The Clash, Combat Rock, the Khmer Rouge and a Mysterious Vietnam War Disappearance.
The Clash playing live in Boston Massachusetts, USA in 1979 (Bob Gruen).
On the Clash’s Combat Rock album, released in 1982, there’s a song called Sean Flynn (although my favourite tracks on that album are Know Your Rights and Rock The Casbah.)
The story of Sean Flynn involves an interesting Punk/Cambodia/Khmer Rouge/Vietnam War link, and all of those topics are mentioned in my Punk and New Wave Memoir, Bombed Out!.
The Clash’s song is (obviously) about Sean Flynn, who was 28 when he disappeared inside Cambodia on April 6, 1970, but his body has never been found and he was declared legally dead in 1984.
The only child of actor Errol Flynn, Sean became a freelance photojournalist during the Vietnam War, often putting himself in harm’s way, by going on tough assignments with US Special Forces and indigenous fighters, and he acquired a reputation as a brilliant war photographer.
On April 6, 1970, while traveling by motorcycle in Cambodia, Flynn, on an assignment for Time magazine, and another photo journalist, Dana Stone (on assignment for CBS News) disappeared.
They were part of a larger group of journalists who’d driven out of Phnom Penh heading towards Saigon in Vietnam, for a press conference. Most of the reporters travelled in large limousines, but Flynn and Stone had chosen to travel by themselves on motorbikes.
They headed towards a checkpoint manned by the Viet Cong, and they were never seen again.
Considerable time, money and effort has been spent over the years trying to find them or their remains but no trace of them has even been discovered.
In March 2010, a British team searching for Flynn’s body thought they’d found him, when they uncovered the remains of a Western hostage executed by the Khmer Rouge in eastern Kampong Cham province, Cambodia, but they were checked for DNA and subsequently found not to be Sean Flynn’s remains.
Whilst the photographers may have been captured by the North Vietnamese, it’s almost certain they were killed by the more ruthless Khmer Rouge, whose track record in cold-blooded, senseless murder of foreigners and their own people inside Cambodia was second-to-none.
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