Vietnamese Americans Subject Guide

About This Subject Guide

The purpose of this Subject Guide is to give researchers a brief introduction to research materials related to post-war Vietnamese refugees, immigration and resettlement in the United States.

Vietnamese Americans

Vietnamese Americans have a unique immigration experience and compose the largest refugee population in the post-World War II era, with California having the largest and Texas having the second largest population of Vietnamese Americans in the nation. Vietnamese Americans comprise more than half of all overseas Vietnamese and are the fourth largest Asian American population in the United States. 72% of Vietnamese Americans are naturalized citizens.

On April 30, 1975, Saigon fell to North Vietnamese forces. That spring, approximately 125,000 Vietnamese fled the country. That year, an estimated 111,919 Vietnamese refugees and orphans left Vietnam through Operation New Life and Operation Baby Lift. Over 90,000 refugees who participated in Operation New Life and Operation Baby Lift resettled in the U.S.

From 1978 to the mid-1980s, an estimated 1 to 2 million Vietnamese left the country by boat, an illegal and dangerous undertaking. Commonly referred to as "boat people," these refugees faced dangers from overcrowded vessels, environmental perils. Many were lost at sea or fell victim to pirates. Alarmed by the high death tolls the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees’ (UNHCR) created an Orderly Departure Program (ODP) to assist Vietnamese refugees in emigrating from Vietnam in a systematic, orderly, legal manner. This is the first and only time the UNHCR has helped refugees emigrate from their country of origin.

In response to the hardships endured by the boat people and the June 14, 1980 Geneva conference on Indochinese Refugees, the U.S. government allowed the immigration of Vietnamese to the U.S. through the UNHCR’s ODP.There were three categories in which Vietnamese could qualify for immigration to the U.S. under these programs: family reunification, former U.S. employee, and former reeducation camp detainee. Former reeducation camp prisons immigrated to the U.S. through the ODP’s subprogram, Humanitarian Operation (HO).

The Orderly Departure Program helped over 500,000 Vietnamese refugees immigrate to the U.S. before it ended in 1994. In November, 2005, the US and Vietnam signed an agreement reopening ODP and renewing the McCain Amendment (which allowed the children of former reeducation camp prisoners to immigrate with their parents). The renewal of ODP ended in February 2009, with the McCain Amendment expiring in September 2009.

In 1987 the U.S. Congress passed the Amerasian Homecoming Act, allowing Vietnamese children having American fathers to immigrate to the U.S. This Act allowed an estimated 23-25,000 Amerasians and 60-70,000 of their relatives to immigrate to the U.S.

Suggested Virtual Vietnam Archive Keywords

Virtual Vietnam Archive

  • Amerasians
  • Amerasian Homecoming Act
  • Boat People
  • Humanitarian Operation Program
  • Operation New Life
  • Operation Baby Lift
  • Orderly Departure Program
  • ODP
  • Reeducation Camp Detainee
  • Vietnamese Americans
  • Vietnamese Political Prisoners
  • Vietnamese Refugee
  • Vietnamese Reeducation Camp Detainee
  • Vietnamese Diaspora
  • Reeducation Center
  • Reeducation Center Detainee
  • Vietnamese Reeducation Center Detainee
  • Vietnamese Reeducation Center
  • Viet Kieu
  • Overseas Vietnamese

Suggested Collections

Oral Histories

One of our goals is to preserve the voices of Vietnamese Americans by increasing their participation in the archive’s Oral History Project and to interview important individuals who aided Vietnamese Americans in their immigration to the U.S. One of our first oral history interviews was with Ambassador Sichan Siv. Ambassador Siv, former Deputy Assistant to President George H. W. Bush for Public Liaison and U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. General Assembly and Security Council, was the first Asian native to be appointed Deputy Assistant to the President. In this role Ambassador Siv was instrumental in assisting Mrs. Khuc Minh Tho, President and founder of the Families of Vietnamese Political Prisoners Association (FVPPA), solicit support from the Executive Branch of the U.S. government and bring to its attention the issues regarding Vietnamese refugees and Vietnamese reeducation camp prisoners. A former refugee himself, Siv fled Cambodia to escape the Khmer Rouge in 1976. Ambassador Siv was a key player in bringing larger Asian issues before the Executive office. The VAHP’s second Oral History is that of Mrs. Khuc Minh Tho, who as founder and President of the FVPPA assisted approximately 10,000 former Vietnamese political prisoners along with their families immigrate to the U.S. and other free nations.

