Vietnam soldier's body found in dense jungle

THREE years of research has culminated in many weeks of sifting through dense jungle to find the skeletal remains of an Australian Army medic, missing since the Vietnam war.

But David Thomas, of Salt Ash, wants no individual praise for his part in uncovering the remains of three Australian soldiers, presumed dead.

He considers it his duty.

Mr Thomas returned from Vietnam on Friday after the latest discovery of bones belonging to Lance Corporal John Francis Gillespie, 36 years after the soldier's death in a helicopter crash over Long Hai Hills, southern Vietnam.

The dig followed three years of research and was co-ordinated by ex-veteran group Operation Aussies Home, which found the site, and an Australian Government excavation team.

Six Australian soldiers killed in Vietnam were still missing until June this year, when an Operation Aussies Home crew discovered the remains of Lance Corporal Richard Parker and Private Peter Gillson in unmarked graves in the country's north.

Three bodies are still to be found.

"We dug about 20 holes and recovered a thousand pieces of wreckage including a scalpel blade and artery forceps from Gillespie's medical kit," Mr Thomas said.

Lance Corporal Gillespie died at 21, in a medical evacuation for a South Vietnamese soldier.

His helicopter exploded when it was shot down as the wounded man was being winched aboard.

Three other soldiers died in the crash but their bodies were later recovered.

"It wasn't until the family heard about tour groups going to the crash site that the mission was accelerated," Mr Thomas said.

"The family wasn't too keen on rubber-neckers walking over what could have been their loved one's remains."

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