Winner of the VIFF Best Feature Film Audience Choice Award and the PAAFF Documentary Audience Choice Award!!!
We are honored to receive such an outpouring of positive support from viewers and those that have been touched by Babylift from across the globe, young and old, expressing gratitude and thanks for what we are doing. In sharing, they are not only helping others with their story, but beginning a process of healing for all.
"...An informative and passionate look at the aftermath of war and the innocent children lost in the chaos of battle. Filmmaker Tammy Nguyen Lee combines archival black-and white film footage of bombings, evacuations, orphaned babies, and more with interviews with parents, volunteers, and rescued Vietnamese adoptees (now adults) who tell their stories with honesty and poignancy..."
- Edie Ching, Booklist, New York, NY
"Amazing...compelling and hard hitting."
- Hao-Nhien Q. Vu, Editor/Publisher of Bolsavik.com, Irvine, CA
"An important documentary that investigates Operation Babylift from a humanistic perspective."
- Lan Duong, Professor, UC Irvine
"...Provides an intimate and up close perspective on the impact of the Babylift on the lives of the orphans who were adopted. I am honored to have been a part of the production of the movie, and I believe it offers those of us who were adopted a chance to tell about our lives, struggles, and experiences after the war with Vietnam."
- Dr. Robert "Bert" Ballard, Assistant Professor of Communication, Pepperdine University
"A remarkable film...an engrossing historical document...a riveting story that spoke to me as an Asian American."
- Dr. Sam Lam, Dallas, TX
"The documentary is a moving and inspirational film that we are excited to be screening to a Philadelphia audience."
- Joe Kim, Executive Director, Philadelphia Asian American Film Festival
"Heart-wrenching and heart-warming, Operation Babylift shares the stories of a unique group of Asian American adoptees who illuminate our common humanity. I was moved to tears watching it, and even moreso when I saw the film's impact on audiences who were relating their own experiences to what they were seeing on screen. A must see for anyone touched by adoption or who cares about the Asian American community and our shared human connections. Thanks for making this film with the power to bring so many people together!"
- Gayle Isa, Executive Director, Asian Arts Initiative, Philadelphia, PA
"Operation Babylift reveals the human consequences of conflict and the sometimes tragic choices forced upon families and individuals. Through incisive interviews and archival footage, the history of this airlift and its aftermath are presented in complex, rich detail. The DC Asian Pacific American Film Festival is proud to present this little known story of survival and hope."
- Tad Doyle, Director of Programming, DC Asian Pacific American Film Festival
"Operation Babylift reveals a story of the Vietnam War that many are unaware of, dealing with the most precious and tiniest victims - the children. The San Diego Asian Film Festival seeks to share such untold stories, as we believe sharing these stories of war, history, and ultimately - hope - helps us understand more about the world and about each other."
- Lee Ann Kim, Executive Director, San Diego Asian Film Foundation
"[Operation Babylift is] a documentary that's intense, emotional, and uplifting. It seemed only fitting that we had to share this with our audiences at VAFF."
- Yoosik Oum, Executive Programming Coordinator, Vancouver Asian Film Festival
"The multitude of St. Louis connections to this wonderful and poignant film make it a natural fit with this year's SLIFF programming. There was no way we would have not shown Operation Babylift in the festival!"
- Chris Clark, Artistic Director, St. Louis International Film Festival
"As an adoptee, Operation Babylift: The Lost Children of Vietnam is a story that resonates deep within my soul. It's an historical and honorable piece of American and world history. The public will not only enjoy this amazing film, but be enlightened by a story they may not be acquainted with. This is a film you don't want to miss!"
- Lyly Koenig, Adoptee, Miami, FL
"Tammy [Nguyen] Lee has done an exceptional job documenting this part of history that many many people were unaware of. Watching this documentary brought back emotions and memories of a time that I almost forgot. Growing up, I just didn't have a good understanding or maturity to acknowledge my past. This documentary brought back vivid memories of my life in Vietnam, living at the orphanage and then the finality of leaving and transiting to the states on a PAN AM Flight that was crowded with children and babies. The film really helped me to reconnect with my past. This is a truly positive experience for me, and it is a great honor to be a part of this history."
