Veteran’s reunion marks fifty years since start of Malteser Aid Mission during Vietnam War
The Order of Malta’s members, staff, and volunteers have a long history of helping people suffering because of violence, war, and conflict.
Fifty years ago, in 1966, the first doctors, nurses, and logisticians from the Order of Malta’s German auxiliary service, the Malteser Hilfsdienst (MHD), left to take up the same task in Vietnam – marking its first large-scale planned overseas deployment. To mark the anniversary of the beginning of this nine-year mission, around eighty veterans met in Ehreshoven near Cologne in Germany, on October 15.
More than 300 Malteser staff – plus some local Vietnamese people– cared for the sick and injured in hospitals and health posts in Vietnam between 1966 and 1975, saving thousands of lives. “The mission in Vietnam was a huge political, logistical, and financial challenge,” said Dr. Constantin von Brandenstein, President of Malteser Hilfsdienst. “It was a risky mission, and the 303 Malteser staff in Vietnam also had to face a huge amount of personal challenges – psychological, physical, and professional.” He told the assembled veterans in Ehreshoven: “We are very proud of you!”
For their brave service fifty years ago, the assembled Malteser Veterans received the personal thanks of Msgr. Joseph Dang Duc Ngan, Bishop of Da Nang, Rüdiger König, Ministerial Director at the German Federal Foreign Office, and Dr. Rudolf Seiters, President of the German Red Cross.
Germany was not militarily involved in the war between communist North Vietnam, and the American-supported South. The state supported instead humanitarian aid in the form of Malteser medical staff and the German Red Cross hospital ship Helgoland.