Flight To Freedom – A Young Girl’s Escape From War

AFTER decades of keeping it bottled up, Kim Eng has decided to talk about her tumultuous tumble from a life of privilege to that of a war refugee.

Set in the last days before the fall of Saigon and the tail end of the Vietnam War, Kim was a child who was plucked out of the volatile situation, given a new identity and whisked away to the safety of a strange land.

What followed was a search for a way back to her family despite a variety of obstacles and a combination of good and bad luck.

Her personal experiences — being separated from family, being isolated and the search for answers — are captured by her husband, Landy Eng in this short story: Driven By Assassination – My Immigrant Story.

Based on true events, it turns out to be a novel-worthy ride through political power play, intrigue, assassination, social divides and escape.

DRIVEN BY ASSASSINATION — MY IMMIGRANT STORY

by Kim Eng

Based On Real Events

Part 1:
DIVINE INTERVENTION

I’ve waited a long time to tell my story; attended far too many funerals to wait any longer.

It began in 1962.

Saigon was deep, deep in morning darkness. It was hot. The air was heavy with tropical humidity. Tainted with the urban smell of spilled ”Ba Ba Bia” (33 Beer), a popular brew amongst locals and American servicemen. 

The final days of celebrating “Tet” or Lunar New Year were over.

The crew-cut foreigner rode past the city’s commercial centre, Ben Thanh market, a silhouette in the night. He rode a black Motobécane, a French-built 1950s motorbike favoured by a macho breed of Vietnamese and foreign men.

Though he’d be noticed on most days, he went totally unnoticed, as he leaned his motorbike against the wall in the adjacent alley of his destination, a nondescript building in District 1, the business and government centre. 

Though the building did not stand out, its location was prime for its vantage point. It was just 400 metres diagonal to the Presidential Palace where the country’s first elected president lived. From its rooftop, it had an unobstructed view of the Palace’s main gate, grounds and building.

The foreigner, a stocky white man of average height, In a sweat-soaked collared white shirt and rolled up sleeves, tackled the stairs, two at a time, in the dark.

The thought of breaking his neck and lack of lights didn’t slow him down. He was quickly through the door and on the rooftop.

As the first light beamed from the east across the city below, it revealed a city in motion, matching a growing cacophony of city sounds. The low-rise buildings glowed, but the foreigner was more interested in something else as he peered upwards.

The Night Before

The two air force officers were having coffee, a local ritual for all meetings, both social and business. 

Each cup was a tribute to the country’s prized robusta beans, French roasted, dripped into a double tin-like contraption and served hot, or over ice, with condensed milk. The iced version, “ca phe sua da”, was a favourite.

The 1st and 2nd lieutenants were seasoned pilots who were proud of their branch of the military, their country’s history and their coffee. This was not their first Monday night meeting. 

Though coffee was held in high esteem in Saigon, the officers were not there to discuss its finer virtues. They were in Cholon, the enduring Chinese sector, for something even more secretive than the shopkeeper’s recipe.

Seated on wooden stools beside a dented metal table, and sipping from glasses, the din of the street traffic drowned out any possibility of being overheard.

They were engrossed. One was fidgety.

“Relax and drink your ca phe sua da. You worry too much. It’s a good plan. We just need to take off tomorrow before dawn. No one will stop us. No one can stop us. I’ve arranged everything,” said the 1st Lieutenant to his lower-ranked colleague, watching his driver rolled the car to the curb of the coffee shop, cutting off bicyclists and motorbikes making their way home. 

The 2nd Lieutenant just nodded and gulped down his coffee leaving only the ice behind. The 1st Lieutenant entered the vehicle blaring directions to his driver while his subordinate mounted his bicycle and joined the flow of traffic behind the dark exhaust of the 1st Lieutenant’s car.

The Day Of Reckoning

Despite some clouds, the sky was unobstructed to the foreigner as two noisy Skyraider planes approached.

The 1st Lieutenant led the formation with a routine pass over the area before making a wide turn and barrelling towards the Palace. The deer on the Palace lawn quickly scattered as the planes made several runs dropping bombs, firing rockets and strafed the building.

The foreigner stooped down low as the explosions rocked the city.

‘’It’s goddamn happening,” said the foreigner to himself.

He was excited. He was immersed. He leaned forward over the roof’s edge and took out the binoculars for an even closer look.

In all the excitement, he never saw the four hands rushing up behind him.

The foreigner’s head made a horrifying splat on the pavement. There were screams and shouts from street vendors and customers on stools eating their pho, a breakfast beef noodle soup.

Local police were late in arriving as many units were preoccupied with the commotion at the Palace.

The police were more interested in bumming some cigarettes from the crowd which had formed around the lifeless body. One officer found a key in one of the pockets which he quickly hid. Later, he and the officer-in-charge drove the “unclaimed” motorbike home as “evidence”

My Family

I was just a child, not even a teen when events unfolded dramatically. 

