Vietnam Center & Archive News and Updates
Today is the start of Tết, the Vietnamese Lunar New Year celebration and 2011 is the year of the cat. To celebrate this great holiday, we have created an online exhibit that is an exploration of the Tết holiday and its customs, history and traditions supplemented with photos and documents from our collection. If you would like to learn about this unique holiday please click on the link below to see our exhibit.
Written by: Ann Mallett
The Vietnam Archive is pleased to announce that the archive’s Families of Vietnamese Political Prisoners Association (FVPPA) Collection, donated by the Vietnamese American Heritage Foundation, is spotlighted in the National Historical Publications and Records Commission (NHPRC) publication, The American Record. The spotlight can be found on page 44 of the Spring/Summer 2010 issue, The American Record: Success Stories from the National Historical Publications and Records Commission. The feature is titled Families of Vietnamese Political Prisoners Association, and contains the caption, “Archives provide people with the access to records that protect individual rights. The Families of Vietnamese Political Prisoners Association continues to help political dissidents find asylum in the U.S.”
This is the third article NHPRC has written on the FVPPA Collection. They previously published an article in their September 2009 Newsletter, and posted an entry on their Facebook page on February 23, 2010.
Click here to read the NHPRC’s The American Record article on the FVPPA.
Happy Mid Autumn “Moon” Festival. Today, Wednesday, September 22nd, 2010 is the Mid Autumn “Moon” Festival. It is a magical time for family and friends.
The Vietnamese American Heritage Archivist, Ann Mallett, has fond memories of living in Taipei, Taiwan and spending the “Moon” Festival with friends, barbecuing, hearing stories about the beautiful woman in the moon, eating delicious fruits and mooncakes, watching children make hats out of Pomelo peelings (a large, pale green to yellow citrus fruit), and seeing the beauty of hanging and floating lanterns lighting the dark night.
What are your favorite memories of the Mid Autumn “Moon” Festival? You can share your favorite memories and recipes for barbecue and mooncakes on our facebook.
Pomelo photos courtesy of wikicommons
Wednesday, September 22nd, 2010 marks the Mid Autumn Festival, also known as the Moon or Full Moon Festival. Traditionally celebrated on the fifteenth day of the eighth month of the lunar calendar, when the moon appears larger than it does on any other night of the year, the Mid Autumn Moon Festival (Tet Trung Thu) is the second biggest holiday in Vietnam and is widely celebrated throughout Asia.
It is a time for family and to celebrate life, prosperity, and the harvest. During the Mid Autumn festival, parents prepare their children’s favorite dishes and buy them new toys. Children hear the story of Chu Cuoi (the man in the moon) and other fairytales. Hanging and floating lanterns are set out to decorate and people dance the lion and dragon dances. Mooncakes (made from lotus seed, ground beans, and containing a bright salted egg yolk in the center) are given to family and friends. Pomelo fruit and watermelon seeds are a special treat. At night children parade through the streets to the beat of drums wearing Paper Mache masks and carrying lanterns in the shapes of stars, rabbit heads, fish (carpe), butterflies, or lanterns with a lit candle inside that makes shapes spin representing the seasonal spinning of the earth.
Photos courtesy of wikicommons
The Vietnam Archive’s Vietnamese American Heritage Archivist, Ann Mallett, hopes that this story will give hope to and inspire other Vietnamese Americans to continue searching for friends and family members they were separated from by war, as well as Veterans seeking to reunite with their Vietnamese counterparts and friends.
Professor Tuyen Nguyen of Toronto, Canada, had been searching for forty-two years for his friend and former classmate at the Faculty of Law in Saigon, Mr. Pham Quang Minh. Separated by events in the Vietnam War in 1968, Professor Nguyen contacted the Vietnam Archive in the hopes that the Families of Vietnamese Political Prisoner’s Association (FVPPA) Collection, donated by the Vietnamese American Heritage Foundation (VAHF), might contain clues to the whereabouts of his friend in the collection’s Orderly Departure Program (ODP) application files.
The ODP was a humanitarian program instituted by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) to assist Vietnamese refugees in emigrating from Vietnam in a safe and legal manner after the Vietnam War. The FVPPA assisted former Vietnamese Political Prisoners and their families in applying to the UNHCR’s ODP and aided them in resettling in the United States. Professor Nguyen’s hoped to find his friend by finding his friend’s older brother. Professor Nguyen knew that his friend’s older brother, Pham Van Sat, was a major in the South Vietnamese Marine Corps and had been a political prisoner sentenced to reeducation in the Vietnamese reeducation camps after the war. Professor. Nguyen had heard that Pham Van Sat had resettled in the U.S. after his release from the camps and hoped that the FVPPA had been the organization to assist him and his family in the application and resettlement process, and therefore he could find Mr. Pham’s ODP application at the Vietnam Archive.
