Aussie Vets return Vietnam War Relics to North Vietnamese Families.
Above Photo: Image of a woman found on a dead Vietnamese soldier during the Vietnam War (abc.net.au)
Australian veterans of the Vietnam War are continuing their quest to return items that belonged to Vietnamese soldiers.
“Operation Wandering Souls,” initiated by an Australian team including Derril de Heer and Bob Hall from New South Wales University at the Australian Defense Force Academy, will send more items back to Vietnam including letters, sketches, poems, commendation certificates and photos of Vietnamese veterans.
The program, which was instituted in 2010, makes use of Australian war records, maps, soldiers’ diaries and other artifacts from the battles to create a comprehensive database – the first of its kind – that indicates the approximate burial site of 3,796 Vietnamese soldiers. The remains of around 450 Vietnamese war soldiers have been located so far as a result.
“In Vietnamese culture it’s very important to find the remains of those who die, particularly those who die a violent death and whose grave sites are unknown,” Hall, a military historian and the project’s leader, told ABC News, a major US television network.
“If that remains aren’t found, then the souls are deemed to be wandering.”
Hall said the operation was launched as a way of returning the favor Vietnam showed Australia in helping it locate the remains of its last six soldiers missing in action.
Vietnam is still searching for the remains of approximately 300,000 soldiers listed as missing in action during the Vietnam War, including those of nearly 4,000 believed to have been killed in battles against troops from Australia and New Zealand. Hall said his project aims to help Vietnamese families heal as much as possible from the loss of their loved ones.
Derril de Heer said that he was very happy to be able to return these personal remnants.
He and Australian veteran Laurens Wildeboer have visited Vietnam, returning books and a scarf of a fallen Vietnamese soldier to his 85-year-old mother in Dong Nai Province, which Wildeboer had been holding onto for more than 40 years, after Vietnamese veterans helped track her down.
Our new film, M.I.A. A Greater Evil. Set in the jungles of Laos and Vietnam, the film deals with the possible fate of US servicemen left behind after the US pulled out of the Vietnam War.
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For POWs left behind in Laos, see also:
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