We just finished weeks of Tet celebrations; my two brothers and two sisters were included in what seemed like endless visits and endless eating. It was the auspicious year of the Water Tiger, which comes along every 60 years.

As a favourite daughter, I dutifully sat by my mother’s side to share our traditional foods and sweets with our family, friends, guests, generals and foreign journalists.

Ma was doing what comes naturally for her. Tapping her extensive network for news, or what some of her military contacts called, “intel”. 

I could hear Elvis Presley’s number 1 hit Surrender and his recently released Blue Hawaii album on the airwaves from the servants’ quarters and kitchen while we played traditional Vietnamese music in the sitting area.

Our school was nearby so there was no hurry that morning. Temperatures were in the high 20s with some clouds. 

“Just another day with the nuns,” I thought to myself.

Ma and Pa had returned late the night before from a party at the Presidential Palace hosted by the President, who we called “Uncle President” because we were related through Ma’s recent marriage. Uncle President had just returned from a trip to Washington, D.C., New York City and Vatican.

Dinner parties at the Palace were extravagant. It was the closest imitation to a Parisian lifestyle, prized by most aristocratic families; an extravagant three-course sit-down dinner, exquisitely prepared by the Palace’s French-trained Vietnamese chefs who sometimes cooked in our own home. 

Unlimited Dom Perignon champagne and only the best Iranian caviar were served by impeccably dressed waitstaff.

The band at the Palace parties played only French classics for the ballroom dancing crowd. Edith Piaff’s famous La Vie En Rose was on everyone’s list.

French was the lingua franca for everyone in the crowd including Uncle President’s brother, the Archbishop of Hue, and one of Uncle President’s closest friends, Mr B. I always wondered why we never knew Mr B’s full name. And, we always wondered why Mr B, an American, spoke French so well.

Ma joked, “Mr B is ‘sao’,” meaning he was always exaggerating or joking, or as Americans would say, ‘pulling our leg’.

Ma continued, “He says he has lots of girlfriends, but he was single again at the party without a lady on his arm. I don’t believe him. He’s shy. I have someone to match with him who wants to move to America.” Ma wasn’t sao. Her matchmaking skills and family connections were so effective she even had me, her favourite daughter, ‘promised’ already to a member of the Thai Royal family. We learned years later, this royal had no interest in the opposite sex.

Then, Ma said, “Did you know his wingman, Mr Eric, wasn’t around to drink all the champagne? He’s a strange one, too.”

Both Mr B and Mr Eric were occasional guests at our own house parties. They were part of the news and intel collecting which Ma was so good at. They also brought lots of America goodies, like Budweiser beer, chewing gum and the Spiegel catalogue from which we always enjoyed ordering. Mr B seemed to have special access at the U.S. Embassy and U.S. military shops for American liquor. They were always on flights to Washington, D.C. and had many long chats with Uncle President.

To say our parties were decadent would be an understatement. Nothing was spared to celebrate whatever the family was celebrating that day and every day when a party was on the calendar. It was the original Crazy Rich Asians scene, but 50 years earlier!

By the time I had dressed in my white áo dài that morning, and ready to walk to our car, a tremor rocked the neighbourhood. We had lots of noisy motorbike crashes, but this wasn’t like that. It felt heavier and distant, yet under our feet. Seconds later, a few more tremors rocked the ground.

After school, we overheard the maids and drivers talking. Two Vietnamese Airforce planes, manned by what were later called ‘deranged’ pilots had attacked the Presidential Palace. We were surprised to hear the details. Saigon was relatively peaceful even though the country had been at war for years.

“Really…Vietnamese?” we seemed to exclaim together.

That night, all the families regrouped in our villa while the Palace was shut down. 

First Auntie, known by the Western press as Dragon Lady, was another collector of intel. Being married to one of Uncle President’s brothers put her in a central position. 

She was in a sling since she suffered a broken arm during the Palace attack while fleeing through the Palace halls to rejoin the President. She considered herself lucky since three Palace staff died in the bombing. She said several bombs landed on the Palace and one actually landed in the President’s bedroom. It made a huge crater in the ceiling and littered the Persian carpet with large chunks of plaster. It didn’t explode. The President and a young male friend escaped without as much as a scratch. 

Ma’s own intel friends were hanging on every word from First Auntie.

First Auntie continued in a confident way: “First they tried to shoot him. Now they try to bomb him. Maybe the President is right and he has divine intervention.” Then she laughed. 

First Auntie was referring to the first attempted assassination at a provincial agricultural fair, where a lone gunman tried to assassinate the President, but instead wounded one of his cabinet members, who survived. The assailant, a military man, was arrested and imprisoned. I was told Uncle President was unfazed and walked away emotionless from that incident.

