Louie B. Nunn Center for Oral History

Interview with Linh Nguyen, January 30, 2018

Louie B. Nunn Center for Oral History, University of Kentucky Libraries
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00:00:01 - The end of the Vietnam War

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Partial Transcript: The following interview was recorded on January 30th, 2018 in the studio of the Scott County Public Library.

Segment Synopsis: Nguyen discusses the position that his family was in at the end of the Vietnam War, which was when the Communists in northern Vietnam reigned victorious over the Republic in the south, and how his family made an attempt to escape the communists through the United States Navy. He also briefly talks about his father's various imprisonments, and what led to the United States becoming involved in the war and what happened when they pulled out later on.

Keywords: Affluent; American soldiers; Aristocrat family; Assistant chief of police; Banks; Battles; Boats; Bodies; Bombing; Candy; Communication; Communist oppression; Country; Cousins; Defensive; Espionage; Expert; Explosions; Family; Fathers; Fighting; French; Geneva Convention; Government; Gun powder; Headquarters; Home; Indirect involvement; Information; Interrogation; Investments; Japanese; John F. Kennedy; Land; Lost; Money; Ngo Dinh Diem; Pastors; Police; Presidents; Prisons; Quiet life; Refugees; Republic of Vietnam; Rocket launchers; Rockets; Skills; South Vietnamese Government; St. Francis and John Catholic Parish; Story; Tanks; Toys; Tutors; Walls; Wealthy; Withdrew

Subjects: Communist Party of Vietnam; Communists; Death.; Families.; Migration.; United States of America; Vietnam War, 1961-1975; Vũng Tàu (Vietnam)

00:13:20 - Escaping Vietnam

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Partial Transcript: What, uh--so, y, you mentioned, um, your first attempt to try to get out of, of the country.

Segment Synopsis: Nguyen discusses the conditions people faced living under the Communist regime of Vietnam. He talks about his parents going to prison for attempting to escape before the regime took power. He describes how his family survived while their parents were in prison, as well as how they finally escaped Vietnam.

Keywords: Archives; Battle; Battleships; Beg; Boats; Brothers; Business sense; Captains; Churches; Coats; Confiscation; Corn; Crops; Deployment; Direction; Elegant; Escape; Fathers; Fields; Financial matters; Fishing; Freedom of expression; Freedom of speech; Freedoms; God; Grandmothers; Houses; Huckleberry Fin; Jungles; Land; Machines; Military; Miracles; Money; Mothers; Mud; Music; Nguyen Van Thieu; Nuns; Oceans; Open waters; People; Plans; Police departments; Potatoes; Presidents; Priests; Prisons; Propaganda music; Re-education; Reorganization; Reports; Republic of the People; Rescue; Responsibility; Rice; Secrecy; Sisters; Slave camps; Sleep; Stash; Strategy; Sweet; Tasks; Tragic experiences; USS Juneau; Water

Subjects: Catholicism; Communist Party of Vietnam; Communists; Families.; Farms.; Ho Chi Minh City (Vietnam); Leadership; Religion; Saigon (Vietnam); Survival.; United States of America; Vietnam

00:26:37 - Finding refuge in open waters

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Partial Transcript: Fast forward for many experience were, one of another among the danger of the ocean is with the pirate in the--on the ocean.

Segment Synopsis: Nguyen discusses what it was like being subjected to the forces of nature out on the open waters, as well as the dangers of the presence of Thai pirates. He also talks about finally finding refuge at a refugee camp in Malaysia and how they helped his family come to the United States of America.

Keywords: American culture; Apples; Boats; Canteen caps; Captains; City; Conserving; Covington International Airport; Dogs; Dolphins; Eat Rat Campaign; English; Escaping; Faith; Fishermen; Flying; Food; Funding; Green; Holes; Hot; Huts; Islands; Jesus; Kidnapping; Killing; Light; Light boats; Media; Men; Nature; Oil wells; Palm Sunday; Perfect storm; Pets; Pirates; Promise land; Rape; Rats; Refugee camps; Schools; Skin; Slavery; Tails; Technology; United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF); Water; Waves; Weapons; Women

Subjects: Communists; Pulau Bidong (Malaysia); Refugees; Religion; Survival.; Thailand; United States of America

00:38:08 - Life in the United States of America

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Partial Transcript: So, from there, um, make our way to my brother place and then, from there, you know, we went to school like within in, within one day.

Segment Synopsis: Nguyen discusses his family's first impressions of the United States of America, as well as what it was like attending a public school. He also comments on how the family helped each other out to make life easier for everyone.

Keywords: Air; Beat; Brothers; Catholic churches; Clothing; Codes; Cold; Covington Catholic High School; Dixie High School; Embarrassment; English as a Second Language (ESL); Fathers; Food stamps; Foreign; Friends; Gifts; Houses; Immigration process; Intimidation; Letters; Mother's Day; Principals; Public schools; Schools; Scott High School; Sisters; Soccer; Streets; Teachers; Telegrams; Tests; Toys; Trouble; Valentine's Day; Vietnamese; Welfare system; Write

Subjects: Childhood; Culture.; Education; Families.; Immersion; Refugees; Survival; Vietnam

00:45:46 - Education and his family

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Partial Transcript: w--and I wanted, I wanted to ask you.

