From the Washington Post:
CA MAU, Vietnam — It could have been 1969 again as Secretary of State John F. Kerry stood on the bow of the small boat chugging up the Bay Hap River on Saturday, the wind billowing his sleeves and his eyes darting left and right toward banks shrouded in dark foliage.
As a young Navy lieutenant, Kerry commanded a Swift boat along this stretch of churning brown waters in the middle of a free-fire zone. Here, he earned a Silver Star for his heroics when he leapt ashore after an ambush to pursue a fleeing Viet Cong with a grenade launcher and shot him dead.
Now, some 48 years later and with the rapid approach of sunset on a political career spanning almost four decades, Kerry was about to be yanked back to that time, and come face-to-face with a Viet Cong soldier who had taken part in the ambush.
Aides escorted Vo Ban Tam to greet Kerry on the dock, beside a row of blue tourist boats. Tam at 70 is three years younger than Kerry. He was Viet Cong in the communist stronghold of Ca Mau, one of the enemy lying in the tall grasses waiting to entrap unprotected, thin-skinned river patrol boats like Kerry’s.
Tam apparently had been tracked down by U.S. consulate officials and invited to meet the U.S. secretary of state he once tried to kill.
Speaking through a translator, Tam said that he had known the man whom Kerry had chased and killed in the firefight of Feb. 28, 1969.
His name was Ba Thanh, and he was 24 years old.
“He was a good soldier,” Tam told Kerry, explaining the training and skill required to handle an R-40 grenade launcher…
Kerry’s encounter with Tam was the emotional peak of his two-day stop in Vietnam on Kerry’s final trip as secretary of state. His office in Foggy Bottom is packed and ready to be shipped to Boston.
It is doubtful the longtime senator from Massachusetts will ever run for public office again, but he will continue to work on climate change and environmental issues, and he is particularly concerned about the effect of rising sea levels and hydroelectric dams on the rivers in the lower Mekong Delta. When he wasn’t looking at the riverbank for some familiar marker from long ago, he was engrossed in conversation with a local scientist who said the effect of rising salinity and dams upstream brought once-in-100-year drought last year and threatened livelihoods…