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March 30, 2010

Vermont War Photographer's Remains May Finally Be Found

[Ed. Note: Contributing writer Kevin J. Kelley sent us this post, via email.]

Dana-photographerAlmost 40 years after the disappearance of Vermont-born combat photographer Dana Stone (pictured), news from Cambodia is inspiring guarded hope that his remains may finally be found.

Stone, a UVM dropout from Wilder, chronicled the U.S. wars in Southeast Asia for five years, first as a freelance photojournalist and later as a CBS News staffer. His work was widely published; one shot of a GI under fire in a foxhole wound up on the cover of Time magazine.

Although he has never been memorialized in his home state, Stone ranks as “one of the greatest war photographers who ever lived,” in the opinion of Perry Deane Young, a Vietnam war reporter who wrote a 1975 book about Stone entitled Two of the Missing.

Sean Flynn, son of Hollywood swashbuckler Errol Flynn, disappeared with Stone. Also a photojournalist, Flynn and his buddy Dana roared off on a pair of red Honda motorcycles on April 6, 1970, in reckless search of a communist guerrilla squad known to be operating along Highway One in eastern Cambodia. The two were never seen again. Flynn was 28; Stone was 30.

On Monday, however, an Associated Press correspondent in Cambodia reported that Flynn's remains may have been found in what could be a mass grave. 

A pair of “bone hunters” have handed over to the U.S. embassy in Phnom Penh skeleton fragments and teeth they identified as Flynn's. An embassy spokesman said the remains discovered by Australian David MacMillan and Briton Keith Rotherman were sent to the Hawaii-based Joint POW/MIA Accounting Command for forensic analysis.

But Tim Page, another Vietnam-era combat photographer and a friend of Stone's and Flynn's, says he's worried that the mechanical excavator used by the bone hunters may have damaged the burial site. Page told the AP that nine foreigners, mostly journalists, are thought to have been held and possibly executed in that general area.

I wrote about Dana Stone's life for Seven Days after returning from a 2005 trip to Vietnam and Cambodia. Photos of and by Stone are featured in one of the first exhibits encountered by a visitor to War Remnants Museum in Saigon.

That five-year-old story needs a sad update. It mentions Dana's younger brother, Tom Stone, who spent eight years circling the globe on foot and was then on his third tour of duty in Afghanistan as a U.S. Army medic. Tom Stone, a Tunbridge resident, was killed by friendly fire in 2006. *

* This post has been corrected.

I've been fascinated with Sean Flynn forever due to his awesome Dad, so cool to know the VT connection.

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