FLYNN, SEAN LESLIE
Name: Sean Leslie Flynn Rank/Branch: U.S. Civilian Unit: Free Lance Photo/journalist working for Time Magazine Date of Birth: 31 May 1941 Home City of Record: Date of Loss: 06 April 1970 Country of Loss: Cambodia Loss Coordinates: 110236N 1060419E (XT171209) Status (In 1973): Prisoner Of War Category: 1 Acft/Vehicle/Ground: Honda motorbike
Other Personnel in Incident: with Flynn: Dana Stone (missing); same day at same grid coordinates: Claude Arpin; Akira Kusaka; Yujiro Takagi (all missing)
Source: Compiled by Homecoming II Project 01 March 1991 from one or more of the following: raw data from U.S. Government agency sources, correspondence with POW/MIA families, published sources, interviews. Updated by the P.O.W. NETWORK 2010.
REMARKS: DEAD/6 918 6735 74
SYNOPSIS: Photo journalists Sean Flynn and Dana Stone left Phnom Penh on rented Honda motorbikes to find the front lines of fighting in Cambodia. Traveling southeast on Route One near a eucalyptus plantation in eastern Cambodia, the two men were stopped at a check point at grid coordinates XT171209 in Svay Rieng Province, Cambodia, and led away by elements of the Viet Cong Tay Ninh Armed Forces and elements of the combined North Vietnamese-Viet Cong Ningh Division based in Cambodia.
On the same day, French journalist Claude Arpin and Japanese correspondents Akira Kusaka and Yujiro Takagi arrived by auto at the same location on Route 1. Details are sketchy regarding these foreign nationals, but by 1988, they were still classified as missing.
Sean Flynn is the son of actor Erroll Flynn. Although Flynn had spent much of his life in California and New York, his mother, Lili Loomis, maintained homes both in Palm Beach and Ft. Dodge, Iowa. Flynn was on a photo contract to Time Magazine, and his friend Dana Stone was on contract to CBS to cover American fighting in Cambodia. Both men were "veterans" of combat news.
Stone attended school in New Hampshire, but his home was in Vermont, where his parents resided. He had been in the U.S. Navy at the time of the Bay of Pigs incident. Both men frequently travelled with military units on patrol and operations. The Marines who knew Dana Stone called him, "Mini-Grunt".
Information obtained from indigenous sources indicated that Stone and Flynn were executed in mid-1971 in Kampong Cham Province, Cambodia.
Various sources, including an intercepted radio message from COSUN, the Viet Cong high command, indicate that Flynn and Stone survived. One source reported that he had seen "a group of very long haired, bearded, tall prisoners near Minot, Cambodia" who were identified as "imperialist journalists". Over the years, meanwhile, there has been occasional word from isolated Cambodian villages that someone saw the "movie star" who is being held prisoner by the Khmer Rouge.
Flynn's colleagues have said, "If anyone is equipped to survive...years of hardship in the jungle, it's Sean Flynn...he's very much an expert at jungle survival."
Flynn, Stone, Arpin, Kusaka and Takagi are among 22 international journalists missing in Southeast Asia, most known to have been captured. For several years during the war, the correspondents community rallied and publicized the fates of fellow journalists. After a while, they tired of the effort, and today these men are forgotten by all but families and friends.
Tragically, nearly the whole world turns its head while thousands of reports continue to flow in that prisoners are still held in Southeast Asia. Cambodia offered to return a substantial number of remains of men it says are Americans missing in Cambodia (in fact the number offered exceeded the number of those officially missing). But the U.S. has no formal diplomatic relations with the communist government of Cambodia, and refused to directly respond to this offer. Although several U.S. Congressmen offered to travel to Cambodia to receive the remains, they have not been permitted to do so by the U.S.
CONUNDRUM OF MIA VIETNAM NEWSMAN SOLVED EXCLUSIVE TO THE SPOTLTGHT MIKE BLAIR, May 20, 1991
The mystery surrounding the disappearance of Sean Flynn, son of the late Hollywood actor, Errol Flynn, in communist Cambodia during the Vietnam War has been solved. But the U.S. State Department has failed to confirm it.....
========================= From: Zalin Grant Sent: Wednesday, February 21, 2001 6:32 AM Subject: Missing Journalists
February 20, 2001
To: Washington, D.C.
From: Zalin Grant Journalist/Author Paris, France
Subj: Journalists Missing in Cambodia
From January 19 to February 13, 2001, my colleague Sos Kem and I conducted an investigation in Cambodia concerning the approximately 17 international journalists who disappeared in 1970, including three American citizens--Sean Flynn for Time magazine, Dana Stone for CBS-TV News, and Terry Reynolds for UPI.
