Is this the real Sgt Robertson? Questionable.

A new documentary portrays the supposed finding of a long lost Vietnam veteran.

Back from the dead? Vietnam vet found, 44 years on | The Courier-Mail.

Unclaimed, a documentary from Canadian filmmaker Michael Jorgensen, purports to find Master Sergeant John Hartley Robertson, who was presumed dead in 1968.

Sgt Robertson was thought to have died after his helicopter was shot down over Laos on a classified US Army mission.

Sgt Robertson’s family has long believed he was alive, claiming to have documents supporting that theory, including reports that he was living in a Vietnamese prison.

Shelby Robertson Quast, the soldier’s granddaughter, was told he was alive when she travelled to Cambodia. Her mother, Barbara, said in the early 1990s she had documents proving he was alive.

In the documentary, Sgt Robertson reportedly appears forgetful, according to The Star’s report, perhaps suffering from dementia.

He appears to forget the names of his American children and other details, including his birthday.

Sgt Robertson’s wife and two children initially agreed to DNA testing for the film, but then backed out.

Odd that they would back out of DNA testing if this is indeed their father even after being convinced he was still alive. But this would be quite a blow to them. Perhaps they suspect something or they don’t want to know? The piece mentions a lot of emotional stuff going on but not much in terms of evidence.

But wait… there’s more. Hmm, this page shows that the Faunce  story, on which this documentary is based, is a dupe.

Sorry that the information concerning John Hartley Robertson (JHR) flying around the net for the past days, has become confusing.

According to persons in the USG, working in Phnom Phen, the Caucasian depicted in the photo has been proven not to be JHR, but to be a French citizen, long time in Cambodia, with a Vietnamese wife, and several children. Proof was produced by a DNA sample, more than one year back.

On receiving a message via email, for a solid contact, from the USG, with this info, who received this from his USG organization in Cambodia, I have become convinced that the brothers Faunce (Joseph and Thomas) are being duped by this Caucasian, whose language is pidgin English and Viet.

I did speak to Joseph Faunce on 25 Feb, prior to his departure / return to Cambodia that very day. These Faunce lads seem thoroughly convinced (that) they have JHR, but those USG personnel on the ground, who have taken DNA from this same man (according to the info I received) are certain this man is a fraud. I wish this was not true; however, it surely seems to be true.

I’m not sure what to think about either of these sources. So I’ll make no judgement except to say this sort of stuff must be really hard on the family. They need closure and aren’t getting it.

What’s really going on here?

The trailer for the documentary “Unclaimed”

UPDATE (1-May-2013): This is now getting around

Had it been true, it would have been one of the most gripping war stories of all time.

But sadly it looks as if the man found living in the Vietnam jungle, who a new documentary claims is ‘long dead’ US army veteran Sgt John Hartley Robertson, is likely to be a fraud.

Tip: Timothy Kestrel on Facebook

  40 comments for “Is this the real Sgt Robertson? Questionable.

  1. Pete Formaini
    April 30, 2013 at 4:15 AM

    The fact that the family eschews a simple scientific test that could resolve the issue once and for all (much like the Vatican and the Shroud of Turin) tells me ll I need to know. They o not really want to know. Which means they already “know”.

  2. Shelby Robertson Quast
    April 30, 2013 at 12:31 PM

    You might want to check your facts before posting stories … Sgt. John Hartley Robertson has nothing whatsoever do with my father, Col. John L Robertson, nor his family.

  3. April 30, 2013 at 1:30 PM

    I’ve found it curious that even groups that BELIEVE MIAs are still in ‘nam are calling BS on this movie. There’s been a lot of credulous reporting by major Canadian papers. None have thought to google and pick up a phone and call the DPMO or the National League of Families (they’re the ones who came up with the POW/MIA flag that congress eventually made “official).

    “The case is currently the subject of a film entitled “Unclaimed.” Sadly, as noted in the official report, claims made by Mr. Dang Than Ngoc and the film’s producer are false as substantiated by DNA testing and FBI fingerprint analysis. ”

    There’s a simple test that can resolve this. But there’s a bunch of hand waving explanations why they can’t/won’t do a DNA test. Many vet groups are well aware of the nasty scams that have been using Robertson’s name. People who are jumping up and down to defend this movie don’t seem to grasp these MIA groups have seen it all before.

