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Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - US Marine abandoned, killed - ex-KR

US Marine abandoned, killed - ex-KR

THE former platoon commander of Khmer Rouge forces that repulsed the May 15, 1975,

US Marine assault on the offshore island Koh Tang has told the Post that at least

one US Marine was discovered at large on the island 10 days after the American withdrawal

and subsequently killed.

The revelation is the most concrete evidence to date that US Marines were abandoned

on Koh Tang during the confusion of the American withdrawal from a battle in which

18 US servicemen remain officially "unaccountable" 25 years later.

"Ten days after the American soldiers left Koh Tang, a tree-cutting detail sighted

a figure taking water from a well," explained Mao Ran, KR platoon commander

on Koh Tang in 1975. "When we investigated the area, we found boot marks which

we knew had to belong to an American soldier because our men only wore sandals."

Ran immediately organized a search of the area, and shortly after, the abandoned

Marine was discovered by KR troops.

"The American jumped out from behind some vegetation and attempted to attack

one of our men," Ran recalled. "He was killed with a burst from an AK-47

and we buried him nearby."

Ran's admission adds credence to the belief held by many Marines who took part in

the operation of a "lost machinegun team" abandoned alive on the island

during the withdrawal.

"We were told on the USS Coral Sea that a machinegun team was killed by the

KR as we withdrew from the island, but years later, I suspect they were left behind,"

Koh Tang Marine veteran Dale L Clark told the Post. "I believe the US government

knew the team was alive on the island because I heard and saw preparations made on

the USS Coral Sea to return to the island to recover the team [but] no attempts were

made ... I suspect the US government canceled the plans not wanting to have any more

Marines killed during the recovery."

Clark's suspicions were heightened by a Feb 23 Washington Times article that described

the three abandoned Marines - Gary Hall, Joseph Hargrove and Danny Marshall - as

having survived for several days before being captured and killed.

One reportedly was shot dead after being caught stealing food from the Khmer Rouge

camp, the Times reported. The other two apparently were bludgeoned to death.

Ran, who is now a Commune Chief in rural Kampong Speu, denies any knowledge of surviving

servicemen on Koh Tang other than the one whose killing he witnessed.

Lieutenant-Colonel Franklin Childress, Public Affairs Officer of the Joint Task Force

for Full Accounting of MIAs in Hawaii, was unaware of Ran's allegations, but said

MIA investigators were closely following the case.

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