HANOI - An American doctor said Monday he had returned the carefully-preserved arm bone of a Viet Cong soldier to its owner more than forty years after he amputated it during the Vietnam War.

The arm - from which US medics removed the flesh and which was wired together after the 1966 operation - was handed back to ex-soldier Nguyen Quang Hung at his house in the town of An Khe in Vietnam’s Central Highlands province of Gia Lai.

“I was the custodian of this arm,” US doctor Sam Axelrad told AFP by phone, adding he was “unbelievably happy” to have been able to return the somewhat macabre wartime memento to its rightful owner - who now plans to use it to claim a war veteran’s pension.

Viet Cong soldier Hung arrived at Axelrad’s base in 1966, close to death after having been shot and contracting gangrene.