“On the last day of the war many soldiers on my base were still working normally but when we heard Duong Van Minh surrendered, everybody tried to get home. Like all the others I was looking for a plan to escape. We decided to fly my helicopter to the Con Dao islands off the southern coast where a US Navy ship was docked. There were fourteen of us.
We took off but my helicopter didn’t have enough fuel to make it to Con Son, the main island. When I realized I couldn’t make it to Con Son, I looked at the fuel gauge and saw it was on empty. We were all nervous but I was able to crash land on a small island nearby. When we touched down, the tail half hit the water and the head just made it onto the land.
We had to swim to the big island, three or four miles away. We grabbed two logs and seven of us swam holding onto one log and seven onto the other. When we got to Con Son it took a few days to walk to the military base since we didn’t have any clothes or boots-we had stripped down to our underwear so we could swim. We were looking for another helicopter to fly us to where the US ship was supposed to be.
When we arrived at the base, VC prisoners who had been freed when Saigon fell arrested us. They had AK-47’s and M-16’s too. I told them I was a fisherman but they could tell by my fair skin that I was lying. I was sent to a camp. Several times in prison they bound my hands and blindfolded me; they put me in a hole at night and told me they were going to shoot me but each time they took me back to the camp. They killed some of the other prisoners.
I spent six years in prison camps on the island. Then they moved me to Soc Trang for a year and finally to Kihn Nam. I was there until they released me. I was an ARVN helicopter pilot for only three years but I spent twelve years in prison camps after the war. I came to America in 1992.
I am grateful to the US for giving me a second chance at a better life. Although it was hard at first, it got easier as I became an American and I felt patriotism in my own blood. The US is a paradise that is a platform for personal development and happiness.”