Part 2:

SECRET HELPER

The same evening of the Palace attack, we learned from one of Ma’s journalist contacts about one more death. Surprisingly, not from the bombing, but on a street not far from the Palace. It was Mr Eric, Mr B’s wingman, who was found by the police lying near a pho shop, a few blocks away. No one knew what he was doing there.

First Auntie was quick to say, “Another stupid American. We told you he drinks too much. He must have been drunk and high!”

For years, the President travelled heavily, meeting people I’d only heard about on the radio or television. Washington, D.C., London, Paris, Tokyo, the Vatican.

Even before being elected Vietnam’s first President, Uncle President met many famous Americans including U.S. President Dwight D. Eisenhower, Cardinal Francis Spellman, Secretary of State John Foster Dulles, Congressman John F. Kennedy. Even His Holiness, Pope Pius XII. 

What was the reason for this access? I did notice Mr B was always in the background of some of these pictures when Uncle President was meeting these famous people. 

Flashback

Uncle President tells the story well. He doesn’t like telling it too often.

His father, Kha, was close to the Emperor as an advisor. Kha was also a devout Catholic and helped persuade others to convert to Catholicism. His village in the heartlands was almost entirely Catholic in a country which was mostly Buddhist.

It was sometime in the 1880s when it happened.

Many years of conflict and violence between religious groups had taken its toll.

Uncle President’s father was away in Malaysia at a Catholic Institution. The talk was that Kha was exploring the priesthood. He was that big of a believer.

It was a Sunday. Mass at the Catholic Church had ended hours ago and most families had returned home to get away from the sun.

A noisy crowd had assembled near the wet market. From dozens, it grew to hundreds of people. Most were not from Kha’s village, but from surrounding villages. Some were Buddhist monks. These monks brandished sticks and were shouting to the crowd. Others held machetes and knives. 

They went from house to house, door to door. Throwing out crucifixes, religious statues and pictures.

The crowd pulled families from their homes and dragged them along the dirt road back to the church where hours before they were in prayer.

Several priests emerged from the rectory and pleaded for the crowd to stop. Mercy was not part of the script that day. The priests were herded along with the other parishioners into the church.

Within 90 minutes of the start, more than a hundred Catholic believers were ushered into the church. 

No one knows how the fire was started, but it consumed the entire structure quickly. There were no survivors. 

When Kha returned from Malaysia weeks later, he found his home burned and his village destroyed. There were few people left. Kha had lost everyone. He was in despair.

Was this why Catholic Archbishops, Catholic politicians and even the Pope were accessible to Uncle President? 

Did he share this story? Or, did he have a secret helper? 

Execution

It was evening. Mr B was back from another trip to America. One of many which he took in 1963. He had always flown on Pan American Airlines, but this time he returned on a military plane with more than the usual luggage.

Rather than heading straight to his hotel, he went to Dong Khoi Street and a busy coffee shop. Several military men and a general were there waiting. There wasn’t a civilian to be seen anywhere including the owner who had left many glasses of ca phe sua da for the group.

As Mr B walked in, the general beckoned him to sit, and ordered some soldiers to stand guard out front.

The men were speaking in broken English, French and the occasional expletive in Vietnamese.

See also  Everything In Moderation For 2023

After 30 minutes, Mr B passed them a leather Louis Vuitton bag and said, “Here’s a gift from the CIA.” He stood up and left. He could hear some heated words between the men, but he didn’t turn around.

A few days later, it was the beginning of what proved to be the end.

Uncle President and his brother, Phuoc, First Auntie’s husband and an opium user, were meeting in the Palace. Phuoc was high and agitated about something.

Vietnamese soldiers stormed the gates firing their machine guns at the sentries. Many guards fell to the ground.

The soldiers crashed through the main doors killing more guards and a few servants who were in the cross fire.

The noise was deafening. It was another attack. It was a coup.

Uncle President and his brother activated their escape plan. They fled the Palace through a tunnel under the East Wing and headed to a parked motorbike. They rode to the Cathedral, two kilometres away, where they spent hours huddled in a basement.

The leaders of the coup knew about the tunnel. More importantly, they knew where Uncle President would look for safety. 

The priests lied when asked about their whereabouts. The soldiers pushed them aside and rushed down the stairs.

Within minutes after the soldiers entered the basement, Vietnam’s first President and his brother were stuffed into an armoured vehicle and were pummelled. The general delivered the coup de grace with his own American-made revolver. Two shots and it was over.

Mr B’s and the CIA’s plot had worked. 

Uncle President was dead. His brother was dead. We were at risk. Pa and the boys fled to France. Ma ordered new birth certificates and changed our last names.

Part 3:

EXODUS

Saigon fell to the Communist North on April 30, 1975. 

Ma received a long-distance phone call a week before. It sounded important although I could only hear one side of the conversation.

Ma: “What do you mean? I don’t understand? My English not so good? You speak French?”

