Best 50 Oral Histories
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*VAOHP0127Chau, Maria NgaFemale Both

“They wanted to continue to move out of there
because the Vietnamese Communists stopped
them in each station along their way. I had to
leave and I still saw my students went to school on
my way, but I had to go. My husband refused to go
and said that he needed to be there to get ready for
the battle. He could not leave like that. I went with
my two children and my in-law family. My older sister
rented a small boat to go together. Our life was like
a tiny thread on the bell which was deemed and
unknown. I never thought of escaping like this, our
boat was like a little leaf floating on the ocean, we
only saw the death end with no sign of life, not even
knew where we were going. We were not even known
our way around, after two days we finally ended up
in Vũng Tàu.”
Oral history of Maria Nga Chau, born in 1945 in
Nha Trang, Vietnam to a well-to-do Catholic-raised
mother and working-class Confucian-raised father
from Hue. She is one of six children. She was sent
to school in Da Nang, where she lived in residence
with nuns in her childhood until her family relocated
to Saigon. She studied to be a veterinarian and
ended up teaching the subject between 1968 and
1975. She married a man who was a soldier in the
South Vietnamese army. After the communist victory,
she was required to teach on agriculture and hus-
bandry while her husband was sent to reeducation
camp. After 1977 she did not have any information
about her husband, presumed to be dead after an
unsuccessful attempt to escape camp. She
described the hard years living under communist
scrutiny after 1975. In 1991 she and her children
were resettled to the United States through the
sponsorship of relatives. She worked as a seam-
stress, then got her cosmetology license and
worked in a nail salon.
*VAOHP0097Hoang, Paul ChiMale English

“I still remember that night when we were all carrying
our luggage and walking from my village to the main
street. We went from bush to bush so that we wouldn’t
get seen escaping. Then we were instructed to go to
the next village where the boat is waiting to escape.
Every village has a gate that we had to go through,
and at every gate, there were government officials
watching and guarding. If they ask us where we were
going and why we have luggage, we were to say
that we are from outside, from a different kind of
village and we’re visiting family members. I
remember telling them that and making it through.”

An oral history with Mr. Paul Chi Hoang, a graduate
of Divine Word College at Epworth, Iowa where he
majored in Philosophy. The interview focused on his
experiences as a 1.5 generation Vietnamese who
migrated to America for a better life. The Vietnam
War caused many negative impacts in his life but also
shaped his career goals. He believes that storytelling
is an important aspect of preserving history and
therefore, volunteered to participate in the
Vietnamese American Oral History Project.

VAOHP0111Nguyen, Alex ThaiMaleEnglish
“We got here on March 26, and my father passed away.
He passed away here and we had no idea because my
uncle didn’t want to tell us until we got to San Francisco.
We got into a van and we didn’t see our father so
obviously we asked him where’s our father and my uncle
broke the news to us. I remembered, my mom just
collapsed. And I just felt like… I didn’t know how to feel,
everything was nothing to me anymore because my
hopes and dreams was to come over here and meet
my father. And then he was gone, what am I supposed
to do? I had no friends, I didn’t speak English, and was in
a total culture shock. But you know, they say time heals,
and it did. It took me probably a good two years or so to
get normal, I guess. But you know, on the flip side, it was
supposed to be the happiest day of my life but it turned
out to be the saddest day of my life…”
Oral history of Alex Thai Nguyen, born in Bien Hoa,
Vietnam in 1966. He discussed his childhood living in
the middle of the marketplace in Bien Hoa and his
childhood love for building tailless kites and fireworks.
After the Fall of Saigon, Alex's father, the Director of
Rehabilitation Center, was forced to flee Vietnam to
avoid possible persecution or imprisonment. In 1982,
Alex's father sponsored the rest of the family, but during
the family's journey from Vietnam to America, he passed
away. The interview focused on Alex's childhood, the
difficulties that he and his family experienced without
his father in Vietnam, the impact of his father's death,
his pursuit of higher education later on in his life, and his
music school. Alex's love for music influenced his
current occupation. He has taught piano since 2008,
and he currently is a business-owner and teacher at
Dancing Keys Studio
VAOHP0044La, Quoc TamMaleBoth
“Life was hard after 1975. My father was sent away, so
my mother was forced to find something to do in order
to feed her seven children. My father came out of the
reeducation camp and saw that there was no future for
us, not to mention we, the youngsters, were about the
age to be drafted into the army. We decided we must
escape. I was having a good time around my friends,
and now had to sneak down this boat to leave all behind.
Sometimes I felt sad thinking of them and those times
we had together while I was in the refugee camp.”
An oral history with Mr. La Quoc Tam, born in 1970 in
Can Tho, Vietnam. He and his family left Vietnam by
boat and by 1986, resettled in New Jersey. He
discussed his memories in South Vietnam before the
departure and his experiences with family traditions
and customs held in Vietnam and the United States.
In addition, he shared his experiences as a refugee
student in the American education system (secondary
education as well as higher education). He currently
works as a senior scientist and resides in Southern
California with his wife and children.
*VAOHP0050Lam, Bruce MaleBoth
“When we stayed in Guam, they treated us very nicely,
fed us well, and brought us to places for sight-seeing.
Life was very comfortable. Our lives turned even better
once they moved us to Camp Pendleton. I ran into my
former comrades-in-arms, and we would gather
together to pass the time away. We only started
worrying when we were allowed to venture outside of
the security zone. We started wondering about what
we could do to survive out there. We spoke little
English, and our only experience in the military was to
shoot the guns. We had trouble finding work at the
beginning. Eventually, things got better and works
came by easier as time went by.”
An oral history with Mr. Bruce Lam, born in 1947 in
Saigon, Vietnam. He was an officer in the Army of the
Republic of Vietnam (ARVN). He migrated to the
United States in 1975 and was able to sponsor
members of his family to join him a few years later.
During the interview, he discussed his life in Vietnam
and his family’s service in the South Vietnam military.
He also shared his thoughts and experiences with
acculturation, religion, language, and education in the
United States.
VAOHP0087Lam, Tuyet MaiFemale Both
“At that time, we knew we were going to Hongkong.
When we got halfway there, the engine shut off, and
the vessel kept floating. We called for help all over the
place, but did not see any ships. Until the afternoon,
there was a vessel. The people on that vessel said that
they were in Macao trading. They said we had to pay
them 60 taels immediately for them to pull our ship to
Hongkong. By then whoever had a ring took off their
ring, so it was enough. Afterward, that vessel came
out and agreed. They came, got the cash, then went
to Hongkong.”

Oral history of Lam Tuyet Mai (or Mai Tuyet Lam,
western-style) who was born in 1957 in the central
region of Vietnam. She is ethnic Chinese Vietnamese,
the oldest in a large family of seven, and grew up
around mostly other Chinese-Vietnamese. She
married in 1969 and her husband was in the
entertainment troupe for the South Vietnam military.
They had five children, but lost one. They left Vietnam
in 1978 during the time when a many Chinese
Vietnamese were ordered to leave by the new
communist regime. They passed through a refugee
camp in Hong Kong, then were resettled to Albany,
New York and then decided to settle permanently in
Los Angeles, California. She has been a seamstress
for about thirty years.
VAOHP0027Le, Amy HuyenFemale
“It was probably really hard on my grandma, who had
11 children. She had to run the whole household by
herself and 11 kids. All my aunts and uncles love my
grandma because she sacrificed so much for them
and they love my grandfather because he was the happy-
go-lucky one. I’m sure he was stressed as well, but
he didn’t have the same hardships as my grandma.
