Man believed to be '68 Green Beret MIA
An American soldier, who was reported killed in action, has been found living in a remote village in Vietnam — 44 years after his helicopter was gunned down over Laos during a clandestine mission, the New York Daily News reported.
The onetime Green Beret's American family says that he doesn't remember English, his birthday or American children's names — all he recalls is that he had an American family before the Viet Cong captured him, the paper said.
Now 76, the man is believed to be Sgt. John Hartley Robertson, who was locked in a bamboo cage in mid-1968 and tortured for a year until his release. Significantly changed from the experience, he married the Vietnamese nurse who treated him, and he took her dead husband's name, Dang Tan Ngoc.
The name he purportedly abandoned is one of 60,000 dead etched on the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington.
The astonishing second life is the focus of filmmaker Michael Jorgensen's new documentary, which premiered Tuesday at Toronto's Hot Docs festival.
“The MIA story was pretty unbelievable, pretty grandiose,” Jorgensen told Toronto-based The Globe and Mail, “and I was very skeptical.”
Vietnam veteran Tom Faunce told the director that he heard one of his “Army brothers” was living in southcentral Vietnam while doing humanitarian work in the country. Faunce said he eventually located the man and is certain he is Robertson.
The documentary follows Faunce in his search, starting in 2008. No dates are given of when the man was located.
There are skeptics, however.
One source suggested that it has evidence that the man is a Frenchman. Another questioned why the Department of Defense wouldn't have been involved in identifying the man and trying to reclaim him. Another asked why the story took five years to be made available.
The film crew took the man back to Canada to meet Jean Robertson Holly, 80, who is Robertson's only surviving sister. She was nearly certain that the man is her brother from a video she watched — any lingering doubt was put to rest after she met him, the Daily News said.
“But when I held his head in my hands and looked in his eyes, there was no question that was my brother,” Holly said.
The reunion is what finally convinced Hugh Tran — the Vietnam-born translator who said the man in question speaks Vietnamese like a native, without any American accent.
“I still didn't believe until I saw the family reunion,” Tran told the Toronto Star.
Robertson's American wife and two children initially agreed to participate in DNA testing to verify his identify but later declined. Their lives have continued since the disappearance, just as Robertson's life has continued.
“There's maybe a bit of a misconception. Everybody assumes: ‘Well, obviously, he wants to come back to North America,' ” Jorgensen said. “But at this point, he's happier being back there, taking care of his wife, to whom he feels an incredible amount of loyalty, and their kids.”