South Vietnamese refugees walk across a U.S. Navy carrier during Operation Frequent Wind. Wikimedia Commons / Public Domain
We’re still thinking about the legacies of the wars in Southeast Asia this summer. This op-ed I co-wrote for the Minneapolis Star Tribune considers what that history means when we turn the spotlight on Southeast Asian refugees and their children.
It also includes a link to the Immigration History Research Center’s Immigrant Stories Digital Storytelling Project which helps immigrants and refugees create, preserve, and share their own immigrant stories.
Minnesotans’ refugee stories, 40 years after the Fall of Saigon
To fully know Minnesota history, we need to know the stories of families who were displaced in Southeast Asia and who now live here.
By Elizabeth Venditto and Erika Lee
April 29, 2015
Forty years ago today — on April 30, 1975 — Saigon, the capital of South Vietnam, fell to North Vietnamese forces and ended the American war in Vietnam. For many Americans, the Fall of Saigon meant the end of a war that had taken the lives of many U.S. soldiers, divided the country and raised new questions about the U.S. role in the world. But the Fall of Saigon also had tremendous repercussions for millions of people in Southeast Asia whose lives had been torn apart. Former U.S. allies were persecuted, and many were forced to flee. U.S. refugee resettlement efforts initially brought some 130,000 Southeast Asians, most of them Vietnamese, to the United States. But those left behind continued to face political persecution, retribution, genocide and extreme poverty.
Forty years after the end of the Vietnam War, stories like Ratsabout’s need to be remembered and shared. They help us better understand the full impact of the war, not just for Americans at the time, but for the millions of refugees who have become Americans since.
Elizabeth Venditto is a public historian. Erika Lee is director of the Immigration History Research Center at the University of Minnesota and author of the forthcoming book “The Making of Asian America: A History.”