Vietnam Diary: People's Army Newspaper
8 October 2012
Category: Follow Up
Vietnam's People's Army Newspaper devoted a five part series to the deeply personal story of the family's journey since their father died in 1966. For Marge Garner and Bob Frazure, the details in this story brings closure to their quest to put the diary in the proper hands.
"Return of a Diary" By Thu Trang and Vu Hung. Translated by Mai Huong.
Monday 17 September 2012 - Installment 1: Awakened Artifacts
People’s Army – During his visit to Vietnam in June 2012, the U.S. Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta gave Defense Minister Phung Quang Thanh a number of items that belonged to a People’s Army of Vietnam soldier who was killed in a battle in Quang Ngai Province in 1966. These artifacts had been held by an American war veteran for many years. Of special note, one of the artifacts was a small diary that was torn in a few places and hard to read but that contained the soldier’s record of a time of war. This diary, along with the other artifacts, is currently being held by the Military History Museum of Vietnam and will soon be returned to the soldier’s family. However, few people know that behind the scenes, the return home of this diary after 46 long years was the result of a long humanitarian effort that involved a large number of people.
A Story that began 46 years ago…
On 28 March 1966 Bravo Company, 1st Battalion/7th Marines was fighting in Quang Ngai Province as part of Operation Indiana. Both the U.S. and Vietnam suffered rather heavy losses in this battle. While he was policing up the battlefield, an American Marine named Ira Rober Frazure, assigned to Charlie Company, picked up a small notebook he found lying on the chest of a dead Liberation Army soldier. In this small notebook was written the name Vu Dinh Doan. Alongside the notebook were found a photograph of two girls, a few old currency notes, and a citizens identificationcard that recorded when the soldier joined the army and the name of his native village. When the American Marine was discharged from the armed forces in November of that year, he took it home with him to the United States.
Forty-six years later, in January 2012 by chance the “History Detectives” Program of the American PBS Television Network obtained this notebook. This is a program that specializes in telling stories from the past. Vu Dinh Doan’s diary received special attention from the PBS network. Wes Cowan, a researcher working for the program (and also the individual who personally contacted the American Embassy in Hanoi to send this diary back to Vietnam) described his reaction to the diary as follows: “The consequences on both sides were horrendous. That was my thought when I held this diary in my hand. I thought that it was very possible that I was holding someone’s written memories in my hand.”
The question facing the PBS personnel at that time was how to “uncover” the story of this diary, since they had very little information other than the native village that was inscribed on the back of the notebook’s cover. And no one knew for sure whether or not the relatives of this Vietnamese martyr were still alive.
The road home of this small notebook
In spite of this, because of the “attraction” of the secrets regarding this small notebook, PBS initiated a “campaign” to find a way to return Doan’s diary and the other items belonging to him.
On 28 March 2012, a PBS Television editor named Tierney Bonini sent an e-mail to Professor Ho Tai Hue Tam, the only individual currently teaching history at Harvard University, to ask for help in locating the relatives of the martyr who had written this diary. Professor Hue Tam is a member of the Vietnam Study Group on the internet, a website that consists of the e-mail addresses of more than one thousand researchers throughout the world who specialize in Vietnam. Mrs. Hue Tam immediately posted the letter sent by the PBS editor on the VSG website in the hope that the VSG community would help to return the diary to the family.
Fortuitously, Kyle Horst, a former United Nations official who had lived and worked in Vietnam for many years, had registered as a member of the VSG and he read this letter. PBS editor Bonini said in the letter that the makes of the “History Detectives” program believed that Martyr Doan’s relatives were still living somewhere in Vietnam. According to her letter, “We have the name and address of the North Vietnamese soldier along with a photograph of two young girls taken in 1960.” The makers of this program also said that they believed that Martyr Doan had been a soldier in the 21st Regiment of the People’s Army of Vietnam’s 2nd Division and that the battle in which Doan had been killed had taken place in Son Tinh District, Quang Ngai Province.
