SYDNEY, Sept. 10 (Xinhua) -- The bodies of thousands of Vietnamese soldiers killed during the 20th century conflict with the United States, will have a better hope of being located thanks to new research backed by Australia’s University of New South Wales (UNSW).
The findings of an extensive investigation which used war records and other documents was handed to Vietnamese officials at Australia’s Parliament House in Canberra on Tuesday.
Australia sent around 60,000 ground, air and naval personnel to fight in Vietnam between 1962 and 1972, and Vietnamese officials have previously helped Australia locate the bodies of a number of missing soldiers.
“The Vietnamese were very generous in providing support to Australia in recovering our six MIAs and so we think that it’s important to return that favor and help them put to rest the souls of their loved ones,” lead researcher and UNSW lecturer Dr. Bob Hall told Xinhua.
Records of battles involving Australia, New Zealand, the U.S. and other countries, as well as letters and photographs were analysed to give Vietnamese officials a clearer picture of where to look, under the project name Operation Wandering Souls.
Hall said that the locations of larger battles would likely have already been scoured for remains, however smaller engagements, in dense and remote jungle for instance, may have gone unrecorded on the Vietnamese side.
“I think one of the ways in which we can help them is in the many thousands of small contacts where perhaps there were only three or four of their soldiers involved,” Hall said.
“We suspect that there will be a lot of sites where they haven't recovered remains, and where they don't even know that a small battle took place.”
Hall explained that in Vietnamese culture if a person dies as a result of violence and cannot be found by their kin, the necessary rituals to have the spirit pass into rest cannot be conducted.
“Many Vietnamese are very anxious to be able to conduct these rituals either at the site of death or preferably over the remains of their loved ones so they can return their souls to rest.”