Sos Kem is a naturalized American citizen and the only Cambodian to serve as a U.S. Foreign Service officer during the war. I spent five years in Indochina as an army intelligence officer and then journalist, and later ran an investigation in 1970 and 1973 in Cambodia on the missing newsmen.
I have already provided much of the information in this report to the U.S. Defense Department's Joint Task Force--Full Accounting (JTF-FA) in a carefully hedged fashion, and my intention here is to lay out the same information in a more expanded and informal manner for several of you who have the background to make your own evaluation.
We established with reasonable certainty that the journalists were held at a Khmer Rouge camp near Kratie City from mid-1970 until early 1975, when they were executed and the camp was closed down and destroyed by the Khmer Rouge. We also established the probable gravesite of the journalists, which is several hundred meters from where they were held.
The camp was located at Grid Coordinates XU 154815, four kilometers east of Kratie City on Route 13, in the northwest corner of an abandoned airstrip. The area is easily identifiable on a 1:50,000 U.S. Army map, Sheet 6233 IV, Series L7016, 48P-XU. The probable gravesite is north of Route 13 and easily accessible from the road. The site has not been tilled or disturbed in the intervening years, and there are no mines or other dangers in the area.
How and Where Were the Journalists Captured?
Most of the newsmen were captured within a two-day period at the same place--a longtime VC checkpoint on Route One in Svay Rieng province, a few miles from the Vietnam border. They were captured by elements of the Tay Ninh Provincial Security Battalion (Vietnam) and 9th VC/NVA Division. In addition, there were a few Khmer Rouge soldiers in the area.
A CIA-trained Vietnamese intelligence officer and I interviewed eyewitnesses to the journalists' capture in April and May 1970, several weeks after they were taken. The Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA) team went over the same ground after the JTF-FA was established in 1992 and interviewed many of the same sources. Two years ago, the DIA team came up with an additional eyewitness--a member of a Khmer Rouge squad who had been on the scene. The details of his account, as recorded in a DIA report that I have, coincided almost precisely on every point with the information the Vietnamese intelligence officer and I had collected in 1970.
Then What Happened to the Journalists?
They were almost immediately moved to the Kratie area. An NVA lieutenant who defected saw two of six journalists being held in a house near Kratie at the end of May 1970. The North Vietnamese was interviewed and given a lie detector test by the 525th MI Group in Saigon, which he passed. The JTF-FA did not have this official 525th MI report, and I gave it to them in Phnom Penh.
My 1973 Report to the Cronkite Committee
An eyewitness saw approximately ten of the journalists at the Khmer Rouge Camp (XU 154815) in mid-1972. He was a Cambodian who had long worked on rubber plantations in the Mimot-Chup area. The Khmer Rouge took him in 1971 to the XU camp for refresher training in rubber production and he later managed a rubber plantation for them, overseeing 455 workers. He defected because he wanted to join his family. I interviewed him extensively in Phnom Penh in April 1973. I considered him to be highly credible.
Thus I returned to Cambodia in January 2001 with the ultimate idea of checking out this report of the XU camp in Kratie. I told Sos Kem in general terms about the 1973 report but asked him not to read it until we were through with our work. I didn't want him inadvertently to nudge anybody into telling us what we wanted to hear by using specific details about the camp, and I wanted to make sure that he drew his own conclusions rather than be influenced by what I believed. Although Walter Cronkite put this file into the public record when he testified before a congressional committee in 1976, the JTF-FA did not have the report, nor did they know about the XU camp in Kratie.
My point of confusion was this: If the Vietnamese had captured and moved the journalists to Kratie, how did they wind up in Khmer Rouge hands? Pen Sovann answered the question.
Interview with Penn Sovann January 27, 2001
Penn Sovann was a Khmer Rouge propaganda officer who later defected to the Vietnamese and was installed by them as the first prime minister after they drove the Pol Pot forces out of Phnom Penh in January 1979. He later clashed with the Vietnamese and they threw him in jail for six years. He is well known to U.S. government officials, and has cooperated with the JTF-FA on finding the remains of U.S. Military MIAs.
Pen Sovann said he learned from Ieng Sary and his wife Ieng (n‚e Khieu) Thearith in July 1970 that the journalists were being held at the XU camp in Kratie. At the time, Sovann and the Sarys were at Khmer Rouge headquarters farther north, in Ratanakiri province. Ieng Sary later became the Khmer Rouge foreign minister, but at the time, according to Sovann, he and his wife (whose sister was married to Pol Pot) were in charge of intellectual affairs and thus the journalists fell under their responsibility.
Pen Sovann said the XU camp was an important liaison station with the Vietnamese where weapons were transferred to the Khmer Rouge. It was also used as a training center. As I understood him, he indicated that the Vietnamese effectively controlled the camp until after the 1970 Lon Nol coup, when they increasingly transferred control to the Khmer Rouge. Thus the Vietnamese didn't transfer the journalists to Khmer control--they actually transferred the XU camp and everything that went with it to them.
