Event, Vietnamese American

Operation Babylift: Saving Children from the Vietnam War

April 2009 marks the 34th anniversary of “Operation Babylift” (OBL), a humanitarian effort that provided for the evacuation of over 2,500 Vietnamese children and infants during the final weeks of the war in southeast Asia. Prior to OBL, international adoptions in the United States were infrequent and required an individual Act of Congress for each prospective adoptive family. OBL, by allowing a large number of international adoptees to enter the United States via parolee visa, changed the “complexion” of the United States and ushered in the era of international adoption still prevalent today.

Jennifer Nguyen Noone, Clark Air Force Base, Philippines, May 1975 Jennifer Nguyen Noone Lana Noone in front of Vietnam Babylift Quilt

Jennifer Nguyen Noone, Clark Air Force Base, Philippines, May 1975

Jennifer Nguyen Noone

Lana Noone in front of Vietnam Babylift Quilt

April 2009 marks the 34th anniversary of “Operation Babylift” (OBL), a humanitarian effort that provided for the evacuation of over 2,500 Vietnamese children and infants during the final weeks of the war in southeast Asia.

Time:
Monday, April 27, 2009, 6:30 – 8:30 p.m.
Location:
Ring Auditorium
Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden
Independence Avenue and Seventh Street, SW
Metro:
Smithsonian (Orange or Blue lines) or
L’Enfant Plaza (Yellow or Green lines)

Prior to OBL, international adoptions in the United States were infrequent and required an individual act of Congress for each prospective adoptive family. OBL, by allowing a large number of international adoptees to enter the United States via parolee visa, changed the “complexion” of the United States and ushered in the era of international adoption still prevalent today.

The program’s participants include Lana Mae Noone, OBL activist, adoptive mother, and author of Global Mom: Notes from a Pioneer Adoptive Family; Jennifer Nguyen Noone, who was the final baby placed with a waiting family by OBL; Ross Meador, who was the field director for Friends of Children of Vietnam during OBL; LeAnn Thieman, adoptive mother and author of This Must Be My Brother, as well as co-author of 10 titles in the popular Chicken Soup for the… series; and Philip R. Wise, a retired U.S. Air Force Sergeant who survived a tragic OBL plane crash.

A temporary art and artifacts exhibit will be on display, including the Vietnam Babylift Quilt created from remnants of clothing worn by the orphans, original clothing, photos, materials, and the speakers’ personal artifacts.

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8 thoughts on “Operation Babylift: Saving Children from the Vietnam War

    • Smithsonian Asian Pacific American Center says:

      Thank you so much for sharing your blog post and writing about your experience as a Vietnamese American who was part of Operation Babylift!

  1. chau pham says:

    hello all, my family and have lost a brother during the war. His where about is unkown, my sister was told that he might be on the c-5a that crashed. My mother has tried to find out his where about and gave up. My sister tears up as the word family is brought up. She was only 9 at the time and my brother 7. After all these years there was no real effort to look for him. As I search throught the web I found out that he was involve in the operation, I’m slowly going through finding who I can contact to help me search for this person. Here’s some info that I was given, He was 7 at the time, his name is Phan Thanh Hai, he’s half vietnamse and half caucasian his mom’s name is Phan Thi Phung. Also an older sister, who was 9 at the time. My sister told me that he was picked up by a van or a bus at the house where we lived in. It was told to us that he would be returned to the family after his health was checked out. He never came back…

    • dean way says:

      my name is dean way. i was taken away from my mother and sister in the vietnam war. i believe my sister was 9yrs old at the time and i was 7yrs. old. i am half vietnamse and half caucasian. my father was an american solider. i was born on november 14, 1967. i was told that my mothers sister or close relative LE THI BACH THUY came with me, or signed papers for me to be adopted. DINH THI NGAI was the one who managed me. i dont remember my mothers name nor my sisters name. but i really want to find them i been searching my whole life. please if anyone knows my mother or sister email me at 2deanway@gmail.com i was told that my birth name is DO QHIN ANH

  2. A letter from Steven E. Forsyth:

    “Dear Mr. Odo:

    On behalf of World Airways, I thank you for a very thoughtful and meaningful program in April featuring ‘Operation Babylift, Saving Children from the Vietnam War’. I enjoyed all of the presentations and the discussion period, and I appreciated the opportunity to discuss the role World Airways played at the critical time in Asian and United States history.

    It was somewhat of a reunion for me with several of the key people who had been our guests on the World Airways return to Vietnam in 2005. We took more than 120 people, including 21 Vietnam adoptees, on a week-long trip that allowed us some very enlightening experiences in Ho Chi Minh City. I also had the opportunity at your event to meet Cherie Clark for the first time. She played a central role in the 1975 Operation Babylift story, but was unavailable to participate in our 2005 trip.

    I also want to thank you for your hospitality and kindness in arranging the dinner at the Burma restaurant. We stayed too late, but it was truly like a reunion for all involved. You were a gracious host and the event created a spark of magic for each of the attendees. The Smithsonian is a legend in the United States, and I was honored to see your program take time to recognize the ongoing story of Operation Babylift.

    Sincerely,

    Steven E Forsyth
    Director, Corporate Communications

  3. siapap says:

    A letter from Le Thi Bach-Thuy: (transcribed as-is)

    “Minneapolis, April 25th 2009

    Dear Mr. Odo,

    The Flight of 57 orphans on April 2nd 1975 was not a part of Operation Babylift. After the flight came to the United States, it caused a sensation that prompted President Gerald Ford to launch the The Operation Babylift.

    There were four key figures in this Operation. It was Tom and Cherie Clark of Friends of Children of Vietnam (FCVN) (husband and wife) and Rosemary Taylor and Margaret Moses of Friends for All Children). Without them, any discussion of the Operation Babylift cannot represent the actual history of the event.

    Tom Clark was the Overseas Director of FCVN, Cherie Clark was the Adoption Director ,I was the Social worker and Assistant Director. Ross Meador was a young high school graduate with long curly hair and was a volunteer along with many Catholic nuns who came to help FCVN at the time. Ross did not have any executive role with FCVN.

    On the night of April 2nd, 1975, Tom Clark, Cherie Clark, sister Therese Leblanc, sister Nancy, Ross and I helped put the Children on the cargo plane en route to Okinawa , then Pendleton, California.

    Tom Clark, sister Therese and sister Nancy escorted this group of orphans out of Vietnam safely.

    The 57th orphan on the manifest list of that flight was my adoptive son LeThanh Thao-Chau. He worked and lived in Grand Rapids, MI with his wife Lia, an adoptive daughter of Attorney John and Holly MCCormick in San Diego, Cafifornia. She is a law student and both of them just have another baby girl born on April 23rd, 2009.

    I hope the above information would help you with some insights about The first 57 orphan flight to the USA.

    Sincerely yours,

    Le Thi Bach-Thuy
    [address removed for privacy]”

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