    I try to analogize it. It’s like 10 people have tried to get you to buy a dragon they claim they have in a box. They will always let you weigh the box, listen to the box, smell the box, and shake the box. But they always have fantastical explanations why they won’t just simply open the box and show you there is a dragon. You bought the box a couple times already and discovered, actually, there was no dragon. Just a piece of wood wound up in an elastic band that makes dragon-y sounding noises when you shake the box and release the elastic’s tension. So, naturally, when someone, yet again, comes to you claiming they have a dragon in the box, you’re not buying until they open the box. No matter how legit their explanations why they can’t open the box seem, you’ve been down that road before. Open the box. Take the DNA test.

  4. derek
    April 30, 2013 at 1:43 PM

    Given that Shelby Robertson Quast is the daughter, not grand daughter, of USAF, not Army, MIA Colonel, not Master Sergeant, John L. Robertson, not John Hartley Robertson, I doubt that anybody reading this has started on a level playing field.

  5. April 30, 2013 at 1:47 PM

    Regarding the wife and kids backing out. Based on email from a reporter, the wife and kids refuse to have anything to do with the missionary. I suspect (my opinion only) they don’t want to give this scam more legs. It’s been going on for years now. The producer of the film keeps saying the family knows it’s him but offers nothing from the wife and children. It’s always the sister. The sister also refuses DNA testing although she says because she simply knows and doesn’t feel like she has to prove anything. Wait. Let’s think about that.

    1) I’ve got a niece and nephew in Vietnam and this could clear their way for American citizenship and a better life.

    2) This would give tremendous and real hope to other families. Seems a rather un-Christian thing to do.

    The reporter claims the sister claims there’s never been a DNA test. But technically there’s been no DNA she is aware of. The DPMO report indicates they have reference samples. It would make sense they would have acquired family DNA years ago from all MIAs so they could ID remains. You don’t want to run to the family every time they find some bones and get DNA and then dash their hopes. You want a general sample, run the test on any remains, and THEN go to the family about the results.

  6. April 30, 2013 at 1:57 PM

    Some links to read

    This Time/Economist writer not buying either:

    The original government report about “John Hartley Robertson”. Looks pretty damning: (Curiously the Unclaimed resources page lists earlier DPMO documents but not this one, the one most damning about their claims… over sight or suppression?)

    The missionary’s original blog post about it… notice he needs to navigate around a couple scams to get to the man claiming to be JHR:

  7. April 30, 2013 at 2:54 PM

    I am confused.

  8. April 30, 2013 at 3:37 PM

    Yeah. As best I can figure it:

    John Hartley Robertson (JHR) went down in a chopper crash in Laos. Over flight suggested no one could survive the crash ‘n’ burn. Over flight saw no survivors. He was MIA, presumed KIA. The claim is the man purporting to be JHR has no dog tags because they were not issued such on secret missions (claim that needs to be verified).

    The Vietnam memorial wall and the MIA list has provided scammers with a “menu”. Over the years people have used lists of MIAs to try and scam families and the US government. Classic confidence scam. “Please give us money, we can get him out.” There are also “bone sellers”. People who want money for what they claim are American remains. It’s all pretty sick.

    The government agency the Defense Prisoner of War/Missing Personnel Office (DPMO) is charged with finding MIAs (pretty much remains) from Nam, the Korean war, et al. They have been investigating claims that JHR survived and was in Vietnam married to a local. The 2009 DPMO report (linked above) is pretty thorough and indicates, at least, the subject of the Unclaimed film was finger printed and the prints did not match. It seems a slam dunk. Hence the only way you can get around that is intimate conspiracy. The government doesn’t want these men brought home. Yaddie.

    Googling reveals several years before the movie came out, MIA groups (groups I stress actually believe MIAs are alive in Nam) were aware of the JHR claims and have been highly skeptical. Unfortunately, it’s poorly done web pages, postings of emails from what might be reliable sources (MIA experts, former green berets, investigators of such claims) but the comments are not posted to what wiki or a Toronto Star might consider reliable sources. There is all kinds of talk about DNA having been done already but again nothing from a reliable source.

