A new documentary suggests that a former U.S. Army veteran is alive and living in a remote village in Vietnam more than four decades after he was shot down and presumed dead.
According to “Unclaimed,” a documentary by award-winning Canadian filmmaker Michael Jorgenson, an elderly man found in a village in southern Vietnam may be Sgt. John Hartley Robertson, a former Green Beret shot down in 1968, reports the British newspaper the Independent.
The man was apparently confused and could not speak or understand English or remember the names of his wife and two children when he was found.
Robertson was reportedly working on a secret mission over Laos when his helicopter was shot down. Although his body was never found, he was listed as “killed in action.”
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Then, Vietnam veteran Tom Faunce was on a humanitarian mission in South East Asia in 2008 when he learned of the existence of a fellow vet who had been shot down 40 years earlier and forgotten about by the U.S. government, according to the Independent.
Faunce was reportedly determined not to violate his army vow never to leave a man behind and enlisted Jorgenson to help him track down the man.
Jorgenson initially had his doubts, he recalled later to the Canadian Globe and Mail, saying, “The story was pretty unbelievable, pretty grandiose,” adding, “Tom went to meet him and was very skeptical, grilling this guy up and down, trying to get him to break.”
But when the man, through a translator, told them how he had been captured by the North Vietnamese after being shot down, held in a bamboo cage and tortured for roughly a year before being released, the pair reportedly became convinced he was Robertson.
According to the Independent, Jorgensen said the U.S. military had not been overly helpful in trying to identify the man. “It’s not because the Vietnamese won’t let him go, it’s more the U.S. military doesn’t want him to come home,” he said.
In a separate interview with the Toronto Star, reported the newspaper, Jorgensen recounted the man’s reunion with Robertson’s family members, including his 80-year-old sister, who said in the film that she had no doubts that it was her brother.
Robertson’s wife and children reportedly declined to take part in the documentary after initially agreeing to appear.
The man believed to be Robertson, noted the Independent, decided to stay in Vietnam after fulfilling his wish of seeing his US family one final time.
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