First Days Story Project On-Demand

First Days Story Project On-Demand

StoryCorps and AMERICAN EXPERIENCE partner to bring a collection of interviews with Vietnamese Americans and Vietnam Veterans.

The First Days Story Project is the cornerstone of the outreach and engagement initiativefor the Academy Award®-nominated documentary Last Days in Vietnam, directed by Rory Kennedy. The First Days Story Project traveled to six cities across the country — Boston; Falls Church, Virginia; Houston; San Jose; Seattle; and Westminster, California — to record conversations among members of the Vietnamese American and Vietnam veteran communities. These conversations, recorded by StoryCorps, can be heard here:

Collected stories will also be archived in the Library of Congress in order to preserve this important part of our national history for generations to come. The immersive First Days Story Project digital platform will also include hundreds of previously unpublished personal photographs from the project participants, as well slideshows that explore the refugee and veteran experience. 

Among the stories featured on the site is that of Andrew Ly, who escaped with his family on a small boat andwent on to found one of the most successful bakeries in San Francisco. Refugee Son Michal Pham talks to his friend, Vietnam veteran David Dean, about being resettled in Chicago with the help of Catholic Charities.

Devaki Murch, one of the infants evacuated through Operation Babylift, recounts her story to Thoa PhuongThi, a fellow Vietnamese refugee who left Saigon at age eleven. In Seattle, two veterans, Aaron Johnson and Rick Butzberger, share memories of their involvement in the evacuation. Other refugees discuss building new lives in places as diverse as Dallas, St. Paul, and Sugarland, Texas. In all, twenty edited audio stories will be featured on the site and dozens of other raw interviews will be archived there as well.

Last Days in Vietnam chronicles the chaotic final days of the Vietnam War and is the compelling story of bravery and resilience on the part of the South Vietnamese who escaped, and the U.S. military personnel who, in many cases, disobeyed orders in an effort to help save lives. Forty years after those last days, the First Days Story Project is proud to share the stories of the Vietnamese American and veteran community during their first days in the United States after the war. Last Days in Vietnam aired in 2016 on WXXI-TV.