    The DPMO document has some bad photocopied photos but they seem to match the man in the Unclaimed movie. The DPMO has, to its satisfaction, determined that this guy is a Vietnamese. The man presented in the movie has admitted that to US government workers.

    No newspaper reporting about this has picked up a phone and contacted any of these sites, the DPMO, or the relevant MIA groups that have been warning about JHR for several years.

  9. terry the censor
    April 30, 2013 at 4:32 PM

    I think what Karl has demonstrated here is something we see in the fringe realms all the time. When people find the “evidence” they like, they stop looking. When someone tries to test this evidence, the proponents abandon facts and resort to rhetoric: hearsay, excuses, omissions, conspiracies, close-minded skeptics, etc.

    Reading this post and the comments, I keep thinking of the recent Ketchum affair.

  10. Walt
    April 30, 2013 at 8:10 PM

    The bottom line is that there is no conclusive proof, or records, or scientific evidence either way.
    Until his DNA can be matched to his American “family” or “sister”, then and only then this story could be settled. All else is a speculation by those who want to believe that he is JHR, and by those who do not believe it.

  11. Lois
    April 30, 2013 at 11:33 PM

    Guys, I’m betting that this is all fake, and just a marketing ploy for the documentary, or mockumentary as it were.

  12. May 1, 2013 at 9:00 AM

    Independent and the Daily Mail weigh in:

    The Independent (a newspaper I enjoy and respect when I visit London… mostly because it’s given free in the Holiday Inn chain) seems to have summarized most of the skeptical online sources I’ve spoken about above.

    The Daily Mail gives a more thorough retelling of skeptical sources although I don’t see anything to indicate they went directly to the investigators. There’s a lot of reposting of what are claimed to be emails from the principle investigators but nothing directly, unmistakably from them.

    “No one forgets to speak their native language after that long. The claims are bulls**t.”

    There does seem to be a phenomenon known as “first language attrition” and that claim, at least, might not be so much BS:

  13. May 1, 2013 at 9:59 AM

    Many believe the sister being sure it’s JHR is evidence enough. As skeptics we’re well aware of the powerful effect of wishful thinking and suggestion. Friend Richard points out the case Frédéric Bourdin who fooled a family into thinking he was their long lost son. An amazing example why such evidence might be emotionally touching but not compelling.

  14. May 1, 2013 at 10:18 AM

    Proponents point to a isotrophic tooth enamel test:

    “Faunce’s team built a compelling case. They even persuaded their man to have a molar extracted and sent to a U.S. forensics lab, which conducted enamel isotope tests to prove it belonged to someone who grew up in America.”

    (from wiki)

    “The isotopic oxygen ratios, then, of teeth represent the ratios of the region in which the individual was born and raised.”

    According to the article in the Independent

    “a 76-year-old Vietnamese citizen of French origin who has a history of pretending to be US army veterans”

    I would love to see the actual conclusions of the analysis. Does it say “95% confidence from a person whose teeth were formed in the USA” or “95% confidence from a person whose teeth were formed by a person with a Western diet”. The claim is the man came from France originally. Is the test sensitive enough to distinguish? Did the test distinguish such? Were the testers even asked to eliminate the possibility of French origin? If the question posted to the researchers was “could this be from an American” that is a *very* different question than “could this be ONLY from an American?”

  15. May 1, 2013 at 1:23 PM

    On the military and collecting DNA reference samples:

    They have been collecting mtDNA samples since 1992.

    Simply because the sister claims she did not give a DNA sample does not mean some person in JHR’s mtDNA family tree could not have provided a reference sample in the last 20 years.

  16. May 1, 2013 at 3:22 PM

    One of the men quoted in the Daily Mail article seems to have no problem with how he was quoted:

    “The man seen in the documentary posing as John Hartley Robertson is a guy from France, an impostor, who has been used to scam money from well-meaning veterans and others who would LOVE to see any POW rescued.”

    Man quoted is a former green beret who exposes fakes:

  17. May 1, 2013 at 4:24 PM

    Gawker article adds nothing although extends the “hoax” buzz:

    Do like the quips:

    “As of this afternoon, there was no public response from the producers of Unclaimed, and they hadn’t added any updates to their Twitter and Facebook accounts since news of the hoax broke.”

