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Deserters Among the Missing

Summary.  One of the many enduring questions that surrounds the MIA issue is that of deserters and their presence on the list of the missing from Vietnam.  This article lays out what I know about the MIA-deserter questions.  I do not present myself as an expert on the topic nor do I claim that this article is the definitive word on the topic.  This article is my recollections, supplemented with material that I have picked up from FOIA requests that I have submitted, press articles from sources that I trust, and material passed to me by qualified, reliable researchers.  Frankly, there is nothing in here that will set the world on its ear.

In my view, the fundamental questions are: 

  1. How many of the men who are listed as Missing in Action in reality are deserters? 

  2. Should they be considered as MIA the same as men who were lost in battle? 

  3. How do we know if they are not still alive, hiding out somewhere?

  The first two questions are policy matters, bordering on the philosophical and I will not attempt a response.  The final question is easy enough to answer and here is my answer:   Over the years, a small number of deserters who were listed among the missing have popped up in various places and returned to the US.  Their stories are listed below.  If one or more others were to show up, I would be the least surprised person on earth.

How Many Deserters?

In the late 1980s, when I was Chief of the DIA Special Office for POWs and MIAs, we did  a thorough scrub of the deserter records.  First, we went to each of the military services and asked for their records of men who were classified as deserters from Vietnam.  Then, we scrubbed those records, one by one, to determine as best we could what really happened to each of these men.  The answer was interesting.   But first, you will have to wade through some boring stuff.

Boring Stuff:  How the military services account for people

To understand what we encountered with our deserter analysis project, you first need to understand how the military services account for people.  Because I am a retired Army guy, my terminology will be that of the Army.  The other services operate the same way, but some use different terms.  Every military member must be accounted for by being either present for duty; sick and not on duty; temporarily separated from his/her unit for training or some other special requirement; enroute to another unit; on leave or pass; missing in action; prisoner of war; prisoner of the US military; incarcerated in a civilian prison; or absent without leave (AWOL; the Marines call it "UA,' unauthorized absence).

When an individual leaves one unit with orders to report to another unit, there must be a date when accountability shifts from the losing unit to the gaining unit.   Consider this common occurrence.  An individual is stationed in the States and receives orders reassigning him to Europe.  Enroute to Europe, he will take some leave, go to a school in the States for a few weeks, take more leave, then report to his new unit.  On whose personnel strength report does this individual appear for the period that he is on leave or in school?  What happens if he does not report to the school or to the new unit?

Reassignment orders, for both temporary and permanent reassignment, have a reporting date, the date on which you must be standing tall, duffel bag in hand, shoes shined, hair cut, brass polished, in front of your new first sergeant.  If an individual does not report on his reporting date, he is carried on the rolls of the gaining unit as AWOL.  After thirty days, he is DFR -- Dropped From the Rolls -- and reported as a deserter.  DFR is a manpower accounting practice that does two things.  First, it allows the gaining unit, which is now short one person, to request a replacement from personnel channels and, second, it allows legal action to be started against the now deserter.

What We Found

When our analysts completed work with the services, we had a list of -- and this is from my memory -- close to 4,000 individuals who had deserted from units in Vietnam.  We were shocked at this number because the official list of missing men carried -- again, this is my memory at work -- either 42 or 44 in the status of deserter.  Upon further examination, we found that what we were looking at was a function of the way the military services account for their people. 

As we tracked individual cases, we found that practically everyone of the 4,000 or so were men who were in the States (a few were in other assignments such as Germany, Japan, etc.).  They received orders to go to Vietnam, complete with a unit of assignment in Vietnam and a reporting date.  They never showed up in Vietnam.   But, because they were on orders to units in Vietnam, they were picked up on those rolls, carried as AWOL, then, after thirty days, DFR and reported.  Because they were reported as DFR by a unit in Vietnam, they showed up as being a deserter from Vietnam.

