Oral Histories 2017: Survivors

In the Spring of 2017 in Mr. Sultan and Ms. Dalpino’s US History class conducted 7 oral history interviews. All of the interviewees were survivors of some type of experience. There were 4 family members interviewed including a mother, a father, a grandmother and a great-grandmother. The survivors included 3 Vietnam War Veterans, a Vietnamese civilian who survived the war, a Salvadorian civilian who survived the civil war of the 1980s, and an African American woman who survived growing up in the Jim Crow South.

See the links below to explore the story of each interviewee on their individual pages.

Delia Bautista

In this interview, Delia Bautista discusses her childhood; life before, during the Civil War in her hometown El Salvador, her migration to the United States, and how she established herself in the United States. Delia lived in a countryside of El Salvador that was isolated with her parents. She was 1 of 7 siblings. She described her childhood happily as normal; after getting out of school she will go help her mom at the bakery baking and helping customers on a daily basis. Delia did not finish elementary school, instead she worked with her mom Maria baking goods. Her family would go to places like the park and the beach. She got really happy remembering all the events she described.

Delia was 16 when the Salvadoran Civil War started. She was living with her mom while her siblings were living in a different city attending school, when the militiamen started patrolling in her town. She spoke in depth on the huge impact the Salvadoran Civil War had on her life. She became emotional while describing the most unforgettable moments of the war. One of these was when the militiamen patrolling the streets near her house kidnapped her mother right in front of her, from their house. Delia was 16 when this happened. The militiamen left her sitting on a chair tied up in a room. Luckily, her Aunt came on time to untie her and let her speak of what had just happened. They didn’t know if the militiamen were going to come back for her. It was hard for her to continue living there by herself and handling the bakery by herself so she moved with her Aunt. They never heard from her mom after that. It was a very hard time in her life.

Coming to the United States was never in her plans until her oldest brother brought it up to to secure her safety. Delia emigrated to the U.S.  when she was 16.  She compared migrating to the U.S. like going to Los Angeles from San Francisco. It was fun she said. Coming to the U.S. was not easy for her to adapt especially not knowing English. She tells us there were times where she wanted to return to El Salvador but she knew if she returned the militiamen probably would look for her. After working in the U.S. for a couple of years she started bring her siblings to the U.S. one by one.

While living in the U.S. she learned many skills which helped her get jobs. She worked in restaurants and now works as a caregiver and a chef in a restaurant. She hopes to visit El Salvador some day.

Philip Hang

In this hour long interview, Philip Hang shares his experienced life under communist control while growing up in Southern Vietnam. Our interviewee was born during the end of the the Vietnam War, while the revolution started taking place. Mr. Hang talks about how it was like to attend a communist school after the Communist took over the government. He shares with us stories passed down from older people, where he grew up, and his best memories as a child. Mr.Hang discusses about his experience inside a refugee camp in the Philippines, his family’s immigration to the United States, and him almost being dragged into the army after a draft for the war. Finally, he discusses about how he struggled to adapt to the American’s custom after arriving to San Francisco.

Mr. Hang grew up in Da Nang near the coast of Vietnam in the South, and his best memory was playing soccer at the beach with his friends. He discussed how the whole country was nationalized with communism. During this time living in Vietnam, residents felt as they were isolated because they had no free trade with other countries. He mentions that his view on America was that it’s a great country and they had many opportunities, making it an ideal place to migrate to.

When talking about life during the war, he shared with us a shocking story told to him by his father. During the revolution, his father’s friend had his leg was blown off by a piece of a bomb while he was running. He stated that 1968 was a terrible year because the North Vietnamese came and  searched house to house. If you looked suspicious, they would shoot you or beat you with a shovel and proceed to bury you alive. He mentioned how growing up in a communist school, you couldn’t say what you’re not supposed to say and everything you say must be checked by the communist government first. He stated “they monitor everything, from block to block, neighborhood to neighborhood.”

He was taken by the draft at the age of 17 but was lucky enough to dodge it because his family had approval to immigrate to the United States. Mr. Hang explained the immigration process; first he and his family was moved to a Philippine Refugee camp for 9 months where they learned the “American Way”, to drive, speak english, go to church and typing all before he came to the United States. Mr.Hang’s uncle sponsored his family to come to the United States and when they arrived he showed them how to take the bus, and fill out paperwork.

