Advertisement

You will be redirected to the page you want to view in  seconds.

U.S. vets return North Vietnamese soldier's helmet to family

Jan. 14, 2014 - 06:00AM   |  
Vietnam veterans John Abbey, front left, Fred Grimm, front right, Daniel Gregg, second row left, and Mike Breuker, second row right, carry a helmet belonging to slain North Vietnamese soldier Bui Duc Hung, who was killed in the war, in Huong Non village, on Jan. 14. The helmet, which had been kept as a war souvenir by an American veteran for 46 years, was returned to Hung's family.
Vietnam veterans John Abbey, front left, Fred Grimm, front right, Daniel Gregg, second row left, and Mike Breuker, second row right, carry a helmet belonging to slain North Vietnamese soldier Bui Duc Hung, who was killed in the war, in Huong Non village, on Jan. 14. The helmet, which had been kept as a war souvenir by an American veteran for 46 years, was returned to Hung's family. (Tran Van Minh/AP)
  • Filed Under
An image of a dove scratched onto the inner rim of a dented helmet belonging to Bui Duc Hung, a North Vietnamese soldier who died during the Vietnam War, is seen on Jan. 14. (Tran Van Minh/AP)

HUONG NON, VIETNAM — In 1968, young American soldier John Wast was scouring a battlefield in central Vietnam for weapons and intelligence when an enemy helmet with an image of a dove scratched onto it caught his eye. He tied it to his rucksack, and five months later took it home as a war souvenir, where for 46 years it had sat on a shelf.

When a U.S. veterans’ charity approached him asking whether he would like to see the helmet returned to the family of its onetime owner, he said yes, so long as it didn’t cause them any more pain. The group, the Development of Vietnam Endeavors Fund, located the family of the soldier, Bui Duc Hung, who was killed in the war, his remains never recovered.

On Tuesday, four U.S. veterans returned the helmet in a ceremony in the Hung’s family’s village 45 miles northwest of Hanoi that stressed the need for peace and reconciliation.

“This is a very sacred moment for my extended family,” said Bui Duc Duc, the 52-year-old nephew of the slain solider.

Duc wept as the helmet was placed in front of a family altar in his house. The Americans, along with around 100 villagers and local officials gathered for the ceremony, looked on. A bust of Ho Chi Minh, Vietnam’s victorious war time leader, was also in the room.

“We consider this helmet as part of him and we will keep as a reminder for our family’s future generations,” he said.

Up to 3 million Vietnamese were killed in the war, which the United States undertook to stop the spread of Communism in Southeast Asia.

Wast, a 67-year-old from Toledo, Ohio, didn’t travel back to Vietnam. But in a statement that was read out at the ceremony, Wast said that Hung had “fought with skill and courage.”

“The time has now come for me to return this helmet to those who knew and cared for Bui Duc Hung,” he said. “I do this with thoughts of love and peace to you all.”

Answers by RallyPoint

Join trending discussions in the military's #1 professional community. See what members like yourself have to say from across the DoD.

More In News

Start your day with a roundup of top defense news.

VA Home Loan
Rates

Search By:

Product Options:
Zip Code:

News for your in-box

Sign up now for free Military Times E-Reports. Choose from Money and Education. Subscribers: log in for premium e-newsletters.


This Week's Marine Corps Times

This Week's Marine Corps Times

Gen. Dunford's battles ahead
New missions, budget cuts and a tough decision in 2015

Subscribe for Print or Digital delivery today!

Classifieds
MilitaryTimes Green Trusted Classifieds Looking to buy, sell and connect on Military Times?
Browse expanded listings across hundreds of military installations.
Faces of valorHonoring those who fought and died in Operations Iraqi Freedom and Enduring Freedom.
hall of valorThe Hall of Valor is a searchable database of valor award citations collected by Doug Sterner, a Vietnam veteran and Military Times contributing editor, and by Military Times staff.
Woman who cried rape
(3 replies)
   Last Post: TJMAC77SP
        May 3, 2014 1:32 PM
   Last Post: garhkal
        May 1, 2014 5:03 PM
Cliven Bundy
(45 replies)
   Last Post: Chief_KO
        Apr 26, 2014 9:49 AM
Handbooks

All you need to know about your military benefits.

Benefits handbook

Guard & Reserve All you need to know about the Guard & Reserve.

guard and reserve handbook