- Lieutenant Commander Mark Slavik, Adoptee, Seattle, WA
"I'm very excited to be part of this project because I believe any education to this often over-looked aspect of the Vietnam War is great! I sometimes struggle finding the right words to describe the events of my adoption, and media like this will only assist that and bring greater understanding across a wider audience."
- Dan Bischoff, Adoptee, St. Louis, MO
"Operation Babylift: The Lost Children of Vietnam made me feel tremendously proud to be part of one of the greatest humanitarian efforts in American history. As a member of this small group of individuals, so precious and innocent, I am forever thankful for all those individuals who risked their lives so that I could have a one. While we faced many challenges in our lives and continue to struggle with new ones, we must cherish in the simple fact that we are ALIVE today and we CAN have an impact in this world. This film reminds us all that as human beings we have the remarkable capacity to love one another, care for one another and help one another...even those we don't even know. Thank you to Tammy and her entire production team for telling our story!"
- Sarah Lawrence, Adoptee, Philadelphia, PA
"The day Carol became our daughter at JFK airport was the most moving experience in our life, for her mother and I, as she wasn't able to have children. We were truly blessed that God sent us this beautiful girl from out of the midst of turmoil. We are happy that she is seeking to connect with her heritage. Your film was very moving and it provided a persepective on how these 2500 young people have grown into thoughtful and loving adults."
- William R. Schuler, Jr., Adoptee Parent, Philadelphia, PA
"Being a mentor for two young Vietnamese adoptees, I was very excited for the screening of Operation Babylift: The Lost Children of Vietnam. The movie goes beyond my expectation and engages all audiences to every story, every picture, and every emotion. From the adoptees in the movie to the audiences and the producer, Tammy, we all share the tears of sympathy. The movie is inspirational and heart-melting. It is also a motivation for me to give back more to the Vietnamese community, especially to the orphans and adoptees. I would like to thank Tammy and the entire production team for their amazing work and wish you all the best at bringing your message across the country and the world."
- Chi Nguyen, Vice President of ICON, Philadelphia, PA
"It is such a powerful film - about courage, hope, and love amidst a war that tore so many apart in the US and Vietnam. And yet, this powerful film showed that giving someone life and love is sometimes not enough to fulfill a person. Searching for one's roots and identity is a universal story that many can relate to. But showing the bravery of a few well-meaning people is a story that encourages all of us not to be afraid of taking action that can positively impact others. Thank you, Tammy, for bringing this story to the screen. I applaud not only the quality of your Operation Babylift, but also your efforts to use the film as a tool to continue to help others."
- Cynthia Salzman Mondell, award-winning documentary filmmaker of The Monster Among Us and A Fair to Remember, Dallas, TX
Comments submitted through our website www.TheBabylift.com:
Name: Megan (Girard) Parsons
Vietnamese name: Lam Yen Hoan
Orphanage: Lam Ti Ni
Current age: 34
Message: It was breath-taking to find out about this project. I was part of Operation Babylift (with Cheryl Markson as my sponsor). I attended the 1985 Reunion with my mother, Rena Girard, and attended the 1995 Reunion with my husband, Steve. I would love to continue to receive any information about this project and any others that will come up. Blessings to you and thank you for keeping this memory alive in so many who were touched by this event!
Name: Carole Couturier
City, State: Nantes, France
Message: Hello, I'm Carole Couturier, I am 33 years old and I'm an adopted child from Vietnam. My parents told me earlier my story before I came in France and told me I am one of the babies in the C5 galaxy. Since I need to know more about my first years life, I am beginning to look for news and press articles.
Internet is a beautiful thing!...what a big surprise - and the word "surprise" is not enough stronger to explain my feelings - when I saw your trailer of your movie. I really realize my story, my beginning of my life! My tears were near to get out of my eyes, I was stuck.
