June 4th, 2012
04:55 AM ET

Decades after war, US and Vietnam swap slain troops' papers

Nearly four decades after the end of the Vietnam War, the United States and Vietnam exchanged personal papers taken from the dead bodies of each others' troops for the first time, the Pentagon announced Monday.

On a historic visit to Hanoi, U.S. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta handed over a diary taken by a U.S. Marine from the body of Vietnamese soldier Vu Dinh Doan in 1966.

In exchange, Vietnamese Defense Minister Phuong Quang Thanh gave Panetta letters taken from the body of U.S. Army Sgt. Steve Flaherty in 1969 and later used in Vietnamese propaganda broadcasts.

A top Vietnamese colonel, Nguyen Phu Dat, had kept the letters since the war, and mentioned them last summer in an online publication about documents from the war years.

A retired Pentagon prisoner of war and missing in action expert ran across the reference a few months later, the Department of Defense said.

The Pentagon and State Department then worked with counterparts in Vietnam to arrange the handover of the Flaherty letters to Panetta, who will have them returned to Flaherty's family.

While the Flaherty letters remained in Vietnam, Robert Frazure of the U.S. Marine Corps brought the Vu Dihn Doan diaries home to Walla Walla, Washington, and kept them after his discharge from the military.

He later gave them to the sister of one of his buddies killed in the war as she researched the conflict. She passed them to the PBS program "The History Detectives," who tracked down Vu Dihn Doan's family and gave the diary to American officials to hand back.

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Filed under: U.S. • Vietnam • World
soundoff (11 Responses)
  1. Illionois Joe

    Vietnam becomes oh so cooperative as their fear of China increases. I just want them to admit Communism sucks, they were wrong, we were right. P.S. when I say "we", that means capitalist Americans, hippies excluded. Hippies, or what we now call "liberal elite" or "democrats" were wrong too. Still are.

    June 4, 2012 at 5:33 am | Report abuse |
  2. saywhat

    Sure @Illinois Joe. your perspective speaks volumes on the runaway, unbridled capitalism wreaking havoc here on our soil. Pin Europe's woes also on socialism.
    Not surprising that think tanks in capitalist capitals are seeking more sustainable systems.

    And of course you are also right about the 'glorious' vietnam War, dubbed then by Bishops of America as 'Holy Crusades'.
    Iraq & Afghanistan prove your point too about 'liberal elite'. lol
    And yes we would see another 'giant leap' forward to world peace, stability and prosperity with the invasion of Iran.

    June 4, 2012 at 10:06 am | Report abuse |
    • salinesolution

      I guess you don't care that the same evil capitalism you denounce gave you everything that you have, and the ability to gain wealth through hard work. And let's just ignore the fact that Europe is slowly falling apart under the enormous weight of their social programs. If you want to see why a one world government would not work look at the EU. The most well of countries are being dragged down by the poor countries. I guess world peace is a good idea when you are afraid to fight for your country. I envision a world dominated by the USA and I would fight and die for that vision.

      June 4, 2012 at 10:41 am | Report abuse |
  3. saywhat

    You missed the point. I said runaway, unbridled capitalism. No system works to the good unless adequately regulated and is accountable to the people too.
    As for your dream of world domination, we have seen us slouch to decline with Iraq and Afghan wars economically, financially, in credibility and influence. With our military follies , world domination would recede to that – a dream.
    And if are crazy enough to go to war with Iran, over nothing, that dream could turn into a nightmare for our geo political and economic aims.
    Just hope for this great country's sake that sanity prevails. God Bless America.

    June 4, 2012 at 10:51 am | Report abuse |
    • salinesolution

      It's funny that you should say that because regulation is a key component to any shared or socialized economy. Over regulation kills inovation and saddles small company's with mountains of pointless paper work. as for your so called decline, how bout decline back in to your recliner and let people who haven't given up fight for a better tomorrow. America is still great despite what o bamma wants us to think. I don't want war with iran but what's the other options? Appeasement? (see world war 2) Diplomacy? (see 1979-present) Sanctions? (see now) And all of those will eventually lead to war anyways. I don't seek war, but when you deal with irrational people irrational things happen.

      June 4, 2012 at 12:07 pm | Report abuse |
  4. HIDE BEHIND

    We were right,some three to as many as ten millions died in SE Asia due to our interventions, the poorest of our no matter the skin color did most of the dying and killing, and all because we would not lrt the Vietnamese vote on wether or not to unify nation, that is the reality and why of Vietnam.
    Just as today where we lump all Central Asians into al'Q and Talban, hell we just call them an item"MILITANTS", Communism was only a very minute part of Viet resistance as many NATIONALISTIC groups wrre the Real Resistance but we called anyone and everyone a commie or in the south a Cong.
    Stupidity and military hubris of our Superiority over any little yellow people and along with the childlike belief in US MY COUNTRY RIGHT OR WRONG. are left with a Black Wall sunk in the ground
    "?

    June 4, 2012 at 11:02 am | Report abuse |
  5. banasy©

    @saywhat:
    Word.

    June 4, 2012 at 11:12 am | Report abuse |
  6. banasy©

    I also think it is teriffic that at least one soldier's family has a reminder of their lost loved one.
    "The History Detectives" is a marvelous show.

    June 4, 2012 at 11:16 am | Report abuse |
  7. dazzle ©

    I am very happy that Sgt. Flaherty's family has this precious memento that they will always hold close to their heart.

    June 4, 2012 at 11:25 am | Report abuse |
  8. HIDE BEHIND

    90% of all US military that were on Viet soil never fired a weapon or partook of hiding from an attack let alone seen combat, and yet today their decendents all are experts on hippys and communist, odd how that is.
    Not only that but experts on Vietnamese history and culture as well,. along with the hubric nationalism vombined with racism that the individual US military man was a better fighter than were the Viets.
    The rural peoples and the tribal Hmongs and Yards had more zest for life and grace about themand were a "communal" society, unlike the tottaly corrupt Urban and provincial capital city peoples.
    Today while they still suffer from agent orange and left over ordinance the nation has become a wasteland of cut ovrr forest, gouges of surface mining and all being done by foreign capital investment.
    Unlike in US they have no myths about superiority of their culture being superior and today hold very little ill will towards American individuals, and welcome all who come.
    Can'say the same for a large grouping of americans though.
    What a pity?

    June 4, 2012 at 11:37 am | Report abuse |
  9. saywhat

    @ Hide Behind
    Rather heavy none the less bitter reality. The legacy is also dotted with Mei Lai, mustard gas and napalm.
    @salinesolution again missed the point. Proper and adequate oversight is an imperative, not an option.

    June 4, 2012 at 12:59 pm | Report abuse |