'I just want them to know I've always loved them': US army veteran launches heartbreaking bid to find twins he was forced to leave in Korea 40 years ago 

  • Allen Thomas met his children's mother while serving in the country
  • Hopes his wife and twins could join him in US thwarted by immigration  
  • Wife stopped all contact with him and later searches revealed children had been adopted without his knowledge 
  • Social media appeal has been shared 1.2 million times in days

When American soldier Allen Thomas waved goodbye to his young children as he left South Korea in 1971, he fully expected his family would soon follow on a flight to the U.S.

More than 40 years later, the veteran has enlisted the help of social media to trace his long-lost children, who were put up for adoption without his knowledge after he returned to America.  

Mr Thomas, who met his children's mother while serving with the U.S. military in the country, last saw twins James and Sandia in 1971, when they were only about five-years-old.

Long lost twins: US veteran Allen Thomas is desperate to trace his twin children, Sandia and James, who were given up for adoption in South Korea, without his consent

Long lost twins: US veteran Allen Thomas is desperate to trace his twin children, Sandia and James, who were given up for adoption in South Korea, without his consent

After decades of fruitless searching via government channels and adoptee groups, Mr Thomas finally decided to try generating publicity through his Facebook profile.

In little over a week, a post explaining his situation has been shared more than 1.2 million times.

Mr Thomas told MailOnline: 'I just want to know that my kids are okay. I want them to know that I love them - always have - and that I care what's happened to them. 

'I have so much to share with them, if they want to see me.'

Mr Thomas married his children's mother soon after their birth in 1967. But their plans for a life together in the U.S. soon hit a stumbling block when they began immigration procedures.

While he secured American passports for the twins, obtaining a passport for his wife proved much more difficult.

Before long, time ran out on his tour in South Korea and he left the country in 1969 to be stationed in Vietnam, chosen for its proximity to his family. From there, he visited his wife and young children while on leave.

Then: American soldier Allen Thomas met the mother of his children James and Sandia while serving in South Korea

Then: American soldier Allen Thomas met the mother of his children James and Sandia while serving in South Korea

But the distance and time apart put a strain on the relationship, said Charlene Roberts, his adopted daughter from a subsequent marriage, who has been assisting her father in the search.

'It was a young marriage, they spent a lot of time apart and it disintegrated,' she said. 'So at that point, he asked to take the kids home and she said 'no' and she wasn't going to come home either.'

Now: A bid by Mr Thomas to find his long-lost children has been shared 1.2million times on social media in a week

Now: A bid by Mr Thomas to find his long-lost children has been shared 1.2million times on social media in a week

He returned to the U.S. but said he continued to send money, letters and gifts to his family. Then, after several years, communication suddenly stopped.

'At one point, mail started to be returned and he lost contact with her. She had moved and she hadn't left any forwarding address,' said Ms Roberts. 'He wasn't able to get a hold of her.'

Then in 1974, the mother made contact out of the blue, offering to leave the twins with their father, according to letters written by Mr Thomas' subsequent, late wife to the U.S. Department of State and their local congressman in 1980.

The letters, shown to MailOnline, state that bankruptcy at the time prevented Thomas and his wife from arranging to be reunited with the twins.

'He had absolutely no money,' said Ms Roberts. 'He was bankrupt so he couldn't get credit.'

Mr Thomas, who now lives with his daughter in tiny Mossyrock, Washington State, said he has not heard from the mother since.

Ms Roberts said of her parents' search: 'They went to the Pearl S. Buck Foundation, they also went to their local congressmen, they went to the State Department, and because of privacy laws and the fact that they were adopted out under Korean law, and not American law, they just continually ran into roadblocks. There's nothing that could be done.'

Eventually, in 1980, Thomas got word from the Pearl S. Buck Foundation, set up to support children overseas, that the twins had been given up for adoption four years previously without his consent.

South Korea is believed to have sent some 220,000 children for adoption abroad since the end of the Korean War in 1953. 

Loving family: Mr Thomas met the mother of his children while serving with the American forces in Korea

Loving family: Mr Thomas met the mother of his children while serving with the American forces in Korea

Adorable: Social media is Allen Thomas's last hope to find his twins Sandia and James
Treasured memories: Dad Allen Thomas says he has never stopped thinking about his children James and Sandia, pictured here on a motorbike

Adorable: Social media is Allen Thomas's last hope to find his twins Sandia and James, pictured here as the children he fondly remembers

Devastating: Mr Thomas found out by letter that his children had been adopted, years after the event

Devastating: Mr Thomas found out by letter that his children had been adopted, years after the event

Initially a response to the large number of war orphans, overseas adoptions continued in later decades, usually involving stigmatized children of single mothers and interracial couplings.

As recently as 2011, more than a third of all foreign-born children adopted by American families came from South Korea.

The practice has been controversial in the country, with the poor regulation and record-keeping of earlier adoptions attracting criticism.

'It has been the toughest, most painful part of my life - aside from losing my wife. I have always, always wondered about my kids,' Mr Thomas said. 

'I've always thought of where they could be and who they could be with. I have dealt with the weight of the loss for decades. 

'Now, it seems to come to a head, since there's such a chance through all of this attention to the story. I just hope and pray that they see this and respond. Even if they don't want to meet me; just to know that they're okay.'

Official: The birth certificate Sandia Lynn Thomas which shows her arrival was registered in Seoul, Korea, on November 6, 1968

Official: The birth certificate Sandia Lynn Thomas which shows her arrival was registered in Seoul, Korea, on November 6, 1968

Estranged: A black and white photo of twins Sandia and James Thomas, who were adopted without their dad's consent

Estranged: A black and white photo of twins Sandia and James Thomas, who were adopted without their dad's consent

Registered: It was hoped James Allen Thomas, his sister and mother would join Thomas Allen in the US

Registered: It was hoped James Allen Thomas, his sister and mother would join Thomas Allen in the US

Thomas says he his hopeful his search might finally come to an end. But he's also afraid of getting his hopes up after all these years.

'I had no idea that this Facebook post would bring so many people in from so many different places across the world to help find James and Sandia,' he said. 

'It makes me hopeful, but it's also nerve-wracking. I'm having a hard time getting my hopes up again, because I've run into so many road-blocks in past searches. It always comes up fruitless.'