A Bad Night, a New Day on LZ Bird

In February 2021 Vietnam veteran Spencer Matteson posted an entry on CherriesWriter detailing the December 1966 battle at LZ Bird in which PAVN soldiers from the 22nd Regiment and other local forces overran the base. The American losses were 27 killed and 67 wounded. Enemy KIA were estimated at nearly 300.

In Vietnam Mattheson’s post caught the attention of Lâm Hồng Tiên and architect Nguyễn Xuân Thắng, two of the best war remains researchers known to filmmaker Lê Hoàng Linh, as it mentioned two mass graves where U.S. soldiers had buried the PAVN dead. Mattheson also included two photos of the battle site taken by Steve Hassett, an American vet. Through a Vietnamese veteran Tiên and Thắng informed the Bình Định Provincial Military Command of this new information. For years local excavation teams in Bình Định had searched for the grave sites but hadn’t a clue as to their location. In Vietnamese culture the spirits of the dead cannot rest until properly buried.

Armed with these new details the Bình Định command now believed the grave sites were somewhere outside the base, but failing to locate them nearly gave up. Fortunately, in early 2022 1st Cav vet Bob March introduced the command to five American vets who had seen the mass graves after the battle. March provided the command with documents, coordinates and images related to the LZ and grave sites.

From these collaborative efforts, including satellite imagery and terrain analysis made by former Cobra pilot Richard Magner, with the support of United States Institute of Peace, and the help of Vietnamese Col. Trịnh Tùng Lâm, film maker Lê Hoàng Linh brought Matteson, Hassett, Ivory Whitaker and Kin Lo—all present at the battle—to work with Tiên and Thắng as well as the Bình Định Military Command, to search for a second mass grave near LZ Bird. On the outskirts of Xuân Sơn Hill, as the area is known in Vietnam, they helped identify the general location of the second mass grave of around 60 PAVN soldiers, which Bình Định provincial authorities are currently excavating.

More than half a century after LZ Bird was overrun, Lê Hoàng Linh’s extraordinary documentary “Fragments of Memory” illuminates the emotional journey of former enemies seeking to lay to rest casualties of long ago.

The English version of the film debuted in September 2023 at the annual War Legacies and Peace Dialogue of the U.S. Institute for Peace in Washington, D.C.

The films producer, Linku Xavier Linh has given Medic permission to post Fragments of Memory here.


Top photo: Enemies no longer: Spencer Matteson with former Viet Cong Ho Van Loc near LZ Bird.

United States Institute of Peace

Bob March’s Delta 1st/12th First Cavalry website

Richard Magner and Love Among the Ruins