Our family is very Anti-Communist and we blame
everything on the Viet Cong. They had to sell everything.
They escaped to come here. We wouldn’t have the same
opportunities in Vietnam like we would have over here.”

An oral history was conducted with Miss Amy Huyen
Le, a second generation Vietnamese American who
graduated with a fashion degree. The narrator
highlighted her life experiences as an independent,
Catholic female who was raised by a single mother.
Despite constant movement from coast to coast, she
maintained stability through her large family and
traditional customs. She shared her story with the
Vietnamese American Oral History Project in order
to begin a compilation of her family history.
VAOHP0057Huyen, ThuFemaleEnglish
“A quarter or a fifth of the people was already dead on the
street. The weather was horrible; it was raining and there
were huge waves. When we got to Vung Tau, there was a
large shipping boat. It could hold five to six thousand
people, but there was no engine inside. We climbed in and
lived in there. Inside, people were hungry, thirsty, and cold.
There was nothing, not even a roof. It was raining, windy,
and people were getting sick. They said that there was an
American ship that was going to tow them away. We
waited days until the American ship came.”
An oral history of Thu Huyen, a Vietnamese refugee
living Orange County. She was born in 1942 in Nam
Dinh. The interview primarily focuses on her account
of surviving the war, escaping the newly Communist
country, and re-establishing her family in the United
States. This interview also features Thu’s husband,
Phuoc Tran. His account was more geared towards
the political turmoil rather than the domestic difficulties.
*VAOHP0089Bui, Van ChucMaleBoth
“I still feel apologetic towards my father. My father
specialized in Oriental medicine. He mixed and made
medicines. And I’m not just complimenting him because
he’s my father, but I have to say that he was very good at
curing people’s sickness, especially those who had
asthma. His dream was that one of his children would
enter the medical field when they grow up and be a
pharmacist to create medicines from our family’s recipe.
This method would be more civilized, scientific, and clean
in order to popularize the [Oriental] medicines. That’s why
he encouraged me to study pharmacy, but as soon as he
passed away, I changed to literature.”
Oral History of Bui Van Chuc, who is known by the
name of Quyen Di, born in Hanoi, Vietnam in 1948.
He migrated with his family to Saigon in 1954 and
recalls his education in Vietnam in great detail.
Quyen Di became a teacher at Da Lat University
and also taught 12th grade in Saigon after he finished
his education in Vietnam. He met his wife, who was
also a teacher at the same school. They left Vietnam
in 1977 as boat refugees and passed through refugee
camps in Malaysia and Hong Kong. After arriving in
Alaska and then resettled to New Orleans, he decided
to move to Orange County, California where he has
lived since. He worked in several jobs, including
publishing Vietnamese-language publications but has
returned to his role as an educator.
*VAOHP0059Taylor, Clarence Dung MaleBoth
“After 1975 when the life suddenly changed since the
regime of the North Communist Vietnamese took over
the South, I started to taste what the hard life was. Every
night they reminded us that they were the winner of the war
and your father in America was the cause of the war, so
you had to pay the price for your father. Not only me but
my mother had to suffer that, too. Every night they called
her up for town meeting, and they made sure to brain
wash her. They said that she had to be a model woman
for others because she had a son related to people who
caused the war and bad society in the country. “
Oral History of Clarence Dung Taylor, born in 1968 in
Vung Tau, Vietnam to a Vietnamese mother and an
American father of African and Indian ancestry. He was
7 years old at the end of the Vietnam-American War
and he describes how difficult life became for an
Amerasian child and his mother under the new regime.
They left Vietnam when he was 13 years old (1981)
under the Orderly Departure Program and arrived in
upstate New York and assisted by the Lutheran
Immigration Refugee Services (LIRS). He reconnected
with his father when he was 16 years old. He became
an Engineer and moved to Boston for some time before
moving to Orange County, California where he
continues to work on his business, D&D Entertainment.
He is also a radio show host on Vietnam California Radio.
VAOHP0192Luu, Thieu KhacMaleBoth
“Of course I’ve been through a lot – eating very little,
getting sick and having no medicine, working very, very
hard. I didn’t have enough to eat and no medicine at all.
There are a lot of things that I suffered from while in prison.
But one thing that affected me the most and was
unreasonable for a human-being’s thought and sense.
The thing that was so contradicting to human rights. It
was the doctrine that they taught me, which I had to
know with all my heart. I was so angry but I was not be
able to do anything. This was what made me suffered the
An oral history with Thieu Khac Luu who was born in
1954 in Quang Ngai, Vietnam. He was a front-line soldier
for the South Vietnamese army and served his country
from 1972-1975. After the South Vietnamese Army lost
to the North, he was imprisoned for almost 5 years in a
re-education camp and was released in 1980. He
describes his neighborhood growing up and his
experiences in the re-education camp. He explains how
he, his wife and two sons immigrated to America through
the Humanitarian Operation enacted by the Unites
States. After coming to the United States, he had mixed
feelings of fear of the new life and excitement of what
was to come.
VAOHP0002Nguyen, NicoleFemaleEnglish
“I can’t really remember anything except for the night
where my family, in the middle of the night, got us up,
“we have gotta to go”, and I said, “Where are we going?”
I had no idea but I remember my uncle, you know, put me
on his back and we just ran through the forest and I was
half asleep and I had a pair of pajamas on me and I was
holding it really tight.I held on his neck because he was
just moving alongand when asked where are we going,
no one explained…”
An oral history with Nicole Nguyen, a graduate from
University of California, Irvine where she majored in
International Studies. This interview focused on her
experience as being a 1.5 generation Vietnamese
American growing up in Oklahoma and Southern
California. She grew up not having an understanding
of her family’s past because her parents did not find it
necessarily. She discovered her identity upon joining the
Project Ngoc organization at UC Irvine. She reflects on
her experiences with the organization and the handful of
boycotts she staged.
VAOHP0128Tran, ThuanMaleEnglish
“We came out of the airport and it was completely
different. My uncle lived an apartment at the time, a
small one bedroom apartment. The four of us, my family,
we slept on the floor in the living room. It was all good, I
mean it wasn’t great but—it just, you know we all shared
that. I think most refugees who came America feels very
depressed at first. Our expectation were too high
because we didn’t know what it was like over here… ”
An oral history with Mr. Thuan Tran, born in 1965 in
Vung Tau, Vietnam. He and his family left Vietnam in
1975 and spent five years in an Indonesian refugee
camp. He shares his memories of discrimination and
adjustment to life in the Indonesian refugee camp,
where he also resumed his Vietnamese education
with the resources that were available for young people
there. Mr. Thuan Tran also discusses his experiences
with acculturating to high school in the U.S. after 1980.
From 1984-1988, he attended the University of
California, Irvine as an Electrical Engineering major.
He shared his memories of campus life and being part
of the Vietnamese Student Association (VSA) on
campus. After he graduated, he was accepted into a
position with Southern California Edison, where he
continues to work as the Manager for Protection
Engineer to this day. He currently lives in Diamond
Bar, California with his wife and daughter.