Mr. Hangs view on the war is  that it was a waste of human beings because about ten people would be taken and only about four would come back. His view of Ho Chi Min his that he wanted to bring the whole Vietnam together but he joined the communist party and bought them to Vietnam which wasn’t good for Vietnam.
He stated that he wished the war never happened because after the war, even though Vietnam was a whole there was still a discrimination between the northerners and southerners, he stated that till this day the north and south hate each other due to the war.

Donald Havens

In this interview, Donald Havens shares about his early life before the war, major events that happened during the war, day to day routines in Vietnam, and how he felt upon his return back home. Mr. Havens also includes many war stories and what it was like to be on the front line of war, fighting for his country in Vietnam.

Born and raised in San Francisco, he headed down to Santa Clara where he attended college for 2 years. However, Mr. Havens decided that college was not for him and worked as an ironworker for the summer. Growing up, Mr. Havens always had a patriotic feeling towards the United States; he was willing to join the war wholeheartedly when he got drafted in 1965. In 1965, America recognized its increasing need for troops which resulted in drafting numerously.

Mr. Havens then proceeds to open up about his experiences in boot camp and how boot camp was vital in preparing for the war. Mr. Havens also described that boot camp was hard to adjust because of the arduous routine everyday. Some highlights Mr. Havens addressed were the harsh living conditions, the problems with Agent Orange, and how a day in Vietnam would go. Living conditions were strict, as soldiers slept on the hard ground for about 5 hours a night, attracting massively sized insects such as centipedes, and getting up and do physical labor all day. Additionally, Mr. Havens expressed his thoughts about the usage of Agent Orange; numerous amounts of individuals were affected negatively by the excessive usage of Agent Orange just to cut down the foliage. Another highlight Mr. Havens shared was about the day to day routine in Vietnam which includes: going on post for guard, staying on patrol, and work detail.

Coming back from the war, Mr. Havens did not expect parades or big celebrations upon arrival. He expressed why many Americans opposed into going forth with the war. Many Americans opposed to the war because of the excessive violence taking place, the odd intervention on a civil war between North and South Vietnam, the imperialistic motives the United States had in believing that Communism was a wrongful way to govern civilians, the heavy uneasiness the war established on American civilians, and the government spending an exorbitant amount of money for war, which resulted in inflation and a rise in taxes. Furthermore, television networks devoted most of the nightly news on war coverage which did not appeal to many. Mr. Havens integrated back into his normal life smoothly: he went back to college, worked at accounting firms as a financial analyst and eventually a stockbroker, and even became a professor at San Jose State University.

Overall, Mr. Havens was very open and enthusiastic in sharing his experiences about fighting in the war. At the end, Mr. Havens expressed his opinions about the war, his views on communism, and the challenges he learned to overcome.

Francis McVey

 

In the interview with Vietnam War veteran Francis McVey, he shares with us his insight and experience of being in war and life at home compared to being in the hot and humid country, Vietnam. Before joining the military, he grew up in Tucson, Arizona with his parents in a middle class family. He tells us what paths he wanted to take in life before the war and how the war changed what he wanted to do. Before the war, he wanted to be either an architect or a naval officer. Mr. McVey explains that he believed that the Vietnam War would be a successful war, and that was one of the reasons why he joined the military effort. Another reason why he joined the military effort was in order to pass a physical exam in a summer program, the navy reached out to him and offered to let him pass the physical exam if he flew planes in Vietnam. When he got to flight training class, he was lucky enough to get the plane of his choice, the P-3.

During the Vietnam War, Mr. McVey flew as a crew member on the P-3 did, a front line airplane used to detect Soviet submarines. Although Mr. McVey did not specify whether he thought using the P-3 was useful or not, he did explain how the P-3 tactics helped the US in the Vietnam War. He discusses that during times of operation, instructions were not always clear. There were times when instructions were incorrect before Superior Commanding Officers even realized. In one circumstance, the senior officers made incorrect calculations that could’ve potentially started World War 3 because their commanders briefed ther P-3 crew to cross the North Korean redline. If North Korea detected that an American plane was in their area, they could suspect that America was trying to attack them and attack the P-3. Luckily, Mr. McVey and his crew realized that mistake and did not follow the wrong instructions.

Besides discussing the ways America used to try to win the Vietnam War, he also tells us the tactics Vietcong and North Vietnam used to counteract the Americans, such as creating the Ho Chi Minh Trail, the Củ Chi Tunnels, and setting up booby traps. Although they were on duty most of the time, Mr. McVey also shares with us what he and his crew did when they had some time for themselves.  When he had free time, he would try to keep up with his hobbies and buy things to bring home. The war made him grow up quickly and changed him as a person. When he arrived home, he was no longer the same person he was before the war. At the end of the interview, he says that he does not regret joining the war effort but learned to be more cautious on what the government tells the country.

