Vietnam

Rick Fredericksen / IPR

It was code-named Operation Homecoming, when the U.S. and North Vietnam signed a peace agreement and our prisoners of war started coming home.We remember the defining events of that time, with historic sound from our Iowa Archives project.

All this week, we’ve been hearing what it’s like “Being Southeast Asian in Iowa.”  Our reports from IPR’s Rob Dillard have highlighted why so many Southeast Asians – many of them refugees -- settled in Iowa. Today, we’ll explore the culture of people from Vietnam, Thailand, Laos, and more --- and the efforts to preserve the culture in Iowa.

A few years after former Governor Robert Ray found a home in Iowa for the Tai Dam refugees of Laos, he did the same thing for another group who was seeking sanctuary. These were the “boat people”, most of them from Vietnam, who risked everything on the high seas to escape communism.

The number of Southeast Asians in Iowa received a boost almost 40 years ago, when about 1,200 refugees who were fleeing the Communist takeover of Laos and Vietnam were allowed to resettle here. Their saga of escape from war and persecution is part of a bigger story about a compassionate governor and a state’s citizens, who opened their hearts to a batch of new residents.