Two middle-aged Americans walk through the red light district of Saigon. At first sight you might think they were just another couple of tourists on a night out. Strangely, though, they ignore the miniskirted bar girls waving at them as they pass by. Instead they make their way to an unpretentious café – where they sit down and start to talk about their former girlfriends.
Jerry Quinn and Dennis Hall are two former America GIs. They were both stationed in Saigon during the war. They both set up homes with their Vietnamese girlfriends and, 40 years later, they are back in what is now called Ho Chi Minh city to look for the children they fathered.
Some two million Americans served in Vietnam during the 20-year war in which US troops fought alongside the South Vietnamese army against the threat from the north. The North Vietnamese leader, Ho Chi Minh, wanted to establish a united, communist country and the US government feared the “domino effect” – that communism would spread throughout Asia.
Of the two million US troops involved, only 500,000 were deployed in combat. Dennis Hall, 64, worked in aviation maintenance and Jerry Quinn, now 62, was in communications. Both were based at the US airbase, on the outskirts of Saigon.
When the North Vietnamese army stormed in to Saigon in April, 1975, most American soldiers had already left. The Vietcong set about purging all memory of the two decade long US intervention in Vietnam. The girlfriends of former GIs were publicly humiliated, sent to re-education camps and often forced to abandon their children – the children of the enemy. All communication between America and Vietnam was cut off for more than a decade.
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