Kontum Diary: The Journey Home

North Vietnamese army veteran Nguyen Van Nghia journeys to the U.S. in a trip sponsored by his former enemy, American veteran Paul Reed.

Premiere Date
May 1, 1999
60 minutes
Funding Initiative
Open Call

Stevan M. Smith

A Vietnam veteran who served for two years in the U.S. Marine Corps, Stevan M. Smith studied communications at Oregon State University and worked for more than 18 years in television news as a cameraman, assignment editor, special projects producer, and managing editor in Seattle. In 1989, Smith established his own production company, Echo Productions. His documentary Two Decades and a Wakeup, the story of a Post Traumatic Stress treatment group that returns to Vietnam to face its members’s demons, won an Iris Award, a CPB Local Programming Award, and was nominated for a national Emmy.

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Kontum Diary

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The Film

For 25 years, a Vietnam War veteran, Paul Reed, has been haunted by his stint in combat, never fully able to overcome the atrocities he experienced in Vietnam. When he finally reads a Vietnamese soldier's diary which he had sent home from the war, Reed is deeply moved by his enemy's humanity. In search of healing, he journeys back to Vietnam to return the diary to its author, Nguyen Van Nghia. Together the two veterans travel to the battleground where they once tried to kill each other and, in the process, confront painful memories. Once mortal enemies, they are now able to acknowledge their commonalities. Two years later, Reed arranges to bring the near-blind Nguyen to the United States for modern medical treatment. The trip inspires further reconciliation, as the former adversaries seal their friendship and share their profound story with groups of U.S. veterans.