Children in the Vietnam War

 Picture of children
Image is from The Adopt a Vietnam Web Site

This is a reflection on the child in "Fathering" by Bharati Mukherjee.

    According to War and Children, the children born from relationships between American servicemen and Vietnamese women may be the largest group of war children in the world.  Unlike most war children, the Amerasian children were given the right to migrate to the United States.
    In 1975, The Friends of Children of Viet Nam (FCVN) saw that the country of Vietnam was collapsing and milk and medicine for children were impossible to find.  These groups, with the reluctant agreement of President Gerald Ford, announced Operation Babylift would fly an estimated 70,000 orphans out of Vietnam with the 2 million dollars that a special foreign aid children’s fund had provided.  The orphans were both Vietnamese and Amerasian.  Thirty flights were planned to evacuate the orphans.  On April 3, planes began to fly the orphans out. 
     In Vietnam, children of American soldiers faced discrimination and poverty.  They were called the “dust of life,” and they were thought of as children of the enemy.  Many tried to hide their true identity and escaped discrimination by quitting school.  Most Amerasians had their fathers' looks but held Vietnamese culture, habits, and language.
    Under the 1987 Amerasian Homecoming Act, 25,000 Amerasians migrated to the United States and the number increases to nearly 89,000 when close relatives are included.
    Before children would come to the United States, they would participate in a training camp that would teach English and help to prepare them for life in America. 
    When arriving in the U.S., many children searched for their fathers.  When 244 Amerasians approached the Red Cross for assistance in their search, only 21 were found.  Of the 21 fathers found, 15 asked that their addresses to not be given out. 
    Life after arrival in the U.S. was not easy either.  Many Amerasians had self-destructive behavior, often mutilating themselves.  Many call this the “externalization of inner pain.”  When asked if they felt like Americans, Vietnamese, or others, 5% said American, 44% said Vietnamese, and 50% said other.  The other percentage could not identify with any of the options.  Many children never felt that they were a part of either country.

        Mother and child picture
Image is from Annemarie Bello's Web Site

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