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Apr-30-2013 19:41printcommentsVideo

U.S. Army Veteran 'found living in Vietnam village 44 YEARS after being shot down and presumed dead'

His daughters refuse to take DNA tests to prove his identity.

Special Forces Green Beret Master Sgt. John Hartley Robertson
Discovery: Special Forces Green Beret Master Sgt. John Hartley Robertson is the subject of a documentary which claims to have found him alive - 44 years after he supposedly died in Vietnam.

(LONDON The Daily Mail) - Sgt. Robertson's name is etched along with 60,000 others onto Washington D.C.'s poignant Vietnam memorial, but now the documentary questions whether he is actually alive and well.

Mystery: A trailer for the documentary
shows the man who was found living in
Vietnam under another identity

The filmmakers claim to have tracked him down to south-central Vietnam - where the 76-year-old is unable to remember his birthday, his American children’s names, or how to speak English.

The makers of 'Unclaimed' say that the wiry, forgetful man could very well be a missing POW from the distressing conflict, and that fellow servicemen could 'lose their minds' when they hear the story of how he never returned home.

'Sgt. Robertson' told Emmy-award winning filmmaker Michael Jorgensen that when his flaming helicopter crashed to the ground during a firefight on a Laos mountaintop, he was captured immediately by North Vietnamese soldiers.

'They locked me up, high in the forest, in a cage,' he said. 'I was in and out of consciousness from torture and starvation. The North Vietnamese soldier hit me on the head with a stick, shouting, "American!"

'Then he would hit me even harder; I thought I would die. I never said anything, though they beat and tortured me.'

Mr Robertson said he escaped after four years, hid in the woods and was found in a field by a woman who nursed him back to health and then became his wife.

He said he borrowed her late husband’s surname and birth date and was registered as a French-Vietnamese resident named Dan Tan Ngoc.

The couple then had children but no recorded attempt was made to contact his wife or children back home in America.

Is it him? Robertson, a former U.S. Army Green Beret and member of an elite MACV-SOG unit,
was listed as Missing In Action in 1968. But a fellow Vietnam vet claims he has met a man claiming to be him

Out of sight: The man claiming to be Robertson, pictured, has forgotten how to speak English

Vietnam veteran Tom Faunce has become obsessed with proving that the 76-year-old man he has found in Vietnam is indeed Sgt. John Hartley Robertson

Vietnam veteran and humanitarian Tom Faunce, pictured, has become obsessed with proving that the
76 year old man he has found in Vietnam is indeed Sgt. John Hartley Robertson


John Hartley Robertson was born in Birmingham, Alabama on October 25, 1936, and went by the name of Johnny. He was the third of five children born to John Cheslea and Mildred Robertson.

He grew up during World War II, and it was this influence that led him to drop out of high school at 17 so he could get his GED and join the Army, according to the film makers

He went on to join the U.S. Army Special Forces, known as the Green Berets, and was later chosen to join an elite Special Operations Group known as Military Assistance Command, Vietnam – Studies and Observations Group (MACV-SOG).

On May 20, 1968, he was on a mission when his helicopter came under enemy fire and crashed. A full search mission was not possible and he was declared Missing in Action. On April 28, 1976, he was officially declared dead by the military, leaving behind a wife, Wanda Robertson, and two daughters.

The documentary follows the quest of Vietnam veteran Tom Faunce as he seeks to prove that the man he first heard about in 2008 while on a humanitarian mission was indeed a fellow serviceman.

Fonce contacted Jorgensen to see if the filmmaker would follow his story to establish that Robertson was still alive - but at first the director was cautious.

'The MIA story was pretty unbelievable, pretty grandiose,' he said to the Globe and Mail. 'I was very skeptical.'

However, what struck Jorgensen more than the idea a Vietnam veteran could have stayed undetected for 44 years was Faunce's own journey as a soldier, alcoholic and victim of child abuse.

Jorgensen said he was inspired by how Faunce would 'go all the way in helping someone he didn't even know.' He added that 'no matter how the story turned out with John, I knew there was just a great "once upon a time" with Tom.'

In Vietnam, Faunce tracked down the man who was locally rumored to be a former American Green Beret who had never returned home.

'Tom went to meet him and was very skeptical, grilled this guy up and down trying to get him to break, to say, "Oh, no, I’m just making it up." And he was adamant he was that guy,' Jorgensen told The Toronto Star.

Growing up: Robertson is pictured with his older sister Jean, other siblings and their parents

Growing up: Robertson is pictured with his older sister Jean, other siblings and their parents

Former life: Robertson's parents, JC and Mildred, are pictured left, while Robertson himself is pictured in
uniform in 1955, when he would have been 19 years old, two years after dropping out of school


  • There has been considerable speculation and investigation by private sources and government bodies into this issue since the United States exited the country in 1973
  • Many vocal groups led by family members of those MIA in Vietnam contend that there has been a conspiracy to cover-up the fact there are still prisoners in the South East Asian Country.
  • The U.S. government has always denied that any man was left behind.
  • There have been several congressional investigations into the issue - culminating in the United States Senate Select Committee on POW/MIA Affairs in 1991-93.
  • This was led by Senators John Kerry, Bob Smith and John McCain - who himself was a POW during the conflict
  • They found, 'no compelling evidence that proves that any American remains alive in captivity in Southeast Asia.'

As the director delved further into the bizarre story, he discovered unusual evidence for Robertson's claims.

He found that reports existed as early as 1982 of Robertson's alleged survival, leading him to question why his family were not contacted to help provide proof.