Ma after listening more intently: “You mean they coming to Saigon? How can this be? We’re winning the war, no?”

Ma, growing more intense: “Talk slowly. I don’t understand everything. Ok. Ok. I will send my daughter, Oanh, to airport tomorrow to find your man from the Embassy. Please take care of her. Please thank the Secretary for us. Goodbye!” 

The maids spent the night sewing small gold bars into the hemlines of my dresses.

By dawn, they had packed all of my bags and were standing at our main door.

One of Ma’s friends, another Auntie, and her husband, a Vietnamese Air Force Colonel, arrived at the house early the next morning.

This other Auntie didn’t even come into the house, but screamed at us to hurry and get into our own car, a black Mercedes with the first 3 digits of the license “NBS” which Ma and Auntie knew would be recognised by airport officials and given total access. Ma would use it often to pick up visitors on the tarmac, bypassing security, immigration and customs.

The airport was normal. As our car drove up, an American man in a white shirt and dark tie, asked us, “Are you Madame Lucie?” 

Without hesitation, Auntie said, “Yes!” He sat in the car with us and directed us to the tarmac of a restricted area.

Instead of escorting us to a Pan American plane, this American escorted us to a military transport which I boarded with one of Ma’s drivers who Ma said would watch over me.

The plane wasn’t full at all. I wondered about all the commotion leaving my home. No one else seemed to be in a rush.

I was cold on the plane. An hour or so after take off, we heard an announcement which the passenger next to me translated, “We’ll be making a stop in Guam in a few hours. Please be ready to deplane.”

In Guam, my so-called body guard abandoned me and jumped on an empty flight back to Saigon saying, “I need to get my family.”

We were bused to a camp for refugees. I was confused. Is this where Ma wanted me to go? I tried asking questions, but those in charge couldn’t understand Vietnamese. 

The camp was minimalist. A large tent filled with cots. People everywhere. Families hanging large pieces of cloth as partitions for that modicum of privacy. It was horrible. I wanted to go back to Saigon.

Two days later, we were bused out of this refugee camp as more buses with Vietnamese were coming in. 

“Where to now?” I wondered. 

We headed to the airport and boarded a commercial flight. 

Every seat on this plane was filled. People were clutching their bags as every overhead compartment was full. Everything was in those bags. The flight attendants were not able, or unwilling, to compel people to check-in their bags after they had been seated. Cigarette smoke was everywhere. One man had a lit cigar. A cloud of smoke seemed to hover over our heads. I was feeling nauseous. I wanted to go home.

I learned that the plane had been cleared for a flight directly to Los Angeles. I felt more at ease. At least it was America. 

I asked another passenger, “Where’s Los Angeles? Is it near Washington?” There was no reply. It was the only city I could remember since Uncle President always talked about it. 

Once we landed, we were loaded onto another bus. I was hoping we were going to a hotel. I was wrong.

We arrived that evening at a place called Camp Pendleton, near San Diego. 

Like in Guam, we were sent to a makeshift tent city to sleep. I thought it would be temporary. 

We were there for months.

The camp’s XO was a young and handsome officer. Captain Getlin was a product of the Navy’s Fire Weapons School, which would be known today as ‘Top Gun’.

Captain Getlin always seemed upset at everyone, especially the Vietnamese. He was impatient and angry at the slightest delay or breach of protocol. Later, I learned his brother had been killed in Vietnam. I understood without ever speaking about it.

Captain Getlin spoke to some of us in high school French. This made it easier for me. I was asked to be his informal translator — his French questions into Vietnamese for the refugees and Vietnamese answers into French for him. I’m sure the translations were botched along the way, but everyone seemed to nod at the end.

The dashing Captain Getlin; the equivalent of today’s Top Gun.

On my third evening in this camp, I raced to Captain Getlin’s office, crying uncontrollably. 

I explained to the Captain that while I was showering, my only piece of luggage disappeared when I returned to my tent.

My clothes, the gold and, most importantly, my black address book were gone. GONE! The book was my only means to find my family after the war.

Captain Getlin calmed me down a bit, but I had totally lost it. He said that it would be impractical to search the camp for a bag which resembled hundreds of similar bags. I was at a loss. I couldn’t speak.

Why was this happening to me? Leaving my country in a rush? Living in a refugee camp? And, now, being violated by someone who stole my bag and my only way of finding my family.

I felt helpless. I was helpless. Captain Getlin was the only one who could help me.

The Captain tried to calm me down. He offered to drive me to the city in his fancy sports car. Once in San Diego, we stopped at a Bank of America branch. He helped me open a safe deposit box. I only had a few pieces of gold left to deposit since everything was sewn into the lost dresses.

Four Years

As Camp Pendleton was only a temporary solution for thousands of Vietnamese, I was offered several American families who would become my foster family. I turned them all down while thinking I’ll just wait for my family to find me. I’ll just keep helping the Captain in the office to settle refugees.