Once Professor Nguyen found Pham Van Sat’s ODP application in the FVPPA collection it would give him a starting point to search for his friend’s brother, and once he found the brother he could find his friend. This was an insurmountable and difficult task with the odds laid heavily against him for ODP application files were filled out in the mid 1980’s through the early 1990’s while the ODP applicant still resided in Vietnam and was applying to the ODP. Submitting an ODP application did not guarantee approval for emigration nor did the application list the address of where one would resettle upon approval in the U.S. or other country of one’s choosing.
The Vietnamese American Heritage Archivist, Ann Mallett, was given Professor Nguyen’s inquiry from the Archive’s Reference Archivist, Amy Mondt. Ms. Mallett answered his inquiry and gave him information from Pham Van Sat’s ODP application in order to determine if the file did indeed belong to the correct Pham Van Sat Professor Nguyen was searching for. This was made substantially easier, as it happened to be the only application under that name in the collection. The archivist gave Professor Nguyen several suggestions on how to search for Pham Quang Minh, provided contact information for Vietnamese American organizations and publications, along with the following information on Pham Van Sat: date and place of birth; address in Vietnam; spouse’s name; distinguished record as a Major in the Vietnamese Marine Corps; wounded six times and awarded U.S. Bronze Star Medal by U.S. Dept. of Navy; was Deputy Chief, Division Office of Operation and Battalion Commander of a Vietnamese Marine Corps Division; trained in the U.S. twice after graduating from Vietnamese Military Academy in 1962, Quantico, Virginia 1964-1965, and Monterey, CA; spent five years in reeducation camps; names of his military advisors; and the names of his Sponsor and U.S. contact he listed on his application.
Professor Nguyen confirmed that he believed the file to belong to the Pham Van Sat he was looking for. Ms. Mallett then provided him with the contact information for Mr. Pham’s sponsor and US contact listed on Mr. Pham’s ODP application. Professor Nguyen began his search by contacting Mr. Pham’s sponsor and U.S. contact. Remarkably, it just so happened that Mr. Pham’s sponsor, his sister-in-law, and his U.S. contact, his brother-in-law and former classmate at the Vietnamese military academy, had not changed residence in the twenty-one years since Mr. Pham had filled out his ODP application. They were still living in New Jersey and Professor Nguyen was able to contact them, and through them Pham Van Sat, and through Pham Van Sat his friend Pham Quang Minh.
Ms. Mallett has had approximately thirty requests of a similar nature, but this is the first one with a reunion and happy ending. Ms. Mallett was excited to learn of the success of Professor Nguyen’s search, and hopes there will be many more successful searches and reunions of friends and family. Ms. Mallett would like to share two e-mails from Professor Nguyen expressing his heartfelt thanks to the Vietnam Archive for aiding him in his search and his feelings on his story being written along with his hopes that it will give hope to others.
Dear Ms. Mallett,
I would like to inform you that today, I already contacted and had a long talk with Mr Pham van Sat as well as with his young brother, Mr. Pham quang Minh, my previous friend
Thank you very much for your enthusiasm and good will in helping me to find out my above-mentioned friend whom I have lost contact with over 40 years.
I won’t never forget your help in this matter and please send my enthusiastic thank to Ms. Amy too
Finally, I believe that God will reward and bless you and Ms. Amy later on as well
Yours Thankfully and Gratefully
Dear Ms. Mallett,
Please do as much as you like about this. I think it’s a great idea that this story should be written in your Archive’s News and Updates so many other people who may have the same cases as mine to know about this effective and successful way and this would encourage and help them to find their relatives, friends, acquaintances etc… whom they have long time been separated from.
It is a very good job to help other people to be united with each other again after having been separated from each other for a long time.
It is a very great idea and I’m very happy to agree with you about this so please go ahead and
do this as much as you wish
May God Bless You do this good job for many other people who are experiencing the cases as mine
Yours Thankfully and Gratefully,
On June 14, 2010 the Vietnam Archive had the pleasure of receiving two special guests from Hanoi, Vietnam: Mr. Nguyen Ho Nam and his wife, Mrs. Dang Hien Tram. After attending the graduation of their younger son from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Boston, the Nguyens travelled to Lubbock, TX to visit their eldest son, Nguyen Ho Anh (Anh). Anh is a student assistant here at the Vietnam Archive, where he helps with the processing and digitizing of collection materials. Anh’s bilingual skills have proven invaluable in translating documents and communicating with Vietnamese speaking researchers.
While visiting their son, Mr. and Mrs. Nguyen came to the archive to see where Anh works and to meet the people he works with. The Nguyens were given a tour of the archive by Ann Mallett, Vietnamese American Heritage Archivist, and Archival Specialists Sheon Montgomery and Kevin Sailsbury. The focal point of the tour for the Nguyen family was viewing the diaries of Dr. Dang Thuy Tram.
