Vietnam War

Oral History Interview: Pham Thein Khoc

Pham Thien Khoc

Pham Thien Khoc Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum

Pham and his mother, Nguyen Thi Liem when he graduated from IN Academy in 1967.

Courtesy Pham Thien Khoc

Pham Thein Khoc was born in 1944 into a family of sweet potato farmers in Bà Rịa–Vũng Tàu, Vietnam.

Shortly after registering for college, Pham was drafted into the military as a combat engineer.

During the Vietnam War, Pham helped construct vital infrastructures to help soldiers navigate battlefields throughout South Vietnam. Pham reflects on the feelings of depression and deprivation that he often experienced as a result of the war and his eventual incarceration at a Bình Thuận prison camp.

His health and strength plummeted as his wife and children waited for his release, but even when he was finally able to leave the prison camp, he never felt completely at peace in Vietnam.

After changing his name and birth date in an attempt to avoid government officials, Pham eventually learned of a way to escape the country with his family, but this process spanned almost a decade.

At last, a Catholic church in Salt Lake City, Utah sponsored Pham and his family, which allowed them to immigrate to the United States after years of living in fear.

While Pham’s oldest son stayed behind in Vietnam, the rest of his children established new lives as American citizens, and Pham stresses how appreciative he is of the opportunities he and his family have experienced while living in the United States.

Central Illinois Vietnam Stories - Pham Thein Khoc