It's the first time I saw pictures and photos,and in a way it makes in a way real to me because at that time I was too young to remember. My first words were: I was there too and I am alive. I can enjoy my life thanks to people who realized the Babylift operation.
Now I'm living in France, In the west, at Nantes. I'm a mother of a little our year boy and I'm a happy mother. I would really love to watch your movie-documentary. When will it possible to watch it? If it's already come out, it is possible to watch it in France?
To conclude, I really thank you to make us explain and talk about our story and giving the chance to people to hear about what we lived without forget those who lost there lives.
Name: Mark Shostrom
City, State: Temple City, California
Message: Dear Tammy, I saw the trailer to your film and cannot wait to see it.
My life was affected by Operation Babylift because I was almost one of the people on the first flight out, the one which crashed. I was living in Hong Kong with my parents, age 18. My dad had agreed to let me take a year off before college. My dad worked at the US Consulate and came home one night to tell us about Babylift and said they needed American volunteers. My mother and I both volunteered. A week later we were told we were replaced by two women who were qualified RNs. Shortly after we heard about the crash. I'm not positive we were scheduled for the first flight, but it was very early on. My memory fades, but maybe mom will recall more.
Since that time I often think of the people who bravely chaperoned those babies and how the kids themselves turned out.
Please let me know how I can obtain a DVD of your film. It looks brilliant and I thank you for doing it!
City, State: Perpignan FRANCE
Message: Congratulations!!! Very interesting this documentary.
Name: Nancy Bielawski
City, State: Chicago, IL
Message: I was born in 1975 and grew up with a best friend who was adopted from Operation Babylift. We are still best friends at age 33. I would like to contribute to this documentary. I've watched the trailer repeatedly and I will do my best to raise funds. My friend from operation baby lift should be a part of the documentary. She was adopted into a unique situation and she continues to struggle in life. Please keep me informed in how I can assist with the documentary. It's crucial that it's going to be completed. Thank you for making this happen.
Name: Lebailly Thai
Vietnamese name: Nguyen Truong Tho (very likely) - 11/06/1970
Current age: 37
City, State: we originate from Belgium but currently live in Suwon, South Korea
Message: Thank you so much for taking the initiative for this movie. The trailer is already so moving, we can't expect to see the whole version.
Thank you again for the movie, it is so important for us and for our children.
Name: Marita Bar
Vietnamese name: Trinh Thi Mong Chi
Orphanage: Danang Sacred Heart
Current age: 40
City, State: Douai, France
Message: I was adopted in France in 1969 and designed a website in French for the French speaking adoptees, the modest French equivalent to VAN-online or Indigo's AVI. I'm soooo glad to see the first people who helped me designed this website in this documentary. It's like a dream come true.Will that documentary be available in France?
Name: Tom Reynolds
Vietnamese name: Van Kanh Linh
Orphanage: Soc Tran, New Haven
Current age: 33
City, State: Gaithersburg, MD
Message: Thank you for making this movie. I can't wait to see it, as I too am a baby from Operation Babylift. In fact, I am one of the survivors of the C-5A crash. I was adopted into a wonderful family in Iowa City, IA. In 2005, I returned to Vietnam for the first time and met up with Mary Nelle Gage and group of other adoptees to see the location where my orphanages were and also attend a memorial service at the plane crash site. I am also currently in the process of adopting a little girl from Vietnam and hope to be traveling to pick her up soon. Thank You!
Name: Michael "Thai" Johnston (Go by my middle name)
Vietnamese name: Thai Van Nhut (Nursery name was Kai)
Orphanage: Sisters of Providence, Can Tho, Soc Trang, Hy Vong, To Am
Current age: 33
City, State: Toronto, ON, Calgary, AB (Canada)
As one of the VN adoptees airlifted this day 33 yrs ago and brought to my new adoptive family in Canada, I wanted to tell you how excited I am to see the finished product of this film you are doing. I hope to be notified of it's release as I am very eager to see it. Once again, I look forward once the film is complete and thank you so much! Warmest Regards!
