An old man living in a jungle in Vietnam claimed himself as Sgt. John Hartley Robertson, a US soldier who was declared dead after being shot down over Laos in 1968. But the US Department of Defense POW/Missing Personnel Office (DPMO) yesterday officially denied this, saying the real Robertson is dead.
The recently-aired “Unclaimed”, a 2013 Canadian documentary film by Emmy-award winning Michael Jorgensen, shows that Robertson, now aged 76, is living in a remote village in south-central Vietnam and is unable to remember his birthday or his American children’s names, and only able to speak Vietnamese.
Tom Faunce, a US veteran of the Vietnam War, has tracked down the man who claimed to be Robertson. Faunce was skeptical of Robertson's identity but eventually became convinced. He then convinced Jorgensen to make a documentary about Robertson's story as a way to unite the man with his American family.
80-year-old Jean Robertson Holley, his only surviving sister, said she knows it's him without having a DNA test.
"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", Jean said.
A conman of Vietnamese citizenship?
A DPMO report said that Robertson was actually Dang Tan Ngoc, a Vietnamese citizen of French origin who has a history of pretending to be US army veterans.
Reports suggest Ngoc could have been impersonating Sgt Robertson since around 1982, with some Vietnam War veterans saying he could have possibly conned veteran groups out of thousands of pounds over the last 30 years, the Independent reported.
Below is a document released yesterday by the Department of Defense POW/Missing Personnel Office (DPMO), proving that the real Sgt. 1st Class John H. Robertson has died:
The Department of Defense POW/Missing Personnel Office (DPMO) reports that Sgt. 1st Class John H. Robertson, a U.S. serviceman who was lost in the Vietnam War, remains unaccounted for. All claims and alleged live sighting reports related to Robertson have been investigated, and found to be false.
On May 20, 1968, Robertson was aboard a Vietnamese Air Force H-34 helicopter that came under heavy enemy ground fire. The helicopter struck a row of trees, exploded into flames, and crashed. U.S. service members who witnessed the helicopter crash reported that there were no survivors. In 1976, after reevaluating the Robertson case, a Military Review Board changed Robertson’s status from “Missing in Action” to “Presumptive Finding of Death,” which meant that Robertson was deceased.
In 2004, U.S. government officials received alleged live sighting reports including photographs and a videotape depicting an individual who claimed to be Robertson. The individual was interviewed by U.S. investigators on April 20, 2006, and determined to be a Vietnamese citizen.
In 2009, the Vietnamese man was interviewed again by U.S. officials, who collected fingerprints and hair samples for analysis. The FBI analyzed the fingerprints and they were determined not to match Robertson’s fingerprints on file. The mitochondrial DNA sequences from the hair samples obtained were compared to family reference samples taken from Robertson’s brother and one of his sisters. The Armed Forces DNA Identification Laboratory (AFDIL) determined the DNA sequences from the Vietnamese man did not match either of Robertson’s siblings.
A recently released film (documentary Unclaimed) features this same Vietnamese individual who continues to allege that he is Robertson.