Published Sep 19, 2013While one of the famous U.S. Military philosophies states: "No one left behind," there's still the question of the hundreds, if not thousands, of captured soldiers during the Korean and Vietnam Wars who were never rescued and were subsequently listed as "Killed in Action." It's an interesting notion — one the U.S. Military has refuted over the years, even as conspiracy theorists and families of the POWs have begged the government for some closure to the whereabouts of those who went missing.
The Vietnam War took its toll upon Tom Faunce, who upon his return had a great deal of difficulty reintegrating into society. He devoted his life to helping others, quickly adjusting his mantra to, "no man left unloved," eventually returning to Vietnam to do missionary work. It was then he first heard a story of an elderly man named John Hartley Robertson claiming to be an American soldier forgotten by his country and presumed dead.
Director Michael Jorgensen's Unclaimed spends its first half focusing upon Tom's life. We learn of his upbringing, the stints in and out of orphanages, and the death of his father, leading to a spree of petty crimes that eventually saw him enlist in the Army as a method of making things right. Addressing his life after the war and the difficulties he encountered, the revelation that he may have found a forgotten soldier abruptly changes the course of the film's trajectory, with Tom making it his mission to provide one man the family he never had.
The latter half of the movie follows the labours of love Tom goes through to locate John Robertson, now living in rural Vietnam, who claims to be a former U.S. Special Forces pilot. His helicopter was shot down over Laos while on a classified mission and enemy forces captured him. As he was downed in such a dangerously remote location, no one was initially able to make it to the wreckage to confirm the man's death. Now aged 76, suffering from what psychologists refer to as "second-language syndrome," the man has scattered memories of the past and can only speak Vietnamese.
Unclaimed goes on to make a compelling case, highlighting evidence of Robertson's birthplace, even featuring a segment where a molar is extracted for isotope testing — the test proves he was, in fact, born in America. Robertson's former American wife and children initially agree to submit to DNA testing, but later suspiciously back out after a military official becomes involved — something that becomes an additional roadblock when Tom fights to bring Robertson home.
It's an unbelievably heartfelt story, albeit with its fair share of scepticism. Whether or not it's true or a hoax, it certainly begs to question: if he was potentially left behind, how many more like him are still out there? (Kinosmith)