(Photo: AP/Thanh Nien Newspaper, Kha Hoa)
In 1966, US Army doctor Sam Axelrad amputated the arm of Nguyen Quang Hung, a captured North Vietnamese soldier. Mr. Hung then spent several months recovering and working for the Americans:
"He probably thought we were going to put him in some prisoner-of-war camp," Axelrad said. "Surely he was totally surprised when we just took care of him."
As for the arm, Axelrad said his medic colleagues boiled off the flesh, reconstructed the arm bones and gave them to him. It was hardly common practice, but he said it was a reminder of a good deed performed.
Dr. Axelrad rediscovered the arm among his possessions in 2011. He recently returned to Vietnam to give Mr. Hung his arm back:
Hung was surprised to be reunited with his lost limb, to say the least.
"I can't believe that an American doctor took my infected arm, got rid of the flesh, dried it, took it home and kept it for more than 40 years," he said by telephone last week from his home. "I don't think it's the kind of keepsake that most people would want to own. But I look forward to seeing him again and getting my arm bones back."
Hung served Axelrad and his family lunch, shared memories and reflected on all the time that had passed. Axelrad said he was pleased to learn where and how Hung had been living for so many years, and to meet his children and grandchildren.
"I'm so happy that he was able to make a life for himself," Axelrad said.