President Trump today spoke on the phone with Vietnamese Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc to discuss the U.S. commitment to Vietnam and to detail the Trump administration’s American anti-corruption efforts in the former Communist state. This morning, an article in The Star-Telegram, “Vietnam gets American aid amid new unrest,” claims that the U.S. helped finance approximately one million refugees after the 1945 U.S.-Vietnam War.
The paper, aptly named “Vietnam Inc.,” was set up by Freedom Summer student Alice Rosenbloom. A young Nevada Republican, Rosenbloom, a resident of Mesquite, had the foresight to write a Freedom Summer voter pamphlet that emphasized the problem of Vietnamese migration to the United States.
The paper hoped to highlight concerns over the Vietnamese population’s pressure on the United States economy through unlawful entry and reorientation — and attracted by the prospect of endless U.S. support — organized Vietnamese refugees who were finding themselves in American territory.
Many of the refugees wanted the United States to drop the classification of the Vietnamese as a state, thereby “unlocking access to American markets and hospitality services,” as the pamphlet explains.
The Vietnam arm of the U.S. State Department (later renamed State Department) eventually began offering refugees around 100,000-150,000 grants each year, supported by U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) grants, to support social and cultural institutions, programs, and infrastructure that promote social-care services. And the United States did play a significant role in collecting these monies. According to Freedom Summer brochures, nearly 300 million dollars in grants was collected by the U.S. Department of Defense in the six years prior to the war, and close to half of that funding was channeled to Vietnam.The papers continued, “Hiring employees for AmeriCorps works,” as aid dollars “were allocated by USAID to work in each program’s resource control centers, with immediate effect, to facilitate the hiring of AmeriCorps employees.”
And the flow of such grants continued as air bridges, trainings, and facilities were provided to Vietnamese farmers.
It was around then that a few refugees started informing the then head of the United States Mission in Vietnam of their intentions. This was an interesting new development, that if they weren’t there to stay there.
After Vietnam became an American ally in July of 1945, the U.S. Ambassador to the country, James Lee, applied for and received conditional American diplomatic clearance. Among this group were the most infamous “traitors,” Vietnamese refugees: an evangelical pastor, the founder of the Church of The Word, Renu Tonan, and her husband, Joseph Pham, an engineer, Professor, and Professor Emeritus of Arts at the University of Maryland. The “misplaced burden of veterans,” some 11,000 American veterans at the time, including 3,700 Army corpsmen, eventually landed in Vietnam following the war.
The most prominent contribution made by the eventual unauthorized enemy was the facilitation of Ellis Island, the modern U.S. Ellis Island.
Tara Barrett and Tim Bryan contributed reporting from Henderson, Nevada, and work with the Freedom Summer Campaign in 1970.