Name: Tomohara Ishii
Unit: CBS News
Date of Birth:
Home City of Record: Japan
Date of Loss: 31 May 1970
Country of Loss: Cambodia
Loss Coordinates: 110519N 1044119E (VT660257)
Status (in 1973): Prisoner of War
Other Personnel In Incident: Welles Hangen (American); Roger Colne (French);
Kojiro Sakai; Yoshihiko Waku; (all Japanese correspondents); 2 other foreign
correspondents (remains recovered)
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: Welles Hangen, an NBC News correspondent, Roger Colne, a sound
technician for NBC, Kojiro Sakai, a sound technician for CBS, Yoshihiko
Waku, a cameraman for NBC, and Tomohara Ishii, a cameraman for CBS, and
three other foreign correspondents comprised a group of NBC, CBS and foreign
newsmen when the group was ambushed about 32 miles south of Phnom Penh near
Angtassom, in Kampot Province, Cambodia, on May 31, 1970. The newsmen were
heading for the front lines of fighting in Cambodia, looking for a story as
military action in Cambodia had stepped up considerably at this time.
One of the automobiles was hit by a B-40 rocket, killing all three
occupants. This group was reported to contain a CBS crew, including one
individual named Syvertsen.
The group's Cambodian driver, who escaped capture, said that Hangen and two
foreign journalists riding in the same car were taken alive to a house about
three miles from the site of the attack. Other reports describe the three
and "Hangen and his crew," which presumably include Hangen, Colne, and Waku,
all NBC employees.
CIA located a Cambodian peasant in early 1971 who had been held overnight
with and could identify photos of Colne, Hangen, Sakai, Ishii and Waku. The
peasant stated that they had been held 3 miles from capture then moved the
next morning to a pagoda called Wat Po. The Cambodian knew personal details
about each of the five journalists.
Information obtained by a Khmer Rouge rallier, and substantiated by reports
from villagers, indicated that Hangen and three others were held in the
house for three days before being taken out and executed. The bodies of two
newsmen were recovered from a gravesite near the ambush location, but
Hangen, Colne, Ishii, Sakai and Waku are still missing and were listed as
Prisoners of War.
Author Zalin Grant interviewed returned ARVN POWs in early 1973 and released
the following data supporting other stories indicating journalists could
still be alive. "Returned ARVN POWs sighted the (unnamed) journalists on
Route #7, 17 miles south of Snoul in Eastern Cambodia 7-72 in ox-carts
pulled by Hondas; another said a VC captain near Minot, eastern Cambodia
(where military American POWs were released from in 1973) reported the
(unnamed) journalists held in 7-72 had cameras; Cambodian national saw
(unnamed) journalists in 6-72 at Prince Sihanouk's FUNK camp south of Route
#13 in Kratie Province; returned ARVN POWs said a guard told them in 3073
that the journalists were still alive and held in their area." Walter
Cronkite reported a sighting of (unnamed) journalists in January, 1974.
Whether Grant's and Cronkite's information relates to the journalists
missing from May 31, 1970, is not known. The five are among 22 international
journalists still 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
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
By 1991, well over 10,000 reports regarding missing Americans have been
received which convince many experts that hundreds of Americans are still
alive in Southeast Asia. Whether the newsmen ambushed in Cambodia on May 31,
1970 are among them is unknown. Whatever their identities or nationality,
they deserve the basic human right of freedom.