Yes, I was a war refugee, living in a refugee camp. But, I was in denial.

A few weeks before the camp was to close, I was urged by Captain Getlin’s superior to accept a foster family. Getlin’s superior denied the Captain’s suggestion that he could foster me. It had something to do with our ages, I think.

After meeting several families, a Danish-American family whose father, Henning, was a war cameraman agreed to foster me and two other Vietnamese children.

He eventually became a film director. We lived a good life in the Hollywood Hills and went on location shoots frequently throughout California and the western U.S. states like Nevada, Utah, New Mexico, Arizona and Oregon.

On all of these trips, I would tag along and help the crew, I was also an extra in some of his movies. As a ritual, I used the first days of each location shoot to visit different charity offices, like Catholic Charity, to post my notice on their office bulletin board:

MY NAME IS KIM-OANH BUI FROM SAIGON. 

I’M LOOKING FOR MY FAMILY.

IF YOU KNOW WHERE MY FAMILY IS, PLEASE CONTACT ME

And, I would include my home number in Hollywood. 

The phone never rang with news.

If only the internet had been invented by then! I must have posted close to 100 of these notices on as many charity bulletin boards I could find. 

I was losing interest in going on location and trips with Henning. I turned down his request countless times. I guess I was depressed. I took a job at a Burger King after classes at Hollywood High. The job kept me busy. I was losing hope.

Kimoah Bui — photo from a school yearbook.

After a while, I felt that I was hurting Henning’s feelings. So, I rode along with him to the next location shoot. It was a chilly November morning in 1979.

As I was doing my routine of posting a notice on a Catholic Charity office bulletin board, I suddenly heard someone shout out, “Oanh!” Everyone in America, called me “Kim”. Everyone in Saigon would call me, “Oanh”.

I turned around quickly and noticed one of Ma’s friends from Saigon. She shouted, “What are you doing here?” 

I replied, “I’m looking for Ma.”

She responded immediately, “I know where your Ma is!”

I ran to this lady. 

While hugging her I cried, and cried. “Thank you, Auntie, I knew God would help me, but why did it take so long?”

Auntie explained the situation to the staff in the office who asked the manager for permission to make a long-distance phone call. 

We placed a person-to-person phone call to Paris. After a few sentences with whoever picked up the phone, Ma got on the call and said, “Hello?”

I cried out in Vietnamese, “Ma, it’s Oanh. It’s me, Ma! It’s ME! 

Ma was so excited and I was so emotional I could only cry. Finally, I heard her say she would come to the U.S. as soon as she could. She hung up first. I stayed on the line hoping to hear her voice.

When I realised Ma was not coming back on the line, I ran to this Auntie and hugged her over and over again. I gave this Auntie my phone number and she gave me her California number. I asked her what seemed to me like a thousand questions about Ma, Pa, my brothers, my sisters and what had happened. I asked about her family, too. Auntie tried to say goodbye to me several times, but my questions and grip around her arm proved firmly unrelenting.

Eventually, I let her go. She promised to visit me in Hollywood the following week. She kept her promise.

Two weeks later, my mother arrived in Hollywood. My sisters and brothers were with her. They were all so much taller than I remembered. They were all dressed in the best clothes and Parisian styles. Henning’s house was bursting with cries and laughter.

It was Thanksgiving Day. 

It had taken four years to see my family again.

©2023 Kim Eng and Landy Eng

All Rights Reserved

Kim and Landy Eng are married and spend their time between San Francisco, New York and Singapore.

Kim is a former banker and ad hoc legal interpreter for the San Francisco Justice system. She also worked in charity and social work (Center for Southeast Asian Re-Settlement).

Landy is a former Citibanker and commodities trader who transformed into a broadcast journalist/tv host for his own show “Driven” on CNBC Asia and as an independent producer for Discovery Channel and National Geographic Channel.

82 COMMENTS

  1. Resilience… What an amazing story. To know Kim (Oanh), she is one of the sweetest people you will meet. She constantly thinks of others and has a huge heart. I never imagined the difficulties she experienced.

    • Dear Ed,

      I apologize for the late reply, but I’ve been overwhelmed by all the messages coming from all directions.

      Thank you for taking the time in your busy consulting schedule to read my story and being the first to comment on the Storm-Asia e-magazine site.

      As an expert, we value your feedback.

      Yes, it’s an experience which I never thought I would ever want to re-live by sharing my story.

      Thank you for being there for our son and us,

      Kim-Oanh & Landy

  2. What an amazing and poignant story! Didn’t realise that Kim went through so many challenges and such dramatic unfolding of history firsthand.
    This is a timely reminder of why we should all count our blessings for the relative peace, affluence and comfort that we can enjoy today.
    Many thanks to Kim and Landy for sharing and memorialising the past, and wishing you an even healthier and happier future!

