In this Book
Ship of Fate tells the emotionally gripping story of a Vietnamese military officer who evacuated from Saigon in 1975 but made the dramatic decision to return to Vietnam for his wife and children, rather than resettle in the United States without them. Written in Vietnamese in the years just after 1991, when he and his family finally immigrated to the United States, Trần Đình Trụ’s memoir provides a detailed and searing account of his individual trauma as a refugee in limbo, and then as a prisoner in the Vietnamese reeducation camps.
In April 1975, more than 120,000 Indochinese refugees sought and soon gained resettlement in the United States. While waiting in the Guam refugee camps, however, approximately 1,500 Vietnamese men and women insisted in no uncertain terms on being repatriated back to Vietnam. Trần was one of these repatriates. To resolve the escalating crisis, the U.S. government granted the Vietnamese a large ship, the Việt Nam Thương Tín. An experienced naval commander, Trần became the captain of the ship and sailed the repatriates back to Vietnam in October 1975. On return, he was imprisoned and underwent forced labor for more than twelve years.
Trần’s account reveals a hidden history of refugee camps on Guam, internal divisions among Vietnamese refugees, political disputes between the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees and the U.S. government, and the horror of the postwar “reeducation” camps. While there are countless books on the U.S. war in Vietnam, there are still relatively few in English that narrate the war from a Vietnamese perspective. This translation adds new and unexpected dimensions to the U.S. military’s final withdrawal from Vietnam.