Vietnamese ambassador to Australia Ngo Huong Nam, along with the Vietnamese defence attaché Senior Colonel Nguyen Manh Chu and deputy defence attaché Lieutenant Colonel Viet Anh were all briefed on the project, which aims to help find some of the estimated 300,000 Vietnamese soldiers MIA.
The mission started after Vietnamese authorities helped find the bodies of six Australians listed as MIA at the end of the Vietnam War, and were returned home.
Operation Wandering Souls "aims to reciprocate this action and passes on information to Vietnam about the identity and burial sites of the missing Vietnamese soldiers".
The retrieval of these remains is important as Vietnamese culture holds the belief that the spirits of those who die violently, or whose fate is unknown, will wander forever unless the appropriate ceremony is held.
Since 2012, information has been provided on over 450 Vietnamese soldiers who were killed in combat with Australian and New Zealand forces. Personal items taken from soldiers as mementos of war provide clues to where the owners were buried.
“If Vietnam veterans have an item such as a Vietnamese commendation certificate, diary, or personal letter, please send it to the Operation Wandering Souls team along with as much as you can recall about the circumstances by which you ‘captured’ them,” UNSW Canberra adjunct lecturer Dr Bob Hall said.
Dr Hall and visiting fellow Derrill de Heer head the Operation Wandering Souls team, and hope to continue providing information to Vietnamese families and authorities.
“It’s the right thing to do. If the situation was reversed we’d like them to do this for our families,” Dr Hall said.
More information on Operation Wandering Souls can be found here.