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The Life We Were Given

Operation Babylift, International Adoption, and the Children of War in Vietnam

By Dana Sachs

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Review by Allison Martin

In the Life We Were Given, Dana Sachs chronicles the events and personal stories of the 1975 Babylift when in a span of just a few weeks 3000 Vietnamese babies and children were brought by plane to be adopted in the United States and other countries. At the time the Babylift was surrounded by emotions and controversy, coming as it did at the end of the war and the American presence in Vietnam. Not only was this one of the largest international adoption events ever, issues related to the cross cultural adoption, accurate identification of the children and the appropriateness of some of the adoptions raised during that time still resonate today.

Thanks to a Fulbright scholarship Dana Sachs bravely spent a year in Vietnam with her two sons interviewing people who remembers the Babylift, and traveled around Vietnam gathering the perspective of North and South Vietnamese people on the event. In addition to drawing on the major books which provided first hand accounts of the Babylift, she interviewed adoptees, birth parents, adoptive parents and agency leaders deeply involved in the events. Most of the book concentrates on two agencies: FCVN (Friends of the Children of Vietnam - Cherie Clark) and FFAC (Friends for All Children - Rosemary Taylor), with a few interviews from agencies such as Holt.

This book is gripping as Dana weaves the drama of true life stories of families in with the events, capturing the intense emotions of this dramatic time. She raises questions about the legitimacy of the Babylift itself, as well as certain actions taken in the height of the turmoil. Many of these issues leave the reader with concerns on the lives of the families impacted by the chaotic events leading up to and during the evacuation. This is an excellent educational tool for those involved in more recent adoptions from Vietnam, in hopes that past mistakes are not repeated in future adoptions. Anyone interested in the adoption from Vietnam, especially in the events of the Babylift, or in broader questions regarding adoption will find this a fascinating study.

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