'Why did the Americans leave him there for all those years?' Jorgensen asked The Globe and Mail. 'Are there other John Hartley Robertson's in Vietnam?'

Jorgensen answered his own question, adding 'a highly-placed source has told him there are and it's not because the Vietnamese won't let them go, it's more the U.S. Military doesn't want them to come home'.

Indeed, Jorgensen said that the U.S. government first became aware of the man as early as 1991, and tried to verify his identity in 2006. The team discovered that in 2010 Robertson was fingerprinted at the U.S. Embassy. His siblings were never informed.

Faunce was reportedly told that there was not enough proof to confirm this was John Hartley Robertson - to which they replied that there was not enough evidence to suggest he wasn't.

As the film proceeds, stronger personal reunions add to the case that the elderly man who seems to suffer from dementia is indeed the American special forces soldier.

Convinced: His sister, Jean Robertson Holley, said she will not have a DNA test as she knows it's him

Convinced: His sister, Jean Robertson Holley, said she will not have a DNA test as she knows it's him

Younger years: Jean and her younger brother are pictured center while growing up in Alabama

Younger years: Jean and her younger brother are pictured center while growing up in Alabama

There is a tearful reunion with a soldier who Robertson trained in 1960 - who claims he knew it was him on sight.

And there is a moving moment when the man is brought back together with his sister, 80-year-old Jean Robertson Holly, at her home in Canada - who would have been Sgt. Robertson's only surviving sister.

'Jean says... "There’s no question. I was certain it was him in the video, but when I held his head in my hands and looked in his eyes, there was no question that was my brother",' Jorgensen told the Toronto Star.

This could be confirmed if Robertson-Holly agreed to DNA testing, but she said she does not need to take the test to know the man is her brother.

Jorgensen recruited a Vietnamese speaking police officer from Edmonton to act as a translator.

Film: Jorgensen's film, Unclaimed, will be showed at Toronto's Hot Doc's festival on Tuesday evening

Questions: Faunce walks along the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Wall in Washington D.C.

Questions: Faunce walks along the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Wall in Washington D.C.

The translator, Hugh Tran, said that the elderly man spoke just like a Vietnamese native with no trace of an American accent - leading him to become very suspicious.

'I still didn’t believe...  until I saw the family reunion,' said Tran about the emotional meeting with his sister.

Other moments made Jorgensen believe they had the right man.

At the family reunion, Robertson also met his sister's husband, Henry, and told him that he remembered him working in a drugstore. Henry did indeed work for as a pharmacist for 15 years.

And when shown pictures of his two American daughters, he reportedly cried.

Jorgensen said he believes that no matter what viewers take away from the film, which opens on Tuesday at the Toronto Hot Docs festival, the man who claims to Robertson fulfilled his wish: to see some of his American family before he dies.

Heroes: American flags stand at the base of a statue of American Soldiers of the Vietnam War in D.C.

Heroes: American flags stand at the base of a statue of American Soldiers of the Vietnam War in D.C.

Hot Docs director Chris McDonald, said he had never seen an audience react with so much emotion after seeing the film of Mr Robertson's life.

He said: 'Everyone was wobbly and teary - and curious. If this individual is a legitimate MIA left behind, as the family and filmmakers believe, it's hard to overestimate what the impact might be.'

Comments Leave a comment on this story.

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Anonymous May 1, 2013 11:00 am (Pacific time)

The whole point of this investigation was to prove that this guy is American. Proof of this is that he was circumsised at birth AND they used isotope testing on him which showed that he grew up in the southwestern region of America. Even IF he's not John Hartley, he is STILL a missing American soldier that has finally been found.

Anonymous May 1, 2013 8:26 am (Pacific time)

There are dozens of stories out that this is a hoax from a con man. Google it and decide for yourself. Not putting down salem-news, they did a good job on this article overall...This is not to lessen the atrocoties of what the veterans went through either. I feel bad for them. Last year I told my brother who was a helicopter gunner in VietNam, that the war was a banker war, not a war for our freedoms and liberties. He get very mad at me, and did not talk to me for months. But then, seems as though he researched it himself, he thanked me for letting him know. He realizes now, that he was actually fighting a banker war, with the agenda of communistic globalism..I have always said, instead of supporting the troops, educate the troops. Maybe getting cancer from agent orange was part of his research also. He went a natural cure for cancer and is doing well now. He had to go to Mexico to get the treatment. Go figure, fight for the U.S. and have to go to Mexico for treatment..Ironic isnt it? More military and veterans are waking up, thus, DHS saying veterans are a terror threat, and sending military on 4-6 tours, then drugging them up on pharma drugs. It is more important to educate the troops, than blindly support the troops because the mainstream media says to. May God bless the troops and the veterans, may God smite the ones who give the orders.

Spinnaker May 1, 2013 7:00 am (Pacific time)

I have made four trips to N China near the N Korean border (2004-2007). During my time there I interviewed several people there after cultivating friendships. Some were N Korean and Chinese who routinely visit friends and relatives near Anju City, N Korea and reported seeing Americans guarded by N Korean soldiers working in fields nearby. In 2007 I interviewed a person who was at the Kaechong Forced Labor Camp near Kaechong City, N Korea who spoke with more than 10 American POWs there and was told by a guard there were 60 more there. Their ages ranged from mide or late 50's to mid or late 70's. I reported this to the US Government when I returned in 2007. I was told they would appreciate it if I did not discuss this with everyone. Since then I have been a victime of false acusations and persecution I do not want to discuss here. I am a former state police investigator and formerly worked with US Army Intelligence in the far east during the Vietnam War. I know there are POWs still there and there is much more to this "ugly" story.

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