Suggested Books

TTU Library Book Catalog

  • Brown, Holmes and Don Luce, Hostages of War: Saigon’s Political Prisoners. Washington D.C.: Indochina Mobile Education Project, 1973. DS 559.4 B76 1973
  • Diller, Janelle M., In Search of Asylum: Vietnamese Boat People in Hong Kong. Washington, D.C.: Indochina Resource Action Center, 1988. HV 640.5 V5 D54
  • Levenstein, Aaron, Escape to Freedom: The Story of the International Rescue Committee. Westport, Conneticut: Greenwood Press, 1983. HV 640 L4 1983.
  • McKelvey, Robert S., The Dust of Life: America’s Children Abandoned in Vietnam. Seattle: University of Washington Press, 1999. DS 556.45 A43 M35 1999.
  • McLeod, Mark W. and Nguyen Thi Dieu, Culture and Customs of Asia: Culture and Customs of Vietnam. Westport, Connecticut: Greenwood Press, 2001. DS 556.42 M43 2001
  • Metzner, Edward P., Huynh Van Chinh, Tran Van Phuc, and Le Nguyen Binh, Reeducation in Postwar Vietnam: Personal Postscripts to Peace College Station: Texas A&M University Press, 2001. DS 559.912 R43 2001.
  • Nguyen, Kien, The Unwanted: A Memoir of Childhood. New York: Back Bay Books, Little Brown and Company, 2002. E 184 V53 N36 2002.
  • Nguyen, Quang Van, and Marjorie Pivar, Fourth Uncle in the Mountain: The Remarkable Legacy of a Buddhist Itinerant Doctor in Vietnam. New York: St. Martin’s Griffin, 2004. GR 313 N466 2004
  • Peck-Barnes, Shirley, The War Cradle: The untold story of “Operation Babylift” and Vietnam’s Children of War. Denver, Colorado: The Vintage Pressworks, 2000. DS 559.8 C53 P42 2000
  • Reyes, Adelaida, Music and the Vietnamese Refugee Experience: Songs of the Caged, Songs of the Free. Philadelphia: Temple University Press, 1999. ML3560 V5 R49 1999.
  • Robinson, W Courtland, Terms of Refuge: The Indochinese Exodus and the International Response. New York: Zed Books Ltd, Politics in Contemporary Asia, 1998. HV 640.5 I5 R63 1998.
  • Rutledge, Paul, The Vietnamese in America. Minneapolis: Lerner Publication Company, 1987. PZ 9 R88 V54 1987.
  • Schulzinger, Robert D., A Time for Peace: The Legacy of the Vietnam War. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2006. E 183.8 V5 S36 2006.
  • Southeast Asian Exodus: From Tradition to Resettlement: Understanding Refugees from Laos, Kampuchea, and Vietnam in Canada. Elliot L. Tepper, Editor. Canada: The Canadian Asian Studies Association, 1980. HV 640.4 C2 S6
  • The Vietnamese American 1.5 Generation: Stories of War, Revolution, Flight, and New Beginnings. Sucheng Chan, Editor: contributions by students at the University of California. Philadelphia: Temple University Press, 2006. E 184 V53 V55 2006.
  • Wiesner, Louis A. , Victims and Survivors: Displaced Persons and Other War Victims in Viet-Nam, 1954-1975. New York: Greenwood Press, 1988. DS 559.63 W54 1988.
  • Wiest, Andrew, Vietnam’s Forgotten Army: Heroism and Betrayal in the ARVN. New York: New York University Press, 2008. DS 557.5 W54 2007.
  • Yarborough, Trin, Surviving Twice: Amerasian Children of the Vietnam War. Washington, D.C.: Potomac Books, Inc., 2006. DS 556.45 A43 Y37 2006.