Our analysts, working with the services, scrubbed and scrubbed and the result was that, after we culled all the cases not in Vietnam, we were down to 40-something individuals who appeared, based on the information available, to have  gone over the hill while still in Vietnam.

Stories of Deserters

In the beginning of this article, I stated that some of the men carried as deserters had returned to the US in the years after the war.  Let me tell here stories of some of the men listed as deserters to illustrate the complex factors that lie behind many of these cases.

Roger Cyawr, USMC

Following our review of the deserter question, we went back to the services and asked if they had changed the status of any of the men on the list.  The Marines had recently done exactly that. 

One of the approximately 40 deserters that the records indicated had deserted in Vietnam was a Marine PFC, Roger A. Cyawr.  Here is his story.  Not too long after arriving in country Cyawr was awarded the Bronze Star for Valor; he must have been a pretty solid rifleman.  At some point he returned home on emergency leave.  While on emergency leave he applied for a hardship discharge.  The Marine Corps permitted him to remain home while waiting a decision.  Eventually, the USMC declined to approve the petition and mailed Cyawr a new port call date - - as I recall at Camp Pendleton, CA - - and a reporting date at his unit in Vietnam. 

He never made his port call for onward shipment back to Vietnam.   His unit in
Vietnam reported him AWOL when he failed to show up on the designated reporting date, and thirty days later he was DFR -- on or about 15 September 1967.  From that day on, Cyawr was listed as having deserted from his unit in Vietnam.

Approximately 25 years later, a guy named Johnson died  while eating breakfast at his home in Los Angeles County, CA.  The autopsy showed the cause of death to be an aneurysm of the brain.  The county coroner was required to notify Johnson's next of kin; however, Johnson left no record of his NOK.  Johnson's roommate had no information about a next of kin but the roommate did recall that Johnson had said a few things that led the roommate to believe that he had been in the military and may have been a Vietnam veteran.  The coroner sent Johnson's fingerprints to the FBI to see if they could find a record that might help locate the NOK.  To the coroner's (and the USMC's) surprise, the prints belonged to Cyawr.  I do not recall all the details of what happened between 1967 and Cyawr/Johnson's death, other than the fact that he had never returned to Vietnam.

Douglas Beane, USMC

Beane, too, was a USMC Private and the best records available on him indicated that he had deserted while in Vietnam.  I do not recall all his details, except that he had a record of getting in trouble; he spent a lot of time in the brig.  After his return to the US, one of our interviewers spent a lot of time interviewing Beane and here is his story as I recall it.

Beane was in the brig in Saigon and decided that he needed to escape for good (I recall that this was in 1969 but I may be wrong about that date.).  He ate something like pieces of a coathanger or some pieces of cement or something that caused him to be admitted to the  hospital.  He escaped from the hospital, which he said was easier than escaping from the brig, got phony R&R orders, went to Australia, lived there until 1986(?)  when he turned himself in to the US Embassy, Australia, and came home.  Beane had maintained some occasional contact with his family in the US and, when he learned that his father was dying, he turned himself in.

While we were interviewing him, he was housed at the USMC base at Quantico.  I do not recall if charges were preferred against him but I do recall that he was given a general discharge and released. Beane was asked if he knew of any other Americans living in Australia.  He recalled having heard stories of an American deserter named "Tex" living somewhere in northern Australia but that was the extent of his information.

Earl Clyde Weatherman, USMC

USMC Pvt Earl Clyde Weatherman is an example of a serviceman who went over the
hill, was captured, and later killed.  In fact, he went over the wall - - the wall of the Marine brig in Danang.  Weatherman was captured after escaping from the brig.   There is a persistent myth that Weatherman defected but the fact is that he soon appeared in a prison camp with other US POWs.  Unlike Garwood, who lived with the PAVN guards, carried a weapon, and went on operations with the PAVN,   Weatherman was a POW.  

