McKAY, CLYDE WILLIAM
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 Category: 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. NETWORK.
REMARKS: ESCAPED CUSTODY TO JOIN VC
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 history.
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?
[r1673.97] PROJECT X SUMMARY SELECTION RATIONALE
NAME: MCKAY Clyde W., Civilian, Merchant Seaman
OFFICIAL STATUS: MISSING
CASE SUMMARY: SEE ATTACHED
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
(C) CASE SUMMARY
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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