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
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)

(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.

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Showing 3 of 18 comments
Jul 3, 2013 9:53 PM CDT
Robert Downey Jr."What's that around your neck?" Mel Gibson, "Its the cremated remains of my big toe that got shot off." Downey Jr.,"Why didn't you get it sewn back on?" Gibson replies, "Well, I could have, I suppose, but I figure once a piece of me gets shot off, I don't really want it back anymore."
Jul 2, 2013 10:13 AM CDT
Honestly, would you really want your amputated arm back? Seems like it would just be a reminder of what you lost...
Jul 2, 2013 8:29 AM CDT
How did this get into the doctor's personal custody? When you amputate an arm you have an arm, not a bone. What happened to the flesh on this arm? The doctor did not just let it putrefy and rot in normal course.