The First Wave - Stories from the Camps

What happens when 120,000 Vietnamese refugees land in America?

We’re coming up on the 50th anniversary of the Fall of Saigon on April 30, 1975.  This podcast, “The First Wave: Stories from the Camps” shatters the story we were all taught: After the Vietnam War, Americans saved the helpless refugees. 

This podcast tells a different story, one of hope, resilience and adaptability, and told by the first wave of Vietnamese refugees to the United States.  My family was among them. My parents escaped Vietnam on April 30, my mother carried me out as a baby. We eventually landed in Fort Chaffee in northwestern Arkansas. 

What happens when more than 120,000 Vietnamese show up in the middle of America, and what tensions arise as they navigate life in a new country?


Listen now to the podcast trailer:


Do you want to help preserve the voices that tell the origin story of the Vietnamese community in the U.S.?


Your support will make that happen.

In the summer of 1975, the U.S. welcomed more than 120,000 Southeast Asian refugees in the aftermath of a decades-long war in Vietnam. It set up refugee camps in the U.S. for the first time, in four states and Guam.  There, the refugees waited to be resettled with American sponsors all over the country. 


Over five episodes, we’ll hear how and why the refugees decided to leave their country and come to the U.S., while thousands of them chose to return to Vietnam, despite the risk of persecution. In the camps, they put out a daily newspaper and ran a radio station to inform and lift spirits. After leaving the camps, they went to live with sponsors across the country, adjusting to life in America.

Much of what Washington learned resettling the refugees from 1975 helped the U.S. to respond to the largest refugee crisis in U.S. history. Once they left the camps, the Vietnamese rebuilt their lives, seeding “Little Saigons” in California, Louisiana, Texas and elsewhere, changing refugee policy along the way. 

Your donation is tax-deductible, because The First Wave: Stories from the Camps podcast is fiscally sponsored by Independent Arts & Media, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit.


Click on the "donate" button to give online or mail a check to our fiscal sponsor at this address:

Independent Arts & Media
PO Box 420442
San Francisco, CA 94142


Please specify that your donation is for The First Wave: Stories from the Camps podcast. 


Thank you for your contribution, and for helping to preserve these stories for future generations!

Ngoc Nguyen

Project Director/Executive Producer, The First Wave: Stories from the Camps podcast


Ngoc Nguyen is an award-winning multimedia journalist, whose work has appeared in the New York Times, San Francisco Chronicle, PBS and national public radio programs. She frequently covers health, the environment and Asian American issues. She’s reported on the Vietnamese American community from California, Texas, Louisiana, Arkansas and Vietnam. Her investigative report on the health impact of wartime Agent Orange exposure among Vietnamese Americans won a national journalism award from the Asian American Journalists Association. 


Banner art by Louis Van Nguyen Glantz.


Support "The First Wave" podcast

Recent Activity

Name Dinh Nguyen Family Holdings LLC
Activity Type Donation, Mailing list
Amount $250.00
Date 04/11/24
Name Birdie Delivery LLC
Activity Type Donation
Amount $250.00
Date 04/11/24
Name Grid Graphics, Inc.
Activity Type Donation, Mailing list
Amount $250.00
Date 04/06/24

Join Our Mailing List

Terms and Privacy

Contact Us