The pain is not over – Mixed-race children from the Vietnamese war (translation)
Mixed-race Vietnamese people who have an American father, born in the Vietnam War before 1975 are estimated to be more than 25,000 people. Nearly half a century has passed, most of them have found their biological father, settled in the US but hundreds of other them are still languishing to find theirs, looking forward to reuniting.
Author : Quang Viên Translation : Le Hoangan Julien Proofreading, Editing : Gabrielle Trúc Cohen
[Notes about the terms used:The word “con lai” is translated literally through different words: hybrid, cross-breed, half-blood or biracial… I chose to use the term mixed-race, which denotes a less biological and colonial and more political and social constructionist aspect than the others. The word “lai mỹ” literally means American hybrid and could be translated into “half-American” or “Amerasian”. I choose the latter.]
Part 1: Scars of the war
[ Original vietnamese version : Con lai – Nỗi đau chưa qua: Vết sẹo chiến tranh ]
Mixed-race people who have an American father, born in the Vietnam War before 1975 are estimated to be more than 25,000 people. Nearly half a century has passed, most of them have found their biological father, settled in the US but hundreds of other mixed-race are still languishing to find theirs, looking forward to reuniting.
Appearing on the television show “Hello England” in June, President Donald Trump said about the Vietnam War: “I think it was a bad war …”. Perhaps he mentioned other aspects, but one “bad” thing he should have mentioned is that tens of thousands of US-Vietnamese mixed-race were born in this war.
Efforts to appease the mixed-race
For nearly 50 years, I lived miserably but I did not resent my father. In my sleep, I often dreamt of an American man coming to me. And many times I woke up crying. If only that father would come to me in this real life. If only…
- Ông Phạm Thanh Sơn, an Amerasian.
The mixed-race people (often referred to as “Amerasians”) were mostly the children of American soldiers when they came to Vietnam to fight during the war. There are those born out of true love, but some are also the result of sexual abuse or a “one-night love.”
In fact, many American soldiers fell to the battlefield, went back home once their duty ended, or moved to other troops’ locations … unaware that they had children with Vietnamese women. Not to mention, some other American soldiers knew but denied or renounced these children, due to feelings of shame or sorrow upon returning to their country, knowing that they couldn’t bring Vietnamese children or lovers with them.
When the war ended, most Vietnamese mothers and Amerasians had to struggle to have a life. On the other side of the hemisphere, some American soldiers with Vietnamese mixed-race children were also seen by some people with an unfriendly eye.Prior to the country’s reunification on April 30, 1975, a small number of mixed-race people were brought to the United States under the Babylift Operation program (to evacuate orphans). For many reasons, the number of mixed-race children that benefited from this program is very rare. In 1987, the Amerasian Homecoming Act, passed by the US Congress, opened a greater opportunity for Amerasians to settle in their biological fathers’ homeland. Through this program, about 25,000 mixed children have settled in the United States.
This is a fairly “open” program of the US government. The profile of mixed-race is extremely simple. People who look like mixed-race, born around the time American soldiers arrive in South Vietnam, may be granted visas to their fatherland. “My profile at that time was only a few simple information recorded from the mother saying that his father was stationed at Chu Lai airport, Quang Nam around 1970 – 1972. Since my face appeared mixed-race, I should be allowed to go,” said, Mr. T., a mixed-race person settled in the US more than 10 years ago.
Previously, a few mixed-race children were bought by other families, who then organized the coming of the whole family to America, also accepted by the government of this country to settle down. “There was a time when well-off families abandoned some golden trees to buy mixed-race, especially white skin mixed-race. After that, they brought this half-son with the whole family to cross the border, but still could stay in the US,” said a person knowledgeable about mixed-race people in Vietnam.
The sad chapter is not closed
Criteria for the mixed-race to settle down in the US
To be eligible for the Amerasian Homecoming Act, a mixed-race child must be born in Vietnam after January 1, 1962, and before January 1, 1976, to have an American father. Documents to be submitted to the US consulate: The request is considered in the case of mixed children stating: Full name, date of birth and place of birth of the applicant. Full name and date of birth of the biological US father (if known). The current address of household registration and address of the applicant. Explain the specific reason why the applicant believes that he is mixed-race. Information about the circumstances and time that the biological father and mother of the applicant met. Attach a copy of any evidence, if any… (Source: US Embassy and Consulate in Vietnam)
One of the founders of “Amerasians without borders,” help the offspring who haven’t found a biological father yet or intend to move to the US. About 400 mixed children around their 50s are still in Vietnam. Some of the reasons that these people had not previously been given the opportunity to come to the United States was because they lived in remote areas without access to information, were so poor that they did not have money to travel for documents, or because they didn’t look mixed (even though their father was an American).
