Australian veterans help Vietnam find its war dead

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Two Australian academics and war veterans have furnished Vietnam with data that could track down the remains of Vietnamese soldiers killed in two provinces occupied by Australian troops during the Vietnam War.

Dr. Bob Hall and Dr. Derrill de Heer from the University of New South Wales, which is located at the Australian Defence Force Academy, presented a mapping program to senior officials of the Vietnam Veterans' Association on Monday.

The mapping tool was devised as part of the Vietnam Missing in Action Project, completed by a group of academics from the University of New South Wales.

The project, funded by the Australian Research Council, provides to the Vietnamese government the location of all the battles fought by the 1st Australian Task Force in which one or more soldiers of the Vietnam's People's Army was killed, said Dr. Bob Hall.

The former Phuoc Tuy Province, where the 1st Australian Task Force was once based, is now known as Ba Ria-Vung Tau while Bien Hoa Province, where they were deployed for a short period, has been renamed Dong Nai.

"Australian Army policy was to inter People's Army soldiers who were killed in action at the scene of the battle. The location of the battles was recorded in official records," Hall said.

"The project team used these records to assemble a database showing the date, time and place of each battle plus the number of persons killed at each. This data was plotted onto maps [and] gives the approximate location of burial sites," Hall said.

All the data had been presented to the Vietnam Veterans' Association in Hanoi, he added.

Vietnamese official statistics estimate around two million civilians were killed during the Vietnam War, which ended in 1975.

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