Field surveys and excavations are underway at Tan Son Nhat International Airport in Ho Chi Minh City to search for a mass grave said to contain the remains of hundreds of Vietnamese soldiers killed in wartime.
The grave is suspected to be located in an open field to the west of the airport near the end of one of its runways.
According to Major General Tran Huu Tai, deputy political commissar of Vietnam’s 7th Military Region, if the information that there is such a grave proves accurate, it should contain the remains of hundreds of Vietnamese soldiers killed during the Tet Offensive of 1968.
The Tet Offensive was a military campaign of surprise attacks on several commands and control centers throughout U.S.-controlled southern Vietnam, including the Tan Son Nhat airbase, launched by the People’s Army of Vietnam in 1968.
The name of the offensive comes from the Tet holiday, or Vietnamese Lunar New Year, when the first major attacks took place.
The piece of land where the excavation is being carried out used to be under the management of the 370th Air Force Division before being transferred to estate developer CT Land for a commercial project.
Search operations for the possible mass grave will be conducted just 100 meters from the site of a similar excavation that took place in 1995 and uncovered the remains of 182 soldiers.
Major General Ngo Tuan Nghia, political commissar of the Ho Chi Minh City Military Command, said the excavation would be done by motorized machines until any sign of human remains is found, upon which the work would be continued by hand.
The first sod was turned on Thursday afternoon after a seminar was held the same morning by the city’s Military Command to announce the plan.
No fewer than 1,000 Vietnamese revolutionary soldiers were killed in their ambush on Tan Son Nhat during the Tet Offensive of 1968, according to Vu Chi Thanh, a veteran who fought in the campaign.
The remains of more than 300 soldiers who fought in the battle were never found, Thanh added.
“We will do our best to bring them home,” Major General Tran Huu Tai said.
Below are photos taken by Tuoi Tre (Youth) newspaper of the ongoing search for the remains of Vietnamese soldiers suspected to be buried in a mass grave underneath Tan Son Nhat International Airport in Ho Chi Minh City.
Chi Minh City Military Command officers discuss excavation plans.
Le Cong Hoang (wearing a white shirt), a Republic of Vietnam veteran, describes the location of the mass grave to military officers.
Major General Tran Huu Tai examines a file photo of the suspected location of the mass grave.
A plane takes off from Tan Son Nhat International Airport.
Military officers and experts crawl through a fence to get into the excavation site.
Le Cong Hoang, a Republic of Vietnam veteran, offers incense to fallen Vietnamese soldiers.
Experts stand next to an open excavation pit.
Major General Ngo Tuan Nghia supervises excavation works inside Tan Son Nhat International Airport.