    “Still, it’s possible they knew something was up; they’d named their production company ‘Myth Merchant Films.'”

  18. May 1, 2013 at 8:41 PM

    Journalist FINALLY picks up the phone and calls DPMO and other on-the-ground sources

    ||Jessica Pierno, Public Affairs Director of DPMO, told us during a phone interview on April 30, “The man in the film is not Sergeant Robertson. He’s a Vietnamese citizen and his name is Dang Than Ngoc.”

    Pierno knows this because she tells us that FBI fingerprint analysis determined Ngoc’s fingerprints do not match Robertson’s and that Armed Forces DNA samples from Robertson also failed to match Ngoc’s. Pierno also states that Ngoc himself admitted to investigators seven years ago that he was lying about being Robertson.

    Pierno says that admission was recorded at the U.S. Consulate in Ho Chi Minh City by one of several Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA) investigation teams assigned to Ngoc’s case throughout the years.||

    “I mean this guy was a frequent flier at our office,” the colonel said, his voice rising. “It totally blows my mind that he’s gotten this far. He forgot how to speak English and his kids’ names? Who falls for that?”


  19. May 1, 2013 at 9:10 PM

    Thank you Karl. Come write for us, you are awesome.

  20. Chris
    May 1, 2013 at 11:00 PM

    Or, Karl, make this a podcast. Your dulcet Canadian voice will make us believe all of your research. 😉 Yes, I agree, you are awesome.

    (disclaimer, I have been married to a former Canadian for over thirty years… one I suspect had to leave because he refuses to go camping, and silly me I thought I would get to go camping with him!)

    (another disclaimer: my dad is a Vietnam vet. He was there in the early 1960s, and he needed to have a good background in French, his GI Bill college degree was a BA in French. For some reason his experience as an “adviser” there made him hate the French and their foreign policies towards their former colonies, or those places that wanted to be former colonies. Apparently the whole mess could have been avoided starting in the late 1940s.)

    (just a regret: I so want to go to this year’s TAM like I did a couple of years ago, but my evil-ex-Canadian spouse said no. Rats!… I still love him to pieces. And I have come to accept the comforts of a nice bed and breakfast inn.)

  21. May 2, 2013 at 7:23 AM

    My (probably final) email to Star reporter Linda Barnard who credulously broke this story:

    This looks about it for the idea the man in the movie is JHR unless one wants to reach for “massive government conspiracy”.

    Looks like they contacted the DPMO director I suggested you call in your follow up story. Did you ever contact this person for the follow up story? I saw a quick line about MIA groups being skeptical but there was very, very little detail. This article is very revealing. Unless everyone below is lying through their teeth, sadly, the producers of the movie were hoaxed badly and only managed to give false hope to an 80 year old woman. Your original article is going to be quoted and re-quoted for years by such false hope merchants preying on MIA families (not just ‘nam but Afghanistan, Iraq too. Any chance you’ll do a follow up and set the record straight? So people like the green berets who have been calling this a hoax for years have something else to point to by the original journalist who broke the story?

  22. May 2, 2013 at 9:15 AM

    Soldier of Fortune relates a DPMO statement on JHR. Clears up where the DNA came from. The Star reporter keeps claiming family members say they didn’t give a DNA sample.

    “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.”

  23. May 2, 2013 at 9:34 AM

    Response from Star reporter (I wish she’d just pick up a phone and call someone. Geez. When did journalists stop shoe leathering it?)

    (Her points are the numbered points. My responses follow the numbered points. Point 2 was just a comment I should see the movie when it comes out online.)

    1. The family has said they never gave samples, neither his daughters nor siblings.

    It would appear the DNA came from Robertson himself, unless the Pierno of the DPMO is mistaken or lying or the BI article misquotes her. To my mind, you’re introducing a contradiction that isn’t if the BI article is accurate. A call to Ms. Pierno would resolve or establish this contradiction?

    3. The evidence determines he was born and raised in the U.S. Not Europe, not Asia

    It would be nice if the film makers publish the enamel test for peer review, given the incredible implications of this. A small point but it might be inaccurate to say the isotropic test establishes he was born in the USA. As best I understand the test, the enamel preserves the isotopes at the time the teeth were formed. So they tested for isotopes present at the time his adult teeth formed. The test, assuming it eliminates France, only tells us he was in the USA when his adult teeth formed.

