Mystery of GI Who Vanished in Vietnam Deciphered in Moving Documentary

McKinely Nolan circa 1960s
McKinley Nolan circa 1960s

The Legend of U.S. Vietnam War Solider McKinley Nolan Lives


‘The Disappearance of McKinley Nolan,’ Documentary Journey Into the Heart of Darkness, Plays September 26 at San Francisco Film Society


Private McKinley Nolan vanished forty years ago in Vietnam on the Cambodian frontier. Some say he was captured, some say he was a traitor, some even say he was an American operative.

The US Army officially claims he was radicalized and went native, joining the Viet Cong and later encountering the Khmer Rouge. In 2006, retired US Army Lt. Dan Smith, revisiting the battlefields of his youth, may have encountered the elusive McKinley, alive. So began a journey into the heart of darkness.

The Disappearance of McKinley Nolan, Henry Corra’s haunting meditation on war, memory and love plays Monday, September 26 at the San Francisco Film Society’s new theatrical home, San Francisco Film Society

The search for missing Vietnam foot soldier McKinley Nolan takes many unexpected turns in this moving documentary. After retired Army Lieutenant Dan Smith thinks he sees McKinley (who disappeared nearly 40 years prior) in a small Vietnamese town, devoted younger brother Michael travels from rural Texas to Vietnam to try to unravel the story. He meets the Vietnamese family McKinley married into as well as members of the Khmer Rouge who knew him. Though the search does not resolve all of the family’s questions, deeper issues of family ties, military cover-ups and remarkable personal histories are revealed.

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Photographed by Henry Corra, 77 min. Distributed by Seagull Films. Showtimes 2:30, 4:45, 6:45, 9:00 pm. Director Henry Corra is expected to attend the evening screenings.

At Film Society Cinema, the supremely stylish state-of-the art theater located in the ultra-contemporary New People building at 1746 Post Street (Webster/Buchanan) in Japantown, the San Francisco Film Society will offer its acclaimed exhibition, education and filmmaker services programs and events on a daily year-round basis for the first time in the organization’s storied 54-year history. For complete up-to-date information on all Film Society Cinema programming, including buying tickets, visit

San Francisco Film Society
Building on a legacy of more than 50 years of bringing the best in world cinema to the Bay Area, the San Francisco Film Society is a national leader in exhibition, education and filmmaker services.

The Film Society presents 365 days of exhibition each year, reaching a total audience of 130,000 people. Its acclaimed education program introduces international, independent and documentary cinema and media literacy to more than 15,000 teachers and students and presents 120 classes and workshops annually. Through the filmmaker services program essential creative and business services, and funding totaling millions of dollars, are provided to deserving filmmakers of all levels.

The Film Society seeks to elevate all aspects of film culture, offering a wide range of activities that engage emotions, inspire action, change perceptions and advance knowledge. A 501(c)3 nonprofit corporation, it is largely donor and member supported. Patronage and membership provides discounted prices, access to grants and residencies, private events and a wealth of other benefits.


  • San Francisco Film Festival
  • Official McKinley Nolan Site



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