Deputy Defence Minister Lê Chiêm attended a working session with Australia's New South Wales university where the university handed over its digitalised project on battlefields and burial sites of fallen Vietnamese soldiers during the war against the US in Việt Nam. — VNA/VNS Photo Hoàng Linh
SYDNEY — A database with the location of about 6,500 battlefields and the specific identities and burial sites of Vietnamese soldiers was handed over by a group of Australian veterans to Việt Nam in Canberra on Tuesday (local time).
It includes a detailed map of a battlefield in Phước Tuy Province, currently known as Bà Rịa-Vũng Tàu Province, and Trường Sa (Spratly) Archipelago where about 3,000 Vietnamese people were buried after battles with Australia and New Zealand’s soldiers.
According to Deputy Minister of National Defence Senior Lieutenant General Lê Chiêm, the bodies of nearly 200,000 Vietnamese soldiers need to be verified and located.
The database is the result of nearly 10 years of research by Bob Hall, a military historian and a war veteran in Việt Nam.
It was carried under the project entitled 'Operation Wandering Souls – Bring Them Home', an investigation carried out by experts, researchers and veterans at the University of New South Wales (UNSW) Canberra’s Australian Centre for the Study of Armed Conflict and Society (ACSACS).
The project received support from Australian Department of Defence.
Harvinder Sidhu, Associate Dean at the UNSW Canberra, said ACSACS built the database with records and information from the Australian War Memorial, Australian army units, American army and armies of other nations involved in the American War in Việt Nam.
At the meeting to receive the project on Tuesday, Senior Lieutenant General Lê Chiêm, who is also deputy head of the National Steering Committee for Search and Repatriation of Remains of Fallen Soldiers, spoke about war consequences in Việt Nam like the issues of unexploded ordnance, Agent Orange/dioxin and missing bodies of soldiers.
He said the Vietnamese Government has deployed measures to find martyrs’ remains, including co-operating with other countries, organisations and individuals.
Chiêm said the ACSACS’s project shows the goodwill of the Australian government.
Major General Trần Quốc Dũng, head of Policy Department under the General Department of Politics of the Việt Nam People's Army said: “The project has contributed to strengthening relations in general between Việt Nam and Australia and the bilateral defence relations in particular. The families of those soldiers are looking forward to hearing about their relatives.”
Việt Nam has also offered assistance to Australia to seek and return home six military officers missing in the war.
Among about 200,000 Vietnamese considered missing, some soldiers were buried individually or in groups in forests or battlefields scattered across southern Vietnamese localities or in Laos and Cambodia.
Also on Tuesday, the Vietnamese delegation, led by Senior Lieutenant General Lê Chiêm, met with Elizabeth Cosson, Secretary of the Department of Veterans' Affairs (DVA) of Australia.
Chiêm took the occasion to ask the DVA to inform all Australian veterans on the Vietnamese Government and people’s desire to locate and repatriate soldiers’ remains. Việt Nam is willing to host any organisations and individuals that come to provide such information, he added.
Cosson pledged to try her best to work with Việt Nam to alleviate war pain.
She thanked Vietnamese authorities for helping Australian veterans return to their former battlefields. — VNS