CANBERRA, Australia (AP) — Australia announced Monday that it will repatriate the remains of up to 25 Australian soldiers killed about 50 years ago during the Vietnam War.
Australia has only repatriated the remains of its war dead killed in foreign countries since January 1966, but the 25 Australian soldiers killed in Vietnam before the policy change were left buried in cemeteries in Malaysia and Singapore, despite their families’ objections.
Prime Minister Tony Abbott told Parliament the government would repatriate these soldiers except in cases where their families wanted the graves left undisturbed.
“As 2015 marks 50 years since the arrival of combat troops and the escalation of Australian involvement in Vietnam, it is right and proper that we honor their service with this gesture,” he said.
Opposition leader Bill Shorten said the offer put right a 50-year-old wrong.
The niece of the first Australian killed in Vietnam, Warrant Officer Kevin Conway, wanted his remains brought back to Australia to be buried beside family and friends, Shorten said.
Conway was attached to U.S. Special Forces when he died defending their camp on July 6, 1964, aged 35. He was the only Australian Vietnam War casualty buried at Singapore’s Kranji War Cemetery. The other 24 Australians lie in Terendak Military Cemetery in Malaysia.
Australia deployed more than 60,000 military personnel to the Vietnam conflict between 1962 and 1973, of whom 521 were killed.
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