The Vietnam War is the most infamous military conflict that the United States of America has ever been involved in. It was a foreign campaign that involved the drafting of American civilians to bolster the military’s ranks. Due to the widespread of television at the time, it was the first war that the public saw in their homes. The atrocities and truths of war were exposed to the world and many Vietnam Veterans came home to angry crowds that labeled them “monsters.”
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Imagine entering the military to fulfill your duty to your country, witnessing the atrocities of war, seeing your own brothers in arms turned to mince-meat around you. Then returning home to a citizenry that hated you for being a pawn of the upper echelons of the United States’ geopolitical agenda. Unfortunately, some did not even make it this far like SFC John Robertson.
SFC John Robertson was a Green Beret. If you’re not aware, the Green Beret is the United States Army’s Special Forces. They often do off the books covert operations, and as such personnel on such missions do not carry identification and if they are captured they will be denied by the US government. Unfortunately SFC John Robertson was on one such off the books operation over Laos in 1968 when the helicopter he was in became part of the scenery. When his unit didn’t return or report in, they were declared Missing in Action or MIA. Later they were declared “no longer living.”
Fast forward to 2008, Vietnam veteran Tom Faunce, a missionary in Vietnam, heard about an elderly man living in a remote village who claimed to be SFC John Robertson. Faunce sought out this person claiming to be SFC Robertson and spoke to him.
After speaking with the man claiming to be SFC Robertson, Faunce got in touch with award winning director Michael Jorgensen to pitch the idea of a documentary that would help SFC Robertson and other Vietnam Veterans.
When they returned to Vietnam they started getting SFC Robertson’s story of how he survived.
The person claiming to be SFC Robertson said that after the helicopter accident he was captured and held by the North Vietnamese. He claims that he was locked in a bamboo cage for a year and was tortured. Badly injured and confused at the time, he claims that he was released. It gets stranger. He then claims that he married a Vietnamese woman who cared for him and he took the identity of her departed husband, Dang Tan Ngoe.
Faunce produced this story into a documentary titled “Unclaimed.” In the film the person claiming to be SFC Robertson met with a soldier who trained under him, and his American family. All parties were convinced that he was in fact SFC Robertson. This was despite the man claiming to be SFC Robertson not being able to remember the names of his American children or his birthday. Furthermore he was only able to speak Vietnamese.
Although the family felt that they had closure, there were skeptics in the public who didn’t believe this man was actually SFC Robertson. According to the New York Times The Defense Department knew of Dang Tan Ngoc and was investigated in 2006 as well as 2009. According to their findings both DNA and fingerprint analysis revealed he was not SFC Robertson.
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However, SFC Robertson’s family did not believe these findings and claimed that they had in fact found their long lost Vietnam veteran. This was until in 2013 when the family started a GoFundMe page to get funding to do their own independent DNA test. There was no match.