Moving forward with Operation Wandering Souls
Vietnamese Ambassador to Australia, Mr Ngo Huong Nam, along with the Vietnamese Defence Attaché Sr COL Nguyen Manh Chu and LTCOL Viet Anh, Deputy Defence Attaché, were briefed this week by the team from UNSW Canberra research project Operation Wandering Souls, a project attempting help Vietnam find some of the estimated 300,000 Vietnamese soldiers missing-in-action (MIA).
The briefing provided an update on the important project that started with the simple premise of returning a favour.
Six Australians were listed as missing in action at the end of the Vietnam War. Their bodies were returned home with the help of Vietnamese authorities. Operation Wandering Souls aims to reciprocate this action and passes on information to Vietnam about the identity and burial sites of the missing Vietnamese soldiers. The briefing to the Ambassador demonstrated where some of the identified burial sites are within the Australian Task Force Area of Operations in Vietnam.
The Operation Wandering Souls team, headed by UNSW Canberra Adjunct Lecturer Dr Bob Hall and Visiting Fellow Derrill de Heer has called on Australian and New Zealand Vietnam War Veterans to hand in items that were found on the battlefields, in a bid to find Vietnam’s MIA.
This is particularly important in Vietnamese culture as many believe that the spirit of those who died violently, or whose fate is unknown, will wander forever unless the appropriate ceremony is held for them.
Since 2012, the project has provided information on more than 450 of those who died in combat with Australian and New Zealand forces and linked their names to specific burial sites. Items such as photographs, diaries and letters were taken from Vietnamese soldiers as mementos of war and Dr Hall says they provide clues to where their owners were buried.
“If Vietnam veterans have an item such as a Vietnamese commendation certificate, diary, or personal letter, please sent it to the Operation Wandering Souls team along with as much as you can recall about the circumstances by which you ‘captured’ them,” Dr Hall said.
Scans of items and information can be sent to Bob Hall or Derrill De Heer using the contact information below. Items can be sent anonymously if preferred.
Dr Hall and Mr Derrill de Heer hope to be able to continue to hand over some useful items to Vietnamese families and authorities.
“It’s the right thing to do. If the situation was reversed we’d like them to do this for our families,” Dr Hall said.
More information on Operation Wandering Souls can be found at:https://vietnam.unsw.adfa.edu.au/the-operation-wandering-souls-project/