 1990 after he became one of the agency's most truculent public critics told several U.S. news organizations, including the Los Angeles Times and the New York Daily News, that the KGB questioned "at least" three American POWs in Vietnam in 1978, five years after Hanoi said it had returned all living prisoners.

Republican, Bob Smith of New Hampshire, wanted to travel to Moscow to ask Boris Yeltsin, leader of the Russian republic at the time,, to open the KGB files on POWs.

# A TIME-CNN poll conducted by Yankelovich Clancy Shulman, 60% of those questioned said they believe there are still live Americans in Vietnam.

# Eugene ("Red") McDaniel, a retired Navy captain who headed the American Defense Foundation and its educational arm, the American Defense Institute, came to the POW issue the hard way -- he was once one himself. After his release in 1973, he resumed his military career, ending up at the Pentagon, where he concluded that "the U.S. government would never do the job" of tracking down the POWs who he became convinced were left behind.

# John McCain a staunch supporter of "the all returned" crowd sliped and stated ( part of the record ) "McCain has said again and again that he has seen no "credible" evidence that more than a tiny handful of men might have been alive in captivity after the official prison return in 1973."

Posted by: EagleII | May 16, 2009 10:06 PM

I was left infuriated at Mr Schudel's slack-jawed "Post Mortem" I have never read anything as disgusting as this write up.

The Post advises "User reviews and comments that include....personal attacks or other inappropriate comments or material will be removed from the site".

I didn't know Ted Sampley personally but he was a decorated combat Vietnam Veteran who deserves more than a foul garbage filled write up because of his political opinions. The Post should follow their own advice and remove Schudel's write up.

God bless Ted for his love of his brothers who were left behind...He did his duty to the fullest in war of attrition we were not allowed to win.

He never ran, never abandoned our wounded, never stopped loving America even when America abandoned us ... and still abandons our POW/MIA's.

Posted by: viperash50 | May 16, 2009 10:10 PM

Ted Sampley was a TRUE American Hero unlike some politicians that get decorated for scratches.

Ted Sampley was a TRUE American Hero unlike men that lie about men like Ted to further their political goals of power and fortune.

Ted gave everything he had or ever made to the cause of the little guy. He, like Superman, stood for Truth, Justice and the American Way.

Where are any of our politicians in office today that are willing to place their lives and livelihood on the line for the simple American Citizen.

Your article is nothing but a bunch of Liberal Crap and you should be ashamed of yourself for publishing it. You sir are not an honorable man and Ted Sampley, a man that did whatever he had to do to get the truth to the public was.

Posted by: stephenshehane | May 17, 2009 11:22 AM

Robin was Ted's second wife. Kiku was his first wife. Just to set the record straight.

Both women loved Ted. Kiku has passed on to her reward, Robin is living. I can assure you that each of these wonderful ladies would stand up for the Ted Sampley I knew. Ted always stood for the little guy. Ted Sampley gave everything he had for the Veterans movement and yet here we are having to defend him to a bunch of liberal BS artist that let Obama, Kerry, Kennedy, get away with far more while trying to destroy a good man like Ted Sampley that only did what he had to do to get a message out to the public.

Shame on you Mr. Schudel for berating a TRUE AMERICAN HERO: and I am talking about TED SAMPLEY.

Ted will be buried tomorrow and you liberal guys think it will be over but I assure you someone will rise to the occasion and fill the vacancy left by Ted, oh It may take 2 or 3 people to do everything Ted did but I assure you they will rise to the challenge.

Ted left us a wonderful example for us of someone willing to give everything about himself to a cause worth fighting for.

Posted by: stephenshehane | May 17, 2009 8:56 PM

How dare you compare health care for our veterans to socailized medicine. After sending them off to a war that our government had no intention of winning I believe healthcare is the very least we could afford them. Shame on you.

Posted by: msiddell | May 18, 2009 10:18 AM

"It's not the critic who counts nor the man who points out how the strong man stumbles or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena who's face is marred by dust and sweat and blood, who strives valiantly, who errs and comes short again and again; because there is no effort without error and shortcomings; but who does actually strive to do the deed; who knows the great enthusiasm; the great devotion, who spends himself in a worthy cause, who at best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least he fails while daring greatly. So that his place will never be with those cold and timind souls at the Washington Post who kn ow neither victory or defeat.

-- ( almost all - with one modification ) -- by: Theodore ( another Ted ) Roosevelt

Ted Sampley knew both sides of that coin, more important, he never quit nor will he ever be forgotten.

Eagle II

Posted by: EagleII | May 18, 2009 1:00 PM

Is this the same Ted Sampley who accused George Bush Sr. of having "betrayed" and "doomed" his fellow crewmen when his Grumman TBF Avenger was shot down in battle over the Pacific during WWII?

Posted by: Scratch3386 | May 19, 2009 8:46 AM

If you had been brave and strong enough, you would have been at Ted Sampley's burial yesterday.
Had you just watched quietly from a distance you would have seen a group of mourners, all there for different reasons.
What a wonderfully mixed group! All ages, races, religions, political affiliations, veterans, non-veterans, mothers, daughters, sons, fathers, heroes, and the rescued.
All of us in one place.
For one reason.
I have learned more about myself and this country in one week than i could have ever imagined.
I wish you had done the same.

Posted by: krissykay67 | May 19, 2009 11:39 AM

Well Chief Slanderer of Ted Sampley.. I can see your not a Vietnam vet..

SCHUDEL, MATTHEW J (Age 53) Born 1955... bet you were part of the anti-war crowd, wasn't you?

Posted by: EagleII | May 21, 2009 3:52 PM

I had know Ted for over 30 years. He once came to Richmond, VA to talk with me when I was a student Veteran at VCU after Vietnam. I really did not come to know him personally until 8 years ago when this new war started and he assisted me with our troop support efforts for these new returning wounded, injured and ill troops. For what John mcCain described as a "despicable" person I found him to be quite forthright and a quite the humanitarian. I will miss hearing his voice...a voice that you may not have always agreed with but one that had a point of view that could not be ignored.
RIP Ted I will remember you always with a smile for I am a better man for having known you!

Posted by: bigjohnmiska | May 22, 2009 12:03 AM

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