Sixty Years Later, Remains of US Soldier Returned Home

On Thursday, a solemn ceremony took place at Da Nang International Airport to welcome home the remains of a US soldier who went missing in action during the Vietnam War. Believed to be that of the missing soldier, the repatriation of the remains marks a solemn moment of closure and honor for families of the countless soldiers who never returned from that difficult and divisive conflict.

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The remains of a U.S. soldier are repatriated from the Da Nang International Airport, July 29, 2023. Photo courtesy of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs
The remains of a US soldier are repatriated from the Da Nang International Airport, July 29, 2023. Photo courtesy of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs

At the ceremony on July 29, the 162nd of its kind, representatives from the Vietnam Office for Seeking Missing Persons (VNOSMP) handed over the remains to the US side which included US Ambassador to Vietnam Marc E. Knapper and representatives of US MIA Office in Hanoi, according to VietnamPlus.

The remains were found as a result of the 151st joint field activity which lasted from May to July 2023.

Vietnamese forensic specialists examined the remains and determined that they might belong to a US MIA from the war in Vietnam. The US side will transfer the remains to Hawaii for further verification.

US Soldier's Remains Repatriated
The hand-over ceremony takes place at Da Nang International Airport. Photo courtesy of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs

The efforts to search and account for US MIAs, including joint ones, have been implemented by the two governments since the late 1980s. To date, over 730 US MIAs have been identified.

Last month, Vietnam also handed over the remains of an American soldier killed during the Vietnam war to US representatives, VOV reported.

Over the past years, Vietnam and the US have cooperated in handling war consequences.

The US Mission to Vietnam, through the US Agency for International Development (USAID), on July 27 announced a $32 million contract to the US firm Tetra Tech to continue the cleanup of dioxin-contaminated soil in and around the Bien Hoa air base in the southern province of Dong Nai, according to a media release by the US Embassy in Vietnam.

Under this contract, Tetra Tech will provide engineering design, construction management, and environmental monitoring of civil works and treatment activities for dioxin-contaminated soil and sediment to reduce the risk of exposure to people there as well as in the bordering communities to restore the land for full use.

In March, during her visit to Vietnam, USAID Administrator Samantha Power joined other US and Vietnamese government officials to announce another contract of up to $73 million awarded to Nelson Environmental Remediation USA to design and build a treatment facility to decontaminate soil and sediment on and around the air base.

Cleaning up dioxin-contaminated soil at Bien Hoa air base (Photo: USAID)
Cleaning up dioxin-contaminated soil at Bien Hoa air base. Photo: USAID

Since April 2019, USAID has worked with the Ministry of National Defence to remediate approximately 500,000 cubic meters of dioxin-contaminated soil and sediment on and around the air base. In 2022, USAID completed the remediation of an off-base lake (Gate 2 Lake) and returned it to the community for use as a recreational area, completed the remediation of the first on-base area (Southwest area), commemorating this milestone with a US government-funded park on the site, and completed the construction of the long-term storage facility for soil with low levels of contamination.

Dioxin remediation at the Bien Hoa air base area project is expected to take 10 years to complete and cost an estimated $450 million. To date, the US government’s contribution is $218.255 million out of a total expected commitment of $300 million.

This year, the US and Vietnam are celebrating the 10-year anniversary of their Comprehensive Partnership. The close cooperation over the past decades to overcome the legacies of war is yet another example of how the two countries work strategically together to create a better future for their peoples.

Rosy Huong