Mrs. Nguyen is the sister of the late Dr. Dang Thuy Tram, and viewing the Tram Dairies—which are considered a national treasure in Vietnam— was a moving and emotional experience for her. We are honored that the family of Dr. Tram and Frederic Whitehurst have entrusted us with the care of her dairies.
This was Nguyen Ho Nam’s second time visiting the archive, and the third for Dang Hien Tram. We hope they can visit us again soon.
A travel guide produced by the Board of Tourist Industry, Japanese Government Railways, found in the Douglas Pike Collection: Indochina Archive (the collection is currently being processed and is scheduled to be made available to the public in the Spring) documents the plans for the Summer Olympic Games that were never held.
As we watch the 2010 Winter Olympic Games taking place in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada, from February 12th-28th, we revel in, applaud and admire the dedication, discipline, grace, and athleticism of our olympians, who symbolize and embody the international spirit of sportsmanship and national pride as they compete on a global level.
As these Winter Games take place it is hard to imagine a time when the state of international relations prevented the Olympic games from taking place, but there was. In 1940, the Olympic games of the XII Olympiad were cancelled due to global war, World War II.
The decision of where to hold the 1940 Summer Olympics had been a tumultuous one from the beginning. Japan and Italy quarreled over its location. The International Olympic Committee (IOC) chose Tokyo, Japan to host the Summer Olympics from September 21-October 6, 1940.
The IOC was forced to reverse its decision with the outbreak of the Sino-Japanese War. The IOC chose Helsinki, Finland to host the games in lieu of Japan, untill the outbreak of World War II cancelled the 1940 Summer Olympic games altogether.
After her life was tragically affected by the war in Vietnam, Khuc, a woman of great heart and determination, dedicated herself to helping others begin a new life, as she did, in the United States. It took over a decade for her to win the release and resettlement of Vietnamese reeducation camp prisoners. An achievement that is a testament to her inner strength and courage. As a child she had been called a boy because of her strong will, but it was her determination to not give up, no matter the obstacles before her, no matter how long it took, that enabled her to win the long battle in aiding and freeing Vietnamese political prisoners and their families.
Born in 1939 in Sadec, a small village near Saigon, Khuc witnessed numerous traumatic events and lost many loved ones to the violence of the Vietnam War, including, her father, stepmother, and her husband, Nguyen Dinh Phuc. At only twenty-three years old and five months pregnant with her third child, Khuc became a young widow dedicated to helping and comforting other widows and family members of fallen South Vietnamese soldiers by assisting them in obtaining funding for their funerals, which neither the families or the government could afford.
Separated from her children during the fall of Saigon in 1975, Khuc anxiously awaited news of her family. She soon learned that her second husband, Nguyen Van Be, a colonel in the Army of the Republic of Vietnam, along with two of her brothers, had been sentenced to reeducation. Khuc’s husband would spend thirteen years in the reeducation centers and they would never be reunited.
To learn more about the effects of the Vietnam War and the Vietnamese American immigration process, Cam Xuan Nguyen (Carrie) volunteered at the Vietnam Archive from October 31, 2008 to April 17, 2009. Carrie helped prepare the Families of Vietnamese Political Prisoners Association Collection files for digitization by numbering folders, removing corrosive materials, and providing help with Vietnamese to English translation. In July, after receiving her J.D. in Business Law at Texas Tech, Ms. Nguyen took her BAR exam with the goal of working in International Law. While awaiting the results Carrie decided to tour South America for 3 months, primarily Ecuador and Peru. The Vietnam Archive is happy to learn the exciting news that Ms. Nguyen passed the BAR. Congratulations Carrie!
UNHCR’s (United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees) ODP (Orderly Departure Program) was instituted at the first International conference on Indochinese Refugees in Geneva in May of 1979 (UN meeting on refugees and displaced persons in Southeast Asia) as a humanitarian endeavor in response to the high mortality of “boat people” (Vietnamese refugees who fled Vietnam by boat after the fall of Saigon on April 30, 1975). Nearly 30 nations participated in ODP, allowing Vietnamese refugees to emigrate from Vietnam in a legal, safe, and orderly manner instead of risking their lives at sea. The number of “boat people” who left Vietnam in the late ‘70’s and ‘80s is estimated from 1 to 2 million. No one knows the exact number of Vietnamese “boat people”, or how many of these refugees perished at sea or were killed by pirates. The ODP closed on September 30, 1994, however, on November 15, 2005 the U.S. and Vietnam signed an agreement resulting in the reopening of the ODP and the McCain Amendment (ammendment headed by John McCain which allowed the adult children of former Vietnamese reeducation camp detainees to immigrate to the U.S. along with their parents). The renewal of ODP ended on February 28, 2009 and the renewal of the McCain Amendment ended on September 30, 2009.