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Our Vietnam Voices

Our Vietnam Voices: Son Michael’s Story

A South Vietnamese civilian recollects his family’s harrowing escape from Saigon aboard a container ship one day before the fall of the city to communist forces in 1975.

August 24, 2017

Editor’s note: This KCTS 9 video is part of a larger series of local stories featuring people impacted by the Vietnam War.The promotional series is being produced in conjunction with the airing of The Vietnam War, a 10-part, 18-hour documentary film series directed by Ken Burns and Lynn Novick, the first episode of which airs on Sept. 17, 2017 on KCTS 9.

How do you leave your home, when you don’t know where you are going?

When North Vietnamese forces entered Saigon in 1975, Son Michael and his family knew they had just one choice — to make their escape to freedom. They had a plan to board a retro-fitted tugboat, but when they arrived at the port, they discovered that it had been stolen. Rather than face the communist forces, they made a desperate attempt to leave through the Port of Saigon aboard one of the last evacuation container ships to leave, April 29, one day before the Fall of Saigon.

“Our whole family locked arms and was able to fight through the crowds and get onto the ship,” Son Michael recalls.

Son Michael and his wife started Kids Without Borders to encourage young people to give of themselves through service.

Son Michael and his family made it out of Vietnam and forged a new life in America. Today, he returns to Vietnam each year to help support orphanages and children suffering from the lasting effects of Agent Orange.

“I am now an American citizen. One of my proudest memories was at the American Consulate in Vietnam on the 4th of July, 2002. I was standing on the ground that signified where my life had changed forever, saluting the Star Spangled Banner with my hand over my heart and my American passport in my pocket.”


Charles Costanza

Charles is a 25-year veteran producer creating a wide range of broadcasting content including social media content, education, public affairs documentaries and live-action filmmaking. He has received several awards as a director, writer, videographer and editor. Charles grew up in Florida, Oregon and spent over 20 years living abroad in Australia. Costanza is a graduate of Washington State University and is a keen fly fisher (always catch-and-release!). More stories by Charles Costanza