This occurred in mid-1970 when the Khmers who went to Hanoi for training after the end of the 1954 French war returned to Cambodia to join the Khmer Rouge. Sovann said Ieng Sary was in charge of greeting and giving the Hanoi Khmers their assignment, and that he assigned Prey Muth as the commander of the XU camp. Prey Muth, whom Sovann knew personally, was originally from Takeo and had been a schoolteacher in Phnom Penh at the time he joined the Khmer Rouge. In addition to Khmer and Vietnamese, he spoke English and French.
Pen Sovann told us what he wanted to tell us and didn't go any further. He said the XU camp was closed and the journalists were executed in 1975, when the Pol Pot victory appeared imminent, and when Pol Pot began to purge and execute the Hanoi Khmers. Prey Muth was executed in 1976.
I asked Pen Sovann why he hadn't disclosed his information about the journalists before. He said none of the Americans he had dealt with had asked about civilians, that they seemed only to be interested in military MIAs. He said he would have told them if they had asked.
After thinking about it, I decided that the matter was probably more complicated than that. Sovann repeatedly asked me not to tell anyone what he said about the Sarys telling him about the newsmen. He hates Ieng Sary and his wife, who he believes ordered the execution of his older brother by having him buried alive. I don't think Pen Sovann was ready to reveal what he knew about the journalists while Ieng Sary and his wife were still leading the Khmer Rouge and undoubtedly able to have him assassinated. Now that they are under the Hun Sen government control, he is ready to settle old scores. He was too smart to think that I wouldn't reveal what he told me about the Sarys. In any case, I decided to see what I could get out of the Sarys themselves.
Interview with Ieng Say and his wife Ieng (Khieu) Thearith February 5, 2001
LTG Pol Saroeun told Sos Kem that he would set up the interview for me with the Sarys but he was sure they wouldn't tell me anything. I didn't think they would either, especially if I went in and asked them directly about the journalists. They wanted to limit it to a half-hour but Sos argued for an hour, and that's what we got on tape, plus photos.
They started off by saying that his wife would translate from English in Khmer for him, because he had lost his English. When she saw that I was going to be a polite but aggressive interviewer (they were both visibly nervous about the interview), she told Sos that she couldn't keep up and that he should translate. He told me later that she had translated perfectly everything I'd said to that point, she just didn't want to do it. I then asked Ieng Sary a question directly in French and caught him off guard. He replied in French, and from then on we spoke a combination of French, English and Khmer.
Anyway, I got them to admit two things without their knowing why I was asking. They confirmed that they were both in Ratanakiri province in July 1970, as Pen Sovann said they were. Ieng Sary also admitted that he "greeted" the Hanoi Khmers when they came back after the Lon Nol coup, but said he didn't know Prey Muth or anything about the journalists and the XU camp. He said, "Nuon Chea will know about that."
I believe it was as Pen Sovann said: The Sarys had responsibility in the Khmer Rouge leadership for the journalists shortly after they were captured, but then Sary became foreign minister, and it was probably Nuon Chea or Pol Pot himself who ordered their execution after it appeared there would be no value in holding them longer since they had won the war. In any event, Pol Pot and the leadership knew exactly who and where the journalists were from the beginning. Pol Sovann says the official line was that the journalists were CIA agents but he didn't believe that and doesn't think the Sarys or anyone else in the leadership believed it either.
Trip to Kratie and the XU Camp February 2, 2001
The police commissioner of Kratie had arranged, at my request, for me to interview two rice farmers from the village closest to the XU camp. I didn't like the way it started off because I had to give $50 to the police commissioner and ten dollars each to the two sources before I even talked to them. We had already visited the airstrip. I thought my 1973 source said the XU camp was in the northeast corner of the airstrip--and, indeed, we had found the remains of a camp there.
When the two sources told me that there was no Khmer camp in the northeast corner of the airstrip, I argued with them and was ready to give up the interview in disgust. In the spirit of proving me wrong, they said, no, that was the remains of an old Japanese-built camp I had seen. The real Khmer Rouge XU camp, they said, was in the northwest corner of the airstrip. It turned out that I was confused. My 1973 source hadn't specified the location of the XU camp other than to say it was at the edge of the airstrip. What he actually said was that the journalists were held in a long narrow building in the "northeast corner of the compound." Although only foundation remains are left, the camp was obviously as my 1973 source described it, and the building had been where he said it was.