    Since the DNA and prints don’t match, we have pretty powerful evidence this man is simply not JHR. At best, we have someone whose adult teeth formed in America is living in Vietnam and has come to believe he is a person he is not. At worst, we have a guy trying to hoax an innocent family.

    4. As Jorgensen has repeatedly said, the doc is about Faunce’s quest to find a man he believes is a lost Army brother.

    Indeed. To me, it would appear to be ethical if he commented on the mounting evidence the man in his movie is not JHR.

  24. May 2, 2013 at 11:40 AM

    Correction. According to the Globe & Mail, JHR had 3 sisters. Only one is alive today.

    ||Mr. Jorgensen said there is evidence that the U.S. government undertook investigations in 1991, 2001, 2003 and again in 2006 and 2009. “Why was the family never involved?” he asked. For example, according to the website Professional Soldiers, which is run by current and former Green Berets, U.S. missionaries took hair samples from the man who is said to be Mr. Robertson in February, 2009, and passed them on to lab technicians for DNA comparison with “family reference samples” obtained earlier by the U.S. military. These tests determined there was no match.

    However, Mr. Jorgensen said, none of Mr. Robertson’s immediate family – three sisters and one brother, only one of whom, an 80-year-old sister, is still alive – ever recalled providing such samples. The division of the U.S. military that investigates the cases of missing members of forces has not “even reached out to them as of today and said, ‘Here’s all that we did.’” In the film, Mr. Faunce has an enamel isotope test done on one of Mr. Robertson’s molars that indicates he was raised in the United States.||

    The DPMO says they got a reference sample from one sister. Not sure why the papers seem to be spinning this as a contradiction.

    And why didn’t they inform the family? Well, maybe they don’t inform the family and get their hopes up until they have solid results. Geez.

  25. May 2, 2013 at 11:46 AM

    Some interesting information on tooth isotope analysis:

    The star reporter says it establish he was American and eliminated Europe as a possibility. This article seems to indicate such tests cannot pinpoint origin that accurately.

  26. May 2, 2013 at 12:55 PM

    Strangely enough the film makers seems to think you can only get mtDNA from JHR’s mother.

    ||”He believes the most conclusive way to prove the matter would be using DNA from the sergeant’s late mother. “They would have to exhume John’s mother,” he said.||

    No. No. No. No. The mother passes down mtDNA to her sons and daughters. JHR and his surviving sister have their mother’s mtDNA. His sister has passed it down to her own daughters. The brother and one of the three sisters has already provided a reference sample. This information was available to the film maker by simply making one phone call.

    See the chart here:

  27. May 2, 2013 at 1:06 PM

    “Michael Jorgenson needs to just Man Up and get the DNA or say, “I got dupped” Either way.. he is establishing his legacy as creating a documentary on this fraud and disgracing JHR, hurting JHR’s family, and his legacy. JHR was a Green Beret, our best and this is what he is being remembered for?”

  28. May 2, 2013 at 2:31 PM

    The film maker and family keeps point out if this were a scam, the hoax guy isn’t asking for anything. And odd scam? Although, think about it. He has a son and daughter in Vietnam, a Vietnam increasingly benefiting from trade with the USA. If he were to convince the USG of his citizenship, his children would have a right to American citizenship. Asian parents do all manner of things to get their kids citizenship. They pay US soldiers to adopt their child. They take holidays in the USA shortly before giving birth and have the child on US soil.

  29. May 2, 2013 at 8:55 PM

    Film and Dance reporter for Maclean’s magazine continues to give one sided reporting on JHR and then calls other media outlets “knee-jerk” when they give both sides of the story. I guess if your john thomas was left flapping in the wind after it was pointed out to you how credulous your reporting is, you’d double down and start calling papers like The Independent “knee jerk”.

    Love Canada’s version of Time magazine has resorted to conspiracy mongering. What’s most hilarious is Brian Johnson seems to think the DPMO 2009 document was “leaked” to the Daily Mail. The document was linked on reddit 6 days ago, 5 days before the mail article and it’s been freely available on the Library of Congress web site since 2009. How do you “leak” a pubic, freely available document?

