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AmazonGlobal Ship Orders Internationally. Mention Amerasians and people would roll their eyes and recite an old saying in Vietnam: Children without a father are like a home without a roof. The massacres that President Ford had feared never took place, but the Communists who came south after to govern a reunited Vietnam were hardly benevolent rulers.

Many orphanages were closed, and Amerasians and other youngsters were sent off to rural work farms and re-education camps. The Communists confiscated wealth and property and razed many of the homes of those who had supported the American-backed government of South Vietnam. Mothers of Amerasian children destroyed or hid photographs, letters and official papers that offered evidence of their American connections.


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Hoi Trinh was still a schoolboy in the turbulent postwar years when he and his schoolteacher parents, both Vietnamese, were uprooted in Saigon and, joining an exodus of two million southerners, were forced into one of the "new economic zones" to be farmers. He remembers taunting Amerasians. It was really a matter of following the crowd, of copying how society as a whole viewed them. They looked so different than us They weren't from a family. They mostly lived on the street and didn't go to school like us.

I asked Trinh how Amerasians had responded to being confronted in those days. Trinh eventually left Vietnam with his family, went to Australia and became a lawyer.

A fresh take on the Vietnam War | Bill Gates

When I first met him, in , he was 28 and working out of his bedroom in a cramped Manila apartment he shared with 16 impoverished Amerasians and other Vietnamese refugees. He was representing, pro bono, or so Amerasians and their family members scattered through the Philippines, negotiating their futures with the U.


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For a decade, the Philippines had been a sort of halfway house where Amerasians could spend six months, learning English and preparing for their new lives in the United States. Vietnam would not take them back and the Manila government maintained that the Philippines was only a transit center. They lived in a stateless twilight zone. But over the course of five years, Trinh managed to get most of the Amerasians and scores of Vietnamese boat people trapped in the Philippines resettled in the United States, Australia, Canada and Norway.

When one of the Amerasians in a Philippine refugee camp committed suicide, Trinh adopted the man's 4-year-old son and helped him become an Australian citizen. If we are treated fairly and with tenderness, we will grow up being exactly like that. After being defeated at Dien Bien Phu in and forced to withdraw from Vietnam after nearly a century of colonial rule, France quickly evacuated 25, Vietnamese children of French parentage and gave them citizenship.

For Amerasians the journey to a new life would be much tougher. About of them left for the United States with Hanoi's approval in and , but Hanoi and Washington—which did not then have diplomatic relations—could not agree on what to do with the vast majority who remained in Vietnam.

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Hanoi insisted they were American citizens who were not discriminated against and thus could not be classified as political refugees. Washington, like Hanoi, wanted to use the Amerasians as leverage for settling larger issues between the two countries. Not until , in secret negotiations covering a range of disagreements, did Washington and Hanoi hold direct talks on Amerasians' future. But by then the lives of an American photographer, a New York congressman, a group of high-school students in Long Island and a year-old Amerasian boy named Le Van Minh had unexpectedly intertwined to change the course of history.

It broke my heart. Minh's mother had thrown him out of the house at the age of 10, and at the end of each day his friend, Thi, would carry the stricken boy on his back to an alleyway where they slept. On that day in , Minh looked up at Tiernan with a hint of a wistful smile and held out a flower he had fashioned from the aluminum wrapper in a pack of cigarettes. The photograph Tiernan snapped of him was printed in newspapers around the world.

The next year, four students from Huntington High School in Long Island saw the picture and decided to do something. They collected 27, signatures on a petition to bring Minh to the United States for medical attention. They asked Tiernan and their congressman, Robert Mrazek, for help.

Children of the Vietnam War

Mrazek recalls telling the students that getting Minh to the United States was unlikely. Vietnam and the United States were enemies and had no official contacts; at this low point, immigration had completely stopped. Humanitarian considerations carried no weight. State Department and someone from Vietnam's delegation to the United Nations willing to make an exception? Mrazek began making phone calls and writing letters. Mrazek had found a senior Vietnamese official who thought that helping Minh might lead to improved relations with the United States, and the congressman had persuaded a majority of his colleagues in the House of Representatives to press for help with Minh's visa.

He could bring the boy home with him. Mrazek had hardly set his feet on Vietnamese soil before the kids were tagging along. Some called him "Daddy. Another 60 or 70 Amerasians were camped in the yard. The refrain Mrazek kept hearing was, "I want to go to the land of my father. There were lots of these kids, and they were painful reminders to the Vietnamese of the war and all it had cost them.

Let's bring them all back, at least the ones who want to come. They took him to orthopedists and neurologists, but his muscles were so atrophied "there was almost nothing left in his legs," Nancy says. Minh wondered if his father was among the 58, names engraved on it. He was very resistant to school and had no desire to get up in the morning. He wanted dinner at midnight because that's when he'd eaten on the streets in Vietnam. Minh, now 37 and a newspaper distributor, still talks regularly on the phone with the Kinneys. He calls them Mom and Dad. Mrazek, meanwhile, turned his attention to gaining passage of the Amerasian Homecoming Act, which he had authored and sponsored.

In the end, he sidestepped normal Congressional procedures and slipped his three-page immigration bill into a 1,page appropriations bill, which Congress quickly approved and President Ronald Reagan signed in December The new law called for bringing Amerasians to the United States as immigrants, not refugees, and granted entry to almost anyone who had the slightest touch of a Western appearance.

The Amerasians who had been so despised in Vietnam had a passport—their faces—to a new life, and because they could bring family members with them, they were showered with gifts, money and attention by Vietnamese seeking free passage to America. With the stroke of a pen, the children of dust had become the children of gold. It was like we were walking on clouds.

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We were their meal ticket, and people offered a lot of money to Amerasians willing to claim them as mothers and grandparents and siblings. Conditions on the small, overcrowded vessel were horrific, and eight days into the journey, disaster struck. As the craft came in sight of shore, it was hit by a ferocious storm. The boat sank with the loss of half of the passengers on board, but miraculously Juliet escaped, eventually making her way to the USA to begin her new life. Aged only 11, Juliet had witnessed at first hand the barbarity of war, and after the death of her father and her younger sister, she and her mother were left to struggle on in poverty.

But their flight to the West did not have a fairy-tale ending, and in the coming years they faced a struggle to integrate into their new society.