Vietnam - The Wandering Souls

Mar 30, 2010
Just watched this online.. ABC Australia - Foreign Correspondent.

Thought I would share this for those that are interested to see some good being done by the veterans from the Vietnam war.

Brief overview below:-

Vietnam helped Australia find its last six soldiers missing in action. Now two Australians - former veterans Derrill de Heer and Dr Bob Hall - are aiming to return the favour.

Using Australian war records, maps and combat references, they’ve produced the first comprehensive account of where nearly 4,000 missing Vietnamese troops might be found.

In a country where most families lost someone during the years of war, the enduring grief for many is not knowing where their loved ones had fallen. Without that knowledge they believe their dead will be wandering souls who will have no peace. Nor will the survivors.

"I’m very happy to be able to return this information to the Vietnamese people, particularly veterans. Soldiers get on with soldiers. We have a particular sense of humour. We’ll drink beer together, eat noodles together. And I think where there are some very disgruntled people at home in Australia, this is really a peaceful thing." DERRIL DE HEER Vietnam veteran

Enter Laurens Wildeboer. He’s spent the years since his return from Vietnam trying to forget the horrors and futility of war. And yet he’d held onto some very strong reminders of that time – a journal, a book of poetry and a scarf owned by one or more North Vietnamese soldiers. There were very few clues but Laurens’ fellow Vietnam Vets have helped him find an important connection – the mother of the soldier who’d committed his daily accounts of battle to a journal. The journey to return the diary becomes a cathartic pilgrimage.

"You know I’ve often heard guys say you should come back here to purge the soul or purge the spirit. And it’s amazing. It’s not until you go through it yourself that you realize how beneficial it is to return and have a look at the place and meet the people who show no sign of resentment or misgiving." LAURENS WILDEBOER Vietnam Veteran

Correspondent Eric Campbell joins Laurens and the others Vets for what is a highly emotional trip back to Vietnam. Laurens effort to return the relics to one 85 year old generates considerable interest among the local media and when it comes to the handover there’s not a dry eye in the house.

Rod Page

Jan 7, 2010
There has been considerable & very positive coverage & commentary in the local press in Vietnam over the past year or so, especially in Thanh Tien News (Ho Watanatham Nithat) an English language daily, though I might add, concern about the drop in funding for the project launched by a couple of returned soldiers.

Wildeboer's return of the poetry books received considerable good coverage in what was a very emotional meeting between Wildeboer & the mother of the soldier concerned.

The Vietnamese are a wonderful people, justifiably proud of their military history but what I found most impressive was their ability to move forward, to draw strength from the past but put the horrors of the past behind them. That said there are certain governments who could be showing some contrition & doing a little more for the innocent greatly scared by an unjust war.

Its a small world - I once worked for Foreign Correspondent as what the industry calls a 'fixer' assisting them get to the right people in Tahiti for programmes on the nuclear testing issue & subsequently the Mahu, a gifted & highly cultured third gender in Polynesian society. Its a very professional outfit, Foreign Correspondent, & I'll look forward to viewing the documentary, the subject of your report.
Mar 30, 2010
Hi Rod,

Good to hear from someone on the ground that this was well received.

Agree with you regarding Foreign Correspondent. Journalism and professionalism at its best.

Always been a fan of the show. Rarely missed an episode.
Great window to the world for a kid growing up in the suburbs of Brisbane.



Sep 10, 2010
Nice story, I have heard similar stories of Dutch veterans going back to Indonesia who fought against each other in Indonesian's (short) independance war after the end of 2nd world war, they fought tooth and nail but became best friends many years later when they returned.

I also met some US veterans once in Vietnam who were on their first trip back, they also were very reluctant to return but so happy they did it once they realizezed that the Vietnamese held no grudges whatsoever.