Name: Clyde William McKay
Rank/Branch: Civilian
Unit: (merchant seaman)
Date of Birth:
Home City of Record: California
Date of Loss: 04 November 1970
Country of Loss: Cambodia
Loss Coordinates:
Status (in 1973): (missing) AWOL
Acft/Vehicle/Ground: Ground
Other Personnel in Incident: (none missing)
Source: Compiled by Homecoming II Project  01 April 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.
SYNOPSIS: In Vietnam, military experts devised a system to try to relieve
the battle fatigue experienced in earlier wars by those who served long
tours with their units intact. In Vietnam, soldiers were rotated after
roughly one-year tours. The practice had noble intent, but it served to
isolate the soldier and interrupted continuity. Virtually as soon as a man
learned the ropes, he was shipped home and a green replacement arrived to
fill the gap. Some were quite literally, in the jungles one day and at home
the next. The emotional impact was terrific and thousands of veterans are
dealing with it two decades later.
Vietnam was also a limited political war, and had peculiar problems: a vague
enemy, restrictive rules of engagement, an uncertain objective, non-military
State Department minds directing many aspects of the war. In certain periods
of the war, military morale was lower than perhaps any other time in our
Adding to these factors was the extremely young age of the average soldier
shipped to Vietnam. For example, the average combatant's age in World War II
was 25 years, while Vietnam soldiers were 19. The young fighters became
jaded -- or old -- or died -- long before their time.
For various reasons, some soldiers deserted or even defected to the enemy.
Their counterparts in the U.S. fled to Canada, manufactured physical or
mental problems, or extended college careers to escape the draft.
There are only a handful of American deserters or AWOL (Absent Without
Leave) maintained on missing lists. At least one of these was known to have
fallen in love with a woman whom he later learned was a communist. Another
fled because he had scrapped with a superior and feared the consequences.
This man was ultimately declared dead, and his AWOL record expunged. Most
are on the list of missing because there is some doubt that their AWOL
status is valid.
There is little information regarding those listed as AWOL on the missing
lists. For instance, the military does not maintain a missing file on
civilian Clyde W. McKay, who was reported missing on November 4, 1970.
Although McKay's name appeared on early lists, it was removed by 1982
without explanation.
According to the Defense Intelligence Agency, McKay, a merchant seaman,
hijacked the "Columbia Eagle" to the port of Sihanoukville in February 1970,
just before Prince Sihanouk was overthrown. He reportedly was given asylum
in Cambodia by the Khmer Rouge, the communist faction fighting in Cambodia.
The DIA remarks on McKay's case indicate that he was in custody and escaped
to join the Khmer Rouge. Most questions remain unanswered about McKay, his
story and his fate.
Some of the reports among the over 10,000 received relating to Americans
missing or prisoner in Southeast Asia have to do with deserters, although
there is no evidence they have been asked if they want to come home. In
light of the amnesty granted draft dodgers by the United States Government,
can we be less forgiving of them?
                                 PROJECT X
                        SUMMARY SELECTION RATIONALE
NAME: MCKAY Clyde W., Civilian, Merchant Seaman
RATIONALE FOR SELECTION: Mr. McKay, an alleged mutineer, escaped from the
protective custody of the Cambodian, government with the stated intention
of joining the Khmer Communists forces. There is no report of his death.
REFNO: 1673 2 Apr 76
1. (C) On 13 March 1970 Seaman Clyde W. McKay, Jr., was a civilian
crewmember aboard the SS COLUMBIA EAGLE which was carrying a cargo of
explosives to South Vietnam. He hijacked the vessel and forced the other
crewmembers to sail the craft to Cambodia where he turned it over to the
Cambodian Government. Mr. McKay was last seen in Phnom Penh in November
1970 when he escaped from the protective custody of the Cambodian
Government with the stated intentions of joining the Khmer Communist
forces. Several reports since that time have indicated that he may still be
in Cambodia in the company of a US Army deserter working with the Khmer
Rouge. However, no positive proof of his activities or his location have
been received. (Ref 1 & 2)
2. (U) 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. Seaman McKay is currently carried
in the status of Missing.
1. MSG (U), AMEMB PHNOM PENH, 260910Z Mar 70.
2. MSG (C), DIA, Wash D.C., (IR EVAL #6-918'0582-74), 051554Z Aug 74.
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