Vietnam Turns Over Remains of Three Soldiers
HONOLULU (AP) _ Remains believed to be those of three American soldiers killed during the Vietnam War were returned to the United States on Friday, the military said.
The flag-draped caskets were carried by a joint honors team representing all U.S. military forces after a C-141 landed at Honolulu’s Hickam Air Force Base, said base spokesman Dennis Fujii.
The remains, which Vietnam turned over Thursday to a team from the U.S. Joint Casualty Resolution Center, were taken to the Army’s Central Identification Laboratory for positive identification, Fujii said.
The spokesman said that although next-of-kin have already been notified, the names of the soldiers will not be made public until the identification process is finished.
In all, 1,776 Americans remain listed as missing in action, or MIA, in Vietnam.
A Vietnam News Agency report seen in Bangkok, Thailand, said the handover resulted from an agreement between Vietnam’s Foreign Minister and Deputy Premier Nguyen Co Thach and U.S. Presidential envoy John W. Vessey.
The Thach-Vessey talks in August broke months of deadlock on accounting for MIAs. They apparently produced an understanding that Hanoi would accelerate search efforts while Washington would support private aid for disabled veterans and other war victims.
Thursday’s repatriation was the first in 10 months. Hanoi returned unprecedentedly large numbers of remains in 1985 and 1986, but had returned none since last Nov. 26. Two of three sets of remains returned then were later identified as those of MIAs.
Vietnam has returned some 140 remains of MIAs since March 1974.
Remains are usually returned in a short ceremony at Hanoi’s Noi Bai Airport in which a U.S. honor guard salutes as the caskets of remains, draped with American flags, are loaded onto a U.S. jet.
About 2.5 million Americans fought in Vietnam and about 58,000 died. The Americans withdrew from Vietnam in late 1973. The war ended with a communist victory within two years.