Former Political Prisoners, Refugees Find Hope in Vietnam Archive

The Texas Tech Vietnam Archive receives more than $48,000 to process records of Vietnamese political prisoners.

Research/Academic Showcase

Vietnam Archive Thomas Reynolds and Mary Saffell unpack documents for preservation at the TTU Vietnam Archive.

In the 1970s thousands of Vietnamese arrived in the United States from their tattered homeland. Texas Tech is about to tell their story.

For 20 years, the Families of Vietnamese Political Prisoners Association maintained the largest known collection of paper records of at least 10,000 Vietnamese prisoners and refugees who fled their homeland bound for the United States.

Each document is a historic token that tells the fragmented story of the largest exodus to the United States of any culture since the early 1900s. Their significance, according to many, is equivalent to immigration records maintained by the Ellis Island Foundation, who every year help thousands of people chronicle their family histories.

Thousands of Records Will Be Top Priority at TTU

The preservation and processing of those records will become a top priority of the Texas Tech University Vietnam Center Archive, thanks in part to a grant of $48,565, awarded to the center by the National Historical Publications and Records Commission.

Last year, the Vietnamese American Heritage Foundation donated a 135-linear- foot collection of paper documents collected by the FVPPA to the archive. The documents are in critical need of preservation and organization.

“Our goal is to preserve and manage these documents in a way so they will always be available to Vietnamese Americans and their families, researchers, educators and students,” says Stephen Maxner, deputy director of the Vietnam Center at Texas Tech University. “This will allow us to be one of the nation’s flagship organizations with documents related to Vietnamese political prisoners and refugees. By providing archival preservation and access to the records of the FVPPA, this project will significantly advance the study of the Vietnamese immigration experience.”

Once restored and catalogued, archive officials hope to publish the records online in an effort to make them available to the general public.

MISSION: Collect & Preserve

The Vietnam Archive mission is to collect and preserve the documentary record of the Vietnam War.

Virtual Archive: History Comes Alive

The Virtual Vietnam Archive is already assisting the Joint POW/MIA Accounting Command by providing Internet access to documents relating to the Vietnam War.  These documents thus far have provided 41 actionable clues regarding unresolved MIA cases. The documents also have been used by Veteran’s Benefits Counselors with the U.S. Dept. of Veterans Affairs, who have validated at least 900 Vietnam veterans' medical claims through the Virtual Vietnam Archive.

While the Vietnam Archive continues this commitment as its primary objective, it has expanded its collection policy to include records of veterans' organizations and scholars of the period as well as other individuals and organizations who share experiences from the war in Vietnam.

Vietnam Archive Photographs such as this one showing Vietnamese refugees on a helicopter transport are part of the Vietnam Archive's mission to preserve the documentary record of the war.