There are currently two programs for mixed-race people to apply for permanent residency in the United States: the Amerasian Immigration Act and the Amerasian Homecoming Act. However, the mixed are having a lot of difficulty proving to the US Consulate that they are the children of American citizens. The consulate no longer approves a mixed-race profile that is merely the same as the former but requires more detailed and clear evidence of the father.
Meanwhile, most of these mixed children have found no such evidence. Their mother has died, or the elderly cannot remember or keep their information and images with the American soldier’s lover (because after 1975 most of their mothers burned evidence to ashes for fear of trouble).Mr. Q., a mixed-race person living in Binh Chanh District, Ho Chi Minh City, sighed: “Everyone who looks at me calls me Amerasian. Yet, two interviews in the US consulate failed. Since I was a kid, I did not even know who my mother was, so how would I have a picture of my father or evidence of who he was? After going through a second, unsuccessful, interview, I tried to crash my head into the car to kill myself, but thinking about my kid and wife stopped me.”
A man who helped many mixed children to go to his father’s homeland, added: “Many of the more than 25,000 mixed-race have settled in the United States with fragmented memories or some family photos. They have tainted or scribbled autographs of their father without full names. But now, that is not possible for the mixed-race siblings still in Vietnam.
Dozens of mixed-race people we met were in the same state of frustration because interviews have failed many times due to lack of evidence. Some people almost turned off their hopes of finding their biological fathers and found themselves to be unrecognized mixed-race. But many still expect the miracle to come. The man, Pham Thanh Son, from Hau Giang, said in tears: “For nearly 50 years I lived in misery, but I did not resent my father. In my sleep, I often dream of an American man coming to me. And many times I wake up crying. If only that father would come to me in this real life. If only…”.
Part 2: The wretched
[ Original vietnamese version : Con lai – Nỗi đau chưa qua: Những người khốn khổ ]
Stigma, illiteracy, unedmployment, poverty, disease… That is the life of many mixed-race people who remain in Vietnam.
Going to where the mixed-race people live to hear and to “look close”, and see their lives beyond imagination.
At midday, the sun was hot, the small house was like a box of matches, the tole roof of Minh Sinh was low, and was as hot as a furnace. Sitting on the floor, Sinh said: “My mother told me that before 1968 she worked as a waiter for an American in Long Binh (Dong Nai) and met my father. After 1975, my mother feared that I looked mixed and so she forced me to cut my eyelashes short, then took me to Dinh Quan. At 12 years old, I had to graze cows for others. My mother passed away when I was 16, and I had to do many jobs to survive: digging waste in bomb craters, collecting rubbish. Currently, my wife and I have to take care of 3 grandchildren, buy banana leaves in the garden to sell to make banh chung and tet cakes, making a profit of 100,000 -150,000 VND / day.”
Without papers and proof of his father’s identity, in 1994, Mr. Minh Sinh failed the interview. Because of his distress, he tried to stick his head out on the road, hoping a car would hit him, but luckily, someone stopped him. Recently, through the DNA testing program, he found his biological father, but he died already. “It’s still unknown when the consulate will reunite me with my father’s family. But finding a father also comforted me a bit”, Sinh said.
Mr. Pham Thanh Son (from Hau Giang), also lives in a small house that he rents, like many other mixed-race people. Son said: “My mother met my father working at Tan Son Nhat airport, then I was born in 1968. She kept both military cards, clothes, pictures of the man. But, after the liberation, she had to destroy everything. ”
At age 2, Son had to live with his grandmother. At 11 years old, he lived in a house, at 18 years old he raised a buffalo for an owner, then became married at 21 years old. Uneducated, he could not find any job to earn a living, he had to earn a living by being a mason, running a motorbike, and carrying clothes and renting meals. The couple combined about 8 – 9 million VND for the whole month but had to feed four mouths to pay the rent, so they still fell short. Son adds that DNA testing has yielded results that he is 48% European, but he still has yet to connect with his father.