  30. May 2, 2013 at 10:37 PM

    Film maker claims family was not informed of this hoaxster:

    Jorgensen also points out that if what the memo says is true, standard
    operating procedure requires the military to inform the family about any
    reports of someone claiming to be a lost MIA relative, even if they are
    false. Strangely, according to Metcalf, her family has received reports
    of over 30 false claims over the years, but nothing about the man they
    now claim as kin who was allegedly bent on scamming the military.”

    But freely available document form the library of congress (same directory as the one Maclean’s seems to think was leaked) says wife was informed and told them she wanted nothing to do with it. See item 2.

  31. May 3, 2013 at 9:59 AM

    Canadian reporter Nelson Rand met with the man in the unclaimed movie and the DPMO reports he was unimpressed (see point 8).

  32. May 3, 2013 at 1:44 PM

    As Terry the Censor pointed out to me privately the film maker is arguing “The government proved this guy is a fraud but since he didn’t ask for money, he’s not a fraud.”

    As noted above citizenship for his kids is one possible explanation. Another is he’s being pushed by drug smugglers. According to the fake warriors page on the claim, the man in the film was first paraded around by a heroin smuggler. If true, it’s possible there are drug smugglers behind him who think they could benefit from American citizenship for him or his children. In the minds of drug smugglers, with him or his kids as mules, it would make for much easier passage across SE Asian borders. Having traveled a lot in Asia, I can tell you how quickly you are waved through South Korean and Chinese customs when you have a Canadian passport. My American friends in Korea report similar hands off treatment flashing their American passports.

  33. May 6, 2013 at 10:47 AM

    Curiously after I complained to Maclean’s the movie reviewered re-edit his piece, removed charges the military leaked the document to the Mail and he even put in some notes about attempting to contact the military for comment. None of that was present in the original article. The original clearly demonstrated his bias. The revision makes no note of the changes, notably the hilarious charge the publicity available document was leaked. And maybe he’s learned a lesson why real journalists put in a line like “Maclean’s contacted X for comment but they never got back to us.”

    I’m dumping my full comment with the original claim quoted by me. Who knows what they’ll do to the comment section. The Unclaimed facebook page deleted all my comments about the original article.

    Where did the WotPS’s comment go? Surely you’re not censoring dissenting opinions. Let me try and reproduce his points.

    “Seems to me the onus is now on the Pentagon to explain itself, beyond just leaking a 2009 memo to a British tabloid.”

    No. The 2009 DPMO document has been freely available on the Library of Congress site since May 2009:

    A Reddit user discovered it several days before the Daily Mail and Independent “knee jerk” articles:

    I, myself, “leaked” the document directly to you several days before the Mail/Independent article:

    The Daily Mail article does not indicate the DPMO passed them the document. Only someone (possibly a reddit user) passed them the document. In humble opinion, a document freely available and has been freely available for 4 years on the library of congress site and revealed by reddit users does not constitute “leaking a memo”.

    “He said an official from its Joint Personnel Recovery Agency told him
    Robertson’s sister and (now deceased) brother and sister had already
    provided DNA, when in fact the sister maintains they had no contact with
    the military and have never contributed DNA.”

    The DPMO statement indicates they had reference samples from the brother and one of the three sisters. Two are dead. One is alive, 80 years old, and might not have been the one asked for the sample. As I indicated previously, we cannot expect an 80 year old woman to have a perfect memory of what her brother and one of her sisters did between 1992 (when the military started collecting mtDNA samples) and the passing of the brother and sisters (I know one passed away in 2006). It might be worth a call to the military to see how they collect such samples. Do they ask the person not to mention the sample to other members of the family until something substantial is found? Merely hearing your sister was asked for a DNA sample might instill false hope.

    This issue, it seems to me, might be easily resolved by (here’s that idea again), a journalist contacting the DPMO. Do you believe the US government collects biological samples for matters this grave and does not get some kind of signature from the person? If I were a lawyer advising the US government I would recommend some kind of liability waver (mitigating the USG’s responsibility for false hope etc.) The family claims no sample is on file. Surely, if there are samples on file, the DPMO would have a document signed by the donor. I have no clue how publicly available such documents are but it starts with a journalist actually calling a real source.

