tv Second Look FOX April 26, 2015 11:00pm-11:31pm PDT
thousands of children brought out of vietnam in the final days before the fall of saigon. they were the children of the baby lift. adopted in america. the young arrivals began a new life in their new country. and the children left behind who waited more than a decade in vietnam after the war to be reunited with their american fathers. all straight ahead on a second look. good evening and welcome to a second look. i'm julie haener. tonight on a second look, a look at one of the largest humanitarian air lifts in u.s.
history. this month marks 40 years since operation baby lift. the emergency evacuation of children out of vietnam as the war came to an end. in april 1975, ktvu reporter claude man climbed aboard an airways plane carrying children from vietnam. entering san francisco at the presidio. the children were on their way to oregon. from a war ravaged country where food was scarce, many of the children suffered from malnutrition. others were sick. one child clutched a dog tucked into his sap -- satchel. none of them knew where they were going. it's not clear how many of the children brought to the u.s. as orphans had parents who hoped to join them later. but on this april 23rd flight, 45 of the children were placed
with relatives in the united states. in all, some 2,500 children were brought from vietnam to the u.s. in just over a month. about half of those children passed through the presidio when they first arrived in the united states. president gerald ford met the first plane when it arrived in san francisco on april 2nd. a group of children were ready to move on to southern california. >> reporter: a makeshift nursery in the maintenance shop at the presidio was for a heckic 24 hours the first home for the 58 vietnamese orphans. doctors and nurses attended to their medical needs. by mid-afternoon 34 orphans had been sent on their way.
the children under 14 be immediately allowed in the country for humanitarian reasons. two children over 14 and several adults on the plane were given 90 day parol visas. one official says they'll probably be allowed to stay in the u.s. these 17 children ages 1 to 8 were jetted to l.a. where they were transferred four flights to their new homes across the country. it was a teary and reluctant taking. but this is the beginning of a new peace. there's no telling when the next plane load of children will arrive here but the people wanted to be prepared. they say they're taking donations of blankets, diapers, children's clothing and medical supplies. an army spokesman says those supplies aren't immediately needed but they will let the public know where they can bring them. >> in the days before the children were moved out of the bay area those who brought them to the u.s. made efforts to show them life outside a war
zone. ktvu's reporter don napn filed this report. >> reporter: these are probably middle class children of saigon who were fortunate to be taken out of vietnam. and today they had a visit to the zoo. some 60 youngsters and a few chaperone parents made the trip. the rest are staying at what has been home for the past week. sadler's inn at hayward. the entire group is under the sponsorship of air wars president ed daily and may soon be on the way to lives as americans. but for right now it's a sunny afternoon in oakland's california. >> it's been a pleasant even joyful afternoon for these
youngsters. considering they're just a week away from the war with uncertain futures, it's probably been a respite on a long journey for their new lives. but not everyone welcomed the arrival of the babies and children. they questioned president gerald ford. >> they won't let the mexicans in from mexico. they send them back. i mean we could be put out if we start letting the vietnamese in. >> from some sources i've heard, the people over there really don't mind it all that badly. i don't understand why we're bringing them over here. >> the lady that we've got too many walking the streets here that we need to take care of before we take care of them. >> i don't know how many we can absorb but we have a job to
help the people there. in 2005, ktvu's janine de la vega met some of the children and women that were on the flight. >> reporter: they waited anxiously inside a hanger at oakland airport this morning wondering what to expect. >> can you believe my mom -- >> reporter: three decades have passed since 57 vietnamese orphans arrived here flown from in se -- saigon. now as adults, 24 of them are heading back to their homeland some for the first time. >> i'm looking forward to this trip since i found out about it. but i had no idea the magnitude of this anniversary. >> reporter: 30 years ago, world airways started operation baby lift flying to vietnam and bringing back orphans to give them a better life in the
united states. flight attendant sandy cavalo remembers it well. >> the children were so small they were in little boxes. >> reporter: the crews were desperate to bring in as many children as they could. drew was 12 at the time excited to be flying to america. but vietnam police kicked him and another child off the plane because they were too old. >> daily the president took $100 bill out of his pocket and tried to change the officers mind about you know letting us go. >> reporter: the police refused and daily tore that 100 bill in half and gave it to the boys. two weeks later the airline came back for true and hundreds more. >> we had no idea it would end up like this. we didn't know where they were going. what their lives was going to be like. they had nothing. >> reporter: homes were found for all the orphans and now they're heading back to vietnam some with their adoptive parents. >> i'm proud to be a part of