**VAOHP0077Nguyen, Trong PhatMaleBoth
“After that, we stayed at Camp Jubilee. Every day they
would give us a bowl of rice. Our bodies after a period of
starving would demand more nutrition than usual. We
would feel hungry a short while after just being fed. Yet
they only feed us a bowl of rice a day. Those who came
from Da Nang or Hai Phong, they got help from their
compatriots who came to the camp ahead of them. We,
who came from Saigon, knew no one, thus we were
pretty much alone and without any help. We begged for
left over rice from others who had other sources of foods
that they could spare us some of their left over rice.”
Oral History of Mr. Nguyen Trong Phat (or Phat Trong
Nguyen, western-style) who was born in Hanoi, Vietnam
in 1951. His family moved south in 1954 and followed
his father’s work as a bus driver. He spoke about his
early days in school and then his career in the Army
for seven years. He married his wife in 1973. After the
war ended, he was sent to reeducation camp and then
imprisoned again in 1977. He spoke at length and in
vivid detail about his boat journey from Vietnam to
Hong Kong, focusing on the survival strategies of
those aboard his boat. After resettlement in the
United States, he worked many odd jobs until he
started his small business, shipping care packages
to Vietnam in the 1980s. This business eventually
became one of the most established money transfer
and shipping businesses in Orange County, California.
VAOHP0079Nguyen, Kien TamFemaleBoth
“At the beginning, I was so confused because I did not
know anything. When my husband was sponsored out
of the camp, he was depressed all the time. He worked
all day long. He was used to the afternoon nap back in
Vietnam, so he skipped meals during lunch time to sleep
in the car. After work he would go home, go out to the
beach and sit there crying. We were living near Santa
Cruz at the time. I felt so desperate seeing him like that.
I did not know what to do while my tummy was getting
bigger everyday…
Oral history of Kien Tam Nguyen, born in 1947 in
Cambodia. She lived part of her early years in north
Vietnam until 1954 when her family migrated to Saigon,
where she completed most of her schooling. As a
student she often assisted injured soldiers during the
war. She lost a brother during that time period. Her
Buddhist faith is a strong part of her life, as she
meditates often. After marriage she opened her own
hair salon out of her home in Saigon. When the war
ended, she was evacuated with her son, while her
husband evacuated the country separately. She ended
up in Fort Chaffee, Arkansas while he ended up in
Camp Pendleton. They were able to reunite the family
and resettled in Los Angeles and then Orange county.
She co-founded Tam Beauty College with her husband,
which later became Advance Beauty College under her
children’s management.
VAOHP0015Nguyen, Quynh TrangFemaleEnglish
“My first encounter with racism was in junior high school.
It was in my geography class, and I had just started my
first semester in junior high school in the US. It was very
difficult because it’s geography, and I didn’t know any
English, but I studied so hard and it was a multiple
choice test, I believe, so I did well. And I ended up
getting a B on the test. There was this African American
kid who sat behind me. He failed the test and I think he
was a little embarrassed. He was upset and then he pull
my hair… I turned around and he said, “You stupid
Vietnamese, go back to Vietnam.”
An interview with Ms. Quynh-Trang Nguyen focused on
her immigration stories and media experiences in the
United States. She is a part of the one and a half
generation of Vietnamese Americans. She studied
linguistics and French at San Diego State University,
and Computer Information Science at Coleman College.
She is a cofounder of Little Saigon T.V. and Radio.
She started the first Vietnamese Satellite Television
called Vietnamese Broadcasting Network. Currently,
she is a business consultant and does contract work.
**VAOHP0012Nguyen, Chi ThienMaleBoth
“There were 6 executioners standing only a few feet
away from the prisoner. They pulled out their hand guns
and shot him in the chest. Then they cut him down,
pushed the body into the hole on the ground with no
coffin what-so-ever, and buried him just like that. The
ground on the grave was flattened down, instead of
piling the dirt high into a recognizable grave. Scenarios
like that happened everywhere in the North that year.
Those who were a bit well off already left for the South.
The rich and wealthy, they had gone south too. The
landowner class in the North was not as rich as their
Southern counterpart in reality. Even so, they packed
up and left.”
Oral history of poet Nguyen Chi Thien, born in Hanoi,
Vietnam in 1939. He passed away on October 2, 2012
in Orange County, California at the age of 73. Nguyen
Chi Thien grew up in a lower-middle class family and
recalled experiences under French colonial rule before
1954 and under the Communist regime in North
Vietnam after 1954. He spoke in detail of his
imprisonment in 1961 for teaching history in Hai Phong
that was deemed “propaganda” against the Communist
government. He wrote hundreds of poems in his head
throughout his terms of imprisonment. His poetry was
published overseas and continues to be banned in
Vietnam. He left Vietnam via the Orderly Departure
Program in 1995 and resettled in Santa Ana, California.
Matsuda, Suzie Xuyen Dong
“So I left Vietnam in 1983, I came to the refugee camp
and of course, you know, as a younger woman without
family, I was subjected to sexual harassment, sexual
abuse and things like that. There were several incidents
but I am not going to share here. I overcame that, but it
did take a toll on me, it really did take a toll on me. After
the escape experience and after the experience of living
without and coming to another country without family, I
always had to do everything I could to be accepted by
other people.”
Dr. Suzie Xuyến Đông Matsuda graduated from
Chapman University with a bachelor in the field of
Psychology and further her education to a career as a
Clinical Psychologist. Dr. Suzie Xuyến Đông Matsuda
struggled emotionally and verbally as a child. She was
one of the boat people who arrived in a refugee camp
in Indonesia. In the interview, Dr. Suzie Xuyến Đông
Matsuda, discusses her achievements, involvements
and overcoming obstacles to be where she’s is in the
**VAOHP0022Bach, Dzung T. MaleEnglish
“It’s like I grew up without a childhood. I cherish my
teenage years because war took everything good about
my childhood away from me. We grew up in constant
war, and we didn’t realize that at the time, we didn’t have
what we should’ve as a young child. We didn’t have a
chance to enjoy things that peace would give. We never
had. We can’t travel out of the city to go see another
place without thinking, “oh my god, what’s going to
happen if I go there?” That’s one thing and it affected
us in so many ways. Food was scarce and if you are
not enlisted in the army, it’s hard to make a living in a
city torn by war… in a country torn by war.”
An oral history was conducted with Dzung T. Bach, a
Vietnamese teacher at La Quinta High School in the
city of Westminster. The interview focused on his life
after the war, his experiences as a prisoner of war and
in the reeducation camps, as well as his transition to
America through the Orderly Departure Program, and
the traditions he hopes to pass on to his two daughters.
He was excited to do the interview in hopes that his
story will be heard and remembered, especially by his
VAOHP0118Pham, HueFemaleEnglish
When they were young, I gave a lot of lectures about the
Vietnamese culture either in the church or in the school.
Usually when I give the lecture, my husband and children
always come along. And I remember one time, I talk to
them about the boat people and how people get out and
I had a friend who came here to study with me in the 60s,
but then she got sick and she was very lonesome, very
homesick, so she went home. And then she tried to
escape from Vietnam in the late 70s, she got killed in
sea. All my children said oh God, mom, I didn’t know
that you had friend who died like that. And so they was
very touching, you know, with how people had to leave
Vietnam to come to America or just to get out of Vietnam.
We told them about the differences, you know, that how
to live in Vietnam and also the kind of relationship, the
kind of education, the kind of, you know, how to respect
the elderly people and so forth.
