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Panetta, Vietnam Exchange Soldiers’ Writings More Than 40 Years Old

Photo of two women found inside the Vietnamese soldier’s diary. All images provided by PBS’ History Detectives.

Unveiling pieces of history Monday, Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta and Vietnam’s Defense Minister General Thanh exchanged letters and a diary written by U.S. and Vietnamese soldiers killed in a war more than 40 years old, according to PBS.

The diary, provided to Panetta by PBS’ History Detectives, was recovered from the body of a North Vietnamese soldier killed in a 1966 firefight near Quang Ngai.

The letters offered by Thanh were discovered on the body of U.S. Sgt. Steve Flaherty, who died in 1969.

“There were many lives lost in that war both from the United States and from Vietnam,” said Panetta on the found artifacts. “If we can work together — both of our countries — to develop a better relationship … all of the sacrifice involved in that war will have proved worthwhile because we will improve the peace and prosperity of the Asia-Pacific region.”

Part of an investigation with the Department of Defense scheduled to air on PBS in September, History Detectives translated the diary with hopes of unearthing the story behind the young women in the photograph and returning it to the soldier’s family.

“The diary and photograph are small reminders that the combatants who were lost on both sides were not simply warriors, but real people who will forever be remembered by their loved ones,” said History Detectives host Wes Cowan.

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