written by Bob Connor
Vietnam veteran Louie Dunham acquired an NVA helmet while serving as an MP in Vietnam in the 1960s. He returned home with the helmet and kept it for over 50 years. Recently, he posted on Facebook that he’d like to give it away, perhaps even return it to Vietnam. In stepped Bob Connor, who has been working with Vietnamese families to recover remains of VC and NVA soldiers killed in the war so their families can provide proper burials. With Bob’s help, the helmet is now heading back to Vietnam. Below is Bob’s email update.
The helmet Louie properly acquired in VN during the war and protected for over 50 years, is finally being given to the Soldier’s Uncle (also a former NVA Soldier) this Saturday.
The final path of this helmet most likely would not be taking place without AJ Moore noticing a post on Facebook by Louie wanting to give away the helmet. Louie himself was not even sure who would want it.
Although AJ and I had never connected directly on Facebook, he was aware of my humanitarian project in helping the Vietnamese families find their missing soldiers who died in battle during the war yet never knew where they were buried following a battle.
AJ immediately made contact with Louie and told him “he knows a guy who helps the Vietnamese find the mass graves, and he can find a way to get this helmet back to the family.”
On the helmet, the NVA soldier etched him full name and date of enlistment. He also etched a symbol whose meaning was difficult for us to discern.
I sent photos of the helmet to my Vietnamese contact, Thang. Thang looked up the symbol found out that it was a Chinese for “medic.”
With a name, enlistment date, and knowledge that the soldier was a medic, we figured identifying the owner would be easy.
In Vietnam, the People’s Army of Vietnam conducted a search for the soldier’s records. They found seven soldier with the same name and found that all seven enlisted on the same day.
The Vietnamese did further research and found only one of the seven had received medical training.
The Vietnamese also found records of the soldier being killed, his body retrieved by his unit, and properly buried as a “Martyr.”
I’m sure this helmet will be displayed in the proud Uncle’s home for years to come.
The helmet made a brief stop last month here in Philadelphia’s Independence Square for a planned meeting. I turned over the helmet to a Senior Officer of Vietnam’s Veterans Family Services (the man in the orange shirt). Also in the photo is Thang, the Vietnamese civilian engineer who helps us find both the Vietnamese and American missing.
Thank you Louie and AJ, for making this day possible not only for his Uncle but for family and friends who knew this young soldier.
We all fought for what we believed was right. Over time, we learned more.