It should be added that in addition to finding someone to translate the information contained in the diary into Vietnamese [sic], the PBS editors also had to devote a great deal of time to the work of obtaining information about the battle fought in Quang Ngai that year and the various place names that were involved.
Although the letter had provided only a few short lines of information, Kyle immediately telephoned Editor Bonini and said that he might be able to help. His many years of experience in Vietnam told Kyle that he might be able to find the martyr’s family. In addition to having spent more than ten years working in Vietnam (1984-1994), after his return to the U.S. from 1996 on, Kyle, serving as a consultant, had worked with many different American television networks and had provided dozens of news reports involving this S-shaped land. Kyle had also worked with Intelligence Major General Pham Xuan An in helping the author Thomas Bass to write a book about this legendary spy. Able to speak Vietnamese like a native, familiar with every street in Vietnam, and with a deep knowledge of Vietnamese culture, it would have been hard to find anyone better suited than Kyle to serve as the “guide” to take this diary to its correct address in Vietnam.
Then, during a discussion with Kyle, Editor Bonini, utilizing information contained in the diary, gave him the address of Martyr Doan’s family in Vietnam. Afer obtaining this information, Kyle immediately sent e-mails and made telephone calls to friends in Vietnam asking them to find the family. Amazingly, a friend of Kyle’s named Hang who lives in Ho Chi Minh City was able to find Martyr Doan’s family only two days after Kyle made the request.
However, because of a small “misunderstanding,” it was almost two months from the time that the address was confirmed before Miss Hang, Kyle, and the people from the PBS “History Detectives” Program were able to positively confirm that these were in fact the relatives of the diary’s owner.
Tuesday, 18 August 2012 - Installment 2: The Martyr and the Talking Tu-lo-kho Card
People’s Army – Based on the information contained in and related to the diary of Martyr Vu Dinh Doan, on a rainy August morning we went to the martyr’s native village in Binh Giang District, Hai Duong Province. Unfortunately, our desire to meet with all of Martyr Doan’s relatives went unfulfilled because Mrs. Nguyen Thi Phuong, his mother, had just recently passed away.
Mr. Vu Ðình Son (on left) together with Mr. Côn (on right) and other relatives of Martyr. Photo: Nguyễn Hòa
We would like to begin with the “small misunderstanding” that we mentioned in the previous installment, a misunderstanding that caused the search for the owner of this diary to take quite a bit more time. In April 2012, Vu Dinh Son, the third child of Martyr Doan, received a telephone call from someone who told him about the diary and who sent him a photograph that had been found with the diary as proof. Strangely, however, when he looked at the photograph Son did not recognize the two young girls shown in the picture.
Only after asking a number of his father’s old friends who are still alive did Son finally figure out this riddle. It turned out that the girls in the photograph were Yen and Nhat, who when they were young were members of the local guerrilla unit who served in the unit with Martyr Doan. One of these two women said that because they had been friends back then, when Doan went off to war they had given him this photograph as a memento. Only then was everyone finally certain that the artifacts belonging to Martyr Vu Dinh Doan had reached their proper destination.
The Search for a Father
Martyr Vu Dinh Doan was killed in 1966, but for many years after his death his relatives back at home were kept waiting anxiously, because they received virtually no news about him and his fate.
Only in 1975, after the liberation of South Vietnam, when one of Martyr Doan’s fellow soldiers who came from the same village was discharged from the army and returned home, did his family finally know for certain that they would never again see the husband and father who had left to fallow the call of the Fatherland. When he returned home, Vu Ba Con, who had served with Martyr Doan as an artilleryman in the 14th Company of Agricultural Work Site 21 (now called the 21st Regiment), he brought with him a “tú-lo-kho”* card that contained some words written by Martyr Doan. This “tú-lo-kho” card was given to the children of Martyr Doan. On it was written the words, “Vu Dinh Doan, killed 7 March 1966 (Western Calendar) at Chop Non Hill, Son Tinh District, Quang Ngai Province. Con also is the one who wrote the letter confirming Vu Dinh Doan death that served as the basis for the Ministry of Labor, Disabled Veterans, and Social Welfare to finally approve granting martyr status to Con’s old comrade-in-arms.
