US army doctor returns arm to Vietnamese soldier fifty years after he took it as a souvenir

Mr Hung was stunned that someone had kept his bones for so long, but happy that when the time comes, they will be buried with him

An American army doctor who served in the Vietnam War has returned an arm he amputated to its owner, a Vietnamese soldier, 47 years after taking it.

Dr Sam Axelrad, who flew to Vietnam to meet the amputee, took the arm bones home to Houston from Vietnam in 1966 after his colleagues boiled the flesh and reconstructed the bones to give him as a souvenir.

The owner of the arm, Mr Hung, 73, said American troops shot him in the arm in October 1966 during an ambush near An Khe, the town where he now lives.

After floating down a stream to escape a firefight and then sheltering in a rice warehouse for three days, the Viet Cong fighter was evacuated by a US helicopter to a no-frills military hospital in Phu Cat, in central Binh Dinh province.

"When I was captured by the American forces, I was like a fish on a chopping-board," he said. "They could have either killed or spared me."

After surgery, he spent eight months recovering and another six assisting American military doctors. He spent the rest of the war offering private medical services in the town, and later served in local government for a decade before retiring on his rice farm.

"He probably thought we were going to put him in some prisoner-of-war camp," said Dr Axelrad, a now-retired civilian doctor. "Surely he was totally surprised when we just took care of him."

Dr Axelrad amputated the arm and said he kept the arm bones as a reminder of doing a good deed. The men were reunited at Mr Hung's home in central Vietnam.

They met each other's children, and grandchildren, and joked about which of them had been better looking back when war had made them enemies.

Mr Hung was stunned that someone had kept his bones for so long, but happy that when the time comes, they will be buried with him.

Additional reporting from Associated Press

Register for free to continue reading

Registration is a free and easy way to support our truly independent journalism

By registering, you will also enjoy limited access to Premium articles, exclusive newsletters, commenting, and virtual events with our leading journalists

Please enter a valid email
Please enter a valid email
Must be at least 6 characters, include an upper and lower case character and a number
Must be at least 6 characters, include an upper and lower case character and a number
Must be at least 6 characters, include an upper and lower case character and a number
Please enter your first name
Special characters aren’t allowed
Please enter a name between 1 and 40 characters
Please enter your last name
Special characters aren’t allowed
Please enter a name between 1 and 40 characters
You must be over 18 years old to register
You must be over 18 years old to register
Opt-out-policy
You can opt-out at any time by signing in to your account to manage your preferences. Each email has a link to unsubscribe.

By clicking ‘Create my account’ you confirm that your data has been entered correctly and you have read and agree to our Terms of use, Cookie policy and Privacy notice.

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy policy and Terms of service apply.

Already have an account? sign in

By clicking ‘Register’ you confirm that your data has been entered correctly and you have read and agree to our Terms of use, Cookie policy and Privacy notice.

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy policy and Terms of service apply.

Register for free to continue reading

Registration is a free and easy way to support our truly independent journalism

By registering, you will also enjoy limited access to Premium articles, exclusive newsletters, commenting, and virtual events with our leading journalists

Already have an account? sign in

By clicking ‘Register’ you confirm that your data has been entered correctly and you have read and agree to our Terms of use, Cookie policy and Privacy notice.

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy policy and Terms of service apply.

Join our new commenting forum

Join thought-provoking conversations, follow other Independent readers and see their replies

Comments

Thank you for registering

Please refresh the page or navigate to another page on the site to be automatically logged inPlease refresh your browser to be logged in