He apparently disliked the Communist POW camp as much as he disapproved of the USMC brig.  One day he jumped a guard while on a work detail outside the POW camp and together with another POW tried to escape.  The whole story is that POWs from this camp were taken to a nearby village from time to time to dig manioc from village fields for food.  Two PAVN guards took Weatherman and another US POW, Dennis Hammond, to dig manioc.  One of the guards went to visit a village lady.  Weatherman and Hammond overpowered the other guard, took his weapon, and beat feet.  (NOTE:  US POWs held in this camp reported after their return that they heard artillery fire and helicopters far in the distance and they assumed that some sort of US base camp was in that direction.  Hammond and Weatherman reportedly headed in that direction.

The communist militia from a nearby Montagnard village quickly tracked down the
two escapees.  When they caught up with the escapees, one of the militiamen
shot Weatherman on the spot.  Hammond was recaptured and returned to the POW camp.   There, he told his story to the other US POWs.  Hammond later died in captivity thus we do not have his story first hand.

Update on Weatherman

In the early-to-mid 1990s a US field team searching for the grave sites of Hammond and Weatherman  interviewed the guy who led the militia group - - by then in his 70s.  He said they shot Weatherman because he was armed and they feared he might shoot them rather than surrender.  (Weatherman was carrying an SKS rifle he took from the guard he attacked).

I have heard from at least one member of the field team that they really believed that they were very close to Weatherman's grave and that if they could ever "dig a hole big enough," they would find him.  I do not know the current status (January 1999) of plans to excavate for Weatherman.  US teams have searched equally diligently for Hammond's grave site but, as of this writing, have not located him.

Mythology About Weatherman

There is a large amount of mythology about Weatherman, all of it bogus.   The principal proponents of the stories about Weatherman are Garwood and Major (Ret) Mark Smith.  These two continue to claim that Weatherman was a deserter and that he is still living in Vietnam.

There is one story that Garwood claims to have seen Weatherman in a jeep in Hanoi.  We questioned Garwood at length about that story and it clearly is bogus.   Then, there is my favorite.  I am not certain of the origin of this tale but the claim is that a montagnard from the local village was seen wearing Weatherman's shirt and, because Montagnards will not touch the possessions of the dead (that's what the story claims, I just repeat this stuff, I don't make it up), that means Weatherman is still alive.  Smith has claimed that Weatherman was in the States.  None of these claims have any merit.  Weatherman died in an escape attempt.

McKinley Nolan

The following paragraphs about McKinley Nolan were contributed by Mr. Bob Destatte and quoted here.  Begin quote of Bob Destatte's comment re:  McKinley Nolan:

McKinley Nolan was a young enlisted US Army soldier who worked in Saigon.   His
commander declared him absent without leave (AWOL) on 9 November 1967 when he failed to report back to his unit after being released from the military
stockade at Long Binh.  McKinley was an African-American.  McKinley had taken a common law wife, a Cambodian-Vietnamese woman.  There are various stories about why McKinley went AWOL.  None, to the best of my knowledge, were ever confirmed. Since none are flattering to McKinley, it would serve no purpose to repeat them here.

Not long after McKinley left his unit, the communist "Liberation Radio" began
to broadcast recordings of statements that McKinley allegedly made, and
American troops began to find communist propaganda leaflets that contained
photos of McKinley and statements he allegedly wrote - - urging American
soldiers to resist the war, etc.

McKinley and his wife and children lived in or near one of B.2 Front's camps
for American POWs near the border between Cambodia and northern Tay Ninh
Province, Vietnam.  B.2 Front was another name for the Headquarters South
Vietnam Liberation Army (SVNLA); i.e., the forward headquarters for People's
Army of Vietnam (PAVN) units operating in the approximate southern one third of
the Republic of Vietnam (RVN - - or what we used to call South Vietnam), and
the adjacent border areas in Cambodia.

When B.2 Front was preparing to release the American POWs it was holding in
early 1973 (Operation Homecoming), McKinley requested permission to remain with B.2 Front.   McKinley informed some of the returning American POWs of his
decision before they left the POW camp to travel to the release point.

