War kills indiscriminately, sometimes even claiming the life of a person with a famous pedigree.
That happened on this date in 1970 when photojournalist Sean Flynn, the son of actors Errol Flynn and Lily Damita, went missing in Cambodia during the Vietnam War.
Flynn was born in L.A. in 1941, a year before his parents divorced, and inherited his father’s dashing good looks and addiction to adventure. For a time he followed his parents into acting, first appearing at age 15 on his father’s television show.
Errol Flynn died in 1959 at the age of 50, and two years later Sean starred in The Son of Captain Blood, the sequel to the film that first rocketed his father to stardom in 1935.
Flynn made a few more films over the next four years, mostly in Europe, before tiring of the “hurry-up-and-wait” aspect of the movie business. For a short time afterwards, he pursued a singing career, before heading to Africa to work as a safari guide.
He returned to Europe in the mid-60s to appear in a couple of Spaghetti Westerns before picking up his camera and flying to South Vietnam in 1966 to be a freelance photojournalist.
Flynn quickly earned the reputation of taking any assignment, however dangerous, to capture the most compelling photographs, even parachuting into hot zones with the 101st Airborne Division.
A few months after his arrival in Vietnam, he was wounded in the knee. During his “recuperation” he covered a war in the Middle East and starred in a film in Singapore.
He eventually returned to Vietnam, where he created the independent Dispatch News Service with John Steinbeck IV, the son of the Nobel Prize-winning author. Together, they helped break the story of the My Lai Massacre.
On April 6, 1970, the 28-year-old Flynn was inside Cambodia on assignment from Time magazine, when he and CBS journalist Dana Stone were captured by Khmer Rouge guerrillas.
Despite a fortune spent by Flynn’s mother chasing down leads to her son’s whereabouts, he was never seen again. It’s believed he was held in captivity until being executed in 1971. He was declared legally dead in 1984.
Flynn has since been the subject of a smattering of books, films, and songs, including Sean Flynn by the Clash on their Combat Rock album.
Last year, it was thought for a time that Flynn’s remains had been discovered in a Cambodian mass grave, but later DNA tests proved otherwise.