The family of MIA Army Sgt. John Hartley Robertson wants to exhume his mother's body to prove conclusively that the missing soldier and a man in Vietnam claiming to be him are not the same person, the Stars and Stripes
Dang Tan Ngoc has claimed for years that, in fact, he is the Green Beret who went missing during the Vietnam War and was declared dead by the U.S. government. Although American officials have called Ngoc a fraud, Robertson's family want to find out for themselves.
The family is planning to exhume the body of Robertson's mother, Mildred Robertson, from a cemetery in Birmingham, Ala., and conduct DNA tests to learn whether Ngoc and the Special Forces soldier are one and the same.
"We need definitive proof," said Robertson’s niece Cyndi Hanna, who's launched a fundraising effort to cover the cost of exhumation. "I believe it’s him enough to try and confirm it one way or another."
Ngoc's story was revealed in a controversial film documentary, "Unclaimed," which declared that Robertson had been found living in a remote Vietnamese village. The U.S. government says the film is inaccurate and veterans were so outraged by Ngoc's claim that they attempted to prevent the film's release at the GI Film Festival in May.
A Department of Defense POW/Missing Personnel Office statement said earlier this year that Robertson was last seen on May 20, 1968, aboard a Vietnamese Air Force helicopter when it came under heavy enemy fire from the ground, crashed into trees, and exploded in flames.
Stars and Stripes says the mystery began in 2008 when Vietnam veteran Tom Faunce learned about a man claiming he was Army Sgt. 1st Class Robertson during a humanitarian mission, and decided to investigate.
Ngoc, who is forgetful and can't speak English, told him that he did remember jumping out of a helicopter before it crashed and being taken prisoner. Ngoc even had scars which he said proved he was in the crash. A local nurse helped him to escape, and they later married and had kids.
The Pentagon POW/missing office claims the U.S. government first interviewed Ngoc in 2004 and ruled his claim was a hoax. In 2009, U.S. officials reportedly met with him again and took fingerprints and hair samples. However, the DNA samples did not match those of two Robertson siblings.
But the Robertson family now says that none of them gave samples for DNA testing to the government and claim that U.S. officials never knew about Ngoc until the film was released.
The documentary shows Ngoc having a molar removed by a dentist, which is later tested by a lab at the University of Utah, which has claimed that it was "very likely" that Ngoc grew up in America.
The family, which needs $15,000 to exhume the body, has launched an Internet fundraising to help them get to the truth, according to Stars and Stripes.
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