Arm Bones Returned To Vietnam As American Doctor Reunites With Amputee

A man’s arm bones were returned to him on Monday — decades after they were amputated from the badly wounded North Vietnamese soldier’s body by an American doctor.

Houston urologist Dr. Sam Axelrad, now 74, said that he originally cleaned and brought the bones back from Vietnam after his service in the 1960s. He kept them as a reminder that when the badly hurt enemy soldier was brought to him for help, he did the right thing and saved the man’s life.

There’s an extensive report in the Houston Chronicle about his amazing search to relocate his patient after Axelrad rediscovered the arm bones in his closet two years ago.

The two finally reunited again on Monday. Nguyen Quang Hung expressed surprise that Axelrad still had the bones but he was delighted to have them.

The arm bones can now be properly buried with 73-year-old Hung when he passes. Hung, his children, and grandchildren welcomed Dr. Axelrad with a lunch on Monday.

Both men seemed pleased to meet and finally find closure for their roles in the long-running Vietnam war. Hung told the Associated Press that he was shot in the arm in October 1966 while fighting American forces.

Captured and dying of the infection, he said: “I was like a fish on a chopping-board. They could have either killed or spared me.”

As the Vietnam War generation ages and seeks peace, there have been other attempts to find closure. In April, 72-year-old Joan Baez returned to the Hanoi bunker where she rode out the 11-day 1972 Christmas bombings.

And the returns don’t just go one way.

Late in 2012, the remains of Army Major James Whited were finally returned to Norman, Oklahoma for burial, decades after he was lost in Vietnam on Nov. 19, 1966.

However, the returned arm bones may be one of the most unusual souvenirs of the Vietnam War that have been returned to that country.

[arm bones X-ray by eAlisa via Shutterstock]