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Dublin: 11 °C Thursday 17 April, 2014

This US soldier ‘found alive’ in Vietnam 44 years after being left behind

Filmmaker says John Robertson, now 76, can no longer speak English, remember his birthday or the names of his American children.

A NEW DOCUMENTARY called Unclaimed claims to introduce the world to former Army Sergeant John Robertson, lost over Vietnam in 1968 and left behind for over four decades.

The Toronto Star reports Edmonton filmmaker Michael Jorgenson found Robertson, 76, living in a rural Vietnam village stooped with age, unable to speak English, remember his birthday, or names of the children he left behind in the U.S.

It’s a story difficult to understand considering the US military places such a priority on bringing every service member home, whenever possible.

Jorgenson told the Toronto Star that he was also skeptical when Vietnam vet Tom Faunce came to him and explained a man he’d found in Vietnam was a former “Army brother” listed as killed in action and forgotten. He says he became convinced only after going to Vietnam and meeting Robertson himself.

What he found was revealed to filmgoers in an invitation only screening of “Unclaimed” at a Toronto theatre earlier this month.

From The Toronto Star:

There is physical proof of Robertson’s birthplace, collected in dramatic fashion onscreen; a tearful meeting in Vietnam with a soldier who was trained by Robertson in 1960 and said he knew him on sight; and a heart-wrenching reunion with his only surviving sister — 80-year-old Jean Robertson-Holly — in Edmonton in December 2012 that left the audience at the Toronto screening wiping away tears.

Jorgenson encountered so much resistance from the US military making his film that he says he’s convinced one “high-placed government source” was telling the truth when he said, “It’s not that the Vietnamese won’t let him (Robertson) go; it’s that our government doesn’t want him.”

Wringing out the details and talking to Robertson’s American family seems to have been a gut-wrenching affair. The children whose names he couldn’t recall declined DNA testing at the last minute with no explanation.

None of that mattered to Roberston who says he fulfilled his wish of coming to America and seeing his kids one more time before he dies.

Robertson’s now back in Vietnam, with no desire to leave and Unclaimed opens in the USA on 12 May, at the G.I. Film Festival in Washington, DC.

- Robert Johnson

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