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Belated Medals of Honor Awarded

Decades after they proved their valor, two dozen Americans are recipients of long overdue Medals of Honor. In 2002, the Defense Department began reviewing records of troops awarded the second highest honor: the Distinguished Service Award, the Air Force Cross and the Navy Cross. The examination was in response to criticism that troops of various ethnicities in World War II, the Korean War and the Vietnam War may have been overlooked for the Medal of Honor because of prejudice. After more than a decade of examination, the Defense Department identified 24 deserving soldiers— all but five are of Jewish, Hispanic or African-American descent—and they were awarded the Medal of Honor by President Barack Obama on March 18. Only three are still living, all Vietnam veterans. Five of the remaining 21 served in Vietnam. Nine served in Korea, and seven served in World War II.

Hagel Targets Bungled JPAC/MIA Mission

A fter the Government Account- ability Office’s disturbing report in July on mismanagement in the recovery of fallen soldiers’ remains, Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel is seeking answers. Hagel announced February 21 that he had ordered a review of the problems plaguing the Joint POW/MIA Accounting Command and the Defense POW/Missing Personnel Office. Hagel requested solutions that will address duplication of efforts, lack of transparency and overlapping or unclear jurisdictions in the POW/MIA programs. The goal is to improve efficiency and expedite retrieval—as well as to shore up confidence in the mission itself, the Defense Department said. Michael Lumpkin, acting undersecretary for defense, will lead the review. One of the ugly surprises was the Pentagon’s admission that ceremonies honoring the return of remains were staged for press coverage, and the remains being symbolically returned had already been examined in the forensics lab.

Vietnam Wall Replica on Long-Term Display

A traveling exhibition featuring a replica of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial wall will have a five-year stint at the National Infantry Museum and Soldier Center in Columbus, Ga. One of several traveling replicas of the Wall, this three-quarter size model has been touring the country since 1990. A motorcycle escort was scheduled to accompany the memorial to its new home on March 2, followed by a symposium on March 20 and the formal dedication on March 21. For more information on the infantry museum and its Vietnam Memorial Plaza visit www.

Helmet Returned to Family of NVA Soldier

A poignant memento of a tough year is back in Vietnam. Sergeant John Wast picked up the helmet of a dead North Vietnamese soldier after the Battle of Duc Lap in August 1968. He noticed that the soldier, one of some 800 killed in the battle, had etched inside the rim pictures of a dove and palm tree and signed his name, Buic Duc Hung. In 2012, Wast, of Toledo, Ohio, decided to hunt for the soldier’s family. He reached out to the nonprofit Development of Vietnam Endeavors, known by its acronym the Dove Fund, which helps to rebuild Vietnam. The group, with assistance from a Vietnamese emigre, contacted the soldier’s extended family (his wife and daughter are dead) and returned the helmet to them in their hometown on the outskirts of Hanoi. Wast served as the platoon commander of—and the only American in—a special forces unit of Australian and Montagnard troops.

The Rare Saola Survives

In 1992 a new species of an antelopelike mammal, the saola, was discovered in the dense lush mountains of central Vietnam. This past January a camera documenting wildlife in Vietnam’s Annamite Mountains captured a saola on film, according to the Los Angeles Times. Only a few hundred of the gentle, relatively defenseless and critically endangered mammals are believed to survive. Another piece of good news from the conservation front: The Tonkin snub-nosed monkey, a native of Vietnam, is no longer in decline. The current population, at more than 100, is the highest ever recorded.

Heritage Mango Trees of Vietnam

Twenty sprawling mango trees on the campus of a Buddhist temple in Can Luong village in south central Vietnam have been named heritage trees, according to VietnamNet. The heritage tree program recognizes trees in the wild that are at least 200 years old. Planted trees— like the mango tree below, placed in the ground by Buddhist monk Phap Chuyen in 1793—must be more than 100 years old to get the heritage tree designation. The tree joins nearly 500 others noted by the program.

Texans Commemorated

Rows of suspended dog tags representing more than 3,400 Texans who died in Vietnam were put on temporary display at the USS Lexington Museum in Corpus Christi. The exhibit, conceived by the Texas Capitol Vietnam Veterans Monument Committee, also includes the dog tags of 102 Texans listed as missing in action. The display will have a permanent home in Austin.

GI Joe Turns 50

In February 1964, a 12-inch action figure debuted at a price of $4. Envisioned as a multijointed—21 movable parts!—toy soldier along the lines of the popular Barbie doll, GI Joe was the brainchild of toy designer Stan Weston and Hasbro Creative Director Don Levine. Four versions—soldier, sailor, pilot and Marine—were marketed. Later on, a GI Nurse became available, but that figure did not sell nearly as many copies and is now a rare, collectible item in its own right. The original GI Joe prototype, carved from wood, was sold for $200,000 in 2003.

Brothers in War Movie Premieres March 26

A documentary film based on the book The Boys of ’67: Charlie Company’s War in Vietnam, by Andrew Wiest, features interviews with the soldiers and archival footage of Charlie, 4th of the 47th, in the reactivated 9th Infantry Division, “raised, drafted and trained” for service in Vietnam. The two-hour program, narrated by Charlie Sheen, premiered March 26 on the National Geographic Channel.

Vietnam’s First Submarine Arrives

Vietnam’s first submarine—one of six purchased from Russia under a $2 billion 2009 deal—arrived at Cam Ranh naval base, according to The diesel-electric sub is part of a plan for a fleet established in June 2013. Nearby nations with submarines in their fleets include Singapore, Malaysia and Indonesia.


Originally published in the June 2014 issue of Vietnam. To subscribe, click here.