Sen. Tom Carper, D-Del., the last Vietnam veteran in the Senate, recalled this week joining with other Vietnam veterans in Congress back in the 1990s to press for normalizing relations with their former enemies in Hanoi.
During his time in the House of Representatives prior to his election to the Senate, Carper led a congressional delegation with the endorsement of then-President George H.W. Bush on a 1991 mission to Vietnam to explore whether the Vietnamese would share more information on Americans missing in action in exchange for opening a path to restoring relations.
In a phone interview Thursday with Military.com, Carper said that economic reformer Do Muoi, the general secretary of the Communist Party, held a surprise meeting with the delegation on the last day of their 10-day visit to end the mission on a positive note.
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The Carper delegation meetings were seen as setting the stage for further efforts at normalization led by two other Senate Vietnam veterans — the late John McCain (R-Ariz.) and John Kerry (D-Mass.) — that brought about the restoration in 1995 of relations between the U.S. and Hanoi and the reopening of the U.S. Embassy in Hanoi.
Carper said that the 1991 meetings in Vietnam came less than a month after he retired from the Navy Reserve as a captain after a career as a naval flight officer flying…