Clinton Visits Rice Paddy

Sat. November 18, 2000 12:00 AM by Brian Decker

Hanoi, Vietnam - President Clinton, pledging the United States will not rest ``until we bring every possible fallen hero home,'' visited a rice paddy Saturday and watched excavation teams dig into thick mud for the remains of an American fighter pilot downed on a bombing run 33 years ago.

The president rode 50 minutes outside Hanoi, past farms and water buffaloes, to a site where dozens of Vietnamese and a few Americans toiled, passing buckets of mud to a platform where the mud is put through a sieve. It is one of six sites being excavated in Vietnam for MIA remains.

American experts are combing the debris for any particle of human remains. Clinton's eyes welled with tears. ``Whether we are American or Vietnamese,'' the president said, ``I think we all want to know where our loved ones are buried. I think we all want to be able to honor them and be able to visit their gravesite.''

Clinton was accompanied by his wife Hillary and their daughter Chelsea. He also was joined by Dan and David Evert of suburban Phoenix, Ariz. Their father, Air Force Capt. Lawrence G. Evert, of Cody, Wyo., was shot down during a bombing raid on a railroad bridge at the site.

Clinton thanked Vietnamese officials for their help in finding MIA remains, and promised that the United States would intensify efforts to help Vietnam learn the fate of its missing.

``Once we met here as adversaries,'' Clinton said. ``Today we work as partners.''

Late Saturday, Clinton will fly to Ho Chi Minh City, known as Saigon until the communist takeover. He will speak Sunday to Vietnamese in their 20s and 30s working in business, government, academia, the media and the arts.