American soldier presumed dead 44 years ago 'found living in remote Vietnam village'


A US army veteran has allegedly been found living in a remote Vietnam village – 44 years after he was presumed dead when his helicopter was shot down.

Master Sergeant John Hartley Robertson, 76, survived the crash but was captured and tortured by North Vietnamese forces.

But he went on to build a new life, according to a startling documentary.

Fellow veteran Tom Faunce traced the ex-Special Forces Green Beret to south-central Vietnam but found he had forgotten his children's names, his birthday and how to speak English.


Filmmakers followed Faunce's efforts to take Sgt Robertson back to the US to reunite him with his family.

The controversial new film, called Unclaimed, has renewed speculation that other American POWs could still be in captivity in South East Asia.

Emmy award-winning director Michael Jorgensen claimed the US government even knew of Sgt ­Robertson's alleged survival as early as 1982 but did not contact his grieving wife and two children or attempt to bring him home.

Sgt Robertson was on a top-secret operation over Laos when his ­helicopter was hit in 1968.


Despite his body never being found, he was presumed dead for nearly half a century.

His name was etched on Vietnam memorials and army records listed him as "killed in action".

Despite this, Sgt Robertson's family believed it was possible he survived and claimed to have ­documents proving he had been held in a Vietnamese prison for some time.

In 2008, Faunce was working in South East Asia when he was told of the existence of an "army brother" shot down 40 years earlier.

Inspired by his army vow to "never leave a man behind", Faunce teamed up with Jorgensen to track the man down and discover the truth.


Jorgensen said he was convinced they would be exposing a hoaxer.

"The Missing In Action story was pretty ­unbelievable, pretty grandiose", he told a Canadian newspaper.

"Tom went to meet him and was very sceptical, grilling this guy up and down, trying to get him to break".

With a Canadian-Vietnamese police officer acting as translator, the man told them he had been captured by the North Vietnamese shortly after being shot down.

He was held in a bamboo cage and tortured for about a year – leaving him with brain damage that could have led to dementia.

He was eventually released, due to the extent of his injuries, but was cared for by a local nurse.


The pair later married and had children and he took her former husband's name, Dan Tan Ngoc.

He apparently made no attempt to contact his wife or children.

But Faunce and Jorgensen became convinced he was Sgt Robertson and discovered reports dating from 1982 alerting the military to his possible survival.

Jorgensen said: "Why did the Americans leave him there for all those years? Are there other John Hartley Robertsons in Vietnam?"

Despite fingerprinting him at a US Embassy in 2010, the army insisted there was not enough evidence to confirm he was Sgt Robertson.

Jorgensen added: "It's not because the Vietnamese won't let him go, it's more the US military doesn't want him to come home.



The film captured a tearful meeting with a man trained by Sgt Robertson in 1960, who said he recognised his former boss on sight.

But the most poignant reunion was with Sgt Robertson's sister, Jean Robertson Holly, 80.

Jorgensen said: "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'."

Hugh Tran, the police constable who acted as translator, said the man claiming to be Sgt Robertson spoke like a Vietnamese native with no trace of an American accent.

He added: "I still didn't believe.


.. until I saw the family reunion."

Sgt Robertson has decided to stay in Vietnam, reportedly having fulfilled his final wish – to see his US relatives one final time.

DNA testing would easily reveal once and for all the identity of the man in the Vietnam village – but Jean does not believe it is necessary.

She said she was convinced the man was her long-lost brother "Johnny".

Sgt Robertson's wife and two children agreed to take part in testing but later dropped out for unconfirmed reasons.

Jorgensen said: "Maybe that's because the daughters don't want to know if it's him. It's like, that was an ugly war.

"It was a long time ago. We just want it to go away."



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