HANOI, Vietnam (AP) — Defense Secretary Leon Panetta and Vietnam Defense Minister Phung Quang Thanh exchanged long-held artifacts Monday collected during the Vietnam war — including letters written by a U.S. soldier who was killed. Instead, the letters written by Army Sgt. Steve Flaherty of Columbia, S.C., were used by the North Vietnamese for propaganda. Here are some excerpts of Flaherty's letters:

Letter to "Betty"

"I'm sorry for not writing so long but we have been in a fierce fight with N.V.A. We took in lots of casualties and death. It has been trying days for me and my men. We dragged more bodies of dead and wounded than I can ever want to forget."

"Thank you for your sweet card. It made my miserable day a much better one but I don't think I will ever forget the bloody fight we are having."

"RPG rockets and machine guns really tore my rucksack."

"I felt bullets going past me. I have never been so scared in my life. Well I better close for now before we go in again to take that hill."

Letter to "Mother"

"I definitely will take R&R, I don't care where so long as I get a rest, which I need so badly, soon. I'll let you know exact date."

"If Dad calls, tell him I got too close to being dead but I'm O.K. I was real lucky. I'll write again soon."

"Our platoon started off with 35 men but winded up with 19 men when it was over. We lost platoon leader and whole squad."

"The NVA soldiers fought until they died and one even booby trapped himself and when we approached him, he blew himself up and took two of our men with him."

Letter to "Mrs. Wyatt"

"Our platoon leader was killed and I was the temporary platoon leader until we got the replacement. Nothing seems to go well for us but we'll take that ridge line."

"This is a dirty and cruel war but I'm sure people will understand the purpose of this war even though many of us might not agree."

___

Online:

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  • The personal letters of U.S. Army Sgt. Steve Flaherty, who was killed in action in 1969, rest on a table at Joint POW/MIA Accounting Command (JPAC) in Hanoi, Vietnam Monday, June 4, 2012. Vietnamese Defense Minister Phuong Quang Thanh presented the letters to U.S. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta during a press conference at the defense ministry. (AP Photo/Jim Watson, Pool)

  • This portrait, provided by the U.S. Department of Defense shows the high school portrait of U.S. Army Sgt. Steve Flaherty, who was killed in action in Vietnam in 1969. The portrait was included in Flaherty's personal letters that were returned to U.S. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta by Vietnamese Minister of Defense Phung Quang Thanh during a press conference at the Ministry of Defense in Hanoi, Vietnam, on Monday, June 4, 2012. (AP Photo/Pool)

  • The personal letters of U.S. Army Sgt. Steve Flaherty, who was killed in action in 1969, rest on a table at Joint POW/MIA Accounting Command (JPAC) in Hanoi, Vietnam Monday, June 4, 2012. Vietnamese Defense Minister Phuong Quang Thanh presented the letters to U.S. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta during a press conference at the defense ministry. (AP Photo/Jim Watson, Pool)

  • Vietnamese Minister of Defense Phung Quang Thanh, right, presents the personal letters of U.S. Army Sgt. Steve Flaherty, who was killed in action in 1969, to U.S. Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta during a press conference at the ministry in Hanoi, Vietman, on Monday, June 4, 2012. (AP Photo/Jim Watson, Pool)

  • U.S. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta, left, gives Vietnam War memorabilia of a Vietnamese soldier, which was kept by the U.S., to his Vietnamese counterpart Phung Quang Thanh during a joint press conference at Ministry of Defense in Hanoi, Vietnam, Monday, June 4, 2012. (AP Photo/Na Son Nguyen)

  • A picture rests next to the diary of Vietnamese solider Vu Dinh Doan, which was taken by U.S. Marine Robert Frazure following Operation Indiana in 1966, at the Ministry of Defense in Hanoi, in Vietnam, on Monday, June 4, 2012. U.S. Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta presented the diary to Vietnamese Minister of Defense Phuong Quang Thanh during a press conference at the ministry. (AP Photo/Jim Watson, Pool)

  • A Defense Department official leafs through the diary of a Vietnamese soldier Vu Dinh Doan, which was taken by U.S. Marine Robert Frazure following Operation Indiana in 1966, while at the Ministry of Defense in Hanoi, Vietman, on Monday, June 4, 2012. U.S. Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta presented the diary to Vietnamese Minister of Defense Phuong Quang Thanh during a press conference at the ministry. (AP Photo/Jim Watson, Pool)

  • U.S Defense Secretary Leon Panetta, left, receives a photo album of his visit to Vietnam from Gen. Vu Chien Thang upon his departure at Noi Bai International Airport in Hanoi, Vietnam Tuesday, June 5, 2012. (AP Photo/Jim Watson, Pool)