US ‘Arm’y Medic Hands Back Limb to Viet Cong Solider.
Photo Caption: ‘Arms’-giving: Mr Hung is reunited with his limb. (Associated Press).
One of the unusual Vietnam War-related stories I read whilst writing BACK was the news that a former North Vietnamese soldier had been reunited with his amputated arm after more than 40 years. Nguyen Quang Hung, a Vietcong soldier injured during the war, had his arm amputated by US army doctor Sam Axelrad in 1966, after his arm had caught gangrene.
Out on a Limb
Oddly, the doctor kept the bones as a reminder of the good deed he’d performed by treating an enemy soldier, but he knuckled down to the task of trying to track down the owner of the arm in 2012, eventually meeting Mr Hung to return his bones.
“I’m very happy to see him again and have that part of my body back after nearly half a century,” Mr Hung said.
Dr Axelrad commented: “When I left the country six months after amputating the arm, I didn’t want to throw it away, I put it in my trunk and brought it home, and all these years it has been in my house.”
No doubt sharing the thoughts of many, Mr Hung said, “I can’t believe that an American doctor took my infected arm, got rid of the flesh, dried it, took it home and kept it for more than 40 years.”
He added that he considered himself very lucky to have only lost an arm, compared to many of his comrades who died during the war, where an estimated 58,000 US soldiers and three million Vietnamese were killed.
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© Peter Alan Lloyd
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