Blest be the Ties that Bind: The 1986 Montagnard Resettlement to Greensboro, North Carolina and the Reshaping of the Memory of the Vietnam War.

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Title: Blest be the Ties that Bind: The 1986 Montagnard Resettlement to Greensboro, North Carolina and the Reshaping of the Memory of the Vietnam War.
Author: Raper, Lauren Elizabeth
Advisors: Joseph Caddell, Committee Member
David Gilmartin, Committee Member
Nancy Mitchell, Committee Chair
Abstract: In 1986, a group of 209 Montagnards from the Central Highlands of Vietnam was relocated to Greensboro, North Carolina. Utilizing interviews with the volunteers and the Montagnards, as well as U.S. State Department documents and press reports, this thesis chronicles the Montagnards’ journey from Vietnam, Cambodia, and Thailand to North Carolina. It examines the roles that veterans, Lutheran Family Services of North Carolina, and local volunteers played in facilitating the Montagnards’ resettlement. First, this thesis explains who the Montagnards are, their relationship with the U.S. military during the Vietnam War, and how they arrived at the Thai refugee camp where they made contact with veterans in the United States and requested resettlement. It details how a small group of veterans lobbied the U.S. government and led a media campaign to educate the American people about the Montagnards and elicit support for their resettlement. Veterans marketed the Montagnard group as loyal American allies who had been abandoned by the U.S. military and government at the end of the war. Implicit in their rhetoric was a call to the American people to rectify this mistake. This study argues that the Montagnards’ affiliation with the U.S. military during the Vietnam War differentiated them from other refugee groups and was a key reason why their resettlement was expedited by the U.S. government. Secondly, this study describes the unique challenges of the Montagnard resettlement and how the local volunteers prepared for the Montagnards’ arrival in Greensboro. Lutheran Family Services of North Carolina was chosen by the U.S. State Department to facilitate the resettlement because of its past successes, its close relationship with community volunteers, and its location in North Carolina. Lutheran Family Services recruited church sponsors, procured housing, solicited food and clothing donations, secured jobs for the refugees, and educated the people of Greensboro about Montagnard culture and history. It appealed to Christian compassion and patriotism to solicit sponsors and volunteers. Understanding what Lutheran Family Services did helps explain why the Montagnards were able to assimilate successfully to American society. This thesis also considers why local volunteers participated in the resettlement by examining who the volunteers were, what they did, and how the community reacted to the Montagnards in their midst. Finally, this research places the Montagnard story within the context of historic memory and raises questions of how Americans’ collective memory of the Vietnam War may be shaped and revised through refugee resettlements. It argues that veterans, Lutheran Family Services staff, and local volunteers formed memory activist groups to selectively market the Montagnards as loyal and brave American soldiers who were abandoned by the U.S. government in order to garner support for their resettlement. This study examines how the Montagnard resettlement may be understood as a living memorial to the Vietnam War; a memorial meant to atone for and reconstruct negative memories of the war.
Date: 2009-08-05
Degree: MA
Discipline: History
URI: http://www.lib.ncsu.edu/resolver/1840.16/1126


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