A military transport plane carrying around 300 passengers crashed on April 4, 1975, shortly after take-off from Saigon. More than 100 children were killed, along with at least 25 of their adult escorts. This Memorial Page is dedicated to all who died during Babylift or as a result of that Babylift.
Gloria Emerson, whose book on Vietnam, Winners and Losers, won the National Book Award for non-fiction in 1978, offers a sharply critical view of “Operation Babylift.”The following excerpt is part of the U. Oregon Adoption History Project:
Operation babylift became a carnival: tearful, middle-class white women squeezing and kissing dark-eyed children, telling reporters that their new names would be Phyllis and Wendy and David. ....
The arrival of nearly 2000 children from Vietnam—I won’t call them orphans since we now know that some of them did indeed have parents...
...evangelical scenes at airports ...Now we have decided the Vietnamese we will “save” and “love” must be very pliant, very helpless. . . .
Now the welfare of a few thousand children has become a most successful propaganda ...
It does not matter at all that on television a Vietnamese foster mother sobbed bitterly and strained for a last look at the child she had cared for as Vietnamese infants were put on a plane at Tan Son Nhut. There are clearly no attempts being made to find foster parents in Vietnam who could take a child; we do not want to give money for that. . . .
... President Ford’s chief refugee coordinator, Daniel Parker, the administrator of AID, suggested at a congressional hearing that 3000 to 4000 more Vietnamese children be airlifted to the United States. The confusion is immense. The argument grows a little louder, but not loud enough. On the day of the crash of the U.S. C-5A transport plane carrying 243 children and 43 accompanying adults, a South Vietnamese army lieutenant spoke his mind. “It is nice to see you Americans taking home souvenirs of our country as you leave–china elephants and orphans,” this officer said. “Too bad some of them broke today, but we have plenty more.”
A total of 2,547 children labeled "orphans" were processed under Operation Babylift. Of this total, 602 went on to other countries, leaving a total of 1,945 in the United States. Of the 2,547 orphans processed under Operation Babylift, there were nine deaths.
On April 29, 1975, a class action suit was filed in the Federal District Court in San Francisco on behalf of Vietnamese children brought to the United States for adoption. The suit seeks to enjoin adoption proceedings until it has been ascertained either that the parents or appropriate relatives in Vietnam have consented to their adoption or that these parents or relatives cannot be found.
The Complaint alleged that several of the Vietnamese orphans brought to the United States under Operation Babylift stated they are not orphans and that they wish to return to Vietnam.
The action has been brought by Muoi McConnell, a former Vietnamese nurse, who allegedly interviewed Vietnamese children at the Presidio in San Francisco. The suit is supported by an ad hoc group called The Committee to Protect the Rights of Vietnamese Children. Spokesmen for the Committee are Thomas R. Miller, an attorney, and his wife, Tran Tuong Nhu, who is the head of an organization known as the International Children’s Fund. . . .
INS and the adoption agencies should be able to establish clear orphan status for most of the children brought to the United States under their auspices. Where records have been destroyed, such as those lost in the crash of the C-5A, the process of verifying the true orphan status of certain of the children may be time-consuming. There may, of course, be other children who were not transported in haste to the United States with inadequate documentation to vouch for parental consent to their adoption or to demonstrate that they are without parents or relatives. The search initiated by the INS will seek to clarify all these cases. . . .More at the Adoption History project.
Today this sordid event in U.S. history is repeating itself.
Yes, I am glad that children are being "saved" and will receive food and needed medical care.
And, yes, there are difference. We did not cuase the disaster in haiti as we did in Vietnam.
But today we are well aware that nearly NINETY PERCENT of children in orphanages worldwide are NOT orphans. Some are "half orphans" - having one living parent. others have extended family.
People in impoverished nations, like Haiti, use institutional care when there is lack of food on the table or their kids ned medical care they cannot provide any other way. Their families visit and hope for reunification.
This became obvious during the well publicized adoptions of Madonna's two children. .
These Haitian children - nine hundred heading for the U.S. - being airlifted will never see their families again. In addition to children sent here, 109 have been airlifted to the Netherlands. More have gone or will go to Europe.