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Former Vietnamese refugee visiting Guam for the first time in 48 years

Nam Kim

By Guam Philharmonic Foundation Inc.

Imagine leaving everything behind to escape for safety. Your parents carrying you, just months after you turned age 1, running and climbing to a rooftop to catch a helicopter ride out of your home city that has descended into chaos.

The sounds of screams and cries for help surround you. Your helicopter ride ends at the international airport where you await your turn to board another helicopter bound for ships that are out at sea ready to take you, your parents and thousands of others away to far places out of harm's way. Although this might fit a personal account from the recent fall of Kabul in 2021, this was the beginning of Nam Kim’s journey to the United States 48 years ago.

Nam’s journey to a new life began shortly after the Fall of Saigon in April 1975, and included rooftop helicopter evacuation from the USAID during Operation Frequent Wind, stints on the USS Midway, and the USS Kimbro, and a stop in the Philippines before landing in Guam. The Kim family was accommodated in refugee camps located at Tent City (Orote Point), Asan Beach Park and the former Tokyu Hotel (the property between Pacific Islands Club and Ypao Beach; behind Proa Restaurant) before eventually leaving Guam for Fort Eglin, Florida.

The Kim family among the Vietnamese refugees who were evacuated to Guam after the Fall of Saigon in 1975. Courtesy photo

Kim, now a professor of Anthropology at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, will be visiting Guam in early August for the first time in nearly 50 years. His visit is both personal and professional. Personally, he would also like to connect with former refugees, Vietnam War Veterans, the Vietnamese community that settled in Guam, and those who were involved with Operation New Life to share experiences and to express his deepest gratitude on behalf of his entire family. Professionally, he would like to step foot in many of these historical places to see if there might be opportunities for further anthropological and archaeological research, done in collaboration with local community stakeholders. Additionally, he would like to explore opportunities to create an academic pipeline for those in Guam who are interested in the field of anthropology and archaeology by providing mentorship and by working with local educational institutions.


Dr. Kim will have three public engagements that are open to the public.

Meet and Greet Dr. Nam Kim Monday, Aug. 7/ 6 p.m.

Micronesia Mall Suite 215AB/216/AB, 2nd Floor Center Court =

Lecture: The Legendary Foundations of Ancient Vietnam

Wednesday, Aug. 9/4 p.m. Room HHS302

University of Guam

College of Liberal Arts and Social Sciences Building

Two thousand years ago, China’s Han Empire stretched its imperial grasp beyond the mountains far to the south of the Central Plains, reaching into the domains of “barbarians”. Along its southernmost periphery lay the Red River Valley (RRV) of present-day Vietnam.

In their chronicles, the Han claimed that they “civilized” the RRV’s “barbarians”. In contrast, many Vietnamese believe this time and location represents the birthplace of an indigenous, Vietnamese civilization that predates Han arrival. This view has been traditionally based on colorful tales and legends.

One of the most enduring accounts tells of the Au Lac Kingdom and its capital city, known as Co Loa. Thus, at the heart of ongoing, intense, and sometimes nationalistic debates are two contrasting views. One sees “civilization” as a byproduct of Han arrival, while the other sees it as the outcome of local, indigenous cultural traditions. This lecture presents new and ongoing archaeological research that addresses these themes and questions. Specifically, it highlights recent investigations at the Co Loa site, considered to be the first capital of ancient Vietnam.

Lecture: Plumbing Nebulous Depths: Exploring Violence and Warfare in Humanity’s Past

Friday, Aug. 11/ 2 p.m.

Study Room, Hagatna Public Library

Lecture summary: Are we an inherently violent species? Has “warfare” always existed for humanity? How has warfare evolved over time? In recent decades, researchers around the world have become increasingly interested in studying ancient forms of organized violence and warfare, recognizing implications for the modern world and prospects for peace.

This lecture highlights anthropological research regarding the antiquity and earliest cultural expressions of collective violence. Featuring case studies through time and space, the lecture considers practices related to violence and warfare from the remote past, and how such behaviors may have been significant for both biological and cultural changes in human history.

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