In late 1974, US intelligence units received information to the effect that
sometime in 1974 McKinley become dissatisfied living with Vietnamese communist
forces.  I don't recall off hand exactly where he was living at the time;
however, it was somewhere in Cambodia, near the border with northern Tay Ninh
Province, RVN.  McKinley and his family moved to a nearby Khmer Rouge camp,
where they lived for a period of from several weeks to a few months.
Reportedly, McKinley subsequently became unhappy with his Khmer Rouge
colleagues and decided to return to the Vietnamese camp.  He reportedly
disappeared en route to the Vietnamese camp.

An experienced US Army polygraph technician administered a polygraph exam on
this person concerning this information.  The person exhibited no indications
of deception on the polygraph.

American servicemen from the Pacific Command's Joint Task Force - Full
Accounting have investigated this case in recent years (I don't have the dates
at my fingertips), and received information that tends to corroborate the
information we received in 1974.

The available evidence indicates that Khmer Rouge thugs killed McKinley Nolan
in Cambodia in very late 1974 or early 1975.

End of quote from Bob Destatte re:  McKinley Nolan

Veto Baker, US Army

Baker absented himself form his unit in Vietnam in October 1972 and was DFR.  He was living with his common-law Vietnamese wife (I do not recall if there were any children) and remained there after the US withdrawal.  In their consolidation that followed their takeover of the South in 1975, the Communists started checking up on and carefully monitoring the activities of foreigners in Vietnam.   They were especially suspicious of Americans, whom they suspected of working for the CIA as stay-behinds, and of Chinese, whom they suspected of being a potential fifth column in the event of Chinese designs on Vietnam.

Baker and his wife were arrested and released a couple of times.   Then, in 1976, the Communist began deporting foreigners in an effort to "cleanse" Vietnam of foreign elements.  Baker was arrested, taken to Saigon, turned over to the Red Cross, and sent to Thailand.  He eventually returned to the US.  I do not recall if he was subjected to any military legal actions but I do know that, in the late 1980s, the DIA office had some contact with him about his experiences while in Vietnam, 1973 - 75.  Baker had no information on other Americans in Vietnam.

Herman McDonald

I do not recall McDonald's service.  His father was American and his mother a Filipina.  As I recall, McDonald deserted or went AWOL in Vietnam and somehow made his way back to the States.  After a few months, he turned himself in and was discharged.  He then returned to Vietnam as a private citizen and moved in with the lady he had been living with while he was in Vietnam on active duty.

McDonald suffered the same fate as Veto Baker.  When the Commies took over in 1975, he was arrested then released.   Then, in 1976, he was picked up, sent to Saigon, turned over to the Red Cross, went to Thailand then on to the US.

Mr. McDonald's story did not have such a happy ending.  He was living in San Antonio as I recall and apparently he had a real way with the ladies.  He had a common-law wife and at least one girl friend.  The wife learned of one of the girl friends.  According to the story I have heard, she met McDonald one evening at the front door with her two friends, Smith and Wesson, and they did the talking.  Herman McDonald is now at rest.  In the late 1980s, his wife showed up in a refugee camp in Thailand.  I do not recall if she was approved for movement on to the US.  DIA questioned McDonald before his death; he had no information on other Americans in Vietnam.

Mateo Sabog

The case of Army Master Sergeant Mateo Sabog is a strange one, and one that is being substantially misrepresented by the "MIA activists."  Here are the facts.

The Facts

Sabog was in Vietnam, 1969 to 1970 and was scheduled to end his tour there in February 1970.  He received orders for Fort Bragg, North Carolina and never showed up at his new unit.  I am not certain if there was or was not evidence that he made his flight out of Vietnam.  Either way, he never made it to Bragg.  His new unit reported him AWOL and he was DFR.

