U.S. Vets Back in Vietnam With More Documents to Help Find Vietnamese MIAs
HANOI, Vietnam (AP) _ Four U.S. veterans returned to Vietnam on Tuesday to turn over more documents and battlefield souvenirs to help Vietnamese families locate loved ones lost in the war.
James L. Brazee of Lafayette, La., president of the 45,000-member Vietnam Veterans of America, said the documents could help account for 1,250 missing Vietnamese troops.
They include maps of two mass burial sites where a total of 900 Communist Vietnamese troops reportedly were buried in Tay Ninh province, west of Ho Chi Minh City, he said.
In May, a delegation from the Vietnam Veterans of America led by Brazee turned over battlefield souvenirs that it was hoped would provide information on up to 1,800 missing Vietnamese soldiers. Vietnam estimates it has 300,000 troops missing in action, compared to 2,229 Americans missing from the war.
The photos, identification cards, letters and other items removed from the bodies of Vietnamese soldiers were turned in by American veterans in response to an appeal by the U.S. veterans group. They included crudely drawn maps marking mass burial sites.
The weeklong visit is a followup of the veteran-to-veteran contacts begun in May designed to resolve lingering issues from the war including the fate of MIAs from both sides and the effects of Agent Orange. The Vietnam Veterans of America plans more visits next year.
In addition to Brazee, the group includes John Catterson of Huntington, N.Y.; Vernon Valenzuela of Bakersfield, Calif.; and Bill Duker of Corrales, N.M.
They plan to meet with Vietnamese scientists to seek their assistance in gathering information on exposure to the defoliant Agent Orange and to visit a hospital for cancer patients.
″One of the things we’re keying into are the birth defects and learning disabilities the children of people exposed to Agent Orange are experiencing,″ Brazee said.
Their visit coincides with the scheduled arrival Friday of retired Adm. Elmo Zumwalt Jr., who ordered the spraying of Agent Orange in Vietnam when he commanded U.S. Naval Forces from 1968 to 1970. He is returning after nearly 25 years to help veterans he says suffered the ill-effects of Agent Orange.
Zumwalt’s eldest son, Elmo Zumwalt III, also a navy officer who served in Vietnam, died in 1988 at the age of 42 of cancer that his father believes was caused by Agent Orange.
The defoliant was used to strip away forest land in which North Vietnamese and Viet Cong troops hid.
Zumwalt and an American expert on Agent Orange, Dr. Arnold Schecter, will meet with Vietnamese scientists and other officials to learn more about the effects of the defoliant in Vietnam.