- THE VIETNAM CENTER AND ARCHIVE
- Texas Tech University
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,
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