Green Beret Found Living in Vietnam 44 Years Later?


UPDATE II: See “Green Beret Found Living in Vietnam 44 Years Later Story Apparent Hoax.”

UPDATE: The National League of POW/MIA Families and some other veteran-related organizations believe the individual in question is someone other than Robertson and probably not an American.

The reporting on this story is almost exclusively in the British press, which are generally much less concerned about fact-checking than even their American counterparts.

Original story follows. 

A man believed to be SFC John Hartley Robertson, thought to have died over Laos in 1968, has been found alive in Vietnam.

MailOnline (“Has U.S. Army veteran been found living in Vietnam village 44 YEARS after being shot down and presumed dead? Green Beret ‘cannot remember the names of his family or even how to speak English’“):

Sgt. John Hartley Robertson’s name is etched along with 60,000 others onto Washington D.C.’s poignant Vietnam memorial – no doubt visited many times by the wife and two children he left behind.

But what if Robertson didn’t die during a classified special ops mission over Laos in 1968 as military records show but is still alive and well?

That is the jaw-dropping question posed by a new documentary which claims to have tracked down the one-time Green Beret 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.

Truly a bizarre story. Amnesia of this sort has long been a staple of low budget television shows but incredibly rare in real life.

Robertson’s sister is convinced that this man is indeed her brother, but she refuses to get DNA testing to corroborate it. And his two daughters are not terribly interested in finding out.

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James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm veteran. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.


  1. Kelly Rosenberger says:

    You might want to check your facts on the movie unclaimed:

  2. OzarkHillbilly says:

    Truly a bizarre story. Amnesia of this sort has long been a staple of low budget television shows but incredibly rare in real life.

    I’m not buying it. He remembers getting shot down. he remembers his capture. He remembers his torture. He remembers his escape. He remembers his rescue and the nursing and…..

    He remembers all of the trauma, but nothing from before? You know, the very things he would hang onto just so he could get thru the trauma? I am no psychologist but it just does not make any sense. Then again, neither do any of the alternatives.

  3. He doesn’t appear to be hurting anyone, so how about everybody just leaves him alone?

  4. Bill Sherman says:

    @Stormy Dragon: I agree let this man alone.

  5. Mitch says:

    @Kelly Rosenberger:

    The actual gov’t report is at the Library of Congress online at