Thanks to DNA analysis, a Vietnamese-American man has at last been reunited with his father, 50 years after his mother was told he had died in the Vietnam war.
As a young child in Saigon, Hugh Nguyen, now 50, was constantly bullied by other children for his looks and for being an “Amerasian”—a child born of a Vietnamese mother and an American father from the military, The Tennessean reported. However, Hugh never really knew much about his father.
His mother, Van Nguyen, was 16 and selling snacks and coffee to soldiers in a tourist area when she first met his father. He was an 18-year-old soldier from the US stationed in Nha Trang.
When she later became pregnant and went looking for the soldier at the base, she was told that he had died in combat.
Before Hugh was able to go to the United States under a program ordered by President Ford to rescue orphans fathered by American soldiers, his mother left him and his little sister—also fathered by an American soldier—in the care of his aunt and his grandparents. Initially, his grandparents placed the two children up for adoption under Operation Baby Lift.
Consumed by guilt, at the last moment his grandmother pulled the children from the first flight out of the country. This ended up being a blessing as the plane crashed in rice fields outside Saigon, killing everyone onboard.
Hugh and his family had another brush with death when they barely avoided a bombing at the Tan Son Nhut Airport while trying to fly out of the country.
The young Amerasian was finally able to escape Vietnam on April 30, 1975, as he was placed on one of the last helicopters leaving Vietnam with his family during the Fall of Saigon.
Van, however, stayed behind in Vietnam.
Hugh grew up in California and became the first Vietnamese-American to be the Orange County Clerk-Recorder.
Because he had always wondered about his father, Hugh took a DNA test in 2015. Even then it took two more years before he was able to get in contact with a second cousin, who told him she might know who his father was.
Roy Wayne Patterson, 71, was already married at the time he met Hugh’s mother. He initially denied paternity but then recognized Van when he saw a photo of her. The DNA test Roy took subsequently showed a 99.9995% parental match with Hugh.
The two finally met for the first time in September 2018. Hugh pointed out that they were quite similar with their “go-getter” traits. To Hugh’s surprise, Patterson has 22 grandchildren and 20 great-grandchildren, making his family bigger than he could ever have anticipated.
Roy explained that his friends never told him Van came looking for him at the base and that he thinks they were covering for him, as they were still boys at the time.
According to the US General Accounting Office, more than 75,000 Amerasians from the Vietnam war era have moved to the US. However, it is estimated that fewer than 5% of them have been reunited with their fathers.