it. we're very close but this is a final, not final but a bonding that could not ever have happened if this had not -- >> it's a reverse homecoming. >> right. >> reporter: world airplane repainted this 787 to make it look like it did in 1955. making it more nostalgic. >> reporter: as they boarded the plane the excitement builds. >> the trip for me personally is a bonus and meeting all the people that saved our lives is the reason why i'm here. i do want to go back and see my beginnings. >> reporter: the adoptees will spend the rest of the week. 10 years after the fall of vietnam a little boy in sunny vale remembers how his family escaped. american fathers returned
on april 30, 1975 after a war that spread a decade and a half, the united states pulled out of vietnam. it was anything but an orderly withdraw. as hawkins reported on the tenth anniversary, television crews captured scenes of chaos as american helicopters lifted hundreds over the ground of the american embassy. >> reporter: helicopters evacuating marines, civilians and the ambassador himself from the embassy roof to carriers awaiting. after 16 years, 58,000 dead, 300,000 wounded, $150 billion spent. the u.s. had lost its war.
while refugees fled the country, the huge base responsible for millions of gis were rocketed. and the marines had to fight off people they were said to protect. >> reporter: in the years after saigon fell. many families escaped and came to california where by 1985 700,000 vietnamese had settled. lloyd lacuesta visited a school and met some young vietnamese americans. >> reporter: you might call it the vietnamization. the old game has regained popularity because of the way
the vietnamese play it. >> you want to learn how to play this way. we showed them how to play it. >> reporter: this marble game is just a small example of how 10 years after the vietnamese war, the integration has created a simulation on both sides. >> it has led all of our children to live more aware of all of our cultures. as you can see today on the playground playing together is very common for kids. >> reporter: a class of english as a second language is a class that every vietnamese child should attend. they're in a sense americanized. >> can you ride a bike? >> yes i can -- no, i cannot ride a bike. >> we try to teach children english so they can survive in our society. >> reporter: vietnamese are
disciplined, quick learners and respect their needs. most vietnamese children are too young to remember about that war. we found one young man who has thought a lot about what he left behind. >> in 1975, the communists took over so my parents decided to leave vietnam. >> reporter: 12-year-old dome is a fifth grader in sunnyvale. recently he won an essay award for his paper called, leaving vietnamese, what leaving meant for me. too detailed how when his father was released the family tried seven times to escape over a two year period. once they were almost caught. >> we would wait for a boat to
come. pick us up. but at night, when we were about ready to go to sleep, someone knocked on our door and it was the communist police. so we pretended to sleep inside the room. but when the communist just asked the owner some questions, a boy started to cry. luckily the police didn't come in. >> reporter: finally like thousands of other vietnamese, he and his family did escape on the boat. a trip he remembers because they almost ran out of water and had to drink saltwater. he with his sister is too young to remember the escape but his parents have told him the story over and over again so he won't forget. >> vietnam wasn't a free country. we had to escape. >> and the united states -- is. >> free, and has lots of
freedoms. >> tudon says he hopes to become a doctor and some day return to vietnam to meet his grandmother and next year he will go by the name thomas. >> it has a special meaning for these children to become an american and to be like those other kids. to be american kids. and yes they like to be referred to as being american. when we come back on a second look, the children left behind in vietnam and the men who returned for their children more than a decade later. and she was a baby carried to san francisco from vietnam as part of a baby lift. now years later she met a man who helped care for her the day she arrived in san francisco.
in their birth country. in 1987, congress opened doors to those children by giving them a special immigration status. next year ktvu reporter lloyd lacuesta went to vietnam with several american fathers helping to bring those children to a new life in california. >> reporter: 15 years after the fall of saigon there are still reminderses of america. these are the offsprings of americans. amarasians. they show pictures, weather photos of american g.i.s. >> what does she want to know about them. >> she opportunity -- she doesn't know anything about her father and never had contact with her father.