Name: Holly Davis
City, State: Baton Rouge, LA
Message: Dear friends, Just a small note to say thanks for documenting such an important journey. I was one of the first Vietnamese adoptees to have been adopted in South Carolina. I came before the Babylift and feel very fortunate and blessed to have a life here in the US. Both my adoptive parents are now deceased. Only as an adult, do I now understand what sacrifices they made to bring me here and raise me as their own. I was taken care of by the Good Shepherd Orphanage in Vinh Long. Thanks again and look forward to the healing and hope from your efforts.
Name: Denise Gosch
City, State: Lakeland, FL
Message: I returned from VN 7 months ago with my daughter, Thuy. I was so excited to hear that you were doing a film on Operation Babylift. Thank you!
Name: Richard Silver
Vietnamese name: Nguyen Quoc Viet
Orphanage: Providence - Sadec
Current age: 35
City, State: Sherwood, Oregon
Message: I wish I could attend the premier of this movie...it looks very-very informative and good.Thanks!
Name: Mari Hasch
Vietnamese name: Lan Huong Kim - I believe
Orphanage: Holt International
Current age: 33
City, State: Cottonwood, MN
Message: Recently I've been thinking about my birth mother and family. Unfortunatley at this time all these feelings make me extremely sad. I've been online looking at different sites and came aross this one. I'm so excited, yet frightened to see your film.
Name: Susannah Fiedler
City, State: Sydney Australia
Message: Hi there, i have come across your website and seen the trailer. It is amazing and very moving. I am an adoptee from Operation babylift and grew up in Sydney Australia.
Name: Fritz Butehorn
City, State: Spartanburg, SC
Message: Tammy and George-
This is awesome. I know your project will be a success. I look forward to seeing the final product.
Name: Khai (Bigelow) Barfield
Vietnamese name: Nguyen Thi Hai
Orphanage: St. Paul's Orphanage of Bien Hoa
Current age: 36
City, State: Abingdon, Virginia
Message: I wasn't one of the Operation Babylift orphans of 1975, but I was a Vietnamese orphan who was born in 1971, and adopted to a family in the U.S. I left Vietnam two years before in 1973. I was briefly with one of the orphanages run by Rosemary Taylor, Friends For All Children of Vietnam. I'm currently writing a memoir about my life from there to here in America.I actually stumbled upon Youtube and found the trailer. It’Äôs very moving and I can't wait to see it when it comes out or on DVD. I've told everyone that I know about it. I have some photos of my passport and when I first came here to the states as well as possible footage of my arrival (which I'll have to ask my adopted family on that one).
Thank you for what you all have been doing. This is very meaningful to each and every Vietnamese orphan turned adoptee out there. It touched my heart. And this film has inspired me to continue writing my book. Thank you so much!
Comments sumbitted from our Youtube/Facebook site (over 8,265 hits):
Incredible story...can't wait for the movie!
Very moving. It surely will touch many souls.
This trailer makes the film look fascinating. I remember this exodus as being the one bright act in that sea of suffering and even it was marked with deep tragedy. This is a piece of history and current life that I look forward to seeing in full. The documentary’Ä¶will be a wonderful gift to us all.
Amazing -- I can't wait to see the movie
fabulous.. can't wait to see it.. very very moving.
AWESOME!!! Get the tingles all over! So powerful! Can't wait to see this one!
WOW! Images no one should forget. I can't wait to see this!
Wow, I had no idea that the US did that. This is a movie I'll be watching!
great and inspiration work Tammy, I really looking forward to seeing the full length
This is so touching and heartwarming. I look forward to seeing it.
Greetings from Canada...I was in tears when I read this for I am an orphan from the April 1975 Airlift from Saigon. I was 11 months old and was flown to NZ. From there I have lived in Canada pretty well all my life. Can't wait to see the movie..maybe the closest I will ever get to my "roots."
Very touching! Couldn't hold back the tears!
Below, the Wagner High School Alumni Class 1975-1980 shared their lasting impressions from their experiences with the orphans.
