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In 1967, US Army Private McKinley Nolan vanished near the Vietnam-Cambodia border. This African-American son of an East Texas sharecropping family is officially the last unaccounted-for US ground soldier from the Vietnam War. The Army claims he was radicalized, deserted and joined the Viet Cong before disappearing into Cambodia. Mary, McKinley’s wife, and Michael, McKinley’s younger brother, never believed it. To them, McKinley was a patriotic soldier who earned a Purple Heart: he could never be a traitor to his country. For 40 years, they held out hope that someday they would see him again. Then, in 2005, while revisiting the battlefields of his youth, retired US Army Lt. Dan Smith claimed to have encountered the elusive McKinley Nolan in Vietnam, alive.

The Disappearance of McKinley Nolan is a feature length documentary that follows the Nolan family’s epic journey into the heart of darkness. Michael Nolan, carrying deep emotional scars from McKinley's disappearance, sets out for Vietnam with Dan Smith. Mary, a woman of strong will and faith, has remained married to McKinley all these years, and holds out hope that the team will return to Texas with her husband. Following leads from journalist Richard Linnett, who has been trying to solve the mystery of McKinley Nolan for ten years, Michael and Dan trace McKinley’s steps from the jungles of Vietnam to the killing fields of Cambodia, meeting people McKinley encountered along his journey. Forty years later, the pain and suffering of the war continues: for the Nolan family, for the American vet who remains haunted by Vietnam, for the former Viet Cong cadres, for the former Khmer Rouge guards and perpetrators of genocide, and for their victims. The story of McKinley Nolan and his family’s search for answers unfolds as a mysterious fever dream about doubt, longing and the will to believe. At its core, McKinley Nolan is a deeply personal exploration of the long-term effects of war.


Michael Nolan: McKinley Nolan's brother

Mary Nolan: McKinley Nolan's wife

Frank Wagner

Richard Linnett: Journalist researching McKinley's story

Lt. Dan Smith: Vietnam Veteran

Roger Nolan: McKinley Nolan's son

R.L. Brown: Mary Nolan's brother

Robert Lee Brown Sr.: Mary Nolan's Father

Congresswoman Sheila Jackson Lee: Assisted the Nolans

Thach Quang: McKinley Nolan's adopted son

Ms. Hoa

Mr. and Mrs. Cong

Benjamin David Reich: Interpreter

Cham Sone: Former Khmer Rouge guard

Nguyen Van Tinh

Dang Thuan Hoa

Nguyen Van Thien

Nguyen Van Tuoi

Dao Sy To

Tit Ream

Thol Koung

Ung Chun

Ou Seng Heang

Ta Sonn

Sarah Thomas: Interpreter

Denny Danielson



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