At the Center for Nurturing Elderly People (An Ngai Commune, H. Long Dien, Ba Ria-Vung Tau Province), we met our brother Nguyen Van Cuong (also known as Cuong Salem). The man was born in 1971, he is 1m 72 tall, has a very Western face but looks like an old man, thin and skeletal.
That is the result of the days he spent wandering the streets begging, being addicted to alcohol, and carrying all kinds of diseases. Crouching on the bed, Cuong Salem struggled to utter a few words: “Since I was 10-years-old, I started wandering, begging, sleeping in parks, and market stalls, until I found this center.”
Showing his arms full of cuts, Mr. Cuong confided: “Sadly, at 18 years old, I got drunk and took a razor to cut my veins to die but I didn’t.” The center is also a blessing for Cuong Salem, but deep down in his soul, this mixed-race kid still hopes to meet his father one day. “My mom died a long time ago, and my father still doesn’t know. I wish I could see him.” A few tears welling up are just enough to dry out his deep eyes.
In Soc Trang, I met Minh Nguyet, a black woman. Her house, which is smaller than 20 m2, was thanks to Amerasians Without Borders. Her childhood and adolescence were very destitute. When her husband died of cancer a few years ago, her sister had to help raise her children, and sometimes, she leaves when someone calls her to dig a grave.
Her mother said: “I met Nguyet’s father and son in Doc Soi, Bien Hoa (Dong Nai) around 1965 – 1966. At that time, I carried beer and water in a bar. He is tall, has a yellow heart-shaped tooth, laughs very charming and funny. He didn’t know I was pregnant when I returned home. He was black, so Nguyet was born with black skin too.”
Nguyet added: “Because I was black, I was told by many people in the past: Black American! Many times I was so angry with fighting my peers.”
A DNA test let her know she was mixed, but she still longs to find her father.
Bien Hoa is a place where many mixed people are gathered. Throughout the week, Bui Thi Loan (also known as “Black Girl”) has been waiting to see us. She said: “I vaguely remember my grandmother telling me that my father’s name was Ally or Engly or something black, stationed in Bien Hoa. When I was 3 months old, my mother took me to my grandmother who raised me. Aged 12 years old, I worked in the field. When I grew older, I had to pull the rake instead of the buffalo.
Not only miserable but also humiliating because she kept being poked and teased because of her skin color.
In 1990, Ms. Loan got married and gave birth to 4 children. Her husband drives a three-wheeler. She is a worker and living in poverty keeps her clinging. In 2003, an American named John went to Loan’s home to search for help for his father and an American newspaper also published an article about Loan. Then a black American came here, his face looking like her’s. He grabbed her hand, said he would return, but did not recognize her as a child. “Yet he hasn’t returned yet. In my hunch, this person is my father,” Loan said sadly.
Le Thi Kim Thu in Bien Hoa (also known as “Black Girl”) was the “product” of her black American father and her mother when she worked as a waitress before 1975. She remembers the day her mother sold her to … to get 20 dongs. Since then she no longer met her mother and her life also went through a series of extreme days, being stigmatized by people calling: “Black skin, red skin. Break the eggshell comes out to the black skin.” Now, life is still hard, she also has cancer. For years, Thu tried to find her father, but she was desperate.
Work hard, you will have a job, have a home
The most difficult thing for a mixed-race person who just arrived in the US is the language barrier. They naturally become reluctant, “deaf and dumb” when people say they do not understand, and then they do not speak again, so it is difficult to have a good job.
Tuoi Le, a mixed-race person born in the US, and resident for more than 10 years, shares another difficulty: having a home. If you want to have a house, you need to have a stable job for at least 2-3 years, accumulate about $30,000 – $40,000 USD to buy a house with both principal and interest payment of about $100,000 – $200,000 USD within 30 years. Assuming the time of purchase of a home is more than $100,000, over a few years, the amount may increase to about $150,000 – $200,000.
Currently, Le and his wife own a prestigious nail salon, earning over $100,000 USD together each year. He said: “If we work hard, deal with the balance of our expenses, there are still many career opportunities such as making a factory, nail, servicing … The purchase of a home is not beyond reach.”
