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The Good Governor: Robert Ray and the Indochinese Refugees of Iowa

Vietnam War 1972 - Central Highlands - Siege of Kontum - Montagnard refugees and United States helicopter evacuation

After the US withdrew from the Vietnam War, its Indochinese allies were left facing torture, death, and imprisonment from the ruling communist regime. The Tai Dam, an ethnic group from northern Vietnam, petitioned the U.S. for sanctuary.

In 1975, Iowa Governor Robert Ray created an agency to relocate the group. During this hour of River to River host Ben Kieffer talks with Matthew Walsh, a professor of history at Des Moines Area Community College about his new book The Good Governor: Robert Ray and the Indochinese Refugees of Iowa.

Som Baccam, who was a young refugee at the time also describes her experience. She had come to Iowa at age 11. She says in refugee camps there were films depicting Hollywood and California beaches.

“Coming to Des Moines, Iowa on October 27th 1975, it was kind of a cold, rainy day, and I stepped out and I said ‘uh-oh, I don’t think we’re in America,’” she says. But Baccam was also excited about opportunities in the U.S.  

In the first half of the program, Former Ambassador to the Kingdom of Cambodia, Kenneth Quinn joins the conversation.

Ben Kieffer is the host of IPR's River to River
Lindsey Moon is IPR's Senior Digital Producer