After receiving the news that her husband would never return from the battlefield, Vu Dinh Doan’s widow grew pale and thin. To the long years of hardship waiting for husband’s return and trying to raise their children were now added bitter tears of sorrow. Because of the family’s difficult circumstances, it was not until1986, after the children were grown and after the construction of the village’s Martyrs Cemetery had begun, that she finally urged her children to try to find their father’s gravesite.
Just as virtually all of Martyr Doan’s fellow soldiers who returned from the war had told them, during that time, after the battle the entire area where Chop Non Hill (also called Yen Ngua [Saddleback] Hill) is located had been devastated by enemy bombs, so the children were unable to find his remains.
They continued to ask questions about their father’s gravesite. Finally, in 2001, during a trip down to the southern half of Vietnam, Son was traveling through Son Tinh District and went to visit Chop Non Hill. After hearing the news that someone from the North had arrived to try to find his father’s gravesite, the local people came to see him and took him to the site where that ferocious battle had been fought so many years ago. They said that almost all of our troops had been killed because the enemy had caught our forces by surprise. During the long years since the battle, this hill that had been planted in sugar cane and had been devastated by bombs and shell was now completely covered with thick jungle vegetation.
* “To-lo-kho” is a card game that was played by some North Vietnamese troops.
“The day that my wife and I went there searching for my father, one of the local residents who saw me exclaimed that I closely resembled a soldier from Hai Duong named Doan or Hoan, a soldier this person said was a little taller than me,” Son told us.
The people who lived near Chop Non Hill also said that back then Martyr Doan had been a member of the military entertainment troop and had often played and sung for them, so many of the people still remembered him. Son told us in a voice choked with emotion, “It was because of this that I was able to finally find my father’s grave after quite a bit of searching.”
After receiving an official memorandum from the Quang Ngai Province Military Command, in April 2008 Son and his wife went down to Quang Ngai to confirm the facts, and in November of that year they decided to bring the remains of Martyr Vu Dinh Doan back home.
The Memories of a Survivor
His father was killed on the battlefield when Son was just over one year old. Growing up in the care of his hard-working mother, who worked in the rice-fields, his only images of his father Vu Dinh Doan were those he obtained from the stories his mother told him and from stories he heard occasionally from some old soldiers who had served with his father.
“I only heard what some of the older men who had previously served as village guerrillas said about him, because before he left my father had been the deputy commander of the village militia unit. They said he was happy and outgoing and that he loved to sing and play the guitar. That is why many people knew and liked him and why they still remember him,” Vu Dinh Son told us as he began to tell us about his father.
Although they fell in love when they were still very young, it was not until they were in their twenties that Doan and his wife Phuong’s first child was born. However, their life together did not last very long. After Doan joined the army, his wife back at home had to work hard to support her four children plus Doan’s mother and her own mother. Throughout all the years, and even just before she died, she always talked about him and still felt the pain of those years when her husband went off to war. “Wherever he went, my father always wrote letters home,” Vu Dinh Son told us.
However, Doan’s widow did not keep her husband’s letters and never read them to her children, because every time she took the letters out, she would burst into tears. The children also had no mementoes of him other than an old shirt of his that was used to keep the children warm when they were young. “When I reached my adolescent years, all we had was a thick khaki shirt that had belonged to my father. Whenever the weather was cold my siblings and I would take turns wearing it, until finally it became tattered and simply wore out,” Son recalled regretfully.
