We received the following e-mail from Bill Bell
For the past two days I have received a deluge of emails and telephone calls from people concerning recent reports alleging that a live American named “John Hartley Robertson” has been located residing in Vietnam. Over the years numerous reports with the names of actual unaccounted-for American personnel associated with them have been circulated widely. Most of these reports were obvious fabrications. However, occasionally some such reports did deserve evaluation and analysis. This is especially true when we consider the long-held concept that “the benefit of the doubt always goes to the missing man.” Unfortunately, however, none of these reports have thus far been confirmed. One recent report, correlated by name to an actual unaccounted-for American, MSG John Hartley Robertson, is no exception. Certainly we should check out this apparent fabrication. Even though we have received similar reports over the years and those reports were associated with an individual who was determined not to be an American, or for that matter a citizen of any country other than the SRV. Although we are bound to check out this recent report, we should not squander scarce resources needed to pursue the “Last-Known-Alive” LKA cases. In my opinion this report is simply another example of Vietnamese Communist deception designed to lessen the credibility of other reports considered uncorrelated to any specific individual due either to the paucity of the information contained in the original report or the inability to reach the targeted area without communist cadre controlling and manipulating the investigations in the field. In the past fabricated reports have been used by devious communist strategists who debunked such infirm reports in order to publicly gain credit for “outstanding, superb cooperation” from challenged American officials being lectured in Hanoi while groveling before communist officials.
In 1991, reports of three alleged American POW’s held west of Danang were circulating throughout Southeast Asia. American politicians, especially Senator John Kerry, at that time the Chair of the Senate Select Committee (SSC) on POW/MIA Affairs, placed considerable priority on investigating vague, sketchy reports of three alleged live Americans dubbed “the three Amigos” being held west of Danang. I was the lead investigator for this particular case. At the same time, the SSC caused us to sidestep other reports associated with Last-Known-Alive (LKA) Americans whose names were included on a list of some 305 remaining high priority cases when the main investigation efforts finally began. Communist political cadre were intent on debunking the reports while giving credit to themselves to facilitate the manipulation of U.S./Socialist Republic of Vietnam (SRV) relations. Although some degree of genuine naiveté might have influenced Kerry at the time, it is more likely that his communist interlocutors had correctly identified and successfully exploited what they correctly perceived to be the collective American character defect of greed. In other words, Kerry was so bent on expanding economic and commercial ties with the SRV that he saw a quick debunking of live sighting reports as political cover sufficient to enable President Clinton to give away our only remaining leverage guaranteeing genuine, objective field investigations. This situation is described in detail in my book “Leave No Man Behind: Bill Bell and the search for American POW/MIAs from the Vietnam War.”
More recently the Vietnamese communists have again resorted to deception. In addition to continuing to spread vague reports of live Americans they have embarked on a “catch and release” program whereby citizens of the SRV opposing the communist one-party rule are arrested and their families threatened. When word is received in the United States concerning the arrest and detention of political dissidents the clamor for the release of those arrested begins. When U.S. officials prepare to depart for meetings in Hanoi the release of those arrested is included as talking point. Since the communists have already decided to not make any concessions concerning democracy, human rights and POW/MIA, release of at least some of the activists being held is the only concession the communists ultimately are willing to make. In the meantime they continue to charge exorbitant fees for assisting or permitting American personnel to come to the SRV to search for the bones of unaccounted-for Americans.
We should all remember why we went to Vietnam in the first place: to contain communism and bring freedom and democracy to the Vietnamese people. We can still do this if we do not go to sleep at the wheel. We should insure that we take no actions or make no statements that will encourage or inspire our fighting men and women to be come POWs. We must never forget that our objective is to make the other SOB, the enemy, the POW. If our missing men could contact us I am sure they would say “you have already killed or injured a number of fine, young Americans sent on missions to look for our bones. Please do not risk the lives of any more American personnel, especially those who will be loaded like cannon fodder onto dilapidated, Russian-made helicopters with questionable maintenance records and sent off into mountainous terrain in bad weather. You have killed enough already. And please do not let the greedy, sleazy communists extort any more money from American taxpayers by using our bones as bargaining chips. We went to Vietnam for a noble cause, please do not further degrade the sacrifice we made.”
