Story highlights

  • Kerry is a veteran of the Vietnam War
  • He met a former enemy on Saturday, decades after they fought on opposite sides, and they shook hands

Kerry was a young US Navy officer at the time, in his mid-twenties, and the battle in the Mekong river earned him a Silver Star.

In his fourth visit to Vietnam as secretary of state, Kerry met with Vo Ban Tam, a 70-year-old veteran who was part of a team that ambushed the secretary’s Swift Boat in 1969. Through an interpreter, Ban Tam explained that he knew the man Kerry killed, it was his 24-year-old friend and fellow soldier, Ba Thanh.

Kerry and Ban Tam shook hands, and Kerry presented one of his commemorative Challenge Coins to Ban Tam.

Kerry shakes hands with Vo Van Tam.

“Today I met Vo Ban Tam, a former VC enemy who farms shrimp and crab on the same #Mekong river we once fought over,” Kerry tweeted, expressing how powerful it is that veterans from both sides can now get together and work on strengthening U.S. — Vietnam relations.

After his return from Vietnam, where he was also awarded the Bronze Star and three Purple Hearts, Kerry became a leader of the group Vietnam Veterans Against the War, speaking to members of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and making headlines at a Washington protest by disposing of his medals on the Capitol lawn. He later admitted that the medals belonged to someone else.


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