This is the fourth book that I have read for War Through the Generations - Vietnam Challenge.
Carol Dey and LeAnn Thieman are two moms from Iowa City who did volunteer work for FCVN (Friends of Children of Various Nations). They did low-key activities like raising money in bake sales. The Thiemans were in the process of adopting a FCVN child.
But in 1975, they took a plane ride that could described as terrifying and blood-curdling.Dey and Thieman were supposed to take just six orphans to the United States, but the end of the Vietnam War was very near. They ended taking 300 babies to the US!
Remember, during this time, cell phones and the internet were at its infancy. They called the State Department for updates on conditions in Saigon. Each lady made about two calls to their husbands, so everyone was in the dark. It must have been trying time for the husbands and families, not really knowing what Dey and Thieman were experiencing.
On arriving at the orphange, they started helping in taking care of the babies. There were many dedicated Vietnamese women who worked there. Despite the high humidity and heat, everyone did their best to fed, clean, and cuddle the infants.
Many of the children were not really orphans; they were of mixed race or Vietnamese whose fathers were not known. The mothers knew that their society would not treat their children well, so that's how many ended up in the orphanage. Some mothers even heard of the flights and gave up their older children at the door of the orphanage, denying their maternity, so that the child would have a chance of surviving!
The preparation of papers to release the children, the trips to the airport, the loading of the children on the plane, and the waiting for takeoff were difficult. I would have had a hissy fit at any point of this process.
The frantic flight to the US was surreal. "all but a few seats were removed and had been replaced with long benches along the sides. Down the center was a row of about twenty cardboard boxes..Two to three babies were lying in each box. A long strap was secured at the one end of the plane...Toddlers and the older children sat with seatbelts on the long benches."The food and supplies were inside metal trash cans.This flight was not the only one that carried children. Dey and Thieman helped load children heading to Australia; there were probably others going to Europe and Canada.
This book has pictures of the orphanage, so you can see how the children lived and were transported.
The epilogue is great; the authors traced many of the children and workers at the orphanage. Most are living in the US; some of the adults were able to return to Vietnam or went to other parts of the globe, where children need help.
This is a hopeful story. I am glad that some of the children were able to be rescued.