Just before Doan’s widow died, she received word that an American veteran wanted to return her husband’s diary to her. She was very happy and waited anxiously to see the diary. However, old age caught up with her and she could wait no longer. She died less than a week before U.S. Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta turned the diary over to General Phung Quang Thanh in Hanoi/
Con, who saw Doan not long before he died, remembers,
“In early 1966 my unit was giving the mission of providing security for our regiment. On the day he died, after lunchtime our unit was informed that enemy troops were moving in behind the sugar cane field and were moving up Chop Non Hill. When he heard the sound of gunfire, Doan grabbed the artillery aiming stake and ran toward our gun. Then he was killed.”
Deep in his soul, Veteran Vu Ba Con still retains the image of his fellow soldier Vu Dinh Doan as a straightforward and emotional man. He remembers the days when they first joined the army, when they marched on foot from Chi Linh to the Cao Xa train station in Cam Giang District, Hai Duong Province, and then boarded a train to be shipped South to fight. The words of encouragement that Martyr Doan gave him helped Con to overcome the bouts of malarial fever that sometimes ravaged him and the times that he was so sick he thought he could not even stand up, enabling Con to continue to fight to protect our homeland.
Wednesday, 19 September 2012 - Installment 3: Thoughts From the Battlefield
People’s Army – The individual words written in tiny red letters, the handwriting slanted and cramped with words overlapping one another, all written on very thin sheets of paper are animated, lively, sincere, and very moving snippets of film of the thoughts and memories of a martyr from the years when he marched off in response to the call of his country.
Memories, day by day
The notebook is small and thin, the paper is thin typing paper, and the lines of writing have faded with the passage of time, but these pages are where Martyr Vu Dinh Doan recorded his innermost thoughts and feelings. Doan joined the army on 10 May 1965, stayed at Chi Linh for about two months, and then he and his unit marched out down the road to South Vietnam.
Martyr Vu Ðình Ðoàn.
Apparently he took note of the places he stopped along the way. The place names and the events reflect his honest thoughts, and they come to life through the very personal feelings of a soldier. Vu Ba Con, one of Martyr Doan’s fellow soldiers, recalls his friend’s habit of making notes in his diary. Con recalls that wherever they went, when Doan had a moment of free time he would take out the small notebook to write in it. At some point, this notebook became this soldier’s closest friend, one that held his personal “secrets.” There was nothing particularly grand about what is written. These notes are just a few lines about the feelings of homesickness that suddenly struck him when he stood at the top of a pass and looked out at the mountains and the horizon, or the happiness he felt when he ran into an acquaintance, when he stopped to rest along the route of march, or even during a heavy rainstorm while he was standing guard duty. Those are the things that Doan recounted in his own gentle way.
Reading the first pages of the diary allows the reader to understand that during the first days of the march South the heart of Soldier Vu Dinh Doan ached as he thought of home. “On the 5th Day of the 9th Lunar Month I stood at the top of a pass that was 1,500 meters high. On the 10th day of the 9th Lunar Month, my paternal grandmother’s death anniversary, I was standing at the top of a pass that was 1,800 meters high. I sat down at the top of the pass to eat a meal of a rice-ball and salt with Bong, Sao, Con, and Gia…I remembered my life back at home…” The lines are filled with the emotions and feelings of the diary’s owner. And those constant feelings of homesickness appear once again. This was when he reached the top of a pass that was 2,800 meters high. In his small notebook, Martyr Doan records that it took him eight hours to climb to the top of this pass. By the time he reached the top, he was soaked with sweat and extremely tired, but when he stood at that lofty place, where all he would see was mountains and jungle, memories of home once again filled his heart.
Back then, our soldiers keep their feelings of homesickness hidden deep in their hearts. It was not that they were afraid of being disciplined, it was just for the simple reason that they were afraid that those feelings would dull their fighting spirt. Vu Ba Con recalled, “At that time we all really missed home. However, we spoke of this to one another only occasionally. The rest of the time we kept our feelings inside so that we would not lose our fighting edge. We would just record our feelings in our diaries. During the march we were usually very tired, and no one had time to think about his family. But when we stopped to rest, feelings of homesickness would flood through us. And that was when we would write in our diaries. Everyone kept a diary. Everyone had one or two small home-made notebooks. We kept our notes very short and wrote either in pen or in pencil.”
