Guide to Operation Babylift Books

In depth personal reviews of book about the Babylift, plus interviews with many of the authors.

The Life We Were Given: Operation Babylift, International Adoption, and the Children of War in Vietnam
by Dana Sachs

book picture 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, questions about 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 lived for a year in Vietnam. along with her two sons, interviewing people who remember the Babylift, and traveling around Vietnam to gather 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.

Dana weaves the drama of true life stories of families in with the events, capturing the emotions of the times. 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. 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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Escape from Saigon : How a Vietnam War Orphan Became an American Boy
by Andrea Warren

This is the true story, told in narrative form, of the adoption of a young boy from Vietnam during Operation Babylift in 1975. Matt Steinour (known as Long when in Vietnam) was born to a Vietnamese mother (who died when he was 5) and American father (who disappeared when he was 2). He was taken to the Holt orphanage when he was 7 by his grandmother when she could no longer afford to care for him. Eventually he was adopted by the Steinour family and flown to the United States during Operation Babylift.

Andrea Warren is an professional writer and demonstrates her skills in the factual research and movement of the book. The descriptions of Matt Steinour's early life in Vietnam, Operation Babylift (including the tragic crash of one of the planes), his adjustment to his new family and life in the United States, and his homeland visit to Vietnam, are well written and engrossing. Older children and adults interested in adoption and in the Babylift will enjoy this remarkable story and accompanying photographs
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Beyond the Babylift: A Story of an Adoption
by Pamela Chatterton Purdy

book picture A personal account by his adoptive mother of the adoption and childhood of a young boy adopted from Vietnam during Operation Babylift of 1975. This story, based on Pamela Purdy's diaries, but written in narrative form, is the story of their family life and adjustments in Chicago in the 1970's and 1980's. Hoang was about six years old when he is transferred from Vietnam to the United States during the Babylift. He is the birth son of an African-American soldier and a South Vietnamese woman and lived on the streets of Saigon prior to entering the orphanage. He joined a family of five; his mother was a visual art specialist, his father was a minister, two sisters had joined the family by birth and an older African-American brother had also been adopted.

As told by his mother, Hoang's life was tumultuous. It appears that he was hyperactive, and his rambuctiousness and impulsivity lead to many episodes described in the book. It also describes his learning English, encounters with racism (several quite threatening) and his energy in embracing his new life in the his family and at school. This book provides valuable insight into life many issues - adoption of older children, aftermath of the babylift, racial tension in the 1970's and 80's, and family life.
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After Sorrow Comes Joy
by Cherie Clark
book picture

After Sorrow Comes Joy is the autobiography of Cherie Clark, describing her part in with FCVN in the rescue of hundreds of babies and children abandoned in Vietnam in the aftermath of the American-Vietnamese war. It is a graphic account of the conditions during this time.

Following the end of the Vietnamese-American war, Vietnam was still torn in two by fighting between the North and South Vietnamese armies. Americans, Europeans and thousands of Vietnamese people were rapidly fleeing the country as city after city fell to Communist rule. Cherie Clark describes how she cared for the babies and children of Vietnam during this period of chaos, uniting them with families and medical care and food that they needed to survive. It is also an account of bureaucracy gone amoke. Normal channels failed as families and even basic government services were caught in the a war crashing down upon them. During this upheaval the heroism of the Vietnamese and Americans who cared for the orphans and abandoned children is heart wrenching. Readers will find themselves captivated by many of the scenes in this book - including Cherie Clark's heartfelt return to Vietnam 20 years after the war, her children's escape from a collapsing Vietnam, her first visits to the orphanages that many continue to adopt from today, and several kidnapping attempts including that of her own daughter.
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The War Cradle
book picture by Shirley Peck-Barnes

A first hand account of Operation Babylift provides a stirring tale of the young children and adults caught in the aftermath of the ages long war. Shirley Peck-Barnes describes this gripping event with fervor and compassion, including the crucial events leading up to the evacuation and the treatment of orphans in the United States upon arrival. She tkes you behind the scenes to the passions and conflicts of the people involved in the day to day operations of a key parent/adoption organization (FCVN) in Vietnam in the late 1970's. You can not help but be touched by the passion and the moral decisions called upon by the events of Operation Babylif as you meet: Ed Daly, president of World Airways and hotdog pilot; Dr. Ted Gleichman, who founded the agency Friends of Children of Vietnam (FCVN); Ross Meador, a young man who cared for so many orphanage babies and children; and Rosemary Taylor and Cherie Clark, who dedicated themselves to the children so that they could have families once again; and many more. Photographs and quotes from participants bring the true story to life. If you are intrigued by the chronology, people and events of Operation Babylift, you will find it a difficult book to put down.
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This Must Be My Brother
By LeAnn Thieman & Carol Dey

book pictureA remarkable book about the adventures of a partime nurse and homemaker who becomes involved one of the largest and most dangerous escorts in the history of international adoption - Operation Babylift. LeAnn Thieman shares her adventures with us with charm and captivating honesty. She flew to Vietnam planning to return with just 6 babies. When she and her friend arrived in Vietnam they learned that they were to help bring out 300 babies and children! Her descriptions of the events leading up to the flight back via cargo jet with the children is sure to keep you turning pages. Just one warning - I don't think it is possible to read this book without wanting to adopt (or adopt again)!

Although this is a true life story, LeAnn Thieman writes about the Babylift in an engaging manner, with dialog and plot that lead the reader right along through these historical events. LeAnn Thieman originally travelled to Vietnam to carry dossiers and funds for the orphanages and to provide an escort to the babies coming home to their forever families. The first official flight out as part of Operation Babylift ended in tragedy as the immense cargo plane crashes just outside of Saigon. LeAnn Thieman traveled with 300 children and babies on the next flight- bringing them safely to the United States for adoption; including her own son whom she met for the first time on this trip. Highly recommended for anyone interested in adoption adventure or the history of adoption.
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The Dust of Life: America's Children Abandoned in Vietnam
by Robert S. McKelvey

book picture This is a heartrending collection of stories based on interviews in the 1990's with adult Amerasians born of Vietnamese mothers and American fathers during the Vietnam American war. Some of the interviewees immigrated to the US, but most were still in Vietnam, unable to immigrate to the US under the Ameriasian Homecoming Act. While their spirits shine through, most of thee people have had a very difficult life due to poverty, racism, and separation from their families (so important in Vietnam). The book shows the sad aftermath of those injured for life by their births during a war of which they played no part.
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View The Unwanted: A Memoir of Childhood
by Kien Nguyen

book picture "I want to recommend this book to everyone with an interest in what happened in Vietnam after 1975, when the country was shut off from the West for years, and especially what happened to the Amerasian children fathered by our military and civilians working for the military and then left behind when the United States hastily left Vietnam in 1975."( Pat Palmer)
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Orphans of War : Work with the Abandoned Children of Vietnam 1967-1975
by Rosemary Taylor

book pictureThrough personal accounts and diary entries, this book describes humanitarian care and adoption in Vietnam in the late 1960's through mid 1970's, by Rosemary Taylor and so many other heroes who gave of themselves during this time. Readers interested in the details of Operation Babylift will be engrossed by the tragic circumstances of war, poverty and inadquete medical care, the horrendous difficulties of caring for babies and children in Vietnam and of international adoption, the creation of the Friends for All Children (FFAC) adoption agency, the transfer of hundreds of children during Operation Babylift, the tragedy of the crash of C-5A, and the aftermath of litagation (evenually dropped). Remarkable photographs puncutate this heart touching work.
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