I just returned from a high school reunion of the Wagner High School classes of 75-80. The school was located at Clark Air Force Base in the Philippines (the first stop for these kids after leaving Vietnam). While I was there, I heard many heart-warming stories related to Operation Babylift. It was an emotional bonding event that the student body and faculty shared. I think it was events like that one that made the student body so close and as a result they gather every five years somewhere in the United States. The faculty and students turned their high school gym into a makeshift staging place to handle the many orphans that were brought to Clark AFB on their way to the United States. They talked about using the mattresses collected for their high school musical "Once Upon a Mattress" for the kids to sleep on. There was one story told by one of the teachers about a little girl who hid Vienna sausages by rolling them in the elastic of her underwear for when she would get hungry later. It was an example of the past hardships these children endured. The kids were only there for a short time, but many volunteers have stories that will live in their heart forever based on the experience.
Thank you for your work on this important event. I was a senior in high school at Wagner High School, at Clark AFB in the Philippines in 1975. I had the awesome privilege to care for children during Operation Babylift. Although my memories are most likely similar to other high school kids who volunteered, the experience changed me. If I can assist you in any way, please contact me.
In 1975, I was 12 years old and wanted to help the Vietnamese families and orphan children who were temporarily housed on Clark AFB in the P.I. on their way to the US. My dad was in the Air Force and the military asked for volunteers but you had to be at least 16. I remember putting on my hip hugger bell-bottom pants in order to look older so I could help and was thrilled because I got through.
I was assigned to the Base Gym, and my first child was a little boy named Michael. I remember he was about 5 or 6 and was a bit tentative at first. In no time, we were playing games and laughing - it was a great experience for me and by the looks of it for him, too. The next day, I was hoping to get Michael again but the lady told me that they didn't want any attachment issues, so I was assigned to a little girl who was younger than Michael - maybe 3? Over the years, I tried so hard to remember her name but have not been able to. I just remember that she was a beautiful little girl with beautiful round black eyes. She had a wound on the right side of her head, and I had to take her to get the wound checked out and dressings changed, get new clothing (that was kept in the racket ball court) and pack a bag to take her to the airport to fly to the US Mainland. I'll never forget that journey. Everyone assigned to take a child to the airport loaded school busses. When we got to the airport, we had to take the children with the paperwork onto the airplane. It was the first time I'd seen people being transported in a plane like that. Instead of rowed seats, there were what appeared to be makeshift beds - I suppose for the patients that had to be transported on stretchers instead of seats. I remember the little girl was so frightened and I was frightened for her but I knew that there was a family waiting to adopt her on the mainland, so I knew all of this was for the best.
I also had the pleasure of meeting a couple of families that were housed at the teen club near my house. I remember trading American dollars for Vietnamese money even though I knew I'd never use their money. I knew that they would need the dollars I gave them in exchange. My friends and I would go to the teen center and communicate with the families and felt a nice bond. We brought whatever we could find at home to bring as gifts. They didn't speak English and we didn't speak Vietnamese, but I just remember feeling warmth when I spent time with them. I wish that I would have thought of taking pictures, writing down these experiences along with names in a journal, or something, because I've thought about these kids and families so many times since then. I just wanted to share.
Crystal Lake, IL
I graduated from Wagner High School in 1976 and participated in Operation Babylift quite extensively. I was a nurse's aide at Clark hospital and when the evacuation began I got very involved. We went aboard the planes bringing in the sickest babies (dehydration, malnutrition and chicken pox) and went with them to Clark hospital where we cared for them. In addition, I worked in the gym caring for the kids who were suffering from fevers and chicken pox. We had set up an infirmary upstairs to care for these kids. It was one of the most rewarding and life-changing experiences I have had. I feel it contributed much to the person I am today. Good luck with your project.
Eileen Burke (Beaulieu)
I am a Wagner alumnus who volunteered. I was in high school and just 16 at the time. My dad was one of the school psychologists for the kids on base. I was a "civvie" on a military base, but I grew up very much a "military brat."