An oral history with Dr. Hue Pham, the current Dean of
Counseling & Special Services Program at Orange
Coast College (Costa Mesa, CA) and radio talk show/
T.V. host for the Vietnamese community in Orange
County. The interview focuses on her early life
experiences during the Vietnamese war along with her
journey to the United States as an international student.
She shares with us her continuous involvement in the
Vietnamese community as well as her dream career
encouraging Vietnamese youth to become educated
as a counselor.
**VAOHP0007Pham, Andrew TuanMaleEnglish
I remember vividly that summer, normally we would be
taking our summer vacation around the month of June.
But that particular year, by mid of April, my school got
shut down. Everybody go home for an early summer
that year. So, we did, and so I went home for summer
vacation, and the night…I remember one night we were
watching TV and the president of the country, President
Thieu, went on to the TV and announced that he resigned
from his post. And the Vice President, if I remember
correctly, Pho Tong Thong Huong, he’s gonna be the
commander of the country. So, as a child, I didn’t think
much of it. we went to sleep, and the next morning, my
aunt knocked on my parent’s door and said, “Okay, we
gotta go. You know, it’s time to go. It’s time to go to the
airport and we are gonna try to leave the country.”
An oral history with Mr. Andrew Tuan Pham (born in the
early 1960s), a Vietnamese-American real estate broker
currently living in the Bay Area. This interview focused
on his experience leaving Vietnam for the U.S. at a
young age by himself, how his family was sponsored
by a Catholic church in San Diego, and how he has
attained various degrees and careers. He describes
his experiences as an interviewer for the 500 Oral
Histories, and how he has been given the opportunity
to network through the organization.
VAOHP0186Pham, ThienMaleEnglish
I like the American education system it’s just because it’s
allowing kids to do everything on their free will. They can
explore any area, any field that they like to do. Versus in
Vietnamese culture parents usually have a major impact
on their kids’ career. Usually you see most Asian parents
they want their kids to be a doctor or an engineer growing
up. So in the U.S., the kids growing up here they have
that freedom. They like to explore any field that they are
interested in. So, that can help. I know some people later
on they wish that they can change their career path and
do something else. Growing up at first my parents also
wanted to be a doctor and go into medical, but I was
pretty much against that. I was one of those rebellious
kids and I just wanted to go into some other field. I don’t
like it when my parents keep on telling me to do
something so that’s why I went into engineering.
An oral history with Thien Si Pham, born in 1982 in
Saigon, Vietnam. He came to America in 1993 at 11
years old through the Humanitarian Operation Program.
He discusses his experiences readjusting to life in the
United States, touching on educational differences as
well as cultural differences. He also discusses social
issues in the U.S. along with his religious values. Lastly,
he recalls several childhood memories from Vietnam.
He received his Bachelor’s Degree in Computer Science
from UC Irvine and his Master’s Degree in Computer
Science from Cal State Long Beach. He now works as
a software developer and resides in Santa Ana,
California with his parents and siblings.
VAOHP0095Phan, Nancy NhungFemaleBoth
“But that was a full-time job…I was doing well in school
during my first 2 years and in Vietnam, so when I
transferred to a semi-public school, everything was
easy— math was easy; English was easy, and everything
else was easy. I also learned French but when I went to
work full-time, my learning abilities dropped..they
dropped; I only received Cs; from an A to C. However,
I still tried to work because I knew that it would help my
parents and my siblings have a better life. After we had
moved to California, I continued to work.”
An oral history with Nancy Nhung Phan, who currently
works at a local Post Office. This interview focused on
her life in Viet Nam, refugee camps, in America, and
experiences as a married women and a mother of 3
children. She has lived in America for more than 30
years. She is volunteering with the 500 Oral Histories
Project to help preserve her history.
VAOHP0047Quach, Danh NhutMaleBoth
During the time I studied pharmacy, the program taught
in depth for a pharmacist to adapt more at the community,
in the city or village. As I told you for example: the French
Professor, who came from France, taught us what we
should know very well as a pharmacist. In fact, they did
not teach about clinical, only community pharmacy. They
took plants and mushrooms to experiment which ones we
could eat and which ones could not, and we had to teach
people to be aware of poison mushrooms, it could kill
people. The French program taught more about
becoming a community pharmacist to serve the city,
village or community pharmacy, and not only working
in the clinic alone.
An oral history with Mr. Danh Nhat Quach, a pharmacist
from Orange County, CA. The interview explores how
Quach, along with other like-minded businessmen,
contributed to the development of Little Saigon in the
1980s. He earned his pharmacology degree in Vietnam
through the French education system and served as
the Cabinet Chair of Health during the war. After his
arrival to the United Sates, he attended pharmacy
school in Connecticut and later moved to Southern
California to open and pharmacy and shipping
business to serve the budding Vietnamese community.
*VAOHP0049Quach, Thomas (^father)MaleEnglish
At nine years old I remember I had the understanding
that something was going to change our life forever
because we left with all our belongings. In the month
leading up to that, in the month of February, I remember
watching the news; things started to change were the
bedrooms. My father constructed a bunker and it was
fun. There was a bed and pieces of wood and sandbags
were on top of that we climbed and played on it now that
it was in our bedroom. We were watching the news;
President Thieu was resigning the presidency to
President Huong. I remember he was a really old man
with a cane. At that time we already preparing for
something to happen. I remember our grandmother
would come over and talk to our parents about preparing
for something. They were making and sewing these
backpacks to prepare for I guess to escape. We were
making rucksacks and backpacks, in our clothing they
would find seams and slide gold leaflets
This is an oral history of Mr. Thomas Quach, a physician
from Orange County born in 1974 in Saigon, Vietnam.
Quach is a practicing OBGYN and active member of
the Vietnamese community. He is the eldest son of
pharmacists Danh Quach and Xuan Nguyen. Quach
emigrated from Vietnam after the fall of Saigon in 1975
as a young child. This interview describes his coming
of age and journey towards becoming a physician.
VAOHP0090Tran, Alex Hieu
Guns that people abandoned outside on the street, and
before that my father already taught me how to shoot,
strip and reassemble firearms. Because there were 2
colts and one cabin in the house, and I was in charge of
polishing them, and I knew the basic of shooting, and
later on I met with some of the soldiers, and they taught
me how to shoot too. When that VAOHP0090 11 day
came, I picked an RN15 home, carefully prepared and
tried to shoot a few shots into the air then I put it there.
Those who took the advantage of the coming of the
communists, and all the other’s houses they took
everything already, and when they came to my home,
I told them not to come in, and that “go away, the owner
of this home is still here.”
Oral history of Alex Hieu Tran, born in Da Nang,
Vietnam in 1957 to a large family with nine other
siblings. His family lived in Hue, but he lived in Saigon
and attended school there. He recalls life changing
dramatically for him after 1975 because his father was
sent to reeducation camp and he had to work with the
youth cadres. He studied and taught a form of martial
arts-meditation (chi cong) in Vietnam and continues this
practice here. He came to the United States in 1992
through the Humanitarian Operation under the Orderly
Departure Program after his father was released from
13 years in prison. At the time of interview he lives in
Orange County, California and works in a hair salon,
but also teaches chi cong.
