|Unit:||Photographer for The Sunday Observer|
|Date of Birth:||26 November 1947 (Melbourne, Australia)|
|Home of Record:||Melbourne, Australia|
|Date of Loss:||26 April 1972|
|Country of Loss:||Cambodia|
Click coordinates to view maps
|Status in 1973:||Prisoner of War|
|Other Personnel In Incident:||Terry L. Reynolds and Chhim Sarath (missing)|
SYNOPSIS: While working as a freelance photographer for The Sunday Observer in Cambodia in late 1970, Alan Hirons conceived the idea of writing his own book on the Vietnam War. In late March 1972, he returned to his family home in Melbourne, Australia for a brief visit. While there he promised his widowed mother, Pauline Hirons, that he would write every week, then flew back to Phnom Penh on 16 April 1972. She received one postcard from him.
On 26 April 1972, only ten days after returning to Cambodia; Alan Hirons, Terry Reynolds, a freelance reporter for UPI; and Chhim Sarath, a Cambodian photographer; were traveling through the Cambodian countryside in search of the war. As they drove south along Route 1, they ran into a roadblock and were immediately ambushed by Khmer Rouge forces. Later their Peugeot automobile was found abandoned at the site of the roadblock. While the communists took the two journalists, they left all of their equipment and personal gear in the vehicle.
The location of the ambush was along Route 1 approximately 22 miles southeast of Phnom Penh that ran to the south-southwest from the capital city, Prey Veng Province, Cambodia. The roadblock was also located 32 miles north of the southern border between Cambodia and South Vietnam, 44 miles west of the eastern border between those two countries and 54 miles east of Tay Ninh, South Vietnam. The road paralleled the west bank of the Mekong River as it flowed through the marshy, flat and populated countryside that was laced with rivers, canals and waterways of all sizes.
Villagers from a nearby hamlet reported that Terry Reynolds, Alan Hirons and Chhim Sarath were captured and led away at gunpoint by the Khmer, but they were unable to provide any information about where the journalists were being taken.
In May 1972, a Viet Cong (VC) rallier stated that he saw two Caucasians in a communist prison camp whose physical descriptions matched Terry Reynolds and Alan Hirons. Another live sighting report identified Terry Reynolds as the prisoner being held in Sampan Loeu Hamlet, about 40 kilometers southeast of Phnom Penh in June 1972. The second report made no mention of Alan Hirons.
Terry Reynolds and Alan Hirons are among some 22 international journalists and photographers who disappeared throughout Southeast Asia, many of whom were confirmed Prisoners of War. Ironically, in part because of their special status as civilian members of the press from different nations, they were ignored by the negotiators brokering the Paris Peace Accords. Because of their special status, the journalists who worked to document the war were not included in the agreement that brought an end to the American military involvement in Southeast Asia.
There is no question the Khmer captured Terry Reynolds, Alan Hirons and Chhim Sarath, and that the three men were under the communists' control for some time afterward. If they died in captivity, each man has a right to have his remains returned to his family, friends and country. However, if they survived imprisonment and the genocide committed by Pol Pot during his reign of terror in the 1970s, their fate like that of other civilian and military prisoners, could be quite different.
Since the end of the Vietnam War well over 21,000 reports of American prisoners, missing and otherwise unaccounted for have been received by our government. Many of these reports document LIVE American Prisoners of War remaining captive throughout Southeast Asia TODAY.
Civilians, like military men, were called upon to operate in many dangerous circumstances. As "non-combatants," they may or may not have been prepared to be wounded, killed or captured. It probably never occurred to them that they could be abandoned by their country.