A Vietnamese Skyraider Pilot Escapes To America

Chuyen Nguyen


2LT Chuyen Nguyen was born in northern Vietnam in 1949, and moved to South Vietnam in 1954. His parents were poor farmers, but were determined to find a better life for their children. Chuyen eventually went to college in Saigon, but was drafted into the military in 1969, and attended the South Vietnamese Military Academy. He volunteered for service in the Air Force, and was sent to America for flight school, where he learned to fly the A-1 Skyraider. Returning to Vietnam, he was assigned to the 518th Squadron in the 3rd Air Force Division at Bien Hoa, flying close air support missions. When the Americans left, he knew the fight would be difficult, but never thought South Vietnam would lose. On April 29, 1975, North Vietnamese pilots attacked Tan Son Nhut airbase, flying South Vietnamese A-37s they captured at airfields farther north. Later that day, Chuyen Nguyen escaped to Utapao, Thailand, with his family in a C-119 cargo plane. A few days later, on May 5, 1975, the US Air Force flew him to Guam, and eventually to Camp Pendleton, California. He eventually he settled in Texas with his family. He still remembers the fish and rice his sponsoring family cooked for them on their first night in Texas, remarking that the rice was terrible, but the sentiment made the meal wonderful. Due to his ability to speak English and his previous interactions with Americans, he and his family had a relatively easy transition to his new lifestyle. In this interview, he talks about growing up in a family of poor farmers, first in northern Vietnam, then in the Delta, and finally in the Central Highlands. He describes his service in the Air Force, and some of the missions he flew. He discusses coming to America and integrating into American society. Finally, he reflects on his service, and his gratitude to his parents for giving him the opportunity to be successful.


conflicts Vietnam War
topics VNAF Camaraderie Character Diversity Leadership Military Techniques War in the Air Wartime Decisions Refugee
interviewer Cadet Georgia Cervantes
date 22 September 2018


name Chuyen Nguyen
institution University of Saigon
service Air Force
unit 518 Squadron, 3rd Air Force Division, Air Force of the Republic of Vietnam
specialty A-1 Skyraider Pilot
service dates 1969 1975