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Patrick Lam - Vietnam War

Patrick Lam was born in Saigon, South Vietnam in 1972 with the birth name of Phat Tan Bui. In 1979, his family made the desperate decision to send him with a group of relatives who were attempting to escape the country. Patrick was adopted by his uncle, said goodbye to his mother and siblings, and escaped on a fishing boat crammed with 200 boat people. After a harrowing week at sea, they encountered an oil rig and jumped into the ocean in order to be rescued. From there, the family was sent to tiny Kuku Island for several months where they essentially fended for themselves, then to Galang, Indonesia, and finally to San Francisco in 1980.

Interview Links

Feature Excerpt

First meal in San Francisco

Abstract

Interview Session (audio)

Transcript

Related Materials

See Also

For a more in-depth interview covering Patrick's life once in the United States, see his interview in our 'Immigrant Stories' collection.

Videos

Photos

Caption

Patrick Lam, in the red shirt, stands next to his cousin Van Lam, and is flanked by two aunts, Tho and Dung Phan, in Galang, Indonesia in 1979, which they reached after escaping from Vietnam. Tho Phan adopted Patrick before fleeing Vietnam.

Where:

Galang, Indonesia

When:

1979

Ownership:

Narrator's photo

Caption

Patrick’s uncle-in-law, Tan Nhut Lam, is standing to the left with hat and shirt on. He was a civil engineer responsible for water irrigation on Kuku Island, where the refugees spent several months. Lam married Patrick’s aunt Tho Phan and adopted him.

Where:

Kuku Island

When:

1979

Ownership:

Narrators’ Photo

Caption

Patrick stands with his two aunts, Tho Phan and Dung Phan, and his cousin Van Lam, who was like a brother to Patrick during the entire journey.

Where:

Galang Island

When:

1979

Ownership:

Narrators’ Photo

Caption

Patrick and his cousin Van Lam while on Galang Island in 1979. Patrick is on the right, wearing the red shirt.

Where:

Galang Island

When:

1979

Ownership:

Narrators’ Photo

Caption

This photo of Patrick and Van Lam was taken during their earlier days, growing up in Port Arthur, Texas in the early 1980s. Patrick referred to America as “our new home.”

Where:

Port Arthur, Texas

When:

Early 1980s

Ownership:

Narrators’ Photo).

Caption

Van and Patrick Lam learned to adjust to their new American home in Port Arthur, Texas quickly. This photo dates from the early 1980s.

Where:

Port Arthur, Texas

When:

Early 1980's

Ownership:

Narrators’ Photo

Caption

Most of those in this photo of Patrick’s extended family escaped from Vietnam and made the sea voyage which ended in America in 1980. Patrick is the young boy in the middle of the picture looking up. The family reunion was in Toronto, Canada circa 1982.

Where:

Toronto, Canada

When:

Circa 1982

Ownership:

Narrators’ Photo

Caption

This was taken in Port Arthur, Texas, after reaching America in 1980. From left to right were Patrick’s adopted parents, Tan Nhut Lam and Tho Phan, Van Nhut and Phat Nhut Lam (Patrick), and Tan Nhut Lam’s brother, who sponsored them once in America.

Where:

Port Arthur, Texas

When:

1980

Ownership:

Narrators’ Photo



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