Vietnam War

Oral History Interview: Patrick Lam

A man being interviewed.

Patrick Lam. Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum

Patrick and his cousin, Van Lam, while on Galang Island in 1979. Patrick is on the right, wearing the red shirt.

Courtesy Patrick Lam

Patrick Lam was just four years old in 1975 when Saigon, Vietnam fell to the North Vietnamese.  

A year earlier, his father was killed by a roadside bomb. His mother moved him and his siblings to the small province of Lái Thiêu.  

In 1979, his grandmother organized a group of family members to leave the country by boat. Patrick left with his aunts, uncles, and younger cousins leaving his mother and three siblings behind. Out at sea in a wooden boat, Patrick and about 250 other refugees encountered harsh weather and the threat of Malaysian pirates. 

Their boat encountered an oil rig that rescued Patrick’s family and several other refugees and brought them to Kuku Island. There, they established a small village and sustained themselves by fishing, irrigating mountain water and baking fresh bread. Patrick reflects on his carefree mentality at the time as he enjoyed his idyllic way of life on the island.

Eventually his family was able to relocate to Port Arthur, Texas, and from there he moved to Chicago, Illinois.

Central Illinois Vietnam Stories - Patrick Lam