Outgoing U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry returns to a Vietnam location where he killed a man

Outgoing U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry shook hands recently with a former Viet Cong soldier while visiting the location where he was ambushed and killed a man during the Vietnam War.

Kerry met 70-year-old Vo Ban Tam, who recalled the 1969 attack.

The pair kindly shook hands.

Kerry, who is visiting Vietnam as part of his final trip before vacating office, earned a medal for bravery for his actions but allied himself with the anti-war campaign after returning home in 1969.

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry.
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry.

Vo, now employed as a shrimp farmer, said he knew the man whom Kerry shot and killed and recalled the plan of attack when they first saw the American patrol boat.

The Viet Cong contingent possessed a rocket launcher and was shooting at US personnel in an attempt to lure them into firing range.

Kerry killed the rocket launcher’s operator after leaping ashore to pursue the Viet Cong. He earned a Silver Star for valor.  He was also awarded three Purple Hearts for being wounded in action.

Vo said the dead fighter was 24-year-old Ba Thanh.  He was a decent soldier, he told Kerry, speaking through a translator.  Kerry never knew the age or the name of the first man he killed.

When Kerry failed to win his 2004 campaign for the presidency, he confronted critics who claimed he killed a teenager.

Kerry said returning to the location was somewhat surreal.  He’s known for having a special interest in cultivating relations between Vietnam and the United States, BBC News reported.

That impressed on him the concept that a person should analyze and comprehend what lies beneath the slogan, he told reporters.

Ian Harvey

Ian Harvey is one of the authors writing for WAR HISTORY ONLINE