Bringing Back Honor For Missing Sailor

ByABC News
December 26, 2001, 3:09 PM

Dec. 26 -- When Ensign Andrew Lee Muns suddenly vanished nearly 34 years ago, the U.S. Navy branded him a deserter and a thief.

It was 1968; the U.S. was waging an increasingly unpopular war in Vietnam and sailors went missing all the time.

Muns was the new paymaster aboard the USS Cacapon, a refueling ship based at Subic Bay in the Philippines, a forward staging area for U.S. forces in Vietnam. When he dissapeared, the Navy discovered that $8,600 was missing from the ship's safe; since Muns had access to safe, officials decided that he had taken the money and run. Case closed.

But Muns' sister, Mary Lou Taylor, couldn't accept the official version of her brother's disappearance. She vowed to uncover the truth and restore her family's honor.

"It broke my father's heart He literally had a heart attack three years later," said Taylor." I'm not blaming the Navy for his heart attack, but it was harder than just losing a son."

A generation later, Taylor's search has led to a shocking confession that sheds new light on the case and helps lift the shadow that has hung over her brother's memory.

A Generation of Grief

In the mid-1970s, after years of holding out hope that Muns might return, his family decided to have him declared legally dead. But when they asked the Navy to supply an American flag to present to his family at the memorial service, the Navy refused .

"'Oh, no, they would never do that,'" Taylor says she was told. "'That's for honorable discharges.'"

And so the Muns family was left without answers, without a body and without an honorable end to their grief.

Eventually, Taylor decided to change that. She turned to the Internet, posting a message on a Vietnam veterans' message board looking for sailors who served with her brother on the Cacapon.

In a stroke of luck, a former member of that crew, Tim Rosaire, had just logged on to the bulletin board for the first time.

"I instantly knew what it was," he said. "I wrote her back saying, 'Yes, and I may have been one of the last people to see him.'"