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Va. Beach part of dream trip for Vietnam War translator

Published: 22 July 2013

From the Virginian-Pilot...

Article excerpt: John Donovan stepped out of a taxi in the Vietnamese city of My Tho in 2008, dropped his bags on the street and squinted through midday sun as he scanned a bustling crowd.

He was searching for a ghost.

More than 40 years had passed since he had seen the local interpreter who guided his American riverboat crew as it navigated the winding and murky waters of South Vietnam during the war. For years, Donovan assumed his old friend was dead.

The retired Navy officer had spent part of an earlier trip to Vietnam searching for the translator, known simply as “Minh” by most of the men who served with him. But with no details about what happened to him after the war – and only his memories to guide him – Donovan didn’t know where to begin.

Then, about six years ago, he came across Minh’s name in a book. That led him to an author who put him in touch with a Vietnamese refugee in Dallas who gave him a phone number. The war buddies recognized each other’s voices almost immediately.

Link to the full news story here

InterpretAmerica's Take: We have become accustomed to news stories highlighting the plight of modern-day interpreters in conflict zones and the dangers and injustices they face all too frequently. However, this story about an interpreter named “Minh” who served during the Vietnam War and the U.S. Navy SEALs he worked with caught our eye, because it offers a rare glimpse of the ties that often bind military interpreters and the people they serve in conflict zones. Minh spent five years interpreting for U.S. armed forces during riverboat missions in Vietnam and gained “a near-mythical status” among the members of the military he served. The ties they forged in a time of conflict led the men whom Minh had interpreted for to seek him out some 40 years later. A fitting tribute to a dedicated interpreter. 


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