PLYMOUTH, Mass. (AP) — Peter Nguyen doesn’t know if Angel Torres is alive. But he’s trying to find out.
The only clue the 45-year-old Vietnam native and longtime Plymouth resident has is a U.S. Army dog tag with Torres’ name. An uncle who still lives in the Southeast Asian country gave him the worn aluminum ID a few years ago, during one of Nguyen’s visits home.
His uncle said he’d taken the tag from a cafe table where a Viet Cong guerrilla fighter left it, in 1970 or ‘71. His uncle said he’d overheard the fighter brag to his buddies that the tag had been worn by an American soldier he’d shot — or claimed to have shot. After all these years, Nguyen hopes he can learn whether that’s true, or if Torres made it home.
“I’d really like for him to have this,” Nguyen said, clasping the tag between his thumb and forefinger. “Or his family.”
He doesn’t have much to go on. The dog tag is stamped “Torres, Angel R.,” with the ID number RA-11-820-381. It says Torres was Catholic, with Type A blood.
Nguyen is a 20-year Plymouth County Sheriff’s Department employee, a former corrections officer and now the department’s warehouse supervisor. Born in 1968 — the year of the war’s turning-point Tet Offensive — he was 10 when his family escaped to the Philippines by boat after the war. He was 12 when he and his mother and three sisters settled in Plymouth.
A U.S. Army spokeswoman said that establishing identification from a Vietnam-era tag is possible — though not right now, given the federal government shutdown. But a private investigator who formerly worked with Nguyen said the 11 in the ID number suggests that Torres was likely from one of the New England states.