Part 3: Tiredness in looking for each other
For half a century, waiting and waiting, about 400 mixed people in Vietnam still expect that one day they will connect with their biological father, who originated from a far-flung country.
On the other side of the hemisphere, there are American veterans and relatives who also honestly seek their loved ones, those that come from their flesh and blood.
Nguyen Thi Huong (Linda) lost her mother from a young age. She spent long, unhappy days, still sad when remembering an American father who she never knew.
Who is my father?
When Linda was 6 years old, her mother asked a neighbor to watch her while she was working. Unable to see her mother, Linda went to go find her mother in the streets and got lost. When a police officer found Linda, he brought her to a family that would take care of her. At her new home, Linda’s job was to take care of the flower garden. She studied, and woke up at 4 am to water flowers, so that she could go to school early, but her adoptive family did not like to let Linda go to school.
“They would beat me, let me starve for a few days, I fainted up and down. I had to leave unfinished school in grade 2 to stay home to work,” Huong said sadly.
Finding one’s lover through photos
For many years, James H. Vaughn tried to find his lover during the war in Vietnam. The information about his lover was short-lived: “James H. Vaughn looked for Mrs. Cao Thi Hoa, Tong Van Tuan’s mother. Currently, Tuan is still in Phu Tai and Quy Nhon.” A picture of a beautiful and small Vietnamese woman hugging a young American soldier, James H. Vaughn, both seem to have many feelings and emotions. Sadly, according to our research, Ms. Hoa has gone away forever.
At the age of 15, Huong was as beautiful as the full moon, but she did not enjoy the dreamy life of her peers, even the desire to find a father across the globe could not do anything. “In 1987, the local government called for a mixed-race file, but the farmers were determined not to give it. They forced me to work to make money,” Huong said. She went to Long Khanh (Dong Nai) to pick coffee. Sleeping in the field, without mosquito nets, Huong got malaria and came back to her home with rabies. Seeing poor Huong, Dr. Nguyen Cong Thanh (then the Director of H.Hai Nghia Medical Center, Long An) was moved with compassion to bring Huong home for treatment and nurture. It was like a new life for Huong, to be living with the family of a loving and kind doctor.
She married a poor electrician and now makes a living by making chè “The countryside is muddy in the rainy season, sometimes chè is sold and sometimes wasted. But to earn a righteous amount of money to live, to save the records in the hopes to reunite with my father and sisters in America makes me forget all the hardships,” Huong said.
Huong has two half-sisters who lost their mothers from an early age. At the end of 2018, she received a call from her older sister, Linh, and her younger brother, Ly, in America.
After 43 years of hoping that they would find each other, they cried their eyes out. She and her sister were able to go over there because they had pictures of their father as evidence. In the beginning, the mixed-race program was quite open. The consulate only looks at the face of the future and a few more simple evidences about the father can also be considered for US settlement.
For now, with vague evidence of her father, Nguyen Thi Huong relies on DNA testing. At the same time, wishing for a father or one of his relatives, to establish a new family genealogy, gives her much hope to find him.
“My mother was depressed, went crazy, and died soon. Later, when I heard her say again, my mother has three mixed children with three different American lovers, I don’t know which one he is. For decades, I have been searching for the answer to the question: Who is my father among my mother’s lovers?” Huong said sadly.
American veterans find a wife and children
Across the hemisphere, American veterans are also trying to find Vietnamese children and lovers. More surprisingly, the second wife of an American veteran, Catie Gentz, asked us to help her husband’s lost child.
The search for lost children began when Larry and his wife saw a picture of a group of American-Vietnamese young men taken at Dam Sen Park, Ho Chi Minh City, on March 3, 1988. “When I looked at that picture, I saw a young man very similar to my husband, the age of this young man at the time Larry was a soldier in Vietnam, stationed about 25 km away from where the photo was taken.
Furthermore, a mixed-race kid living in the US said he had met the young man in the picture, known as Dung, around 1980, near Dam Sen park with 200 other Vietnamese-American mixed-race “said Catie Gentz, adding that her husband was stationed in Binh Thuy from December 1969 to December 3, 1970.
After that, he was stationed in Ben Luc (probably Ben Luc, Long An – PV) from March to July 1970, and then moved to Dong Tam from July to December 1970. If Larry has children, the baby could have been born in the late 1970s or 1971. At that time, Larry ranked non-commissioned naval officer 3 (Petty Officer 3), part of the aircraft electronics testing department, Hal team -3, division 7 (Detachment 7).
