Asia

Vietnam war veteran reunited with long-lost arm

Dr Sam Axelrad, right, hands over arm bones belonging to former North Vietnamese soldier Nguyen Quang Hung at Hung's house in Gia Lai province, Vietnam on 1 July 2013 Image copyright AP
Image caption Mr Hung, left, said he would use the arm to try to claim a war veteran's pension

A former North Vietnamese soldier has been reunited with his arm after more than 40 years.

Nguyen Quang Hung fought during the Vietnam war and had his arm amputated by US army doctor Sam Axelrad in 1966 after his arm caught gangrene.

Dr Axelrad kept the bones of the arm as a reminder of the good deed he had performed by treating an enemy soldier.

He began a quest to track down the owner of the arm in 2012, meeting Mr Hung on Monday to return his bones.

"I'm very happy to see him again and have that part of my body back after nearly half a century," Mr Hung said.

"My arm bone is evidence of my contribution to the war. I will keep it in my house... in the glass display cabinet," he said, adding that he hoped the arm would help him claim a veteran's pension, as his army files had been lost.

He also plans to be buried with his bones.

Returning mission

Image copyright AP
Image caption Dr Axelrad, left, amputated Mr Hung's arm in 1966

Dr Axelrad said he was "unbelievably happy" to be able to return the arm.

"When I amputated his arm [in 1966], our medics took the arm, took the flesh off it, put it back together perfectly with wires, and then they gave it to me," he said.

"When I left the country six months later, I didn't want to throw it away, I put it in my trunk and brought it home, and all these years it has been in my house," he added.

In 2011, he returned to Vietnam and tried to find the man whose arm he had amputated - a move he later said would help provide "closure".

A local journalist wrote about his mission, and the news eventually spread back to Mr Hung.

When he heard he would get his arm back he said he "really could not believe it".

"I can't believe that an American doctor took my infected arm, got rid of the flesh, dried it, took it home and kept it for more than 40 years," he said.

He added later that he considered himself "very lucky" compared to many of his comrades who died in the war.

The Vietnam war, which ended in 1975, killed an estimated 58,000 US soldiers and three million Vietnamese.

More on this story