Hung Nguyen grew up in Quang Ngai province but spent part of his childhood in Da Nang. His parents ran a restaurant, and he remembers interacting with foreign Soldiers from France, Tunisia, Algeria, Morocco, Senegal, and Germany who were serving the French government. In 1954, when the country was partitioned, he recalls the arrival of refugees from the north, who were welcomed into the area despite their northern accent and dialect. He felt that his country was always at war, and during his lifetime he experienced Japanese, French, and American occupation. His father died when he was 8, and even though he had seven older siblings, many were married and on their own, leaving him to help his mom run the restaurant. When the French left and Americans arrived, he noted cultural differences between the new and old occupiers. In 1968, he began working for the American Studies and Observation Group (SOG) and participated in Long Range Reconnaissance Patrols along the Cambodian border. On one ambush, he wounded an important North Vietnamese Officer who had been undetected for months. He also discovered hidden in the jungle a cache of 100kg bags of rice and vials of penicillin marked “made in Saigon,” which was valuable intelligence he passed on to leaders in the 1st Infantry Division. After working with SOG, he served with the Phoenix Program, trying to root out the Viet Cong infrastructure in the south. Later, he worked for the US Embassy in one of the provinces. On April 29, 1975, he left South Vietnam with his wife and infant son. After a chaotic escape by helicopter and boat, they ended up on a ship sailing to Guam. During the voyage, his son became ill, and they had to stop in the Philippines before continuing on to the refugee camp at Orote Point, Guam. Following processing in Guam, his family ended up in Camp Pendleton, California, before getting a sponsor in Houston, Texas, where he currently resides.
In this interview, he talks about his childhood and interactions with various occupation forces. He describes some of the operations he participated in with SOG and the Phoenix Program, including taking a wallet from a wounded North Vietnamese Officer along the Cambodian border. He also recalled an incident in January, 1973 during the ceasefire when he captured an NVA company commander. He explains how he was unable to communicate with his siblings in Vietnam following the war, and eventually reconnected with them 25 years later. Finally, he discusses being a refugee coming to America and being treated very well, leading to his determination to give back to the country that welcomed him in.