Nearly half a century, Mr. Tran Quang Hung (47 years old, living in District 12, Ho Chi Minh City) has just found his father by using a DNA test method supported by the Amerasians without borders. In 2018, a DNA sample was sent. Shortly after, this society announced that it had found a grandfather and grandmother of the Hibdon family. After that, the association also found a younger brother, and DNA testing of the two brothers coincided. Hero’s brother from Colorado immediately informed his 70-year-old father in Arizona, and the tearful meeting between Quang Hung’s father and son took place via video messenger.
On May 5, 2019, the whole family of his father, including the stepmother, younger brother and younger sister of Hung, returned to Vietnam. Welcoming his family at Tan Son Nhat airport, the father and son kept hugging and crying. “And the stepmother is extremely kind, always saying: ‘My precious son…”, Hung happily confided.
“Those who may be Larry’s children, or if their mother remembers Larry’s face, please contact me. As a wife, I sympathize and support Larry wholeheartedly in order to rediscover my Vietnamese child, ”said Catie Gentz.
A number of American veterans and their relatives also tried to find their mixed kids and their mothers. We would like to mention some of the following cases with the hope that readers can be a bridge to help them:
Chuck Manning (67 years old, stationed in Vinh Long in 1970 – 1971) is looking forward to finding his wife and children from 48 years ago. In 1971, Chuck happened to know a woman named Hue (possibly Huế or Huệ – Reporter).
Chuck had been driving on the street when he met Ms. Hue’s nephew, who had an accident. Chuck took Ms. Hue’s nephew to the emergency room. Mr. Chuck remembered meeting Hue (then 18 years old) right in Vinh Long Town, near the old Can Tho junction. Then, Hue lived with her mother, younger brother, and sister. Hue’s elder sister also had a white-mixed American daughter.
When Hue was several months pregnant with Chuck’s child, Chuck was ordered to return home (January 6, 1971). Because of the circumstances of the war, Mr. Chuck could not bring his pregnant lover with him. Later, Mr. Chuck tried to find Hue and the Vietnamese child but could not.
Larry Parker (nicknamed Peanuts) is looking for a former girlfriend and a child he had never met during the war in Vietnam (1969 – 1971). The woman who had his child. Hue, worked as a kitchen assistant in Transport Company 538, and then moved to work as a cleaner in the 64th Battalion Battalion in Long Binh. The baby was born around January or February 1970.
Another American veteran, Virgil K Kellogg, is also trying to find a son with his bloodline. Information to support the search for a mixed-race child is very small but with the picture taken with Vietnamese lover and the child, Mr. Virgil K Kellogg is still expecting a miracle.
Part 4: DNA – the last solution to find a father
[Original vietnamese version : Con lai – Nỗi đau chưa qua: DNA – giải pháp cuối tìm cha ]
Amerasians without borders has helped to locate nearly all Vietnamese-American siblings still in Vietnam, assisting many mixed-race children with the opportunity to find their fathers (or relatives) in the US with DNA testing.
Amerasian without Borders
A fact is happening, there are people who understand the psychology of hundreds of Amerasians still in Vietnam that yearn to look for their fathers or want to settle in their fatherland and seek profit by tricking them.
Therefore, when I contacted Mr. Jimmy A Miller (Vietnamese name is Nhat Tung), the founder of the Borderless Love Association (AWB), to learn about the association and ask for a list of the remaining mixed-race children in Vietnam, he was very shy. After much persuasion, including sending an “outline” of my article, he agreed.
According to Nhat Tung, in 2013, after knowing that the US Consulate would permanently close the Amerasian Homecoming Act (AHA) program, he launched the DNA program. The Amerasians without borders Association “opened fire” to keep the AHA door open until today. “Without their parents and when they were mixed race, whether their skin was black or white, we considered each other to be like brothers. We had the chance to go to our father’s country. But more than 400 other siblings are still trapped in Vietnam because there is no evidence or paperwork to prove the children of the father of US citizenship. Therefore, only a DNA test can help them,” Mr. Tung shared.
