By Chiu Chang and Herman Chan
Taiwan News, Contributing Writer
2014-08-12 01:27 PM
The term Amerasian was formally adopted by the U.S. Public Law 97-359 of October 22, 1982, Amerasians are the children born in Asia to US military fathers and Asian mothers between December 31, 1950 and October 22, 1982 when American military was stationed in Korea, Japan, Vietnam, Taiwan, the Philippines and other Asian countries.
When, in early April 1975, Saigon was falling to Communist troops from the north and rumors spread that southerners associated with the United States might be massacred, President Gerald Ford announced plans to evacuate 2,000 orphans, many of them Amerasians. Operation Baby-lift's first official flight crashed in the rice paddies outside Saigon, killing 144 people, most of them children. Despite the crash, the evacuation program continued until all were sent back to the land of their fathers.
Unfortunately, only 3% met their fathers. Good jobs were scarce. Some Amerasians were vulnerable to drugs, became gang members and ended up in jail. As many as half remained illiterate and never became U.S. citizens. The mainstream Vietnamese-American population looked down on them, assuming that their mothers were prostitutes. Mention Amerasians and people would roll their eyes and recite an old saying in Vietnam: Children without a father are like a home without a roof.
The official numbers of Amerasians cannot be ascertained, but it is roughly estimated that there were about 26,000 of them in Vietnam, 3000 in Japan and 1000 in Taiwan. Most of them are still looking for their fathers to this day. It is a heart wrenching experience to look at the website of www.FatherFounded.org where many torn pictures of American soldiers and Asian women were displayed. Successful search stories are few and random.
Tony Wong was one of these thousands of Amerasian children left behind. In 1973, the year when Tony was born, American military was stationed in Taipei, Taichung and Kaohsiung. Taichung was where Tony Wong's father met his mother. Tony Wong was born three days after his father was deployed back to the US. His mother soon left Taiwan to make a living in Japan, leaving Tony in her friend's care.
For 41 years, Tony never knew his father and seldom saw his mother. His mother avoided talking about Tony's father until he was 23. Upon his insistence, his mother finally gave him a corner of a piece of paper. On the paper was the name "W.D. Brown, PO Box 6334, Pasadena, TX." She told Tony his friends called him Dave.
Dave still communicated with his mother for years despite the fact she later married a Japanese man. When her Japanese husband discovered this, he flew into rage and torn up all Dave's letters. The corner of that paper was the only piece she could salvage. Tony's mom said although she was badly beaten, she refused to let go of her only connection to Dave. A bloodstain still remains on that piece of paper. Filled with a glimmer of hope, Tony immediately wrote a letter to that address. For over two decades, his heart felt letter went unanswered.
Fast forward to the present. Tony is now 41 years old and a renowned musician whose band Monkey Pilot won the Golden Melody Awards (the equivalent of the Emmy Awards) in the Best Band category in Taiwan in 2013 for their album “Big Child”. His star is rising fast. But he still had no father. Little did he know his prayers would be answered when some strange lawyer reached out to him.
While Lawyer Chiu Chang was researching the subject of Amerasians for an exhibit she is curating for the National History Museum of Taiwan, someone told her about Tony Wong’s predicament. She was so moved by his story, she volunteered to track down W. D. Brown in Texas for Tony Wong.
She found 46 people with the same name roughly around the same age range as Tony's father: 60-70 years old. After tirelessly calling each one of them, she still could not locate Tony's dad. Undeterred, she knew she had to find a better way. She would harness the power of the internet and social media. Through Facebook, she was connected to the administrator Rick Slater of a Facebook page called Tainan AB, founded by American soldiers served in Tainan. They gave her a lead, someone named William David Brown with a Pasadena, Texas address in 1991. Tony confirmed that was the address he sent a letter to 20 years ago!
Both Lawyer Chiu and Rick Slater called the listed phone numbers of William David Brown. None of their calls were returned. They were running out of ways. As a last ditch effort, Tony mustered up the courage to leave a personal voice message himself. He knew it was a big risk. If Dave still did not answer, that would mean Tony would have to face the crushing truth that Dave did not ever want to acknowledge his son. No child wants to hear their own parent denies their existence. In his phone message, Tony told Dave that his name is Tony and his mother's name is Fei-Fei.
Rick Slater got a call the very next day from William Dave Brown himself. Tony’s instincts were right. Hearing his own son’s voice compelled Dave to respond. Within 24 hours, father and son were reunited via Skype.
When Tony asked his father why he never looked for them, Dave answered that he was ashamed and assumed Tony and his mother would hate him. Tony immediately answered, “No dad, I don't hate you, I love you.” Overcome by emotion, Tony covered his face sobbing. On the other side, Dave was both crying and laughing at the same time, he said he thought Tony was forever lost and that he was happy to regain a son. They told each other "I love you" many times. They now call each other every other day, happily sharing little things in their lives. After all they have four decades to catch up on.
Dave will come to Taiwan to visit Tony and to attend his concert. Tony has big plans for this re-union. He is channeling this life changing experience into a musical album for his father, the American man whom he had been searching for and at long last found after 41 years. Perhaps it was a premonition when Tony had entitled his awarding winning album Big Child. With a little help from a lawyer, the internet and a lot of determination, Tony Wong can finally say this Big Child has a dad.