His family protested.  They argued that it is unreasonable to conclude that a Master Sergeant with more than 20 years service (i.e., eligible to retire) would desert.  If he wanted out of the service he would simply retire and take his pension.  The next of kin (siblings) lived in Hawaii and asked Congresswoman Pasty Mink for assistance.  With her help, they convinced the Army to change Sabog's status to MIA.  Eventually (I don't recall the precise time sequences), the Army issued a presumptive finding of death. 

This is important:  In 1994,  a US field team was shown, by the Vietnamese, a grave that they (Vietnamese) claimed may be the grave of Sabog.   The grave was excavated and human remains were recovered.  Department of Defense policy is that any information that pertains to or may pertain to a missing man must be passed to his family without delay.  In accordance with this policy, the Sabog family was notified that remains, which the Vietnamese stated may be Sabog, had been recovered and were undergoing identification.   (NOTE:  This is important.  On several of the MIA activist web sites you will read the claim that the US Army Central Identification Lab -- CILHI -- identified remains as Sabog.   Not so.  The Vietnamese associated the grave with Sabog and the DoD so notified the family.  There was never a US identification of these remains as Sabog.   In fact, when the CILHI started working on the remains, it became clear that they were not Sabog.)

Then, in early 1996, an old man walked into a Social Security Administration office in Georgia and applied for Social Security benefits under the name of Mateo Sabog.  In an attempt to validate who he was, he referred the office to his family in Hawaii.  Imagine their surprise to learn that their long lost brother, reported as dead in Vietnam, was in Georgia trying to get a Social Security check.

Sabog returned to Army control and his identity was confirmed.  After some deliberation as to what to do with him, he was, I believe, permitted to retire (he had over 20 years of service).  I am not certain where he is living now.

Press Report

Here is a quoted Associated Press article on Sabog.


                                                [ap0308.96 03/09/96]
'Dead' Soldier Alive In Ga.

8 Mar 96 18:22 EST
The Associated Press.

   ROSSVILLE, Ga. (AP) -- Mateo Sabog occasionally told war stories to
   his neighbors and once confessed to police that he thought he had
   deserted the Army during the Vietnam War.   When police checked with
   military officials, however, they were told: No, the story couldn't
   be true, Mateo Sabog was dead.

   Now, it turns out the Army master sergeant -- whose name is on the
   Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington -- did indeed go AWOL and had
   been working as a companion for an elderly woman in this northwest
   Georgia town.    "This is all a shock to us," Kay Sabog, his
   sister-in-law, said in Honolulu. "We haven't heard from him for more
   than 26 years. We had no knowledge of his whereabouts or if he were
   alive."    Sabog, 73, was taken Thursday to a hospital at Fort Gordon
   near Augusta for physical and mental tests. Results won't be
   available until next week.

   Sabog's four brothers and two sisters in Hawaii thought he was dead
   until several weeks ago, when he tried to apply for Social Security
   benefits. So did the Army, which had placed his name on the
   Washington memorial.

   Without any personal identification or other records to verify his
   eligibility, Sabog apparently referred officials to his brother,

   While the Army is "treating him like someone who just returned from
   being lost," said spokesman Col. Don Maple, Sabog may be in trouble
   for deserting.   The mystery began in 1970, when Sabog stepped off a
   plane from Vietnam in California en route to a new assignment at Fort
   Bragg, N.C., and vanished. He was declared dead 17 years ago.    Last
   April, the Pentagon informed his family that remains believed to be
   Sabog's, including teeth, had been turned over by the Vietnamese
   government. Authorities haven't said why they believed the remains
   were Sabog's, since he had been seen in California.  (
This is somewhat inaccurate.      See my comments on the remains, above.)

   Using the name Robert Fernandez, Sabog had lived with Juanita Collins
   for about 10 years after caring for her ailing mother and brother in
   California for many years.   Mrs. Collins entered a nursing home last
   year, and Sabog remained alone in the home. Neighbors checked on him
   frequently in the tiny row house near a yarn manufacturing plant in
   this textile town just south of Chattanooga, Tenn.