    “A scam implies you’re out to get something,” Jorgensen told me. “Here’s a
    guy who, by his own family’s admission, has never asked for a thing.”

    If i recall, WotPS noted the man in the movie has two children by his Viet wife. People in Asia will go to great lengths to get their kids American citizenship. They will arrange holidays in the USA shortly before birth, have the child on US soil, and procure the baby citizenship that way. Parents will even get GIs to adopt their child.

    “Not to mention the fact that the man was willing to have his last molar
    extracted by a Vietnamese dentist, allowing a lab back in the U.S. to do
    isotope tests, which proved conclusively that he grew up America.”

    They should make the report public and subject to peer review. We have to believe a film maker has interpreted complicated scientific results correctly. All I know is I have seen many times lay people draw incorrect conclusions when they try to read scientific papers. Is the isotope test (was it for oxygen or strontium?) accurate enough to eliminate the possibility the man’s adult teeth were formed in France? The DPMO seems to indicate the man in the film is a Frenchman or part French. My understanding of isotope testing is they compare the oxygen and/or strontium levels to levels in tap water where they think the person’s adult teeth were formed. If the teeth match the water reference sample, it’s evidence the person’s teeth formed in that area. However, what is the possibility areas of France have similar oxygen and/or strontium isotopes within error bars?

  34. May 6, 2013 at 12:42 PM

    Another on-the-ground Vietnam journalist who helped make the movie The Disappearance of McKinley Nolan ( states:

    “It’s unfortunate that the filmmakers behind ‘Unclaimed’ felt compelled to cave and create fiction out of reality.”!topic/vietnam-old-hacks/psbSBiedIrg

    Note his link to this document:

    “Moreover, biological material provided to a known scam artist by Mr. Ngoc and eventually confiscated by FBI agents in 2010 was determined to be from a haplogroup most commonly associated with Asian individuals.”

    There are loads of real journalists in Vietnam intimately familiar with this story for years who have huge reason for skepticism.

  35. May 7, 2013 at 9:27 AM

    Green Beret Don Bendell makes the interesting point the guy in the film speaks fluent french (unverified as far as I can tell). If true, not a skill you would learn from the Vietnamese. The DPMO says this guy is a former french man.

    One could easily run the stroop test on this guy to see if he can read french.

  36. May 7, 2013 at 2:44 PM

    Maybe this WAS in the movie but according to the original star article:

    “he was confined to a bamboo cage in the jungle by North Vietnamese captors and, accused of being a CIA spy, was tortured for a year. Confused and badly injured, he was released and married the Vietnamese nurse who helped care for him.”

    Why did they release him? Did the NVA have a history of capturing airmen, torturing them, and then simply release them to wander about their country during war time? They would simply, out of the goodness of their hearts, let a man, trained in all manner of behind-the-lines unconventional warfare, to simply wander around Vietnam.

    The New York Daily News indicates he was captured by the Viet cong (as opposed to the North Vietnamese Army). To quote from wiki “[the viet cong] also waged a mass murder campaign against civilian hamlets and refugee camps; in the peak war years, nearly a third of all civilian deaths were the result of Viet Cong atrocities.”

    These do not sound like people who would simply release a captured Green Beret after growing tired of torturing him.

  37. May 8, 2013 at 8:44 AM

    National Alliance Of Families For The Return Of America’s Missing Servicemen (an MIA support group) has an interesting comment regarding JHR’s wife’s refusal to have anything to do with this apparent fraud:

    “Over the years, we met with many POW/MIA family members. We never met one who would not do anything for the opportunity to meet with their loved one.”

  38. May 8, 2013 at 12:40 PM

    Still another former Green Beret calls BS on the Unclaimed claim

    “Conspiracy theorists of course will blame this on the government. Our government deserves blame for many things, but frankly, it strains even my imagination that any recent US administration would attempt to cover up this case. President Clinton would have had every reason to run it up the flag pole, as would have Bush and now Obama.”

  39. May 9, 2013 at 9:16 AM

    My email to the Star reporter asking her for comments on a Time magazine writer’s assessment of the Canadian media’s credulous reporting:


    Skeptic North Blog post, request for comment

    Hi Linda… me again.