Segment Synopsis: Nguyen discusses how his teachers helped him excel in his education in elementary school, as well as how he had to physically fight to establish himself in high school. He talks about how important education was to his family and how wherever one family member went to school, the others followed, including continuing their educations at the University of Kentucky.

Keywords: Affluent; Apples; Athletes; Books; Brothers; Business; Capitals; Caucasian; Classes; Computer science; Conflicts; Covington High School; Crime; Crushes; Degrees; Different; Drawing; Engineering; Friends; Future; Honor roll; Images; Jobs; Marriage; Math; Morehead State University; Safe; Soccer; Social studies; Spelling; States; Supportive; University of Kentucky; Work

Subjects: African Americans.; Culture.; Discrimination.; Education; Fort Worth (Tex.); Immigrants.; Teachers; Travel.

00:53:06 - The family's reunion with his mother

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Partial Transcript: Now what--where, where is your mother at during all of this?

Segment Synopsis: Nguyen talks about what it was like to see his mother for the first time in over ten years when she came to the United States of America from Vietnam through the Family Unification Program. He also comments on how the Communists stalled her coming to the United States for a long time and how, because of her absence, the family felt as though there was a missing piece.

Keywords: Brothers; Completion; Dreams; Family Unification Program; Fulfillment; Gypsies; Hug; Miracles; Missing; Mothers; Reunions

Subjects: Communists; Families.; Immigrants.; Vietnam

00:56:27 - How he became a priest

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Partial Transcript: Well, let's talk about UK then.

Segment Synopsis: Nguyen discusses how he came to enter the priesthood and how his experiences in the priesthood allowed him to find his identity and his place within America. He also discusses how, because of this, he is able to move from place to place and adapt easily.

Keywords: Apartments; Baseball; Basketball; Bishops; Calling; Chemistry; Chinese restaurants; Classes; Communication; Contributions; Curiosity; Decisions; Deviled eggs; Doors; Dual culture; Electrical engineering; Engineering; Evaluations; Food; Foreign; French; Friends; Hamburgers; Hot dogs; Investigations; Ketchup; Languages; Lettuce; Liberal arts schools; Loans; Lunchrooms; Majors; Mechanics; Milk cartons; Music; Mustard; Orientation; Pastimes; Paths; Philosophy; Physics; Pickles; Population; Priests; Productive; Psychology; Reflections; Registrars; Requirements; Seminary; Siblings; Small towns; Sociology; Spanish; St. Meinrad Archabbey; Studying; Tomato; Transitions; Typing; University of Kentucky; Vocation calls

Subjects: Careers; Childhood; Communities.; Culture.; Education; Identity.; Indiana.; Priesthood.; Religion

01:12:08 - Cultural duality within his family

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Partial Transcript: So, h, how, how do you--what do you consider yourself as of now?

Segment Synopsis: Nguyen discusses how his family has integrated both Vietnamese and American cultures into their households. He also tells a story about how he, his father, and some of his priest friends returned to Vietnam to bury his uncle and his feelings towards being there once again.

Keywords: 'Filthy rich'; Airports; American; American citizens; American movies; Ancestors; Awards; Blood; Brothers; Citizens; Classes; Communist Party of Vietnam; Complexity; Cooking; Country; Dual citizens; Dual culture; Evening; Exploitation; Family reunions; Fathers; Flags; Flashbacks; Generational differences; Government; Grandfathers; Heritage; Instruction; Intelligence; Master's degrees; Migration; Nephews; News; Nieces; Oppression; Parents; Petitions; Poor; Priests; Professors; Republic of South Vietnam; Siblings; Social media; Stories; Student visas; Studying; Sweat; Tone; Uncles; Uniforms; Vietnamese; Wave

Subjects: Communist Party of Vietnam; Communists; Culture.; Families.; Vietnam

01:23:07 - Younger generations and the Vietnam War

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Partial Transcript: Well, uh, I think we should probably-- we're going to wrap this up.

Segment Synopsis: Nguyen discusses his opinion regarding the Vietnam War and how the younger generations connect with the generation that experienced the war, as well as how the war affected him in the sense that he lost his identity and childhood because of his refugee status after the war. He also comments on how he has been trying to help veterans of the Vietnam War within his church to heal from their wartime experiences.

Keywords: 9/11; Beds; Blame; Changes; Childhood; Churches; Enemy; Fathers; Fireworks; Government; Healing; Humility; Identity; Information; Ken Burns; Loss; Meaning; Military; Nephews; Nieces; Political agendas; Political wars; Priests; Propaganda; Protocols; Social media; Soldiers; Soul searching; Tension; Tet Offensive; Tragic; Vicious; Warfare

Subjects: Communists; Families.; Generations.; Vietnam; Vietnam War, 1961-1975