   On Friday, the empty house was in disarray. The coffee table in the
   living room was littered with over-the-counter medicines and tissue
   boxes, open cans and empty milk jugs were scattered across the
   kitchen, and a rosary and a cross were lying on a table next to an
   unmade bed in the bedroom.

   Next-door neighbor Edna Hulsey said Sabog, known around the
   neighborhood as Bobby, was always trying to find odd jobs, but never
   had steady work. He kept the yard neat, planted a garden and rode a
   bicycle through town.   A young woman from Hawaii had visited Sabog
   in Rossville each summer for several years but the visits stopped
   several years ago, Ms. Hulsey said. Mrs. Collins had said the woman
   was Sabog's niece.

   "He thought because he was a Filipino and looked different, no one
   would have anything to do with him. But I always liked talking to
   him. He was outgoing and friendly," she said.

   All that changed about three years ago, when Sabog began to withdraw.
   He didn't want to go outside, he didn't want to talk to neighbors.
   Mrs. Collins began calling him "the old vermin."

   Around that time, Sabog called police officers to the house to report
   the theft of some tools, Ms. Hulsey said. While they were there, he
   told them he thought he might be absent without leave. He "wanted to
   make things right," Ms. Hulsey said.   Officers checked the report,
   made several calls, but were told it couldn't be, because he was

   Sabog sometimes seemed confused and didn't like talking about the war
   but once told Ms. Hulsey that he had been knocked unconscious during
   the war.    "Whenever he came to, his buddy was lying there, dead. He
   left. He started running," Ms. Hulsey said. "When he woke up, he was
   in a hospital and couldn't remember who he was. He found dog tags,
   but thought that they had come off his buddy."

   Another neighbor was more skeptical.  "I don't think he was ever
   confused," said Verlon Culver, who lives two doors down from Mrs.
   Collins' home. "He just wouldn't talk."


Sabog Mythology

The MIA "activists" have had a field day with the Sabog story.   In their view, Sabog was a returned or released or escaped POW who was spirited off by the Army into a military hospital so he could not tell his story.  The various "activist" web sites carry a long story about Sabog that is filled with misinformation and misrepresentations too long to repeat here.

The Sabog case is straightforward, albeit a bit weird.  He was a Master Sergeant with more than 20 years service when he departed VN for his next assignment in the U.S.  When he didn't show up, his new unit reported him AWOL and later dropped him from the roles as a deserter in accordance with Army regulations. 

Meanwhile, after Sabog landed in CONUS he met a woman in California and moved
in with her.  At some point, they moved to one of the Southeastern states.  He lived with, and apparently was supported by, her until she died.  After she died, Sabog found himself in need of a home and income.  He applied for Social Security.  The Social Security Administration recognized the Army had listed him as a deserter and turned him in.

Apparently based on his medical history and the fact that he was eligible to
retire at the time he disappeared, the Army decided to consider him retired as of the
date he disappeared and paid him his accumulated retirement pay.

That's it, folks.  (NOTE:  The material on MSG Sabog comes from documents that I received as a result of a FOIA request that I submitted to DoD.   Most of the information is from a couple of press briefings in the FOIA material.)

Salt and Pepper

Another of the unsolved stories of the Vietnam War has to do with persistent reports that two Americans, one Caucasian and one dark-complexioned -- nicknamed Salt and Pepper -- were seen on many occasions operating with PAVN forces in I Corps.

Reports of Salt and Pepper span several years, are focused in a fairly small area of I Corps, and all reports are quite similar.  The consistency of these reports is enough to convince US intelligence that something was going on there.  I was never part of any of the work done on Salt and Pepper.  Most of that was done during the war and, when I arrived in DIA, there was only the file (a large file) and we were not working on it, though I did read through it. 