    • Dear Chin,

      You’re a role model to many of us who have seen you in action in, and away, from the public eye!

      We hope to see you soon.

      Best,

      Kim-Oanh & Landy

    • Dear Chin,

      You’re a role model to all of us for what you’ve achieved in, and out, of the public eye.

      Best,
      Kim-Oanh & Landy

  3. Chị Kim ơi, i don’t know what to say, but my tears are out from my eyes while reading and even after that. After all happened to you, you are still a kind and nice lady, an elegant warrior.

  4. Chị Kim ơi, i don’t know what to say, but my tears are out from my eyes while reading and even after that. Although, life seems so nasty but you are still a kind and nice lady, an elegant warrior.

    • Em Violette,

      As a fellow Vietnamese woman, I’m happy this personal story – inspired by real events – touched you.

      Though we have only just met, I look forward to knowing you and your sister for years to come

      Love,

      Kim-Oanh & Landy

  5. Chị Kim ơi, my tears are out from my eyes while reading and even after that. Although, life seems so nasty but you are still a kind and nice lady, an elegant warrior.

  6. Chị Kim ơi, although, life seems so nasty but you are still a kind and nice lady, an elegant warrior.

  7. Thanks for sharing your real life story, Kim. Didn’t know you’d gone thru so much.. and here you’re .. you’re amazing! All the best wishes moving forward .. ❤️❤️

    • Dear Liana,

      Thank you!

      I’m happy to have been able to share my story with our Indonesian friends.

      Kim-Oanh

  8. Happy 2024 Kim dearest.

    What a beautiful story Kim, thank you for writing and sharing your life events with us.
    Your succinct description of the events unfolding, I can feel your anguish and emotional upheaval whilst frantically looking for your family, makes my heart wrench with pain with my eyes teared.
    What a tough time you lived through.
    Today you are the most kind, positive and sweet sister, i am so glad to have known you in the last 20years.

    • Dear Karen

      Thank you!

      Yes, we are sisters for 20 years.

      I’m glad to have had the courage to share my story and you’ve had a chance to see inside of me.

      Kim-Oanh & Landy

  9. You’d never know of her history from meeting Kim today. She’s cheerful, friendly and giving, a beautiful person inside and out.

  10. Kim, Thank you for sharing the story. I cannot even imagine what and how you have overcome these hardships as a young girl. It is my great honor for me to know you and Landy in Singapore.

    • Dear Tony,

      It’s been a pleasure knowing you and hearing that our Korean friends felt the emotions in my story.

      Best,
      Kim-Oanh & Landy

  11. Amazing story full of lessons to the younger generations who tend to glamorize authoritarian communist or socialist regimens. They bring poverty, disruption in societies, family separation and forced immigration.
    Incredible to be able to come out unscathed and successful from such an experience. Coming from South America I’m familiar with many stories of migration of people escaping terrorism and other societal and political ills, which still exist in our modern era.

    • Dear Angela,

      Thank you.

      I admire what you do to cure and keep people healthy as a physician. You have a great story to share of helping people each day.

      My story is about my journey.

      I make no judgement. I’m only grateful for the future.

      Did you remember Landy’s mother was born in Latin America? Brazil.

      Love,
      Kim-Oanh & Landy

  12. Wow! Finally you decided to write the story. Congratulations and a very happy and healthy new year to you two!

    • Dear Jurgen

      As you’re a member of the European media, I thank you for reading and sharing my story.

      Kim-Oanh & Landy

  13. What a compelling story of strength and perseverance. Stepping through the light to an ice of grace.

  14. I would never have imagined Kim could have gone through such turmoil, trauma and threat to life in her past. That she is a picture of serenity and compassion is testament to her resilience, kindness and faith in God. This is a riveting tale filled with intrigue, murder, mayhem and displacement. Kim in the midst of these upheavals stands as witness, victim and voice to many others who even now endure such a fate around the world. That she has emerged strong and successful is Gods grace and gives hope of brighter tomorrow’s even as the dark night threatens to overwhelm. This story needs to be told and shared. Thank you Landy and Kim for this testimony.🙏

    • Dear Karen

      You are a gift to all of us!

      Thank you for your service and kind words.

      God bless,

      Kim-Oanh & Landy

  15. Thank you for sharing your story, Kim. A tumultuous time in history and yet more evidence, if needed, of how terrible and traumatic war is. So glad that you were able to find your family and build a wonderful new family with Landy.

  16. Kim’s story is both heart-rending and empowering. The world needs to hear about her remarkable journey through war, family separation, and unwavering perseverance. It’s a testament to the strength of the human spirit. Thank you for telling it, Kim and Landy. Share this story, let it resonate, and inspire others to face their challenges with courage and resilience.

    • Dear Nicole

      You and your family are wonderful people.

