Families of Vietnamese Political Prisoners Association (FVPPA) Collections
On April 30, 1975, North Vietnamese forces captured the South Vietnamese capital of Saigon. That spring, 125,000 South Vietnamese fled the country. From 1978 through the mid-1980s, approximately 2 million Vietnamese left the country by boat, which was both illegal and highly dangerous. Alarmed by the high death toll of the “boat people,” in 1979 the United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR) proposed the Orderly Departure Program (ODP). This program allowed Vietnamese citizens to safely immigrate to the United States and other participating countries through an application-based system. For fifteen years the ODP helped over 500,000 Vietnamese refugees immigrate to the U.S. before the program ended in 1994.
In 1977, in order to win the release of her husband and other Vietnamese political prisoners, Khuc Minh Tho co-founded and served as the president of the Families of Vietnamese Political Prisoners Association (FVPPA) in Arlington, Virginia. From 1977 through 1999, the FVPPA campaigned for the release of re-education camp prisoners, conducted a public awareness program on the needs of Vietnamese political prisoners and their families, and provided eligible persons with assistance with their immigration to the United States and other countries around the world. The FVPPA also acted as an information center for recent immigrants, providing assistance with starting their new lives in the United States, as well as aiding in reuniting family members. During its existence, the FVPPA maintained contact with politicians, government officials, and human rights organizations in order to provide more assistance to Vietnamese immigrants and former re-education camp prisoners, and they held events to help raise money and public awareness of their mission, and honor those who had contributed to their work. In 2004, members of the FVPPA reorganized and formed the Vietnamese American Heritage Foundation (VAHF), an organization dedicated to the preservation, promotion, and celebration of the history and heritage of Vietnamese Americans.
The Vietnam Center & Archive (VNCA) houses two FVPPA collections that document the rich history of this organization and the Orderly Departure Program. These collections contain ODP applications, correspondence of the FVPPA, planning documents for reunions and events held by the FVPPA, meeting minutes and agendas, legal documents, and general office documents. The ODP application files contain application forms, sponsor letters, prisoner release documents, personal letters and photos, civilian identification papers, passports, birth, marriage, and death records, educational certificates, and military records of the applicants. The information contained in this collection is invaluable for the study of the Vietnamese-American experience in the United States.
The entire FVPPA collection consists of 219 linear feet. The first accrual of 156 linear feet was donated to the VNCA in 2005 via the VAHF, which had stored the collection for many years at their headquarters in Austin, Texas. The second accrual of 63 linear feet was donated by Mrs. Khuc Minh Tho in 2012, and had been stored at her personal residence in Virginia. Both collections have been processed and are open for research. Links to the collection finding aids are provided below.
In December 2011, the VNCA received a $144,000 grant from the National Historical Publications and Records Commission (NHPRC) to digitize the ODP application series of the original FVPPA Collection donated to the VNCA in 2005. The three-year project was highly successful, and not only completed its original goal, but also expanded so that the entire 2005 FVPPA Collection and the ODP series of the 2012 FVPPA Collection were also digitized. The digitization project ended in May 2015 and resulted in 192 linear feet, or 355,274 pages, of documents from these collections being digitized and made freely available online. Included in those documents are 17,738 ODP application files, which are now available online. The cost for the project came in at approximately $0.58 per page.
You can access the individual files of the FVPPA Collections via the Virtual Vietnam Archive. To search the files follow the directions below.
- 1) Go to the Virtual Vietnam Archive search page (hyperlink below)
- 2) Click on the words “Go to Advanced Search”
- 3) On the Limit by Special Projects area of the advanced search page, click on the box next to Orderly Departure Program (ODP) Application Files (FVPPA Collection)
- 4) Enter keywords and dates into the appropriate fields
- 5) Click “Search.” The search results returned will be from the FVPPA Collections
- 6) Click on “Display Results” to scroll through and view the digitized documents online