**VAOHP0086Toan, JackMale
You know I was sick quite a bit as a kid because I had a
bone disease so we would drive, ride the bike really, not
bike, scooter, to go back and forth from the hospital. So
you know it’s one of the memories that sticks out the
most…we would always pass the tomb of Ho Chi Minh
there, so that was something that kind of stuck in my
mind. It didn’t have that much significance other than
the fact that he was entombed there, but we would drive
by that area a lot. But most of my childhood memories
just as kids is just running down the street, some vague
memories playing with other kids there
Oral History of Jack Khu Dang Toan who was born in
Hanoi, Vietnam in 1970 and left Vietnam in 1979 by
boat from Hanoi. His family arrived in a Hong Kong
refugee camp before being sponsored by a South
Carolina Christian church looking to specifically
sponsor a Chinese-Vietnamese refugee family. He
attended a few years of school in South Carolina and
then his family relocated to Orange County, California
where he finished high school and attended college at
UC Irvine. He met and married a non-Vietnamese
woman and they have three children. At the time of the
interview, he works for Wells Fargo Foundation, the
charitable arm of the bank and is active among the
Asian American community in Southern California.
**VAOHP0016Tran, Huy TuongMaleEnglish
I do remember a little bit about family life before 1975
like before the North came. My dad was an English
teacher at the local high school and my mom was a
nurse. We lived close to my maternal grandparents.
My grandfather was a policeman. My grandmother was
a shop owner. She owned a restaurant. So before 1975,
I remember I was being pretty comfortable and well to do.
I remember I was having a motorcycle, and I remember
my parents talking about buying a car, which is a huge
deal back then. But of course, 1975, everything changed.
An oral history with Mr. Huy Tuong Tran, an alumni of
the University of California, Irvine where he majored in
Political Science. He is a math teacher at Orangeview
Junoir High School. This interview focused on his
experiences as a 1.5 generation Vietnamese American
growing up in Vietnam in his childhood years and after
1975 migration experiences as a boat person and life
in the United States.
VAOHP0134Tran, Nhut VanMaleBoth
“These days in the south we’ve seen so much rebuilding
going on over just a short period of time with the united
nations help, causing some people to ask why they
couldn’t do that before, but how could we with landmines
and bombs killing students, there was no way. Now that
things are peaceful it can be done. But actually it doesn’t
benefit the Vietnamese people all that much, hunger is
still increasing day by day. Vietnamese girls are sold off
here and there, which is so tragic, many people cannot
achieve their goals, the United States abandoned them,
and China is eyeing Vietnam. There is nothing we can do.”
Oral history of Nhu Van Tran, born in Saigon, Vietnam
in 1935. He was a General in the Army of the Republic
of Vietnam, and at the end of his military career he was
commanding officer for the central region, known for the
battle of An Loc. He came to the United States on two
separate occasions for training with the U.S. Military.
He got married at the age of 22 and has four children.
In 1975, he and his family were evacuated to Camp
Pendleton and then were sponsored by a patron in
Texas. They moved from Texas to San Diego and then
settled in Orange County. In America he has held a
variety of jobs from gardening to working in an oil
refinery and Navy shipyard.
VAOHP0004Tran, Thanh TamFemaleEnglish
When I immigrated to the United States, in 1997 I was
only ten, turning eleven. At that time, I didn't speak any
English at all. One month when we got to the United
States, we didn't go to school immediately. My sister, she
did some work at a local restaurant, with a really low-pay
job. And there was as well the discrimination, not the
discrimination, but the kind of discrimination between the
Vietnamese to the newer Vietnamese and there was also
discrimination of Americans towards Vietnamese because
we didn't speak any English at all. So I think there was a
problems like that and in addition to that, we didn't have a
job, we didn't have a stable income in Vietnam either, so
we when we got to the United States, basically we didn't
have anything at all and we had to start everything anew.
Oral history of Thanh Tam Tran, born in 1986 in South
Vietnam in 1986. She came to the United States in
1997 with her family through the Humanitarian
Operation (HO) Program. Her interview focused on her
process of adapting to life in America, facing
discrimination, gangs, and generational tensions.
**VAOHP0107Tran, Thy VanMale Both
That afternoon I saw a boat, the type that sailed along
the coast of the three regions. This one came from the
Central Region to purchase fishes and fish sauce for
reselling in Da Nang. It was such beautiful boat that I
came down to play. That afternoon while I was in the boat,
I overheard them talking about going to Quang Nam, a
place often mentioned by my father as our birth place. I
thought Quang Nam was nearby so I asked them to let me
coming along. I thought the trip would take a few hours
until the afternoon or at the latest the next morning before
I would return. Who knew it would take 7 days to get to Da
Nang, and from then on I would become the adopted son
of the boat owners.
Oral history of Mr. Tran Thy Van, born in 1944 in Quang
Nam, Vietnam. He resides in Huntington Beach,
California at the time of interview. His early childhood
was marked by the departure of his mother and a
vagabond life with his father. His schooling was
haphazard, and in his early twenties he went to Thu
Duc Military Academy, a training school for officers
joining the Army of the Republic of Vietnam. In 1968
he matriculated from Thu Duc with the rank of Thiếu úy
[Second Lieutenant]. He joined the ground troops of the
[Biệt Đồng Quân] and worked up to lead a battalion of
160 soldiers. In 1974 he lost both his legs from a
landmine explosion and was discharged from the
military. At the time he had a wife and six children.
After he returned from service, he parted ways with
his wife and lived with three of his children. He remarried
and had three more children. In 1983 he and one of his
sons escaped Vietnam by boat, passed through a
refugee camp in Thailand, and resettled in Orange
County where they sponsored his second wife and
unmarried children. Tran Thy Van remained active
with South Vietnamese veteran organizations and has
published accounts of his life and military experience.
VAOHP0017Tran, Tri C.MaleEnglish
The biggest impact that we feel right after the war was
that we lost our country so to speak. Even though North
Vietnam was still Vietnam we thought of it as a different
country because it pursued a different ideology very
different that from the South, so in a sense my family and
me, myself, we thought we had lost the country to the
communists. They were Vietnamese as well, but since
they had a different ideology, we didn’t even feel like that
they were our compatriots. Together with losing the South,
we felt like we had lost a lot of other things, like our
opportunities to have the right type of education that we
would want to have, and my dad had lost his job. Like
most of the Vietnamese families in the South back then,
we were in financial difficulties and all of that gave us a
lot of depression and other negative feelings. So mentally
speaking, we were seriously impacted by the post-war
An oral history with Mr. Tri C. Tran, a professor of
linguistics here at UCI and UCLA. This interview is
focused on exploring his overall life during the pre/
post-Vietnam War era in Vietnam and in the United
States. His life in Vietnam, journey to the United States
via boats, and subsequent new life in America are all
documented. He is contributing to the Vietnamese
American Oral History Project to help preserve his story.
**VAOHP0025Mai, Tra Van
During 1969 I was already in the navy; in military school.
After the summer of 68, everyone who was 18 years of
age pretty much had to enlist in the military. Whoever did
not have a high enough degree went into the army. The
ones who had a high enough degree went on to become
an officer. So I enlisted in the navy and went to school
there for a year. After around a year after I graduated
from navy school I was sent out to fix ships. Whichever
ships were damaged by the war, whichever ones were
attacked or had holes in them were sent back for me to fix.
