Letters: USS Kirk

Listeners express their appreciation for our stories on the USS Kirk, the Navy escort ship that helped rescue thousands of refugees after the fall of Vietnam. NPR's Melissa Block and Robert Siegel read from their letters.

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MELISSA BLOCK, host:

From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Melissa Block.

ROBERT SIEGEL, host:

And I'm Robert Siegel.

Time now for your letters. And many of you wrote to tell us how much you appreciated our two-part investigative story about the USS Kirk. The Navy escort ship saved thousands of South Vietnamese refugees at the end of the Vietnam War.

Here's chief engineer Hugh Doyle from a cassette tape that he made in the spring of 1975.

(Soundbite of archived recording)

Mr. HUGH DOYLE (Chief Engineer, USS Kirk): This huge airplane comes in and hovers over the fantail, opened up its rear door and started dropping people out of it. It's about 15 feet off the fantail. There's American sailors back on the fantail, catching babies like basketballs.

BLOCK: Well, Ethan Wen(ph) of Seattle writes: I was one of those babies that the USS Kirk and her crew had saved during her missions. My father was one of those elite Southern Vietnamese officers who escaped with his family during the fall of Saigon. Wen tells us that his father doesn't talk about the war, and when asked about it, gives very little information. But he writes: One detail I was able to gain from my father was the fact that our family was saved by the USS Kirk. This simple phrase became so real to me for the first time listening to your series.

SIEGEL: Wen says his entire life, he's had a desire to give back - in thanks for the opportunities he's had growing up in the U.S. He's now a police officer in Bothell, Washington, a suburb of Seattle. He asks us to extend a message to any surviving crewmember of the USS Kirk. He says, now, maybe they have the name of one of those babies they saved on that day. I owe everything to them, and I hope that I continue to honor them each and every day for the rest of my life.

BLOCK: Nuane Tran(ph) of Berkeley, California, tells us she first learned about the USS Kirk in Kiem Do's autobiography "Counterpart." Do is the former deputy chief of staff of the South Vietnamese navy, and he was included in our story.

She writes: I would like to thank you for the inclusion of South Vietnamese voices in your story. Too often, American popular media depicts the South Vietnamese as contemptible figures undeserving of our respect, whether corrupt officials or calculating prostitutes. Rarely are Vietnamese perspectives presented or even acknowledged.

I commend you for challenging the dominant stereotype. Your dignified portrayal of the refugees reflects the heroism and resourcefulness of the friends and family I knew growing up as a Vietnamese-American.

SIEGEL: And Nuane Tran adds this postscript. She writes: The teacher you interviewed sure can sing.

(Soundbite of archived NPR broadcast)

THUY HUGO(ph): (Singing in foreign language)

SIEGEL: Nuane Tran says that was a most moving rendition of the Republic of Vietnam's national anthem. That was the voice of teacher Thuy Hugo, one of the refugees saved by the USS Kirk.

(Soundbite of archived NPR broadcast)

THUY HUGO: (Singing in foreign language)

BLOCK: If you'd like to comment on something you hear on the program, write to us at our website, npr.org. Click on Contact Us at the bottom of the page.

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