The heated emotions of a time of war
However, this diary does not just record Martyr Doan’s feelings of homesickness. The small, extremely thin notebook also is filled with the heated passions of a man who loves his country, a patriot. “On 9 January 1966 we marched into Quang Ngai Province. Our march took a total of 15 days. Canh was wounded on 15 January 1966. On 19 January 1966 we stopped to rest for ten days. We ate cold rice with fermented fish sauce at the edge of the jungle treeline in Quang Ngai. My arduous but glorious life…On 1 February 1966 our unit passed our battle resolve. On Tuesday we held the ceremony for us to move out to fight. Our unit consists of 37 men, including an assault unit to destroy enemy tanks …When we read the Army’s ten oaths zeal filled us, like a great storm that roils the vast ocean and sky. We swore that we would destroy eight enemy aircraft and five tanks. At exactly 6:00 in the evening on 1 February 1966 we moved out for battle.” These lines from the diary paint an image of a time of war.
Martyr Doan’s belongings recovered after 46 long years.
For soldiers, it seems that memories of their comrades-in-arms will always be the most beautiful memories of their lives. In his notebook Martyr Doan recorded the unexpected happiness he felt when a friend appeared out of the blue to visit him. His joy was so great that he could not sleep that entire night. “…I was sitting around when I heard someone call for Doan. It was 7:00 at night on 9 February 1966. I ran over and saw my friend Truc, the husband of Aunt Ty in Quang Ngai. It is wonderful to see a friend in a difficult situation, and it turned out we were both living the same combat area. Then we talked about the long march and the hardships of the life of a soldier….”
As the time of the battle on Chop Non Hill came closer the diary entries became fewer and fewer. Perhaps Martyr Doan did not have enough free time to write in his diary. On a few small pages he wrote brief descriptions of the preparations for battle, digging firing revetments for the artillery gun, and seeing enemy aircraft. The diary ends on 30 February 1966. At that time Martyr Doan records that American aircraft had circled and swooped over the Chop Non Hill area many times.
Martyr Vu Dinh Doan was killed on 28 March 1966. During the last moments of his life, he bit the pen to squeeze out a few drops of red ink and wrote on one of the playing cards he always carried with him the date of his death so that later someone might take it and be able to notify his children. He then gave the card to Vu Ba Con. However, it was not until 1975 that Con finally was able to give it to Doan’s son, Mr. Son. As for Son, it was not until 2001 that he went down to visit the site of the battle to search for his father’s grave that the local residents told him that it was Doan himself who had written the date of his death on the playing card.
Another important memento of Martyr Doan that the American veteran had kept along with the diary was the photograph of Ms. Yen and Ms. Nhat. The lines that Martyr Doan wrote on the back of the photograph once again revealed his passionate love of his homeland and his confidence in victory. The lines also reveal that he seems to have had some premonition of his own death. “My dear Nhat and Yen. You two gave me this photograph as a memento when I left on 9 June 1965. Now I am living with the people of South Vietnam and I am still trying to stay alive as of 9 March 1966 here in Quang Ngai. If I die, it is for the sake of the Fatherland and for the liberation of South Vietnam. If I live, we will be reunited when our country is reunified and will work together in in a unified nation…”
Perhaps at that point in time Martyr Doan was confident that our country would be unified. And that unification finally happened six years after his death.
Thursday, 20 September 2012, Installment 4: Easing the Pain of War
People’s Army – Martyr Doan’s diary is just about to be returned to his family after 46 years of having “gone astray.” As for Ira Robert Frazure, the person who kept the diary for the past 46 years, we can say that he feels a bit better after having achieved his heart’s desire. In an e-mail he sent to us from the United States, Frazure wrote, “Please tell the Vietnamese people that there is no hatred in me nor is there any hatred between us, and tell them I would like to send them my respects.
