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In April 1975, just before the fall of Saigon, the U.S. government launched Operation Babylift, a highly publicized plan to evacuate nearly three thousand displaced Vietnamese children and place them with adoptive families overseas. Chaotic from start to finish, the mission gripped the world-with a traumatic plane crash, international media snapping pictures of bewildered children traveling to their new homes, and families clamoring to adopt the waifs.
Often presented as a great humanitarian effort, Operation Babylift provided an opportunity for national catharsis following the trauma of the American experience in Vietnam. Now, thirty-five years after the war ended, Dana Sachs examines this unprecedented event more carefully, revealing how a single public-policy gesture irrevocably altered thousands of lives, not always for the better. Though most of the children were orphans, many were not, and the rescue offered no possibility for families to later reunite.
With sensitivity and balance, Sachs deepens her account by including multiple perspectives: birth mothers making the wrenching decision to relinquish their children; orphanage workers, military personnel, and doctors trying to save them; politicians and judges attempting to untangle the controversies; adoptive families waiting anxiously for their new sons and daughters; and the children themselves, struggling to understand. In particular, the book follows one such child, Anh Hansen, who left Vietnam through Operation Babylift and, decades later, returned to reunite with her birth mother. Through Anh's story, and those of many others, The Life We Were Given will inspire impassioned discussion and spur dialogue on the human cost of war, international adoption and aid efforts, and U.S. involvement in Vietnam.
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