Ms. Minh Nguyet, Ms. Tuyet Dao (Soc Trang), Mr. Viet Quoc (Ho Chi Minh City), and Ms. Bui Thi Loan, Huynh Ngoc Nga, Le Thi Kim Thu (Dong Nai) … are all “products” of a Vietnamese mother and an American father, a soldier during the war, but now without papers to prove it. “From birth until now, many mixed children do not know who the mother is. The mother and grandmother also recounted the details of the American father, very vague and difficult to piece together. If there were some papers and images related to the father, many mothers burned the evidence. We have only one way left, which is the results of successful DNA testing and looking forward to connecting with the genealogy of the father’s family,” Bui Thi Loan said sadly.
Thanks to the introduction of the association, we were able to reach dozens of siblings from Da Nang to Bac Lieu. All said, “Without a DNA testing program, there is no hope of finding a father or going to the United States to reunite with his father’s family.”
Currently, DNA testing for mixed in Vietnam is conducted by the Amerasians without borders Association. In addition, The Children of Vietnam War Association also participated. The AWB alone has tested DNA for almost all mixed-race people in Vietnam. Nhat Tung revealed: “More than 500 DNA samples of mixed-race siblings have been sent to the US to be tested, and the results of more than 400 confirm mixed-race heritage.”
To get the DNA sample, the members of the association had to find ways to connect with the Vietnamese-American mixed children scattered everywhere. Many times, the people of the association have to visit the place where the mixed-race people live, in remote provinces to take DNA samples for them. “We do not work for profit. Most associations have to spend money to get their own DNA samples sent to the US to try. Every mixed-race kid who finds a father and a family is our joy, ”said one member of the MLwB.
Regarding the DNA testing process, Mr. Nhat Tung said: “The DNA testing companies are FamilyTreeDNA.com and Ancestry.com. FamilyTreeDNA sells DNA kit for only 10 USD to transfer to Vietnam for sampling (Vietnam does not send DNA samples to US mail). After returning the sample, the DNA test will be deducted from the USD 10 paid previously. With Ancestry, you must pay 100%, so if the sample is returned, it’s as if the kit is lost.”
According to research, the two companies tried DNA mentionned above are different. FamilyTreeDNA only tests DNA to know whether or not a person is mixed-race or not. Ancestry also built family trees to connect with each other. To build a family tree, you have to pay a monthly fee of US $20. However, the opportunity to find father and his family, thanks to Ancestry Firm was greater. “You may test DN but finding a father depends on whether the father or a member of your father’s family had test DNA with that company. In addition, it is also considered how close or far a relative, and whether or not a relative who has the same DNA as them, will help. If the DNA results does not match the DNA of the father, or those closest to his family, he must start a family tree to look for the father. Building a family tree may take a few hours, but sometimes it takes hundreds of hours to find someone with a DNA that matches. So, if anyone has tried a DNA test, please wait patiently,” shares someone who helps mixed-race people to test their DNA.The AWB says, that in many cases of DNA testing, they have successfully connected many mixed-race people to their biological father, half-brother, or a close relative from the father’s side. While writing this article, Ms. Vien (Quang Ngai), Mr. Son (Da Nang) were happy to say that they had found their father, thanks to DNA test results. So the miracle came to them.
Building the family tree fo find their father
Nearly 150 trees of mixed-race siblings in Vietnam have been built to find their fathers on Ancestry’s website. About 100 people have found or met their fathers, siblings, grandparents or relatives in the United States. If you are mixed-race and want to try DNA to find a father, you should buy a DNA kit to try with Ancestry. This American company has many archives, making it easier to find fathers and relatives. In addition, it is also possible to download RAW DNA from Ancestry to upload to Familytree DNA, myheritage DNA, without having to buy another kit.
DNA Test free for mixed-race people
The Amerasians Without Borders is a non-profit organization headquartered in Spokane, Washington, USA. Starting in Thanksgiving 2013, the association has implemented a free DNA testing program for their offspring. The program immediately received the support of hundreds of mixed-race persons still in Vietnam (mainly from Thua Thien-Hue to Ca Mau). A person living in Ho Chi Minh City, who joined the association, said: “When they have learned about the DNA program, hundreds of mixed-race people moved to gather in Saigon. Most of them are very poor. Many of us helped taking care of the food, accommodation, transportation so that we could exchange, meet them, and then do DNA testing. “