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.FULL STORY