Hanoi opens 3 sites to search for mia remains, releases poignant ussoldier’s letters home

HANOI, Vietnam – In a poignant historical postscript, the United States and Vietnamon Monday exchanged artifacts of war, including a U.S. soldier’swritten account of life under fire before his death and a Vietnamtrooper’s diary held for over 40 years by an American GI. At a ceremony in Hanoi, Vietnamese defense minister Phung QuangThanh delivered the letters to Defense Secretary Leon Panetta, whoin turn gave Thanh the small maroon diary taken from the body ofthe Vietnamese man by a U.S. service member who brought it homewith him. Defense officials said the Vietnamese had used the letters by ArmySgt.

Steve Flaherty as propaganda. “I felt bullets going past me,” Flaherty, from Columbia, S.C.,wrote to someone named Betty. “I have never been so scared in mylife.” And to his mother he wrote, “”If Dad calls, tell him I got tooclose to being dead but I’m O.K. I was real lucky. I’ll write againsoon.” To a Mrs.

Wyatt, he nevertheless suggested he believed in themission. “This is a dirty and cruel war but I’m sure people will understandthe purpose of this war even though many of us might not agree,” hewrote in excerpts released by U.S. defense officials. Officials said this is the first time such a joint exchange of warartifacts has occurred. The two defense leaders agreed to returnthe papers to the families of the deceased soldiers. Caterpillar Scanner

Flaherty, who was with the 101st Airborne, was killed in thenorthern section of South Vietnam in March 1969. According todefense officials, Vietnamese forces took his letters and used themin broadcasts during the war. Vietnamese Col. Nguyen Phu Dat kept the letters, but it was notuntil last August, when he mentioned them in an online publication,that they started to come to light. Early this year, Robert Destatte, a retired Defense Departmentemployee who had worked for the POW/MIA office, noticed the onlinepublication, and the Pentagon began to work to get the letters backto Flaherty’s family. China Forklift Diagnostic tools

At a news conference, the Vietnamese government also announced itsagreement to open three new sites in the country for excavation bythe United States to search for troop remains from the war. And the two defense chiefs also said their countries want to worktogether, regardless of whether the enhanced relationship troublesChina. Beijing has expressed concern over America’s new defense strategythat puts more focus on the Asia-Pacific region, including plans toincrease the number of troops, ships and other military assets inthe region. Speaking through an interpreter, Thanh said Vietnam wants tocontinue defense cooperation with all countries, including stableand longstanding relationships with China and the United States.Hanoi, he said, would not sacrifice relations with one country foranother. Panetta said the U.S. China Car Diagnostics Scanner

goal is to help strengthen the capabilitiesof countries across the region. “Frankly the most destabilizing situation would be if we had agroup of weak nations and only the United States and China weremajor powers in this region,” said Panetta. Defense officials reviewing the packet of papers given to Panettasaid it appears there are three sets of letters, including the fourwritten by Flaherty. It was not clear how many other servicemembers’ letters were there, but officials were going through themMonday. Ron Ward, U.S.

casualty resolution specialist at the Joint POW/MIAAccounting Command in Hanoi, said there are at least four U.S.troops believed to be lost in the three areas that were opened bythe Vietnamese Monday. With those three areas now open, Ward saidthere are now just eight sites left that are still restricted bythe Vietnamese. Military officers briefing Panetta at the command’s office saidthey had five to seven years to complete their excavation work. Theacidic soil in Vietnam erodes bones quickly, leaving in many casesonly teeth for the military teams to use to try and identifyservice members, one of the team members said.

In addition, many of the potential witnesses with information aboutremains are getting older and their memories are fading. There are about nearly 1,300 cases that are still unaccounted for,and officers briefing Panetta said about 600 of those remains couldbe recoverable. Ward said that opening the three new sites will enable the U.S. totry and find: — Two Air Force members who were lost when their plane was shotdown in Quang Binh Province in central Vietnam in 1967. — An Army private first class who went missing when he was outwith his unit on a search-and-destroy mission in 1968 in thetri-border area of Laos, Cambodia and Vietnam.

— A Marine who was on a surface-to-air combat mission and was lostwhen his plane went down in Quang Tri Province. Another Marine onthe plane ejected and was rescued. The small diary belonged to Vu Dinh Doan, a Vietnamese soldier whowas found killed in a machine gun fight, according to defenseofficials. Officials said that a Marine, Robert “Ira” Frazure ofWalla Walla, Wash., saw the diary — with a photo and somemoney inside — on the chest of the dead soldier and took itback to the U.S.

The diary came to light earlier this year when the sister of afriend of Frazure’s was doing research for a book and Frazure askedher help in returning the diary. The sister, Marge Scooter, broughtthe diary to the PBS television program History Detectives. The show then asked the Defense and State departments to helpreturn the diary. ——– To see excerpts of the letter, go to: bit.ly/Mbse3S.

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