      Your words are kind and inspirational as well.

      Let’s keep our families close. There’s nothing more important than family and love.

      Kim-Oanh & Landy Sr

  17. Awesome storey of Kim’s childhood torn by war n became a refugees herself. Best was she survived all these and reunited with her family after 4 years

    Only god can connect the dots. Cant imagine how lost & afraid Kim was but blessed by many kind hearted folks including Hennings family. They were god sent to foster Kim

    • Dear Irene

      You’re right!

      I had help to connect the dots, and you’re one of those helpers in today’s journey to share my story.

      Love,
      Kim-Oanh & Landy

  18. Happy new year to all n Kim & Family. Awesome storey of Kim’s childhood torn by war n became a refugees herself. Best was she survived all these and reunited with her family after 4 years

    Only god can connect the dots. Cant imagine how lost & afraid Kim was but blessed by many kind hearted folks including Hennings family. They were god sent to foster Kim

  19. “Good Morning Vietnam” meets with “House of Cards” – BRAVO for a story that looks at the South Vietnam debacle from the point of view of a Vietnamese, in this case through a young innocent girl from inside the Ngô Đình Diệm palace. As an American Born Chinese peace activist during the Vietnam war and of draft age, we activists were only vaguely aware of the CIA machinations of the Diem Regime & their role in Ngô Đình Diệm’s assassination.

    And that was always from the American view. “Driven by Assassination” presents a rare opportunity of full revelation of the American hand in the Diem regime from the point of view of a 100% Vienamese. Kim is the proverbial “fly on the wall” – been there, done that, saw it ALL! Not only Diaspora Asians, but also many, many Americans raised in the Vietnam War Era, who fought there, and as the country took sides as this war split American society into two antagonistis political camps, will flock to see “Good Morning Vietnam” meets with “House of Cards.”

    And then there’s another story, of the transformation of the equivalent of a modern Princess into a resilient survivor. Kim remarkably rises above her pampered upbringing to become not just another remarkable survivor-refugee, but a normal, successful member of society as a contract-translator in the US Court system. In her transformation, Kim devotes many years to charity work helping Vietnamese refugees to resettle in America and start new lives. She married Landy and raised a good one together, LJ, whom I was happy to host during his year working in Beijing. Kim became a grounded, compassionate woman and that is a movie in its own right.

    Her personal psychological and transformation inner dialogue adds a separate compelling layer to this political film, a story that will expand the appeal to an even larger audience.

    • Dear William

      What excellent insights!

      If this were a novel or a tv series, your observations and treatment would have been included.

      Perhaps one day!

      Kim-Oanh & Landy

  20. Wow, who would have guessed that the sweet, smiling teenager I knew at Hollywood High School was carrying such a huge emotional load. You always showed up early to drill team practice and put best face forward while in uniform. You hid your pain so well, selflessly unwilling to burden anyone with it. I’m so glad we have reconnected and that I now know your incredible story of survival and grit. You are a true inspiration my friend!

    • Dear Zinnia,

      Hollywood High and the team was such an important part of my life. It was the beginning of my American experience.

      Now, you and Nestor’s friendship and generosity continues that powerful experience for us.

      Kim-Oanh & Landy

  21. Wow, what a heart-wrenching story Kim, we are so glad it had a happy ending and you bless and touch so many of us with your warm personality and kindness which we otherwise would never be able to experience. A happy healthy and prosperous New Year 2024 to you, Landy and the rest of the family. Raik&Rhea

    • Dear Raik,

      It was a happy ending! The next ending will be happy, too.

      To your Black Forest cake!

      Kim-Oanh & Landy

  22. This is such an amazing story! Thank you for sharing! I would have never known of the struggles and nightmares you had to endure at such a tender young age. Kim is simply the kindest, most generous and caring soul I have met! Kim, despite your struggles, you remained positive and you constantly seek to help others. What a blessing you are!
    On a different note, I have to say I thoroughly enjoyed reading your story. It kept me on the seat of my pants. I would love to see this on screen! It’s a story that has to be told! I’ve met many Vietnamese friends in the Bay Area and most have such heart wrenching stories that they could barely speak about! I want to see your story told on screen!

    • Dear Eileen

      Thank you for your kind words!

      I’ve been lost for words for too many years. Landy helped me remember what I thought I should’ve forgotten.

      Kim-Oanh & Landy

  23. Wow what an amazing story of strength, courage and perseverance for a young child to live through. It also shows that God is gracious and compassionate to your family to under such odds to be able to reunite in the end. A story worthy to be told on the screen of Hollywood

    • Dear Johnson

      Wherever you are, thank you!

      I never stopped believing and hoping.

      There’s so much more to share if it ever were to become a movie!

      Love,
      kim-Oanh & Landy

  24. Hi Kim, what an extraordinary life experience. You come from such a privileged background but so humble. Thanks for sharing the story with us.