    As you might have guessed I’ve been compiling a great deal of information about the JHR case. I’m going to be doing a very in-depth post about it on the Skeptic North blog:

    I noticed Time/Economist writer Geoffery Cain contacted you via Twitter a couple days after your April 25 article warning you there was more to the story and reasons for skepticism:

    In response to your query about facts you might have missed, the next day he directed you to information about the case that would later be confirmed by the US government (the DPMO):

    Cain’s own site (available from his twitter profile) reveals he has not only extensive reporting experience in SE Asia but has done at least one in-depth article about MIA issues in Vietnam for Time magazine.,8599,2071021,00.html

    In my pursuit of the story for my blog post, he seemed, to me, an excellent staring point and I followed up with him. (He informs me you never contacted him beyond the tweet.) My blog post will center around the Canadian media’s credulous approach to this story: largely taking the filmmaker’s claims at face value and not following up with easy-to-find official sources or even contacting on-the-ground experts like Cain and the various Green Berets who had been urging skepticism for several years. This is a story, clearly, that will reverberate within families of MIAs (including current conflicts). Ideas like a man can jump out of crashing helicopter (Hollywood style) and survive and return can give families a great deal of false hope. Within skeptical circles, there’s a maxim “Incredible claims require incredible evidence.” This is certainly an incredible claim. Regardless what the filmmaker says about the intent of his movie, we both know within MIA circles, this story will exist merely as headlines regarding Faunce’s claim.

    Cain also directed me to a to a google group mail list called Vietnam Old Hacks. It’s a closed group for, primarily, journalists who covered the Vietnam War. Non members can still read it. In that group, another on-the-ground journalist named Richard Linnett also issued early reasons to be skeptical of the film (again later verified by the DMPO). Linnett, interestingly, is the subject of 2010’s The Disappearance of McKinley Nolan, a documentary about another Vietnam-era MIA claim. Please google to see the similarities between both films.

    To double check that someone like me (not at all a professional journalist) was seeing an angle to this story that wasn’t there, I asked Cain for his assessment about Toronto media’s reporting on the film and the issues surrounding it. I reproduce Cain’s assessment below. I was surprised at how much he was in agreement with my own lay person take on Canadian media’s approach to the story.

    I plan to run this blog post on US Memorial Day, although I might move it up to shortly after Unclaimed appears at the May 12 GI Film festival. Who knows what fire storm that will touch off. Military issues. Washington politicians and media. Oi.

    I’d like to give you an opportunity now to respond to Cain’s assessment. I will probably quote large parts of the email below. If you choose to respond, please indicate what from your response I might quote.

    Thank you for your consideration.


    Yes, I lived in Vietnam and Cambodia for a while and speak Vietnamese. Basically, I’ve been following war-legacy topics like these as a reporter — the MIA remains issue, the Khmer Rouge genocide tribunal, etc.

    Here’s the problem with the reporting on Robertson. At first the Star and several other papers just published this allegation as fact — with no corroboration outside the filmmaker’s personal supporters, and no clarifiers such as the word “claimed” to leave open the possibility that the documentary couldn’t be fully verified.

    A quick Google search would have revealed to all these reporters that, since the end of the Vietnam War, there have been hundreds of similar conspiracy theories about live MIAs left behind. They all have a similar story: mysterious sightings of Caucasions eking out livings as rice farmers and villagers. Some of these people are half-French Vietnamese. The Pentagon and several independent organizations have investigated these claims over and over and have found no evidence to support them. The newspaper articles didn’t mention a shred of this backdrop.

    If these journalists and investigators wanted to go further with their research, a phone call to the DPMO or the private non-profits working on this issue would have cleared up a lot of misinformation.

    What’s also interesting is that, after the DPMO published its statement on this documentary, most newspapers published follow-up stories with the angle “MIA documentary causes controversy.”

    This statement too is highly misleading and has stirred up even more poor journalism. In this case, the media’s concept of “balance” is interfering with its ability to investigate and publish truth. One side is bringing forward extraordinary claims with minuscule evidence — and none that would pass scientific scrutiny. The other side can back up its debunking of the documentary with a decade of investigations. Yet both sides are getting equal weight?

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