Vietnam Vet Returns Arm Bones to Amputee

Dr. Sam Axelrad had kept them as memento

By Newser Editors and Wire Services

Posted Jul 1, 2013 2:46 PM CDT

(Newser) – An American doctor arrived in Vietnam recently carrying an unlikely piece of luggage: the bones of an arm he amputated in 1966. Dr. Sam Axelrad brought the skeletal keepsake home to Texas as a reminder that when a badly injured North Vietnamese soldier was brought to him, he did the right thing and fixed him up. The bones sat in a closet for decades, and when the Houston urologist finally pulled them out two years ago, he wondered about their true owner, Nguyen Quang Hung. Today, the men were reunited at Hung's home in central Vietnam, where Axelrad returned Hung's bones to him.

The men met each other's children, and grandchildren, and joked about which of them had been better looking back when war had made them enemies. Hung was stunned that someone had kept his bones for so long, but happy that when the time comes, they will be buried with him. "I'm very glad to see [Axelrad] again and have that part of my body back after nearly half a century," Hung says. He was shot during an ambush by American troops, fled and hid for three days, but was eventually captured and brought to Axelrad for the amputation. "He probably thought we were going to put him in some prisoner-of-war camp," Axelrad says. "Surely he was totally surprised when we just took care of him." Click for more, including how Axelrad found Hung.

Dr. Sam Axelrad, left, displays the bones of an arm belonging to former North Vietnamese soldier Nguyen Quang Hung, right, at Hung's house in the town of An Khe, Gia Lai province, Vietnam on July 1, 2013.
Dr. Sam Axelrad, left, displays the bones of an arm belonging to former North Vietnamese soldier Nguyen Quang Hung, right, at Hung's house in the town of An Khe, Gia Lai province, Vietnam on July 1, 2013.   (Kha Hoa)
Dr. Sam Axelrad, right, shakes hands with former North Vietnamese soldier Nguyen Quang Hung at Hung's house in the town of An Khe, Gia Lai province, Vietnam on Monday July 1, 2013.
Dr. Sam Axelrad, right, shakes hands with former North Vietnamese soldier Nguyen Quang Hung at Hung's house in the town of An Khe, Gia Lai province, Vietnam on Monday July 1, 2013.   (Kha Hoa)
  (Mike Ives)
In this January 1967 photo released by Sam Axelrad, Axelrad, left, displays the bones he amputated from North Vietnamese soldier Nguyen Quang Hung, right, in 1966 in front of his military clinic.
In this January 1967 photo released by Sam Axelrad, Axelrad, left, displays the bones he amputated from North Vietnamese soldier Nguyen Quang Hung, right, in 1966 in front of his military clinic.   (Sam Axelrad)
Dr. Sam Axelrad, right, hands over arm bones belonging to former North Vietnamese soldier Nguyen Quang Hung, left, at Hung's house in the town of An Khe, Gia Lai province, Vietnam on July 1, 2013.
Dr. Sam Axelrad, right, hands over arm bones belonging to former North Vietnamese soldier Nguyen Quang Hung, left, at Hung's house in the town of An Khe, Gia Lai province, Vietnam on July 1, 2013.   (Kha Hoa)
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