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Vietnam Vets Help Reunite American Fathers and Asian Children

January 30, 1987 GMT

SAN JOSE, Calif. (AP) _ Nhung Nguyen knew her American father only through a photograph she carried for years. Her father thought the daughter he’d left behind in Vietnam 18 years ago might be dead.

But Thursday, Peter Newcomer was reunited with Nhung, now 19, in an emotional meeting at San Francisco International Airport.

Their reunion was brought about through the efforts of the Amerasian Registry, a non-profit agency which works to unite Vietnam veterans with their Asian children. Nhung had turned to the registry’s co-founder in hopes of finding her father after she reached the United States in 1984.

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Newcomer, 47, of Storrs, Conn., was an official of the U.S. Agency for International Development when he left Vietnam and Nhung’s mother, Mai, in 1968 when his daughter was a year old.

Shortly after he left, their house was destroyed and his letters were returned, marked, ″No such address.″

″I thought they might be dead,″ Newcomer said Tuesday. ″I had no way of knowing what happened to them.″

Nhung hugged him and sobbed in his arms for several minutes when they finally met again, and Newcomer told reporters he was overwhelmed with emotion.

He said he wanted ″to help her be what she wants to be″ and never to lose track of her again.

Nhung had met attorney Bruce Burns, a Vietnam veteran, at a Vietnamese community party.

″The only words she could tell me without using a translator were, ’I want to find my daddy,‴ Burns said. ″I naively told her I would help her.″

Burns wrote to the Red Cross, the Veterans Administration, the State Department and ″everybody I could think of. Nobody wanted to help or knew what to do.″

He tried going through telephone books of major cities in the Northeast, where some of Mai’s relatives thought Newcomer was from, and he even found the doctor who delivered Nhung in Vietnam. All to no avail.

″I had just about given up, but Nhung said, ‘Keep on trying,’ so I did,″ he said. Finally, his letter to the State Department was sent to USAID, which forwarded it to Newcomer’s parents in Connecticut.

During the course of helping Nhung, Burns said, he started helping Americans and other Amerasian children trying to locate each other.

At the same time, Jim Barker, a counselor at a Vietnamese outreach center here, was receiving similar requests for help.

When Barker and Burns realized that no group existed to help Amerasian children, they started the registry.

″Some men have very little information and are married and just want to know if the child is alive, without making any contact,″ Burns said. ″Other men have a considerable amount of material and want to bring the children back here.″

The State Department and immigration authorities list 89 children who are American citizens living in Vietnam. Burns is working with three of the fathers trying to get their children out of Vietnam.

″There are 15,000 of these Amerasian kids still in Vietnam and all of them have the potential of being U.S. citizens if their fathers acknowledge the relationship,″ Burns said. ″There’s also about 3,000 Amerasian kids in this country and most of them don’t know who their fathers are.″