Images that stay in my mind from my thirteen years on and off in Vietnam are of Vietnamese children. I saw them everywhere I went. They captivated me in part because of their tininess. On two of my tours in Vietnam, I had my wife and children with me, so I had examples of both races, the Vietnamese and the Americans, for direct comparison. Vietnamese babies and toddlers of the same age as my children were half their size.
The Vietnamese, on average, were much smaller than the Americans. Our GIs regularly referred to them as “the little people.”
Aside from their size, Vietnamese children struck me as being far cuter than American children. They smiled and giggled easily, and they were regularly frightened of westerners because we were so much bigger than they were. Time after time, I’d reach out to a little one only to have them scoot away to their parents for protection from what must have looked to them like a giant.
I know that many children died during the conquest of South Vietnam by the communists from the north. Some were trampled to death by the mobs that overflowed Saigon at the end of April 1975. Others were killed when the North Vietnamese shelled the city.
But many survived the war. It’s faintly shocking to me to realize that those little ones are now old enough to be grandparents.