Art Muñoz

In this interview we get a first hand insight to what the Vietnam war was like. Art Munoz shared a lot about his experience in the war and it was very eye opening information. It was very unique to get a foot soldier’s point of view and how combat was like in Vietnam. We have selected the 3 most interesting highlights, but the whole interview was very engaging. Our first highlight comes from how Mr. Munoz was drafted and how a death in the family lead to a series of events that made him a prime target for the draft. Our second highlight was the first had encounter with a Vietcong. We hear how Mr. Munoz dealt with Guerilla warfare and how he volunteered to be the point man because he truly felt that we hasn’t going to make it back the U.S. Our last highlight goes into more of what the media never really covered about the Vietnam war. It deals with something that most Americans never even knew was going on. Drug abuse. We hear some first hand encounters on how drugs were used in the Vietnam. Very different kinds and different stories arose from this. It was very interesting to listen to. We were also to hear a lot of other interesting stories. We learned a lot about the Vietnam war after conducting this interview. Especially on topics that were more or less avoided by the media. This is why I personally liked the interview because we felt that we actually knew what was happening over there instead of what people what you to think or know.

Jiang Xiao Qiong

In this oral history interview, we focused on the major theme of “survival”. We discussed many important historical events that the interviewee, Jiang Xiao Qiong, went through as a child and growing up. Topics that were mentioned during the interview were her childhood times, experiences, things she witnessed, immigration to the United States, and her opinion of historical events.

During the first part of the interview, we asked her to look back at her childhood memories and as the interview continued, questions regarding what historical movements she witness and how she reacted to them were asked. Near the end of the interview, immigration and reflective questions were asked as a way to wrap up the interview. One of the highlights that was chosen was about her occupation and the education of communist beliefs.

China is an example of a communist nation and their main industry was agriculture historically. However, Mao Zedong, the communist leader of People’s Republic of China (PRC) wanted to imitate what the Soviets were doing which was heavy industry. This goal of changing the industry was not something China was capable of doing.

In one highlight, she explained that her whole life consisted of farming and that is the only job she has ever done. She started farming when she was a teenager until she was fifty-two years old. The time she was farming, she was also educated to hold Mao’s red book to show the sincerity of communist beliefs. This book was a form of brainwashing, and was composed of communist beliefs which were known as Maoism.

The Cultural Revolution took place from 1966 to 1976. During the early 1960s, Mao wanted to abolish the Four Olds as one of the goals for the Cultural Revolution and create the Four News. Mao organized a group of young men called Red Guards to assist in the end of the Four Olds. In the second highlight, we chose she described the violence she witnessed, the damages and destruction caused by the Red Guards. Overall, she sounded extremely reflective as she mentioned the historical events she witnessed and recalled them in detail which showed her insight into the obstacles she had gone through in China.

Alberta Telfore

In this interview Alberta Telfore discusses the hardships she faces as young girl living in Shreveport, Louisiana. She explains how segregation was when she was younger and how it affected her and her family. She reminisced on her strong relationship with her father and the times they spent with each other. Ms. Alberta also gets in great detail on what she has experienced as a young child. She attended and all African American school and explains why she enjoyed her time there. She liked the fact that her school was separated from whites because she was with people she knew and respected her. Ms. Alberta discusses her marriage and the perspective about segregation and how African Americans were treated. During this time females didn’t have a voice, but eventually she overcame that. Throughout her childhood she was still learning why and how these people could feel so much hate and not even address her by her name. She was confused on this matter; once she then realized this was called segregation. As she was growing up she started to wonder why she her and her people/family were the being targeted.  With all these tough situations she copes with, Ms.Telfore started to discover she was just a young woman trying to get out of the south for the better. She was making her own way no matter the consequence. Ms. Telfore discusses how she married young and made her way to San Francisco, California following her husband. Once she moved from her hometown Louisiana and settled into the city, her life did not turn out the way she thought it would be. While she was there M.s Alberta did not like her living situation with her sister-in-laws. While in this situation, conflicts were riled up with her husband’s family which made it hard for her to raise her children.  When Ms.Telfore came to San Francisco she was very clear how the community treated her. She did not the way she was being treated and began to get fed up which leads her to not associate much any longer. She then adapted to her living environment and started to pick herself back up. Ms. Telfore was a woman of determination who got a hint of bad luck in her life. The pain and sorrow she has overcome is astonishing. The death of her children and grandchildren has determined who she is today.

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