OFFICIALS find mass grave of North Vietnamese soldiers killed during Tet Offensive

Tuesday, August 7th 2001, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

HANOI, Vietnam (AP) _ Authorities in central Vietnam have recovered the remains of 37 North Vietnamese soldiers killed in the 1968 Tet Offensive during the Vietnam War, an official said Tuesday.

The soldiers are believed to have died in an ambush during fighting in Vietnam's Central Highlands. The bodies were bulldozed by American troops into a mass grave in Mang Yang district in Gia Lai province, according to an official with the local Labor, War Invalids and Social Affairs Department, who spoke on condition of anonymity.

After the war ended in 1975, local authorities tried many times to locate the grave, but without success, the official said. A memorial honoring the 37 soldiers was built in 1995 near the area, about 350 miles north of Ho Chi Minh City.

Excavation began last week after an elderly member of an ethnic minority group showed local authorities the site of the mass grave. The team of 40 diggers, including soldiers and volunteers, also found some belongings of the men such as canteens, sandals and belts.

None of the remains has been identified, but all will be reburied Thursday at the memorial site, according to the official.

During the Tet New Year holidays in 1968, Communist North Vietnamese forces launched attacks on major cities and military bases throughout South Vietnam. The show of North Vietnamese strength shocked the United States, which backed the rival South Vietnamese forces.

Vietnam says about 300,000 Communist soldiers are still unaccounted for. The number of missing soldiers from the South Vietnamese side has not been announced.