American Experience’s “First Days Story Project,” a collection of interviews with Vietnamese Americans and Vietnam Veterans, launches online April 23, 2015, in conjunction with Last Days in Vietnam broadcast April 28th on PBS.
BOSTON (APril 23, 2015) — The First Days Story Project, a national initiative to collect, preserve, and celebrate the stories of Vietnamese American refugees and Vietnam veterans, launches on Thursday, April 23, 2015 at http://www.pbs.org/firstdays.
A collaboration between StoryCorps and the PBS television series American Experience, the First Days Story Project is the cornerstone of the outreach and engagement initiative for the Academy Award-nominated documentary Last Days in Vietnam, directed by Rory Kennedy. The First Days Story Project travelled 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, are publishing on the multimedia website pbs.org/firstdays and will 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 The immersive First Days Story Project digital platform will also include hundreds of previously unpublished personal photographs from the project participants, as well slideshows that explore the refugee and veteran experience.
“One of the most moving aspects of Last Days in Vietnam were the personal stories of South Vietnamese citizens in those turbulent final days of the war,” said Mark Samels, American Experience Executive Producer. “We knew there were so many more stories — of those who were evacuated and those who were left behind but who eventually made their way to the U.S. — and we wanted to create a platform to share, preserve, and honor their experiences.”
Among the stories featured on the site is that of Andrew Ly, who escaped with his family on a small boat and went 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 Phuong Thi, 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.
The First Days Story Project was supported by a successful crowdfunding campaign through the online fundraising site Indiegogo. The campaign, launched in September of last year, exceeded its fundraising goal of $137,000, with notable support from both the Vietnamese American and veteran communities.
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, produced and directed by Rory Kennedy, premieres on American Experience April 28, 2015, 9:00-11:00 p.m. ET (check local listings) on PBS.
StoryCorps is a national nonprofit organization whose mission is to provide people of all backgrounds and beliefs with the opportunity to record, share, and preserve the stories of our lives. Since 2003, nearly one hundred thousand everyday people have recorded their stories with StoryCorps. In addition to being one of the largest oral history projects of its kind, millions listen to StoryCorps’ weekly broadcast on NPR’sMorning Edition.
Television’s most-watched history series, American Experience celebrated its twenty-fifth anniversary in 2013. The series has been hailed as “peerless” (The Wall Street Journal), “the most consistently enriching program on television” (Chicago Tribune), and “a beacon of intelligence and purpose” (Houston Chronicle). On air and online, the series brings to life the incredible characters and epic stories that have shaped America’s past and present. Acclaimed by viewers and critics alike, American Experience documentaries have been honored with every major broadcast award, including thirty Emmy Awards, four duPont-Columbia Awards, and sixteen George Foster Peabody Awards; the series received an Academy Award® nomination for Best Documentary Feature in 2015 for Last Days in Vietnam.
Exclusive corporate funding for American Experience is provided by Liberty Mutual Insurance. Major funding provided by the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation. Additional funding for Last Days in Vietnam provided by The Arthur Vining Davis Foundations: Dedicated to Strengthening America’s Future Through Education; The Documentary Investment Group: Gretchen Stone Cook Charitable Foundation; Roxanne E. & Michael J. Zak; and by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting and Public Television Viewers. American Experience is produced for PBS by WGBH Boston.