1968 5 20 E-8 MSG John Hartley Robertson 11G5S MIA-PFD, helicopter shot down Laos; CCN, FOB1, YC566710; CH-34 shootdown in Oscar 8, 14k SE of A-102, A Shau
Case #: 1184 Status: DEAD BODY NOT RECOVERED
Name: ROBERTSON, JOHN HARTLEY
Nationality AMERICAN |Race CAUCASIAN |Blood Chit $
Service ARMY |Sex MALE |Blood type O +
Grade E7 |Hair BROWN |Complexion TAN
Eyes HAZEL |Weapon #
Serial No 24490348 |Height 74 in /1.88 mtrs |Weapon No #
Birth date 25 Oct 1936 |Weight 185 lb / 83.8 kg |Duty pos PASSENGER
Home State ALABAMA |Religion PROTESTANT |PW Camp $
Site Type: CRASH SITE
Lat/Long: 160024N / 1072353E
Military Region: 4
Mission Province: XEKONG
Mission District: KALUM
Mission Date: 20 May 1968
Mission Category: 2
Local Analysis: Near populated area.
Folders Passed: Dec 92, Jun 92, Feb 90
Additional Information Obtained: Jul 91
Vessey Case: NO
Case type: CRASH SITE
Survivability: (5) In the aircraft at the time of the crash
Vehicle Type: CH34 Serial: 4512
Crash Type: Enemy action Engine Type: R1820-84C
Call Sign: KINGBEE 1 Serial:
Year: 53 2 Serial:
# = Item has been researched but data cannot be obtained.
$ = Item is not applicable to this case.
@ or Blank = Data for item is unknown or not available.
ON 20 MAY 1968 SFC JOHN H. ROBERTSON, PASSENGER, WAS THE ONLY AMERICAN
ABOARD A VIETNAMESE AIR FORCE H34 HELICOPTER (#53-4512) ATTEMPTING TO
RESUPPLY A 5TH SPECIAL FORCES GROUP RECONNAISSANCE FORCE WHICH WAS IN
HEAVY CONTACT WITH ENEMY FORCES IN LAOS. AS THE HELICOPTER APPROACHED THE
TEAM'S LOCATION, IT WAS HIT BY ENEMY GROUND FIRE AND BEGAN LOSING POWER.
THE HELICOPTER BURST INTO FLAMES AS IT CRASHED INTO THE TREES VICINITY OF
GRID COORDINATES YC 566 610. IT BEGAN BREAKING UP AS IT HIT THE GROUND.
SEVERAL HELICOPTERS MADE LOW PASSES OVER THE CRASH SITE BUT NO SIGNS OF
SURVIVORS WERE OBSERVED.
BECAUSE OF THE ENEMY ACTIVITY IN THE AREA, NO GROUND ELEMENTS WERE ABLE TO
REACH THE WRECKAGE. (REF 1 & 2)
THIS INDIVIDUAL'S NAME AND IDENTIFYING DATA WERE TURNED OVER TO THE
FOUR-PARTY JOINT MILITARY TEAM WITH A REQUEST FOR ANY INFORMATION
AVAILABLE. NO RESPONSE WAS FORTHCOMING. SFC ROBERTSON IS CURRENTLY CARRIED
IN THE PRESUMPTIVE STATUS OF DEAD, BODY NOT RECOVERED.
REFERENCES: <1> (U) RPT, HQ USARV (AVHAG-C) W/STATEMENTS, 9 JUL 68. <2>
(U) RPT, ADJUTANT GENERAL U.S. ARMY, DD DORM 1300, 1 JUN 73. <3> JCRC LNO
090929Z OCT 91.
DURING THE 1-2 FEB 90 CONSULTATIVE MEETING, THE JCRC PASSED MAPS
ANNOTATED WITH 90 CRASH SITES LOCATED IN XIANGKHOANG, KHAMMOUAN AND
SALAVAN PROVINCES. THE LAO ACCEPTED THE MAPS AND AGREED TO STUDY THEM.
REFNO 1184 WAS ONE OF THE SITES INVOLVED.
CASE NARRATIVE 1184 WAS PASSED TO A GOVERNMENT OF LAO REPRESENTATIVE
BY THE DET 3 CDR DURING A 15 DECEMBER 1992 MEETING.
DURING THE 14TH ITERARTION FROM 17 JULY TO 12 AUGUST 1991, A MEMBER OF
THE QUANG NAM-DA NANG PROVINCE TASK TEAM INTERVIEWED A WITNESS WHO SAID ON
20 MAY 1988 ABOUT 40 HELICOPTERS LANDED IN THE HUONG SON AREA (SOUTH
WESTERN THUA THIEN-HUE PROVINCE. HE SAID MILITIA FORCES SHOT DOWN ONE UH1A
HELICOPTER. HE CLAIMED COMMUNIST FORCES DISCOVERED TWO DECOMPOSED BODIES
ON THE SAME DAY. THE HELICOPTER INCIDENT CORRELATES TO 1184 BY LOCATION,
DATE AND GENERAL TYPE OF AIRCRAFT (HELICOPTER). (REF 3)