He wanted to return the diary more than once
American veteran Robert Frazue currently lives with his wife on Saddle Mountain, near Walla Walla in Washington State. Frazure lives a life that is almost completely isolated from the outside world around him. His house does not even have a telephone. Many years ago Frazure discovered that he had cancer of the larynx, the result of Agent Orange exposure during the time he fought in Vietnam. His disease has cost Frazure one lung, and from the past nine years he has been kept alive by an oxygen machine. Once every two weeks, Frazure’s wife has to go down the mountain into a town 30 kilometers away to exchange his oxygen tank for a new one.
Given these living conditions, it is very difficult to get in touch with Frazure. However, thanks to Kyle, we were able to get an “internet connection” with Frazure. However, we did not have any hope of obtaining any significant amount of information from him, because speaking is very difficult for this American Marine veteran. Fortunately, however, through Kyle Frazure sent us a short message. In his e-mail, Frazure gave us a brief summary description of the circumstances in which he acquired Martyr Doan’s diary.
After the battle on 28 March 1966 on Chop Non Hill, Ira Robert Frazure’s Charlie Company was assigned to police up the battlefield. While he was carrying out this assignment, Frazure saw a red diary lying on the chest of the dead Vietnamese soldier. Curious, the American soldier walked over to look at it. As he looked through the small notebook whose pages were covered with words written in red ink, even though he did not know Vietnamese, Frazure was suddenly struck by a desire to keep the diary. Frazure said that perhaps he wanted to keep it as a souvenir of his time in Vietnam. But it might also have been for some other reason that he still cannot explain. Frazure was discharged from the Marines in November of that same year. He took the diary and a number of other artifacts he had taken from the Vietnamese martyr back home with him and kept them in his possession.
Many years after he got out of the Marines, when he took out the small notebook and looked at it again he suddenly realized that it was a diary. Circa 1978, on at least one occasion Frazure thought that he should try to find a way to return the diary to the soldier’s family. He tried to convince a few newspapers and his local Veterans Association to take it in the hopes that they would be able to locate the martyr’s loved ones and return the diary to them. However, no one was willing to do this. In spite of this, Frazure continued to try to find someone to do this until a friend of his told him that he should stop trying because the conditions were not yet right. So, once again, Frazure again “forgot” about the diary. This was during the 1990s.
Robert Frazure and his wife today (photo supplied by the family)
It should be noted here that to keep the diary intact for all those years, after he returned from the war Frazure stored the diary in an antique pottery urn that his wife’s grandmother had left them. The small notebook stayed there for all those years, right up until the time it was given to PBS Television.
Getting rid of all hatred
In 2012, Frazure got an opportunity to send Martyr Doan’s diary back home. This opportunity arose when he met Marge, the younger sister of a dead friend of his named Xcu-to [sic]. Marge was looking for information so that she would write a book about her older brother’s life and his military career. Frazure gave the diary to Marge and asked her to return it to the family of Martyr Vu Dinh Doan. However, it was not until February 2012 that Marge finally gave the diary to the PBS Television Program “The History Detectives” to see if they could try to find out more information as well as to find the family of Martyr Doan.
In his e-mail letter, the American veteran said that he had a bad feeling about the Vietnam War. Initially he had intended to keep the diary as a souvenir of the time he had fought in Vietnam, but over time, this small notebook had begun to haunt him and he now really wanted to return it to the family.
Frazure has always wanted to be able to return to Vietnam, but his medical condition would never allow him to do so. Frazure ended his letter as follows:
“I told my wife how beautiful that country was and I told her about the things I had seen there. I hoped that the family of the Vietnamese martyr will receive the diary. I also hope that they will inform me that they have received this memento of their loved one. Please tell all the Vietnamese people that I no longer have any hate in me and that there is no hate between us, and please tell them that I send them my respects.”
That is what kind of person the returner is, so what about the recipient? When he was asked what he had thought when he was told that an American was returning the diary, speaking as the son of Martyr Vu Dinh Doan, Mr. Son said,
“This person took these mementos from my father, but in any case now he has returned them. For that we must thank him, because someone else would have just thrown these things away. And through this diary we have been able to learn everything about my father’s memories and thoughts during the past, from before he went into battle, and how he died.”
