(Photo by Chitose Suzuki, AP)
When the USS Lassen made its official port call to Da Nang, Vietnam, earlier today, it marked the first time that a Vietnamese-American U.S. warship commander came back on Vietnamese shore.
Cmdr. Hung Le (in Vietnamese: Lê Bá Hùng) was just 5 years old when communist forces overran South Vietnam. The commander’s father, himself an officer in the South Vietnamese navy, took his family on a boat and headed out to sea. They were picked up by the USS Barbour County, a tank landing ship of approximately the same size as the destroyer Cmdr. Le now helms.
Cmdr. Le is a native of Huế in central Vietnam. A friend of the family told the Bolsavik that the commander’s grandfather was Lê Bá Hà, ward chief of Phú Cát in the city. The family friend confirmed that the commander comes from the city’s illustrious ”Lê Bá” family.
A few hours before entering Vietnam, Cmdr. Le corresponded by email with a reporter of Nguoi Viet Daily News. (No, not the Bolsavik.) The interview is published here, in Vietnamese.
* “I was born in Huế and left Vietnam with my family in 1975. I grew up in northern Viriginia and attended the U.S. Naval Academy, graduating in 1992.”
* “I am very proud to be an American and also proud of my Vietnamese heritage. As a U.S. Navy Commander, I have the privilege and honor of serving my country as my father đi when he was a commander in the South Vietnamese Navy.”
* “(My father) never pushed me into a naval career.”
* “The U.S. and Vietnam have a growing friendship, and this visit is a tangible symbol of that. I am very pleased to be a part of that growing friendship, as is every member of my crew.”