The bottom line is that there was never any firm identification established of Salt and Pepper.  Most reports come from members of US combat units who report that, in the midst of a firefight, they observed a "black guy and a white guy" with the PAVN.  Others report seeing only the white guy, others only the black guy.  Some reports claim that one or the other of Salt and Pepper called out.   People who claimed to have seen Salt and Pepper were shown photographs of missing Americans.  While many guys picked out photos, there was no consistency to the selected photos sufficient to identify one guy as Salt or Pepper.  (Remember this:  If the Department of Defense says "We believe that this guy is working with PAVN forces," then that's a serious charge.  From my reading of the file, there just was never sufficiently consistent identification to finger anyone.

The reports consistently identified:


Salt as white; 5 feet 10 inches to 6 feet; dark hair; medium to slender build.


Pepper as African-American or Hispanic; 5 feet 6 inches or so; black hair; medium build.

So, who were Salt and Pepper?


Could have been American deserters.


Could have been French colonial troops or Legionnaires.  There were (are) some of those who stayed in Vietnam after the French withdrawal.


Could have been from some third country serving as observers or advisors.


Other theories?

(NOTE:  In late 1998, I submitted a FOIA request to the Pentagon for the Salt and Pepper file.  Have not heard from them so I have just re-submitted.  When I get the file, I will study it and revise this posting accordingly.)

"Soul City"

Another of the persistent stories is that of "Soul City."   This was supposedly an area of Saigon-Cholon where a lot of African-American servicemen, many of them deserters, lived.  The stories about Soul City are all over the place, some saying that the Military Police -- US and ARVN -- did not dare enter the area; other stories tell of rampant drug dealing and usage, black marketeering, and the like.  While I was on active duty and speaking publicly on the MIA issue, I was often asked if we believed that some of the MIAs were guys in "Soul City" who just stayed there.  Answer:  Could be.

Let me relate one story.  In 1986, LTG Leonard Perroots, USAF, Director of DIA, asked a group of retired general officers to come into DIA and review some claims being made by LTG Eugene Tighe, USAF, himself a former Director of DIA.   One of these officers was LTG John Murray, US Army, who had been the next-to-last US Defense Attaché in Saigon.  Murray was an interesting gentleman; he lived in the D.C. area and he came into our office frequently because we had asked him to help us locate and work through some Attaché Office records.  Murray told this story.

His office, and other offices in the Embassy, knew that there were Americans in Saigon (1974 - 75).  He suspected that some of these may have been deserters.

As it became clear that the Communists were massing for a major attack on the South, the Embassy began to advertise for Americans to report to the Embassy for evacuation.  This "advertising" was done through Vietnamese and English language broadcasts, newspapers, and through police and military channels.  As a result, there was a sporadic flow of people showing up at the Embassy and being sent on to Clark Air Base in the Philippines to sort out who they were.

Murray went on to say that, as the Commie forces took over the Central Highlands and headed for Saigon, the flow increased and, in his words, "You would not believe some of the guys who came out of the woodwork."  He estimated, as I recall, that about 300 - 350 "Americans" answered this call over a period of weeks and were moved on to Clark.

General Murray had no further knowledge.  We did not pursue the matter because we figured that if any of these people were deserters, they would have been scrubbed out of any MIA listings long time ago.

So, what does this have to do with "Soul City" and the possibility of American deserters living in Vietnam to this day?  Only that I would not be surprised to see  one turn up one day.

In Conclusion

My friend Bob Destatte put it well when he stated:


We have enough solid information on the circumstances of loss for most of the
approximately 40 men who are carried on the books as having deserted in Vietnam
to be confident they deserted while in Vietnam.  But we cannot confidently rule out the possibility that there is another Douglas Beane, Roger Cyawr, or Mateo Sabog somewhere out there.

The statistics don't begin to tell the story.  Each and every incident in which
an American or group of Americans became unaccounted for is unique.  The truth
and the complexity of the issue lie in the details of the individual cases.


Thanks for patiently reading this long article.  Go have a cold one, you earned it.