Vietnamese refugees



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Scroll down to access oral history interviews with refugees who immigrated to San Diego following the Vietnam War, or click the name of the individual.

Note: all interviews are in Vietnamese with transcripts in English.

Chu Thien Cau:

Chu Thien Cau was born on December 18, 1950, at Hung Yen in northern Vietnam. His family evacuated in 1954 to South Vietnam. His father was an official for the Department of Justice, and his mother was a merchandiser. Mr. Cau spent one year in college, then joined the Vietnamese navy. He served on a navy base in Nam Can until the day North Vietnam took over South Vietnam. Mr. Cau left Vietnam in 1979, spent a number of months in a refugee camp in Indonesia, and arrived in San Diego in 1980. At the time of this interview, his wife and young daughter were still in Vietnam.

Download the PDF transcript in English.

In this interview totalling approximately 55 minutes, Mr. Cau mentions how he spent three years in Communist re-education camps in Vietnam. He talks about the restrictions on religion in South Vietnam, and his experience in an Indonesian refugee camp. Mr. Cau also describes how he arrived to the United States via sponsor, what his first impressions were upon arriving, and his difficulties with the language and transportation. He spends a lot of time responding to questions about his future, particularly for his wife and daughter, and speculates on how he will raise his child and adjust to American culture.

Interviewed by Giap Nghia on audio cassette on November 23, 1980.

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Nguyen Nhu Huy Quang:

Nguyen Nhu Huy Quang was born on March 24, 1959, in Huế, Vietnam. In 1975, he left Vietnam at the age of 16, arriving in the United States with his brother as part of a refugee group. At the time of this interview, he was 21 years old and studying Electrical Engineering at San Diego State University.

Download the PDF transcript in English.

In this interview totalling approximately 29 minutes, Mr. Quang describes the background of his parents and family, and the circumstances under which he and his brother fled to America. He talks about living at Camp Pendleton, where he lived for five months upon his arrival before settling in San Diego, and his associations of America with Disneyland. He recalls living with his sponsor and the difficulties learning American customs and language, and mentions some of his activities in school. Because he left Vietnam when he was young, Mr. Quang tends not to focus on the political situation, but rather his individual hopes for good grades and a successful career as an engineer. Although he still remains homesick, he looks forward to a bright future ahead.

Interviewed by Ngoc Huang on audio cassette on December 2, 1980.

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Nguyen Thanh:

Nguyen Thanh was born in 1920 in a small town in the highlands of North Vietnam. He earned his bachelor's degree in Hanoi, then joined the army at the age of 29 and graduated from the Reserve Officers Training School in Thu Duc, Saigon. He also taught Vietnamese at a college in Penang, Malaysia. He fled Vietnam in a boat with 200 people in June 1979, landed at refugee camp in Indonesia, then came to San Diego via an American sponsor nine months later.

Download the PDF transcript in English.

In this interview totalling 36 minutes, Mr. Thanh discusses his background in Vietnam and why he left the country. He recalls his journey from Vietnam as one of the "boat people," the refugee camp where he stayed, and how he arrived in America. Mr. Thanh describes the Vietnamese community in Escondido, their lifestyle, and how they help each other, and expresses his opinion about the American way of living. He also reports what he has heard about life in Vietnam in late 1980, and compares the educational systems of Vietnam and America.

Interviewed by Bach Hoang on audio cassette on November 30, 1980.

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Nguyen Thu Thuy:

Nguyen Thu Thuy was born on November 23, 1956 in Saigon. Her father worked as an engineer for the Civil Department and used his contacts with Americans to get his entire family out of Vietnam. They arrived at Camp Pendleton in April 1975 and stayed there for one month before moving in with a sponsor in Riverside. Ms. Thuy was a student at Riverside State University majoring in Computer Science at the time of this interview.

Download the PDF transcript in English.

In this interview totalling 26 minutes, Ms. Thuy discusses her family background and education, and how she and her family immigrated to America. She describes living at Camp Pendleton (where they first arrived), including the English classes and assistance programs offered there. Ms. Thuy offers her insights into the differences between American and Vietnamese customs, particularly within families and the educational system. She describes her impressions of the Vietnamese communities in San Diego and Riverside, and her satisfactions and dissatisfactions with her present life in America.

Interviewed by Doan Tram on audio cassette on December 3, 1980.

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