BY KEN MCLAUGHLIN
Mercury News Staff Writer
The first of nearly 200 ethnic Nung, some of America's closest
Vietnam War, began arriving Thursday in the United States for resettlement.
Thirty-one of them were former commandos who served valiantly
war but were left behind in the chaos when the war ended in 1975. Few
believed their wild stories of dangerous intelligence-gathering and
reconnaissance missions, so they languished in Hong Kong refugee camps for
the last six to eight years until U.S. Special Forces took up their cause in
``They were great soldiers and saved a lot of our guys,'' said
Jack Isler, a former Green Beret who led the fight to get them resettled.
went out on the Net and hollered help.''
Isler and 1,000 other former Green Berets who lobbied to bring
the Nung here
got their reward Thursday when the first of 51 former Nung soldiers and
members arrived at San Francisco International Airport about 9:30 a.m.
``It was a touching scene,'' said Don Climent, regional director
International Rescue Committee, a resettlement agency. ``They're extremely
overjoyed to be here. These guys really owe the Green Berets a great debt.''
Nine of the Nung will live in San Francisco with family members,
in Sacramento. The rest of the 51 who arrived on a flight from Hong Kong
Thursday will be scattered around the country.
One of the reunions Thursday involved a 96-year-old Nung woman
79-year-old daughter, Climent said.
As political refugees, the Nung will be eligible for up to eight
benefits. ``But I suspect our folks will go to work, not go on public
He said many of the refugees should be employable because they
English in the Hong Kong ``detention centers'' -- more accurately described
The Nung, originally from China's southern Guangxi province, have
had a long
association with Western forces, first with the French and then with the
Three weeks ago, Republican Sen. Alfonse D'Amato of New York wrote
U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright and said the refugees would face
persecution if repatriated.
``If they had been sent back to Vietnam, it would have meant certain
Isler said. ``And after July 1, the Chinese communists would have had
After Albright decided to intervene, Washington sent an investigator
Kong to check out their stories.
The Nung had fled in boats to Hong Kong from 1989 to 1991. But
mixed in with other Vietnamese boat people, most of whom were denied entry
to Western countries because they were considered ``economic'' migrants.
A State Department official said Thursday that most of the Nung
families in the United States. Besides California, they will be settled in
Carolina, Pennsylvania, Virginia, Washington and Wisconsin, the official
All the Nung will be here by Thursday.
Isler, who lives part of the year in Palm Springs, will drive
to Los Angeles
International Airport tomorrow to greet a group of about 30 Nung, all of
will be resettled in Southern California.
``I hear they're tickled to death to be coming here, and I want
them,'' he said.
Published Friday, June 20, 1997, in the San Jose Mercury News