This is an oral history interview with Mr. Tra Van Mai, a
current machine technician for a Company in Orange
County. This interview focused on
his life experiences shortly before, during, and after the
Vietnam War, as well as his escape by boat and
transition into American society. He speaks of his
upbringing in the Gia Định province and how rustic
and peaceful his neighborhood was, then transitions
to his education and enlistment in the military at the
age of 18. Tra remembers being in the navy as a ship
repairman and technician during the fall of Saigon on
April 30, 1975 and describes the horrors of war in seeing
his friends die around him. Though many escaped the
oppression of the Communist government around 1975,
Tra remained in Vietnam with his family until around 1987.
*VAOHP0262Le, Ngoc MyFemale English
I don’t know how other people would think if they are in
my situation: oldest girl in the family of six and have
parents as working people who work hard, try to provide
for the family, try to help the kids to attend the best
possible school in order to have a better education, a
better future. So when I see my father struggle and see
him exhausted at the end of the day, I promise myself
that my life eventually has to be different. I have to
conquer the poverty, at least I will have a better future for
myself, but I can also be a better provider for my children
or hopefully for future generations.
An oral history with Ms. Ngoc My Le, born in 1957 in
Mỹ Tho, Vietnam. She is the oldest child of six children.
She was studying to be a dentist from 1975-1979 in
South Vietnam. In 1979, she escaped from Vietnam with
her two brothers and a male colleague by boat. She
stayed for 13 months in two different refugee camps,
Ku Ku and Galang, in Indonesia before being sponsored
by a church in Poughkeepsie, New York. She moved
from San Diego, to New Orleans, to Los Angeles
before settling in Orange County, California. Although
she initially pursued dentistry and medical technology,
she found her passion in nursing and received her
diploma in nursing from USC Medical Center School
of Nursing. She has been working as a registered
nurse at UCLA Medical Center for 20 years. She is a
single mother of 4 children and currently resides in
Fountain Valley, California.
* VAOHP0074Luong, Van TyMaleBoth
I remember my greatest memory was when
Ngo Dinh Diem was about to assume power,
there was an enormous ceremony on Notre
Dame Street in front of the presidential palace.
So in the office I worked in it was suggested
that I create what became the largest painting
I ever made. Its width was about 6 meters, and
about 20 meters in length. It was a portrait of
Ngo Dinh Diem, for his movement. But at that
time I only had 3 days, They made me complete
it within 3 days and 3 nights.
Oral history of Mr. Luong Van Ty (Ty Van Luong,
western-style), born in 1932 in South Vietnam. He
grew up in Saigon in a middle class family with a
Chinese father, Vietnamese mother, and 5 siblings.
His interview focused on early years in Saigon, his
experience in the Army Reserves and later as an artist
who was commissioned to create a large painting of
former South Vietnam president Ngo Dinh Diem that
was hung in the presidential palace. His interview also
elaborates on his experience leaving Vietnam in 1975
and resettlement in Southern California. He worked
many different jobs including a portrait artist of
Movieland Museum and owned various businesses,
including a Vietnamese-language television station for
25 years. After his retirement he refocused his energy
on painting and at the time of interview was learning
Leduc Truong Sinh
Leduc Xuan To
Male & FemaleBoth
From March 1975 to April 1975 I lost my family contact,
and did not know what happened to them. I only knew
that my mother was sick but did not know if she died or
still alive. My father surely got arrested because talking
about the communist that time. I shared my thought
about our situation with my brother and plan to find the
way to evacuate. We also heard American evacuated
people, but how could we contact about that, I did not
know anybody in America Ambassy. I told my brother
that we must go because based on what my parents
said we could never stay. We must go at any cost
because sooner or later they would arrest me because
of my father status and they would never leave us alone.
I tried to find the way and talked to Doctor Xuân Tô when
we were in school. She knew some people who organized
to find the way leaving the country while it was chaotic.
I told Doctor Xuân Tô that I did not know anybody and
did not know how to leave the country, so she said that
her family was planning if I wanted to go together, I
could go along with her family.
Oral history of Dr. Xuanto Leduc and Dr. Truong-Sinh
Leduc, a couple who are physicians. Dr. Xuanto was
born in 1953 in Chau Doc, Vietnam. Dr. Truong-Sinh
was born in 1952 in Da Nang, Vietnam. The pair had
very parallel experiences until they were separated in
1975. The oldest of five, Dr. Xuanto’s father was Chief
of Police in Chau Doc. Her family was middle class and
comfortable and she was able to attend school and then
medical school in Saigon. Dr. Truong-Sinh also attended
medical school in Saigon where he met Dr. Xuanto.
Their courtship was interrupted in 1975 when he
evacuated South Vietnam and she was stuck behind.
She went on to finish medical school and practice
medicine in Vietnam while he struggled to do the same
in the U.S. In 1979 she escaped by boat and arrived in
Westminster, California. At first the couple were
estranged, but friends brought them back together and
they married in the U.S. They have four sons and a
joint medical practice at the time of the interview.
**VAOHP0188Luu, AlexMaleEnglish
I remember just seeing soldiers everywhere with
big guns and stuff - you would always hear
airplanes flying over all the time and you hear
bombs in the distance and gunfire like getting
closer and closer. And it was crazy because we
were in ditches like I was saying earlier, the first
night, you kind of hear like [imitates distant gun
sounds], and then the second night you could like
really hear it and you’re like “oh my god,” they
were getting really close, you know? So yeah, I
think that part we didn’t know what was going to
An oral history with Alex Luu, born in 1966 in Saigon,
Vietnam. He was eight years old during the Fall of
Saigon and was among the first wave of refugees to
leave the country. After some initial challenges, he and
his family secured a sponsor and gradually managed to
settle into American society in California. He attended
school in the US since 4th grade and went on to attend
UCLA. Alex is a critically acclaimed performance artist,
teacher, and filmmaker. He is a resident teaching artist
with the LA Arts Commission, Ford Theatre Foundation,
and East West Players. He has been performing his
autobiographical performance pieces and one-man
show "Three Lives" since 1989 and teaching/facilitating
his autobiographical writing/storytelling/performing
workshop MY OWN STORY (MOS) since 1997,
respectively. He has been artist-in-residence at theaters/
arts organizations and campuses nationally, most notably
for Boston Center for the Arts (2001, 2003), Berklee
College of Music (2008, 2009), Boston's Mayor Office of
Arts & Tourism (2006). He is also a seasonal guest
artist lecturer at UC Davis since 2009.
Wong, HenryMaleEnglish
My family, like most families who love freedom and
democracy, we know that under the communist regime,
it is hard to live under their rule. So, because the food,
the field, everything, the government controlled. We had
to get rations for food, the food had to be rational, the
field, same thing. There is nothing that we can buy and
use frequent. They went backward because the
economy was so bad, people had not enough food to
eat, even if you had money you could buy, but would
not really get enough for the population in the country.
That’s why a lot of people tried to get out of that country,
escape. They used the boat, they had to escape to
different countries in order to emigrate to freedom
countries like America.
An oral history with Mr. Henry Wong, a Chinese ethnic,
Vietnamese American living in Orange County, CA.
This interview focused on his detailed reminisces about
a beautiful, lush Vietnam torn by the atrocities of war,
his and his family’s experiences assimilating into
American culture, and his gratitude and pride for being
an American citizen. He depicts a timeline of his life
starting from childhood until currently, and provides a
sense of Americanized Vietnamese diaspora.
