Diary Returned to North Vietnamese Soldier’s Family
When Defense Secretary Leon Panetta visited Vietnam last summer and returned a soldier’s diary to the Vietnamese government he did it on one condition: that it would be turned over to the dead soldier’s family. In a September ceremony in Vietnam, Vu Dinh Son was finally given the diary of his father, Vu Dinh Doan, who had left home for the war when Son was just 18 months old.
For more than 40 years, the diary had been in the possession of Vietnam War veteran Robert “Ira” Frazure, who removed it from a dead North Vietnamese soldier while the 7th Marines were policing the battleground following a fight in Quang Ngai province during Operation Indiana.
The diary was featured in a September episode of the PBS television show History Detectives, in which the show’s investigators solicit assistance from U.S. Defense officials and the government of Vietnam.
At the ceremony, Vo Dinh Son said his family was deeply moved to receive the diary and that through it they could understand and have more pride in their father, who had sacrificed his life for national liberation and reunification, according to History Detectives.
Doan’s widow passed away less than a week before Panetta turned over the diary to Vietnamese officials, but Son said she was grateful to learn that the diary had been recovered. For years, the only remembrance Son had of his father was a heavy khaki that had belonged to him.
“Whenever the weather was cold, my siblings and I would take turns wearing it until finally it became tattered and simply wore out,” said Son.
Holding his father’s diary, a tearful Son said that before his mother passed away, she had asked to tell Frazure that although it was late, he had done what should be done, and his deed had helped heal the wounds of the war.
In a short letter to Doan’s family, Frazure said that returning the diary helped to ease his long-term burden, and he expressed his regret at the death of Doan’s widow before the diary’s return.
For a full account of the story, see the History Detectives website at www.pbs.org.
SOURCE: Vietnam magazine