Agency for International Development, Operation Babylift Report, 1975

Source: The Reunion of the First Generation of Vietnamese Adoptees, courtesy of Bree Brown

Source: The Reunion of the First Generation of Vietnamese Adoptees, courtesy of Bree Brown

The section of this report on fatalities does not include the children or adults killed on April 4, 1975, when the first of the military transport planes involved in Operation Babylift crashed shortly after take-off from Saigon. For other views of Operation Babylift, see the text of the New York Times ad that ran on April 7, 1975, the “Statement on the Immorality of Bringing South Vietnamese Orphans to the United States, April 4, 1975,” and Gloria Emerson, “Operation Babylift,” 1975.

Background

For the past several years, seven private international and U.S. adoption agencies (Holt International Children’s Services—Holt; Traveler’s Aid-International Social Services of America—TAISSA; Friends for All Children—FFAC; United States Catholic Conference—USCC; Friends of Children of Vietnam—FCVN; Pearl S. Buck Foundation—PBF; World Vision Relief Organization—WVRO), licensed by the Government of the Republic of Vietnam, have been arranging for the adoption of Vietnamese orphans in the U.S. While AID provided some general financial support for four of these agencies, the agencies themselves were responsible for selecting orphans qualified for adoption, obtaining unconditional releases from legal guardians, obtaining the consent of the Vietnamese Government, obtaining U.S. visas, and selecting qualified U.S. parents. State agencies and state courts must, of course, ultimately approve adoptions. From 1970 to 1974, over 1,400 adoptions of Vietnamese children in the United States had been arranged this way. . . .

Operation Babylift was initiated on April 2 in response to the emergency situation resulting form the communist military offensive in South Vietnam. Prospective adopting U.S. parents were concerned that Vietnamese orphans already selected for adoption, who might be physically endangered by active hostilities, would not be able to leave Vietnam expeditiously if normal, lengthy Vietnamese exist procedures and U.S. immigration procedures were followed. . . .

Orphans Processed

Information obtained from the adoption agencies or processing centers indicates that a total of 2,547 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.

Information received from the adoption agencies brings out a number of interesting facts about the orphans processed: over 91% were under the age of eight; 57% were male and 43% female; and 20% or 451 orphans were racially mixed of which 173 (39.2% of the racially mixed) were of Black paternity. . . .

One disappointing figure is that only 34 (19.6%) of the 173 Black-fathered orphans were placed in Black homes. . . .

Deaths

Of the 2,547 orphans processed under Operation Babylift, there were nine deaths; seven whose ages were known were 20 weeks of age or younger. Considering that 51% of the orphans were under two years of age and that many of the orphans were in poor physical condition, the medical services provided during Operation Babylift were very effective. . . .

Special Problems: Adoption Lawsuit

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. . . .

Special Problems: Public Reactions

Not everyone was in favor of the babylift. There were allegations at the time, often based on faulty information, that the U.S. Government was engaged in a wholesale effort to remove Vietnamese children from their culture, to save them from communist ideological influence, to satisfy the desires of Americans wishing to adopt children, and to gain sympathy in the Congress for last-ditch appropriations for military and humanitarian aid to the tottering Government of Vietnam.

None of these allegations approaches the truth. The fact is that the departure of these children from South Vietnam was the continuation of an intercountry adoption program that had been going on for some years. The movement of the children was accelerated due to the growing crisis in Vietnam. But, with negligible exceptions, the children met the criteria for intercountry adoption and virtually all of them were in some stage of processing when the decision was taken to speed up the movement. . . .

Attachment A: ADOPTIONS—VIETNAM

 

CY 1970-71

CY 1972

CY 1973

CY 1974

Total Adoptions

200

485

682

1,362*

Adopted in U.S.

89

119

375

845**

* Includes 1,062 adoptions completed by seven MSW-Authorized Agencies listed below; and estimated 300 completed through other than agency channels.

** Includes 150 adoptions completed through other than agency channels.

ORPHANS (estimated)

Total full or half orphans

1,200,000

Children of fallen servicemen receiving benefits from the Ministry of War Veterans

805,000

Vietnamese children in registered orphanages

17,055

Mixed children in registered orphanages*

945

Children in non-registered orphanages or “homeless”

5,000

Other children living with mothers or relatives

372,000

* There are an estimated 10,000-15,000 children with foreign fathers (mixed children); with the exception of 945 in orphanages, (312 of whom are black-Vietnamese) all are living with their mothers or relatives.

U.S. Voluntary Agencies Authorized by the GVN/MSW to Process Intercountry Adoptions

Friends for All Children (FFAC)

Holt International Children's Services (Holt)

Traveler's Aid-International Social Services of America (TAISSA)

Catholic Relief Services (CRS)

World Vision Relief Organization (WVRO)

Friends of Children of Vietnam (FCVN)

Pearl S. Buck Foundation (PBF)

ADOPTIONS—VIETNAM, CALENDAR YEAR 1971-1974

CY 1970-1971

               

200*

CY 1972

               

485*

CY 1973

FFAC

Holt

TAISSA

CRS

WVRO

FCVN

PBF

Independent Channels

Total

Adopted in the U.S.

298

30

29

0

18

-

-

UNK

375

Adopted in Other Countries

285

0

14

0

8

-

-

UNK

307

Total Adoptions

583

30

43

0

26

-

-

UNK

682

                   

CY 1974

                 

Adopted in U.S.

323

182

65

58

7

54

6

150

845

Adopted in Other Countries

337

2

26

2

0

0

0

150

517

Total Adoptions

660

184

91

60

7

54

6

300

1,362

*No breakdown by agency available

 

 

Source: Agency for International Development, Operation Babylift Report (Emergency Movement of Vietnamese and Cambodian Orphans for Intercountry Adoption, April - June 1975), Washington, DC, pp. 1-2, 5, 6, 9-10, 11-12, 13-14. Special thanks for Bree Brown for sharing this document with me.

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To learn more about The Adoption History Project, please contact Ellen Herman
Department of History, University of Oregon
Eugene, Oregon 97403-1288
(541) 346-3118
E-mail: adoption@uoregon.edu
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