VAOHP0010Vo, Stephanie TranFemaleEnglish
We have so many way to, to flee the country. Bac Can
have transportation in the Air Force. Bac Thung have
transportation in the Navy. Your grandpa have
transportation from the American because he work for the
American. Bac Tien have transportation from the Air
Force. And also, Bac Can and his wife bought the ship
because they know that the Communist going to take
over, so they bought a ship. There’s so many. So at that
time, Bac Can took your Uncle and me to the port. Bac
Tien got up there by himself and Bac Thung got up there
by himself. Because we did not want to leave at the
same time. If we were not able to make it, they going to
take over the house.
An oral history narration with Stephanie Tran Vo, a
graduate from California State University of Long Beach
where she majored in Computer Science and minored in
Mathematics. This interview gives insight on the life of a
fifteen year old girl from Saigon who left to the United
States in 1975 by boat. Growing up with only her three
of her brothers and leaving behind her mother and
oldest brother, Stephanie explores the difficulties in
adjusting to life in America. She concludes with how
identifies strongly with the American society and has
no intentions of going back to Vietnam.
**VAOHP0084Van, Keith Ky ThanhMaleBoth
The society of Vietnam by that time was just like that
whoever had a chance to study abroad they went right
away. They wanted to learn new technology so when
they went back they could help their society better, or if
they had to join the army, they could be in a higher rank
like officer, seargeant, lieutenant, whatever rank
depended on the situation of the country or depending on
each person’s differences. For example like learning
about economic which could be working in economic
department, learning about manufacture which could be
working in government’s manufacture company. People
studied abroad usually had higher priority and good
position to work in Vienam than others.
An oral history of Mr. Keith KyThanh Van, born in 1953
in Hanoi, Vietnam but migrated to Saigon after the
Geneva Accord in 1954. He grew up in Saigon. His
father was part of the Viet Minh and worked in civil
service. He was able to study abroad at McGilll
University in Canada in the 1972 and acquired his
Masters degree in 1976. As an international student, he
was already outside the country when the Vietnam
War ended. He eventually moved down from Canada
and resettled permanently in Orange County, Calfornia
where he met and married his wife. They have 6
children. He designed, patented and manufactured
avionics parts and established his company,
Ameri-King, in Huntington Beach, California.
VAOHP0236To, KenMaleEnglish
The owner and a co-owner and asked her if she want to
come with them because they said sooner or later, they
know the communist will take the company without, you
know, how do I express this – they try to tell everyone
that everyone should be equal, I mean if you’re rich you
have to share with the poor, at the time, they said they
planned a trip and try to escape, if she want to join,
then she have to pay to the owner of the
boat and also they have to try to buy out, we call, buy
out the guard of the port that we’re trying, you know, set
up and plan. So after three years and plus my grandpa,
which is her father, again because they know they got –
by the way, he have experience with the Communist so
he would ask my mom saying, you should if you have
the chance, then get out of Vietnam.
An oral history with Mr. Ken To, born in 1962 in Phan
Thiet, Vietnam. He was a student learning Chinese and
English from 1966 to 1975. After the collapse of South
Vietnam, he failed his first attempt at escaping in 1975
but then managed to successfully escape in 1978 by
boat to a refugee camp in Pulau Bidong. He left Pulau
Bidong in September 1979 via family sponsorship
through his cousins who had settled in California after
escaping a year prior by flying from Kuala Lumpur,
Malaysia to California, USA. He discussed his
memories of where he was born and how he grew up
in Saigon before 1975. He also discussed memories of
leaving Vietnam and the struggles he had to overcome
during the journey from escaping Vietnam to Pulau
Bidong by boat and finally to America via family
sponsorship. After coming to the United States, he
eventually became a naturalized citizen and took a job
as a cashier for most of his life and then became an
account executive working at a mortgage company. He
lives in Orange, California with his wife and two children.
VAOHP0041Thai, Loan PhamFemaleEnglish
We don’t want to leave the house. We don’t want to leave
our property. We don’t want to leave our country. We feel
horrible, but because they want to take my son away
because by that time my stepson was 21 years old and
they want to take away of him. They want him to join the
army with the communist. But we don’t want them to do
that. We don’t want him go in there because they will take
him away for I don’t know how long. So that’s why we
scared, we have to escape.
An oral history with Mrs. Loan Pham Thai, a loving
mother and grandmother of eight children and thirteen
grandchildren. This interview focused on her
experiences in Vietnam during the war, and the
difficulties of escaping to come to the United States.
She, along with the rest of her family, were boat people
who traveled Indonesia where they were then
sponsored to come to the United States. From there,
she and her family adapted to the American lifestyle
and prospered from there through their experiences
and hardship.
VAOHP0108Truong, Le ChiFemaleBoth
My career was about pharmacy so my son worked with
me and learned a lot from me. He worked as pharmacist
and he liked to be a doctor, but it was very hard to enter
the medical university in Vietnam by that time because
his father’s background was under the South Republican
Regime, so he could not have a chance to enter the
university. I sent him to learn the acupunture because
if he could not learn the Western medical, he could learn
the Eastern medical instead. He stayed in Malaysia to
practice the pharmacy from me and his acupuncture
skills. He helped a lot of people and became well-known
in Malaysia, people there loved him so much and they
called him Doctor.
An oral history of Truong Le Chi, born in 1940 in Soc
Trang, Vietnam to a father who was a photographer.
She is the middle child with an older brother and a
younger brother. Although born and raised in Soc Trang,
she lived in Saigon where she attended Gia Long, a
school for girls. She married her tutor who was an
engineer and had 6 children. Her husband passed
away in 1969 and she gave 5 of her 6 children up for
adoption. They were sent to the West and her eldest
remained with her until he escaped to Cambodia as an
adult. She traded medicine on the black market,
married a South Vietnamese veteran who had been
released from reeducation prison, and left Vietnam
with him and his children through the Orderly Departure
Program. Once she arrived in the U.S. she reunited
with her children. At the time of interview, she is retired
and living alone in Garden Grove, California.
VAOHP0093Tran, Thach NgocMaleEnglish
I didn’t want to be involved in that. One time I escaped,
they caught me back. Before I join the band, the music
band. Before I joined that, I tried to escape and they
caught me put me in camp for 2 weeks. I tried to escape.
Me and my two friends try to escape because the camp
was in the mountains. Try to escape, we run a couple
miles and the guards, they run, use a gun, and chase.
They chase, they saw us and fired, randomly fired and
almost hit us. Then they bring us back.
An oral history project was conducted with Thach Ngoc
Tran, a refugee and boat person during the Vietnam
War. The interview focused on his experiences growing
up during the Vietnam War, escape as a Communist
soldier, and eventual reunification with his brothers in
California. Thach detailed his life as a young man, and
how these early life experiences shaped his views on
family, marriage, and Vietnamese American culture
today. Thach was kind enough to partake in this
interview to help preserve his story and history.
**VAOHP0033Truong, BinhMaleEnglish
Before I graduated so I think Boeing and McDonnel
Douglas already knew about me somehow. So they
contacted me right away, so that means when I got a
degree I had to make a decision who I had to work for,
Boeing or McDonnel Douglas. When I worked in
Washington State every year I take a trip to see my
Uncle in Los Angeles so I love the weather here because
in Washington State I stayed in the East Side so very
cold and a lot of snow so Asian people, we don't like
snow very much. We like to see it but we don't like to
live in it. So I accepted to work with McDonnel Douglas.