Before she died, Martyr Doan’s widow told her children,
“For the person who held those missing pages belonging to my father for all those years to still have kept searching for a way to return it to us proves that this is a man with who has a good heart.”
As for us, from the first moment we began writing this series of articles, we have firmly held the belief that there are still many other mementos of war like the diary of Martyr Vu Dinh Doan that are still lying in bookcases and in drawers, and it is our hope that these mementos will also be returned to the families and loved ones of their dead former owners. This would not be simply a dose of spiritual medicine; the return would also help, at least to a certain extent, to further ease the pain of war.
Sunday, October 07 2012 - Installment 5: In the Embrace of the Home Town
As reported earlier, martyr Vu Dinh Doan’s diary finally reached its home. Holding his father’s souvenir, Vu Dinh Son said in tears that before passing away, his mother had asked him to tell the American veteran that though it was late, he had done what should be done, as his deed had partly helped heal the wound of the war.
We had taken down Son’s words carefully, hoping that they could warm up the heart of the distant US veteran, as his long-nurtured desire was coming true.
On the morning of September 21st, the Vietnam Military History Museum and relevant organs under the Ministry of National Defence, the General Department of Politics of the Vietnamese People’s Army organized a ceremony to return the items of martyr Vu Dinh Doan to his relatives in his native Cay village, Long Xuyen commune, Binh Giang district, Hai Duong Province.
A number of local officials, people and domestic and international reporters were present at the ceremony to show their love and respect to martyr Vu Dinh Doan, the heroic son of Hai Duong Province.
Addressing the ceremony, Vu Dinh Son said that they were deeply moved to receive their father’s souvenirs and through this small diary, they could further understand and have more pride in their father who had sacrificed his life for national liberation and reunification.
Vu Dinh Son further said that his father had left for the front when his elder siblings were still very small, he himself was a baby and his mother was pregnant with the youngest brother, so they could only imagine about their lovely father. Now, they are all very proud of their brave father who sacrificed himself for the national noble cause.
A brave man
In fact, less than 10 out of the 40 young volunteers from Hai Duong Province returned home after the resistance war. Some of martyr Vu Dinh Doan’s comrades-in-arms who attended the ceremony still recalled their memories of him.
Nguyen Quy Ba, alias Ba Thanh, who served in the army for 40 years, recalled that Doan was among the most energetic and resourceful youths of the village. He was eager and enthusiastic to join the army to fight foreign invaders, leaving behind his young wife and small children. The 81-year-old man, Nguyen Quy Ba, reminded us of what US veteran “Ira” Robert Frazure had shared with us in his email, that in the 1966 battle in Quang Ngai Province, Vu Dinh Doan and his three comrades had bravely sacrificed themselves for the safety of their unit, trying to block US troops’ pursuit. “Ira” Robert Frazure also commented that Vu Dinh Doan might have been the most valiant man he had ever met in his life.
The US veteran who has been struggling with cancer could not return to Vietnam to hand over martyr Vu Dinh Doan’s souvenirs to his relatives, though he would love to do it very much.
In his short letter to martyr Vu Dinh Doan’s relatives, he shared that it took him much time to return that diary. However, its eventual return helped ease his long-term burden because the diary could now return to the place where it belongs. He also expressed his regret at the death of martyr Vu Dinh Doan’s wife before the diary’s return.
Though the letter was quite short, it contained the US veteran’s confidences, and the torment of war that both the living and the dead had to suffer.
“Ira” Robert Frazure also asked the martyr’s relatives to take care of the diary, as he did for over 4 decades now, without knowing its content.
In fact, PBS had translated all the contents of the diary into English, but the translation had not reached him yet.
Finally, the diary has returned to its family, an integral part of the brave life of martyr Vu Dinh Doan for his relatives.
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