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|MISSING PHU LAMERS||PHU LAM ROSTER||PHU LAM BUILDINGS||IN MEMORY|
|OTHERS WE REMEMBER||HOI DUC ANH ORPHANAGE||PHU LAM IN PRINT||MAPS|
|KEY EVENTS||PHU LAMERS TODAY||MY CANH RESTAURANT BOMBING||PERSONNEL LISTS|
|WEB RINGS||LINKS||PHU LAM's AWARDS|
|PHU LAM's SITE MAP||EMAIL HOWARD HICKMAN|
The Phu Lam Signal Battalion's support of the Hoi Duc Anh orphanage continued into the early 1970s. The USARV publication "Command Communications" (USARV Pamphlet No. 105-10), published in March 1970 and which featured the Battalion, describes how the Phu Lamers were helping the orphans. At that time, the orphanage was responsible for approximately 500 children between the ages of one week and twenty years. Although the orphanage was receiving a stipend from the Saigon government, the high rate of inflation made it necessary to obtain private donations in order for the orphanage to continue its work. At Phu Lam, each payday a truckload of "freshly scrubbed and smiling faces" was brought to the various company orderly rooms for pay-call to encourage donations, and where the kids were treated to candy and soda. Once or twice a month, rice was purchased with the donations which had been collected. In addition, the men of the Battalion donated a swing set, which was installed in the courtyard of the orphanage.
The close tie which developed between the orphanage and Phu Lam is exemplified by the Christmas parties which were held for the orphans at the base in December of 1966 and 1967, complete with refreshments, gifts and a visit from Santa Claus. Although it wasn't clear that the children really grasped what Christmas or Santa Claus were all about, there was no question that they understood that a group of Americans a long way from home really cared about them. In retrospect, even though there was not much cause for celebration, the parties gave everyone a little more Christmas spirit during those holiday seasons.
We are now trying to find out more about what happened to the orphans and the orphanage, particularly after the Tet offensive in 1968. For example, we thought that some of the children from the Hoi Duc Anh orphanage might have been victims of the Galaxy C-5A plane crash on April 4, 1975 near Saigon in which 178 children and volunteers were killed. The plane was part of "Operation Babylift and was headed to the United States with 243 orphans on board who were destined for adoptions. It apparently encountered mechanical problems shortly after take-off and crashed while attempting an emergency landing at Tan Son Nhut. By reviewing the newspaper accounts of the crash The New York Times, we are now quite sure that very few of the children were from Hoi Duc Anh. Recently, one of the nurses who worked at another orphanage, Sister Susan McDonald, informed us that one of the victims had originally been with Hoi Duc Anh orphanage. She also knows that three children from Hoi Duc Anh were adopted by families in France, and she is trying to make contact with them.
Hopefully most or all of "our" Hoi Duc Anh Orphanage children are now enjoying happy and peaceful lives.
Below is a letter written to Senator Kennedy by Joe Rokus concerning the two doves that Sen. Kennedy donated to the orphanage in 1965. A picture of the two doves is followed after the letter.
Dear Senator Kennedy:
I am part of a group of U.S. Army Signal Corps veterans from Massachusetts and around the country who served in Vietnam. We have established a network of GIs who were stationed at the 1st Signal Brigade communications site at Phu Lam, near Saigon. While there, we "adopted" the Hoi Duc Anh Orphanage in Saigon by supporting it with clothing drives, monetary donations, etc. We are now in the process of collecting as many "Phu Lamers" as we can find and are in the process of setting up a web site, writing up a history, collecting pictures, etc.
As part of that project, I recently found some pictures I had taken in March 1967 at the Hoi Duc Anh Orphanage which includes one of a pair of doves you apparently presented to the orphanage as a gift when you visited on October 27, 1965 (!) which brings me to the point of this email. Even though this was many, many years ago, we were wondering if, by chance, you might remember anything about your trip to Saigon and to the orphanage back then or if there is anything in your ancient files about this trip. Any information you could supply would be greatly appreciated and would would make a fantastic addition to our Phu Lam web site.
I am attaching a copy of the picture with the doves and one of the orphanage, in case it helps jog your memory - after all, none of us have gotten any younger!
Thank you so much for help.
Now, through the work of Joe Rokus, and your web site we have received much additional information. As an adoptive mom, I wish to thank all of the Phu Lamers who helped Hoi Duc Anh and the children who resided there.I also wish to tell you that one of those children-Nguyen Thi Dai Trang became Jennifer Nguyen Noone, our beloved 26-year old daughter. Jennie is a wonderful young lady, who will be visiting Vietnam for the first time since she was evacuated on the final Babylift airplane of April 26,1975 with Sister Susan McDonald's Reunion Trip on March 31,2001.
She will visit Hoi Duc Anh, the FCVN Center, the old Phu Lam Base,etc.and she will have the opportunity to walk on the streets where she was carried nearly 26 years ago.
Our family wishes to personally thank you for all you did to help the children of Hoi Duc Anh so many years ago in while you were stationed in Vietnam. Please know that your efforts were greatly appreciated by our family,and we will always remember your kindness and compassion with deep gratitude and appreciation.
SUPPORT OF HOI DUC ANH BY THE 600th MILITARY INTELLIGENCE GROUP, MILITARY ASSISTANCE COMMAND (MACV)
The orphanage was also supported by the men of the 600th Military Intelligence Group, Military Assistance Command (MACV), Combined Intelligence Center, stationed at Tan Son Nhut Airbase in Saigon. The following information was supplied in April 2017 by Stephen Reading, who served as a lieutenant with that unit from May 1966 until May 1967. He now resides in Ann Arbor, Michigan.
I was the principal liaison between our unit and the Hoi Duc Anh Orphanage. Our unit was quite active at that time assisting Madam Le Thanh Kieu (We called her Madam Thank You.). She was a lovely lady and served Hoi Duc Anh with great enthusiasm. With the help of civilian contractors, we facilitated upgrading the orphanage’s electrical system (I think we installed a generator.), improved plumbing – including adding washing machines, bought two TVs, provided medical assistance from the U.S. 3rd Field Hospital at Tan Son Nhut, and collected tens of thousands of dollars over the course of a year. I did all the fund raising from our unit and also from companies and individuals in the U.S. I don’t remember how much we gave to the orphanage each month, but I do remember that after all was said and done, we had $50,000 in the orphanage’s Bank of America bank account when I left. A great deal of money and clothing were contributed by the Cleveland Public Schools System and Hanes Underwear (blue for boys and pink for girls) and from all the servicemen in my unit. However, there were many other organizations that contributed a lot.
Our unit also initiated an adoption agency of sorts (coordinated with the Vietnamese-American Association) whereby certain carefully vetted servicemen could adopt kids from the orphanage when the serviceman was re-assigned to the States. The process was quite simple, when I was there. Soldiers would visit the orphanage, determine if they would like to adopt, and they would submit their request to me. I would then communicate with their unit commander for a reference check. If everything checked out, I would, in effect, be the first “gatekeeper,” unless the child was old enough to enter into the decision directly. Only one twelve-year-old girl was old enough to make her own decision, and she decided NO – what a shame. The next step was to pass their names to the Vietnamese-American Association for their approval or rejection. I think they, in turn, contacted the American Red Cross for the soldier’s family references. If approved, the Vietnamese-American Association would do a follow-up with the soldier, his/her commanding officer and the Red Cross to receive the child in the U.S. The Vietnamese-American Association would arrange for immigration documents and transportation. In any case, following my role as first gatekeeper, I was not involved with the other elements of the process. To my knowledge, no children’s records were kept by anybody in our unit.