Jan 25

A Place To Call Home

The babies born in the midst and in the wake of the Vietnam War were, for many years, bereft of identity and shunned by both sides of their heritage. To America they were a disgrace, a painful reminder of one of the most politically controversial wars in history. To the Vietnamese people, they were a sign of the gross liberties that had been taken with their mothers, daughters and sisters during the war. The culture of abstinence until marriage was severely challenged by the arrival of the American G.I.s. Girls keen to catch the eye of an American and live out the remainder of their lives in what they perceived as the promised land of America.

Most of these babies grew up without the love of a father and often without the guidance of the extended families who had disowned their wayward mothers. Thousands were left at the doors of orphanages, the shame too much to live with. Even litter bins were used to dispose of these unwanted infants. Schools were places of ridicule. They were mocked for their western features, bullied and reminded day to day of the indignity of their births. Referred to as ‘children of the dust’, their reputation was of a speck of dirt that should just be brushed aside. They grew up with just one dream, to get to America and be reunited with their fathers. These dreams sustained them, their thoughts fixed on the welcome they would receive and the love they would finally feel.  

Alas, the dishonour of the American servicemen for a war that they did not return home as conquering heroes meant that many wanted to resume the normality of the lives they had left behind. The U.S. government denied the responsibility and the men themselves wanted mostly to forget the horrors of a war that they felt they had no place to be in.

Known as Amerasians, many were evacuated after the fall of Saigon as their safety was a concerned when the communists took revenge on the collaborators. One hundred and forty four orphans perished as the fist evacuation flight crashed into some paddy fields. After that disaster, three more weeks of evacuations occurred. Many children ended up in Bangkok or with families in more rural areas. Many ended up uneducated and unskilled thanks to the daily torment they faced.

Due to the precarious nature of records, at this time, it is largely unknown how many Amerasians were actually born during the Vietnam War. Some claim it is as many as twenty six thousand although only around three percent have ever been reunited with their birth fathers.

A tragic episode for both countries, there is now a united effort to work alongside these mixed race people to restore some dignity to their lives. Organisations work to create job opportunities, housing and family tracing services. Success stories have included establishments of Chinese restaurant Melbourne, family reunions and secure housing. All in all it is a positive step in the right direction.