An oral history with Mr. Binh Truong, a graduate of a
community college in Washington State where he
majored in aerospace engineering and graduated at top
honors with a 4.3 GPA. The interview focuses on his
early life in Vietnam as a pilot in the Vietnamese Air
Force, his time in Camp Pendleton where he was later
sponsored by a family in Washington, his experience
balancing two jobs in college and graduating with the
top honors, and his many careers that followed. I
wanted to focus on his experience as a pilot in the
Vietnamese Air Force but found that he had many other
interesting stories that were equally as important to his
life experience.
*VAOHP0125Hoang, Dai HaiMaleEnglish
My mom cried every night, feeling if she did that right or
wrong. She feels like just let them go. Now I have my
children and I understand that feeling. It was very hard to
let your children go. For her, thinking for their futures, I
know she keeps thinking if she did that right or wrong. I
saw her crying every night. For me, of course you know,
all brothers and sisters were around, but now I am just by
myself. I always want people to be around me. But now I
don’t have, so I look for friends. Luckily in Vietnam, the
community is very close so I got neighbor friends
Oral history of Hoang Dai Hai (first name Hai, surname
Hoang), born in 1963 in Saigon, Vietnam. He is the
eldest child in a family of 6 children. His father passed
away in 1969 and his mother gave his 5 siblings up for
international adoption through two programs called
Friends of Children of Vietnam and Welcome Home. He
helped his mother run pharmaceuticals on the black
market and attempted to escape the country by boat at
least ten times without success. In 1986 he went to
Cambodia and made a living by selling medicine, doing
acupuncture, and being a healer. He met his wife there
and the two of them escaped Cambodia by boat. They
arrived in a refugee camp in Thailand and then sent to
the Philippines before resettlement in the United States.
Once in America he went to dental school and practiced
dentistry in the Seattle-Tacoma area before moving to
Orange County, California where he lives at the time of
interview with his wife and three sons, who were all born
in the U.S.
VAOHP0085Do, Phong DucMaleBoth
Many times I saw those buses in front got burnt to black
and flipped upside down. It was because the land mine
exploded, causing the bus to flip and burn. There were
many people, numerous of them at death were burnt
black and still lying on the road. If I went a few hours
earlier, then I would also be among those victims. Every
family during that period were affected like that, more or
less regarding their psychological war life. That was
before 75, after 75 was the consequences of the war,
even those officers of the South must to through the
reform training.
An oral history with Phong Duc Do, born in 1958 in
Saigon, Vietnam. He grew up with 3 siblings and his
interview focused on experiences with the education
system in Vietnam as well as the social relations
between friends in the 1960s and 1970s in Saigon. His
father was sent to reeducation camp in 1975 and as the
oldest brother, he had to work to support his family. He
tried escaping Vietnam as a boat refugee but failed and
then in 1991 his family left through the Humanitarian
Operation under the Orderly Departure Program. He
was sponsored to Washington state but eventually
resettled in San Diego, California. After working in
various jobs and attending school, he got a job as an
aircraft engineer working for the US Navy.
*VAOHP0081Nguyen, Bich LienFemaleEnglish
In 1975, I remember I was at school. At that time, we
knew that some of the provinces were falling. And there
was some talk in the class, my friend and I were talking…
oh, the Viet Cong is coming, there were rumors that they
would come in and make these college girls marry their
wounded soldiers, and if you had polished nails they
would pull your nails out…horrible things, so anyway, at
that time…you hear a lot of things. Like in Saigon, you
were isolated from the realities of war, you were protected
from the war…any deaths in the war were like freak
accidents, stray bombs, sometimes people would toss a
grenade in a café or something. But for me I never went
to those things so it was kind of removed from me.
Oral History with Dr. BichLien Nguyen, born in Saigon,
Vietnam in 1954. She is currently an oncologist
practicing in Orange County, California. Her interview
focused on her memories of going to pharmacy school in
Saigon, being the eldest in her family and taking care of
her mother who suffered from cancer. She left Vietnam
by boat with her family and passed through Guam and
the Philippines before resettling in Albuquerque, New
Mexico through the sponsorship of a Lutheran Church.
She met and married her husband, another Vietnamese
refugee, in Albuquerque and then they moved to
Orange County where she completed her undergraduate
degree and medical school at UC Irvine. She has two
children. She co-founded the Vietnamese American
Cancer Foundation in 2002. At the time of interview she
continues to participate actively in community life in
Orange County.
**VAOHP0073Nguyen, Lanh VanMaleBoth
As a student when I joined Võ Bị for the 2 year training
program, I actually didn’t have any concept or ideal, but
once I was there, I suddenly had an ideal concept. The
ideal was that I must join military to protect the South of
Vietnam in a defensive manner, and protect it from the
invasion of the North. At that time they opened up the
National Front for the Liberation of South Vietnam
Operation to attack the South. So the ideal was the ideal
of the side of freedom to against the ideal of the
communists; therefore we were very enthusiastic, and we
served wholeheartedly. So as you see, when we
graduated from Võ Bị we had a vow: “We do not seek
peace and contentment, but desire storms and dangers.”
That means when we graduated, we just wanted to go to
war without fear of death. We didn’t seek for pleasure and
easy life, and we didn’t seek to find a professional career
to stay at the home front, but go to war. That was the
spirit and courage that came from the heart and self
consciousness when we graduated from Võ Bị.
Oral History of Nguyen Van Lanh (or Lanh Van Nguyen),
born in 1941 in Quang Tri, Vietnam. HI father was part
of the French military. He attended Da Lat Military
Academy and fought in the Vietnam-American War, then
was put in reeducation camp for over seven years. He
left Vietnam via the Orderly Departure Program to
resettle in the U.S. in 1994 with his wife and six children.
One of the distinguishing aspects of his interview was
his discussion of his interest and expertise on the
Book of Changes and feng shui.
**VAOHP0143Nguyen, Nhan ThiFemaleBoth
I lived in the countryside then moved to Hà Nội. We
always would go back to Hành Thiện to celebrate the
memorial of our anscestors. The most fun was when I
was young about 5-6 years old, and I followed my
grandma to the memorial of our anscestors. The elders
were there, and children received a piece of meat and a
handful of sweet rice. Next to our house lived my oldest
uncle, who was the head of our extended family. He used
to slaughter pigs, and I used to ask for the pig bladder to
play with. That was my memory from the village back
then. My village had a festival from the 9th to the 15th of
September every year. All the seniors over 60 years old
got to sit in hammocks from the communal house of the
village to the temple. There was swimming and races,
and the seniors had rice cakes and fruits. Each hamlet in
the village had their own parade, and it was so much fun
celebrating the village’s traditions.
Born in 1934 in Hanh Thien village in Nam Dinh province
in Vietnam, Nhan Thi Nguyen resides in Tustin, California
at the time of interview. Her father was a businessman
and her mother passed away when she was one. Her
early years of schooling was disrupted due to Japanese
occupation and Vietnamese anticolonial struggles
against the French. In 1954 she migrated south and
married Duong Dinh Thu, a military man who later
became a colonel in the Army of the Republic of Vietnam.
They had nine children. After the war ended in 1975, her
husband was sent to reeducation camp for four years,
but she was able to escape the country with her nine
children who ranged in age between one and 18 years
old. They came to Camp Pendleton in May 1975 and
then were resettled in San Clemente initially. She was
reunited with her husband after his release from re-
education prison. Their family moved to Tustin. Nhan Thi
Nguyen worked as a seamstress for 18 years to support
her children, six of whom work in the medical field.