The Dust of Life


Miss Saigon is one of the most powerful musicals of modern time.  Many people will remember the horrors of the Vietnam War and the fall of Saigon in 1975.  Set against this backdrop, the story of Miss Saigon is also one of a mother’s love and ultimate sacrifice for her child.

One of the most moving and powerful songs in the musical is “Bui Doi”, which refers to Vietnamese “orphans” – the children of Vietnamese mothers and American soldiers, abandoned at the end of the war.  The term “bui doi” literally translates to “living dust” or “dust of life”.

One of the key inspirations for the musical was
a photograph of a Vietnamese mother who was giving up her child at an airport in Ho Chi Minh City.  The child was being sent to her father, an ex GI who she had never met, to enable her to have a better future.  But she would never see her mother again.

On April 1975, over two thousand Vietnamese children were airlifted out of Vietnam and placed into American homes across the country. This project was known as “Operation Babylift” and approximately 2,700 children were flown out of South Vietnam to United States.  An additional 1,300 children were flown to Canada, Australia, and Europe.

Many people saw footage of President Ford carrying Vietnamese orphans out of airplanes in 1975, but few knew what happened to those children after they settled in with their adopted families. Twenty-five years later, the Vietnamese adoptees began to form a social movement community.

Operation Babylift is a very interesting part of adoption history and there is much on the Internet, including grateful letters from adoptees to President Ford thanking him for the chance to live.

Operation Reunite
Operation Reunite is a nonprofit organisation dedicated in its mission to provide information and support to Vietnamese Adoptees.  

This organisation offers search support to help reunite families separated by the Vietnam War. In addition, they seek to create an awareness and understanding of the Vietnam War era and present an overview of Vietnamese culture, language, customs, and family traditions to help make the journey through time and history more meaningful.

One of the founders of Operation Reunite is Trista Goldberg.  Her experience of finding her own family gave her the idea to form an organisation to help others to navigate their own search.

Following Operation Reunite’s Adoptee Tour earlier this year, they launched the Operation DNA project in Vietnam. This is the first project of its kind to reunite Vietnamese Adoptees with their genealogical lineage.  This DNA project can connect up to five generations of families with just a swap sample in the cheek area. Operation DNA will help to reunite mothers, fathers, aunts, uncles, siblings and even half siblings.

Another support organisation is Adopted Vietnamese International (AVI). AVI was launched on the 25th Anniversary of the end of the Vietnam War in April 2000 and is based in Sydney, Australia. There is a team of volunteers across three continents and volunteer translators of three different languages.

One of the main aims of AVI is to provide a range of resources and opportunities for adopted Vietnamese to explore their history and to share their unique insights on adoption. AVI’s founder Indigo Willing was adopted from Saigon to Sydney in 1972.

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img src = AVI

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  • Carol

    August 30, 2010

    2,700 children adopted in the United States.
    1,300 children were flown to Canada, Australia, and Europe.
    Many thanks to these loving families who made the sacrifice and decision to add more love to their family! Good luck with all your geneology exploration and reuniting with your birth parents!