  25. What an amazing story! Thank you so much Kim for sharing something so personal. Despite going through such tough times your grace and warmth are always what I remember when we see one another ❤️❤️❤️

    • Thank you, Brother Patrick!

      We’re hopeful our friends in Los Angeles will find and share my story through you.

      Best,
      Sister Kim-Oanh & Brother Landy

  26. Hey Kim, discovering the challenges you faced as a child has deepened my admiration for the incredible person you are. Your kindness, warmth, and love make me proud to be by your side.

    • Dear Charlene,

      Life is challenging for all of us. You, too, have a story to share.

      I’ve long admired you and your incredible talent.

      Wouldn’t it be amazing if your old acquaintance, Michelle Yeoh, would be interested in the story?

      Love to you and your sister,

      Kim-Oanh & Landy

  27. Dearest Kim…

    Thank you for sharing your past history with us. While we learned of the Vietnam War from afar, this story tells us more of what was happening on the ground with the level of chaos and political games involved among the ranks in a time of war. The fact that I know you personally and have never noticed any bitterness from what you’ve experienced only exemplifies your strength and ability to love.

    Thank you for sharing as your story should remind us to be better as a society- to be kinder despite differences.

    With love,

    Synn

    • Dear Synnetta,

      War is hell no matter the reason or the outcome.

      My heart goes out to all survivors.

      Kim-Oanh & Landy

  28. This is a captivating and compelling personal account of escaping war, with its twists and turns, and I could not stop reading it till the last sentence. You’re a very dear friend Kim, born a jewel and shining through your story.

    • Dear Anne,

      We met through fate like my journey was fate.

      I’m so happy to know you so many years.

      Love,
      Kim-Oanh & Landy

  29. Hi Kim, I started to read your story. I was there and have my color photographs of Saigon 1966 and some of the locations you mentioned. I would let you use them if needed. I remember vividly the tale you told me on our flight from Europe. Yes, well written. What would you like to do with the story? Book, movie, podcast? I hope that I can help, as my experience of Vietnam is truly clear in my memory.

  30. Dear Kim, thank you for sharing. With your sunshine demeanor, it’s really hard to imagine that you had gone through such a tumultuous childhood.

    I also recall that you always make it a point to spend time to visit your mom every year, especially in recent years when she had an injury. She is blessed to have you as a loving daughter. Please give my best regards to your mom. 💗

  31. What an incredible story, Kim. Thank you for sharing this with us. Knowing you, in the time we have, both Celeste and I would never have imagined you’ve gone through this.

    And that too as a child! You are such a loving, jubilant presence and we love you!!

    This story must be made into a film. What a story to show the world.

    ✨Shrey & Celeste

    • Dear Celeste & Shrey,

      Thank you!

      Coming from such a lovely actor-lawyer couple, we feel supported in what we may do next!

      Kim-Oanh & Landy

  32. Hi Kim and Landy,

    Thank you for sharing Kim’s story to the world. A very unique and dramatic experience. I am glad to see a happy ending.

    Steven

  33. Hi Kim what an amazing story! Thank you for sharing it and now I know that you’re stronger than your fragile looks!

  34. It must be such a traumatic experience for a young girl to have to go through war and refugees camp all alone. Kim had to be so brave and careful. She has such an amazing past. Beautiful ending and so happy she found her mother and eventually married and have a wonderful life. 🌹🌹🌹 Hope your life story will come to a big screen soon.

    • Dear Dawn

      As another film professional from Los Angeles, I feel supported by your comment. Thank you!

      Kim-Oanh & Landy

  35. Amazing story Kim! Thank you for sharing such an important and defining stage of your life. I’m looking forward to seeing it on the big screen. I’ll bring the popcorn 🙂

  36. Moved to tears.
    Just Read this a second time, this time aloud to Ro. Had to read while sobbing at the same time to make it to the end.
    So unbelievable.
    What a story!
    What a life!
    What intelligence, grace, and perseverance Kim has modeled her entire life!
    I’m so floored and humbled.
    So cinematically written.
    Can’t wait for this project to grow to the screen! This story!!! Your Life Kim!!! Holy cow.
    Mahalo nui loa e for sharing.

  37. Dear Jenn,

    Thank you, especially coming from a seasoned actor like yourself!

    Let’s see what lies ahead in 2024….

    Love,
    Kim-Oanh and Landy

  38. Details so colorfully painted, I can almost experience the sights, sounds and scents of many of these scenes. Spectacular writing. What I can only imagine is the amount of anguish and desolation (amongst the plethora of emotions) Kim must’ve experienced throughout this entire time. Thank you for sharing.

    • Thank you, Rayve.

      We have a newfound respect for all authors!

      I’m thankful to be able to share a “happy ending!”

      Kim-Oanh & Landy

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