I asked to confirm the information about the XU camp with a village elder--someone who wasn't a paid source and someone who wasn't expecting us. Sos Kem is quite good at talking to all kinds of Cambodians--a little to my surprise, I admit, since I thought he might be limited to Phnom Penh-type people. Not to detract from his innate talents, he did extensive interview work with refugees on the Vietnam border in the '90s when he was assigned to the U.S. Embassy in Phnom Penh, and so he knows how to deal.
Sos Kem confirmed through the village elder, 80, the details of the XU camp. He said he did not join the Khmer Rouge but that he willingly cooperated with them, and that both Vietnamese and Khmer Rouge soldiers used his home as a billet. The Lon Nol government conceded the Kratie area to the Khmer Rouge early on, and they hardly bothered to take security precautions. The 27 U.S. military POWs who were repatriated at Loc Ninh, Vietnam, in 1973 after the cease-fire, were grouped and held in the Kratie area. The preponderance of reports collected by the DIA, CIA, and myself from 1970-2000 placed the journalists in the Kratie area.
After we interviewed the village elder, Sos Kem stopped to chat informally with a group of men gathered in the social area under the stilted house. During the conversation, one of the men, Ban Peov, 39, volunteered the information that he had seen the bodies of ten or more people who were held and then executed at the XU camp during the period between 1973 and 1975. He could not pin down the date any closer.
Ban Peov saw the bodies when they floated to the surface during the rainy season (March-November). He was in the company of two Khmer Rouge, one of whom later died in action, the other of natural causes. He was between the age of 11 and 13 when he made the reported sighting. The Khmer Rouge had come to put branches over the de-submerged remains, but didn't try to rebury them.
At first Ban Peov told us these were "foreigners" executed by the Khmer Rouge. When we quizzed him closely, he backed off and said that a Khmer Rouge cadre identified them as "intellectuals, important people from Phnom Penh," and from this information he deduced they were foreigners. Whatever the case, the observation of the bodies obviously made an indelible impression upon Ban Peov, for he led us without hesitation by motorbike to the alleged site, which turned out to be approximately 200 meters north and across Route 13 from the XU camp.
Ban Peov is a pleasant-natured rice farmer with seven years of schooling and six children. Whether his information is correct or not, his sincerity was unquestionable. He says he will be glad to cooperate with JTF-FA is any excavations are carried out. Col. Chum Soyath of the POW/MIA Committee and Mr. Chong Seang Hak, police commissioner of Kratie, were present during our interview, and can locate the gravesite, which is easily accessible. It has been undisturbed in the intervening years (it belongs to no one), and there are no mines or other dangers in the area. I have passed on the coordinates of the gravesite to the JFT-FA.
Larry Humphreys was a U.S. Army deserter in Thailand who made his way to Cambodia. Clyde McKay was one of two hijackers of a civilian freighter which he directed to Sihanoukville. The Cambodians arrested both Americans after the Lon Nol coup in 1970. They were first kept on a boat in the Mekong, but several American anti-war activists passing through Phnom Penh from Hanoi protested their treatment, and the government put them on loose house arrest.
Louise Stone--Dana Stone's wife--exchanged visits with them in Phnom Penh several times. They told her they wanted to join the Khmer Rouge as "freedom fighters." She told them about Dana Stone and Sean Flynn, and advised them to pretend to be journalists if they decided to escape their guards and leave for Khmer Rouge territory--which they did, in late 1970.
Reports shortly thereafter began popping up about two "journalists" being held in the area where Flynn and Stone disappeared. The DIA assumed they were Flynn and Stone. The two were executed after an escape attempt in February 1971. Their two Khmer killers later dug up their remains and tried to sell them to the Cambodian government for ten thousand dollars in gold. The government ran a sting operation and captured the men. They turned the remains over the Americans but it appears the Central Identif... [the rest of the email is unavailable. ----------------------------------------------------------------------------
Searchers: Remains of Errol Flynn's son found
Forensic tests will be conducted on what two searchers believe are the remains of photographer Sean Flynn, son of Hollywood star Errol Flynn, who disappeared during the Cambodian War 40 years ago.
Searchers: Remains of Errol Flynn's son found
Photographer Sean Flynn disappeared during Cambodian War
The Associated Press
updated 10:43 a.m. CT, Mon., March. 29, 2010
PHNOM PENH, Cambodia - Forensic tests will be conducted on what two searchers believe are the remains of photographer Sean Flynn, son of Hollywood star Errol Flynn, who disappeared during the Cambodian War 40 years ago, the U.S. Embassy said Monday.....
I am a producer for the film The Road To Freedom. The film tells of the disappearance of Sean Flynn and Dana Stone. We enjoyed the article written on your site and found it very informative. Our feature stays close to the known facts and we hope we paid service to these brave men. Below is a link to our trailer and our film can be found on netflix. Keep up the good work.
Blu de Golyer