I remember taking care of several infants while our school gym was converted into a way station while children got processed to go to the states. We had doctors and nurses there to assess each child's health and unfortunately many were very sick. One child died under my best friend's care and that really affected her. We were just teenagers, so that was a very traumatic event in our lives. Many of the older children were housed on cots in tents on the parade field on our base. It was so strange to see a mini-city set up in the middle of our base.
My worst memory of the entire event, however, was the loss of the two C-5A pilots. They were fathers of students that I went to school with. Lieutenant Colonel Willis was the father of a good friend of mine who was in my Spanish class (he had three other kids as well) and Tech Sergeant Johnson was the father of Sandy, a junior at our school. I will never forget the day the chaplain came to the school to get Mark Willis out of class to tell him that his father had passed away.
Many people think of the military as an invasive force and don't realize the many humanitarian deeds that they do - that they die for - and that these people have families. These two honorable men died trying to give these children, many of them fathered by military men, a better life and left behind children who had to finish growing up without a dad.
I have since met and worked with refugees from Cambodia and know how hard their life was like and how fortunate they consider themselves to have escaped their circumstances. They were grateful to the many organizations that helped and churches that sponsored them in this country. Living in the Philippines during these turbulent years (I lived there from '68-’Äô77) and seeing how harsh life was for so many has made me truly appreciate what we have in the states and certainly made me a more open-minded and tolerant person.
Nina Pierce Baker
I am glad to see that it is being documented. I was a military dependent at Clark AFB Philippines during Operation Babylift. I have vivid memories of the planes airlifting people to the MAC terminal and when the school gyms were converted into housing for the refugees. All the children, all the people, and all the animals they could bring. I was also one of the kids that were bussed from Subic to Clark when the POWs were released and were flown to Clark for processing. I was able to give my POW bracelet that I wore for years to the man whose name was engraved on the bracelet. Made us both cry when I ran on the tarmac and gave him it to him. Wow - memories tucked away...
As a young teen when all this occurred, the impact of what was happening during the end of the Vietnam conflict and what I witnessed and participated in while living at Subic and Clark is something that makes me say, ’ÄúWOW,’Äù now that I'm an adult. I lived in a history making time and I'm really touched that I was able to help with the effort. OK - 'help' is a stretch because as military dependent, work was found for us to do to support Operation Babylift, but we all did what needed to be done.
San Diego, CA
I volunteered to help with the refreshments and first aid with the (what seems now like hundreds) of people (all women and children if I am remembering correctly) that were sheltered in our Gym for several days (or was it weeks? so long ago...)
I remember all the ladies had all their jewelry on. It was all they could take with them when they were airlifted out.
13 years later I was in college here in LA (late bloomer) and my best friend was a "boat child". She did not like to talk about it, but what she told me of her and her family\'s journey out was horrible, a nightmare. It was weird how we could have crossed paths at that time, her as an 8 year old child and I as a 14 year old American teenager, only to become friends thousands of miles away in a small Louisiana town...but we are not sure if she was held over in the Philippines or Guam when her family was finally rescued from the sea and a certain death.
I was a Senior at Wagner in 1975 and I remember greeting the refugees right off the bus and helping them get settled at 'tent city' on Clark. My friends and I escorted some folks to the hospital for care. The appreciation of the refugees was heart warming. They would offer their gold jewelry as a jester of thanks. No one would take them, off course. I commend you for what you are doing.
Harry and Jerry Johnson played baseball with my little brother in the Clark little league. I helped coach their team. The morning after the C-5 crash, I took care of them after their baseball game; they didn’Äôt know about their father, Tsgt. Johnson who was killed in the crash, I did. Later that morning, I dropped them off at their house. Their family was evacuated and I never saw them again. I'd love to say hello and tell them how sorry I was about their father.
I was in Jr. High School at Wagner during Operation Baby lift (Clark AB). I was able to volunteer for a few days and I remember looking after an infant named Nguyen. He had a fever and it wouldn't break. I remember riding in the ambulance with him to the hospital and when I turned him over to the doctors I never saw him again. I always wondered what happened to him. It was an experience that I never forgot and it felt good to be part of something so monumental at such a young age.
Beverly (Neff) Bailey