Unsolved Mysteries Wiki

Melvin and Daniel Nellis

Real Names: Melvin Nellis and Daniel L. Nellis
Case: Lost Father and Son
Location: Vietnam
Date: April 1975


Details: Forty-two-year-old U.S. citizen John Nellis is searching for his father, Melvin, and son, Daniel. Melvin was an American serviceman who met John's mother while he was stationed in Chongqing, China, in the mid-1940s. They fell in love and John was born in 1949. When he was five, Melvin was sent back to the United States. Since his parents were not legally married, he and his mother were forced to stay behind. Melvin promised to write, but eventually the letters stopped. Sadly, John never heard from him again.
In 1952, John and his mother moved to her homeland in South Vietnam. She sold produce, but was able to make just enough money to send him to private schools. There he was able to learn English and receive a Western education. In 1957, his mother took him to the U.S. Embassy in Saigon so that he could immigrate to the United States. She feared that she would not be able to support him financially with her job. She was able to secure a registration document that proved that Melvin was an American; it would later become vital for John's emigration to the United States.

John nellis.jpg

In the late 1960s, as the Vietnam War began to escalate, John began dating a Vietnamese woman; within a few months, he fathered her child, a son named Daniel. However, in 1971, she left him and took Daniel with her. In 1973, she married an American Marine and John believed that they took Daniel to the United States. He never saw him again.
In April 1975 in South Vietnam, as Saigon fell to the North Vietnamese, thousands of refugees tried to flee. John and his girlfriend, Vivianne, were among them; they narrowly avoided being shot by angry Vietnamese troops while escaping. They were able to get on one of the last planes.
After they settled in the United States, John learned that Daniel had been left behind in the chaos and carnage that had taken over Vietnam. He and Vivianne later married and now live in an affluent suburb in Orange County, California, where he works as an electronics technician. In 1986, they became U.S. citizens and have a daughter named Vienna. John now wants to be reunited with Melvin and Daniel; he wants them to meet his new family here in the United States.
Extra Notes: This case first aired on the August 28, 1991 episode.

Vivianne, John, Daniel, and Vienna Nellis reunited

Results: Solved. A week before the broadcast, John learned that Daniel was alive and well, living in the Philippines. Then, shortly after, one of John's relatives in Ohio contacted him and told him that Melvin was also alive and well, retired and living in Tokyo, Japan. John soon spoke to him on the phone for the first time in forty years.
Three weeks later, John, Vivianne, and Vienna were reunited with Daniel. He was also able to meet several of John's relatives. In December 1991, John was reunited with Melvin in Tokyo.
Sadly, Melvin passed away in 2000 at the age of eighty.