>> reporter: yet there's one man trying to be the piper and lead the amarasians out. it's bruce burns who's amarasian registry is trying to unite children with fathers who want them. carl bearfield is from san leandro he was in vietnam for five years as a civilian worker. when he left vietnam in 1973 his son hung was 6 months old. a child with an affair with a vietnamese woman. >> it just happened, it was an indiscretion, resulted in a son and i'm responsible for that boy. so i want him. >> reporter: don benson served 22 years in the army. five in vietnam. he left in 1973 with a vietnamese wife and two children. a third hon dong the eldest daughter was left with her grand parents she's now 20 years old and a family in washington state waits her return. >> i know i love her.
>> and there's don burgess 42 years old from los angeles he was 23 when he served for a year in vietnam as a foreign service officer. he lived with a vietnamese school teacher, she was 3 -month-old. the spirit of dawn is his daughter. the return to vietnam is emotional enough for the men who served there for these three men the anticipation buildings. in the waiting crowd there's a young boy with a smile on his face. and he clutches a picture. a picture of carl bearfield and his current wife. bearfield is tied up trying to clear customs. he's told his son is outside. finally the paper work is done. bearfield rushes out to see the son he only knew as a baby. >> i saw you as newborn:
that's the way i felt. i felt like a brand new father. >> reporter: but for one amaracian child there was no father to hug. he e -- thought he would see the man who his mother divorced. and he simply could not raise the air fare. but he could not believe it. and told his mom his dad would come. there will be no reunion with their father. don benson came back to the village of gwen. his daughter had lived on the street after her grandparents had died and benson himself had live there had with his vietnamese wife. there were family here including his wife's brothers and so many friends. >> these little guys have been like brothers and sisters to my
daughter. they're part mine too. i love them all. >> reporter: leaving the street was difficult for benson and his daughter, as she gets out she may never see these people again. the next day was don fowell the daughter of don burgess waiting for her father to arrive in the village of gwen. burgess was well remembered as the 23-year-old civilian american who spoke vietnamese. even though he had not -- not married the daughter's mother, he was still remembered well by his father. >> they were real hospitable to me. they provided an atmosphere of love and support. >> reporter: burgess has promised an education to his daughter who was kicked out of
school because she was amarasian. although she packed her bag she will not be going home. her grandfather ask she stay until her mother and other children can leave and burgess agreed. >> the boy's who's father in oklahoma was not able to make the trip in vietnam did finally leave. since then over 1,000amarician children have moved to the united states. when we come back to a second look. one of those babies who arrived at the presidio meets a vet who was helping those children the day they arrived.
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currently on display at the presidio is an exhibit remembering the scenes of the baby lift. earlier this month, we were there for an emotional meeting between a vietnam vet who cared for the children and a young woman who was just one year old when she was brought to the presidio from an orphanage. >> i was in an orphanage for a year and my mom was going to come out to fly out and pick me up. but operation baby air lift happened so they put me on that with them. with all the other babies. i flew into travis air force base and was bussed over to the presidio. >> we walked into this huge room and saw the babies on the mattresses. and then, the child was brought
to us by what we turned out later to find was her mom. many of them came over with the babies and she handed the baby to us. >> wonderful. >> it was just, so wonderful. >> and my parents came to the presidio to pick me up on, april 9. i have a little -- it says got you day. that's the day i was gotten. >> to me, there was no question in my mind that we needed today bring those kids here -- needed to bring those kids here. >> they picked me up on may 9. >> it was a heating kind of experience. i got a chance to know that i was doing something positive for the country and for the people of vietnam. that i didn't feel i had done as somebody who served in the country in combat. >> thank you for taking care of
us and for helping and for making sure that we were safe and caring and opening their arms and hearts. >> i'm meeting children who i probably at some point in time may have held you know who were infants and to see them and to hear their stories about how loved they were. >> thank you. >> you're welcome. i'm glad you're doing so well. glad you got a great home. >> thank you for everything. >> you're welcome. >> and that is it for this week's second look. i'm julie haener, thank you for watching.
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