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Father Crawford: 1975 Orphan Airlift

We all have fond memories of Father Crawford who helped us get the ACS “Teenagers” baseball team going.

I came across an article written by Joe Dantonio of World Airways, recalling his memories of his part in the 1975 Orphan Airlift from the Oakland Station point of view. In it he mentions the arrival of Father Crawford with his entire *flock* from Viet-nam.

Here is an exert from the article …

” … The 727 arrival was emotional in a different way. Polio still ran rampant in Viet Nam. No one there had ever heard of Jonas Salk or his vaccine. The result was some terribly disfigured children that found refuge in an orphanage run by an American Priest by the name of Father Crawford. As the infrastructure of Viet Nam collapsed, Father Crawford sought alternative arrangements for his charges. An orphanage in Oregon was closed and standing idle. Father Crawford and his entire flock, including the children, the Nuns, and other personnel were flown to Oakland by World Airways and transported to Oregon by bus. Many of these children were old enough to be suspicious of everyone in the strange environment they were entering. I was particularly impressed by the Mother Superior, who with exceptional dignity and warmth, dealt with everyone’s apprehensions. On arrival, one of the flight attendants felt compelled to converse with Mother Superior in academic French. Mother Superior was trying to console the children in Vietnamese and speaking to me in perfect English. Needless to say, French was soon eliminated from the communications circle.

The Father Crawford flight involvement spanned a comparatively few hours, but also left a permanent memory of how fortunate I have been. … ”

If you’d like to read the entire article Click Here.

Father Crawford brought 305 children out of Viet-nam, according to most reports.

Other bits and pieces about Father Crawford.

” … Rev. Robert Crawford, a Vincentian priest from Philadelphia who is pastor of Regina Pacis Church … ”

” … Regina Pacis Church is the one most frequented by foreign Catholics, particularly English-speaking Catholics, in Saigon. …”

” … Institutions directed from Regina Pacis Church include an orphanage with 300 children, a rehabilitation clinic for young polio victims and a school with nine grades, all staffed by nuns. … ”

” … an article by Father Robert Crawford in the Mindzenty Report, a conservative Catholic newsletter, recalls a great success story. Father Crawford, who rescued handicapped children when Saigon fell, said one boy, paralyzed from the waist down and uneducated, blossomed in the United States. The boy finished 12 years of school in five and went on to earn a doctorate in biochemistry. He is now a scientist at a major university. … ”

Some reports say Father Crawford first went to Oregon … other accounts say he took the children to Arizona establishing an orphanage there until he was able to find people to adopt the children after which he returned to Viet-nam … most accounts concur that he did in fact return to Viet-nam after it was under Communist rule. There seem to be conflicting reports as to what happened to him between the time he and his flock departed from Oakland, by bus, heading for Oregon. I’ve not been able to establish a time line of when he returned to Viet-nam, exactly. One report says a Father Bob Crawford was imprisoned in China, but does not say when.

I’ve often wondered how he found time to come to our baseball practices and games, given all the other things he was involved with in Saigon.

As always, you are welcome to leave your Comments below.

Bob

40 comments to Father Crawford: 1975 Orphan Airlift

  • Frank

    Bob, I have a lot of information and letters from Fr. Crawford. In late 1973, I quit my job as a photo analyst with the C.I.A. and had moved to Idaho Falls where I got a temporary job closing out sub-contracts for a company called Aerojet Nuclear Company who was a contractor for the Atomic Energy Company. It was while we were in Idaho that we got word from my Mother (Vertie) that Fr. Crawford was in need of financial help. She had been in correspondence with him over the years since leaving Saigon.

    Maybe these early letters from Father Crawford explains it.

    “January 31, 1974

    Dear Susan and Frank,

    I was really pleased and happy to receive Susan’s letter, what a blessing to have friends like that. It augurs good for Frank to have such a thoughtful better half. It is hard for me to believe that, you have a wife and child and are expecting another. Your Mother told me that you were here with the Marines, during the war. I had so very little opportunity to travel, things were so busy here in Saigon. Thank God you got out without a scratch, The Marines really had a tough time of it. The sad thing about the whole affair is that the war has never stopped. Unfortunately the VC are all over the place. Kissinger got the Nobel Peace Prize – I really think he had a lot of guts taking it. I think that a man with any kind of honor would have refused it, and if for no other reasons I have doubts about this man Kissinger.

    The gasoline crisis has hit us hard here. Harder than you can imagine. Gas here now is a dollar sixty-five a gallon. Can you image what that means to a precarious economy like Vietnam has. Everything here is transported by truck so with the rise in the price of gasoline everything also goes up at the same time. Rice is running around fifty dollars a bag and it was about seven when Frank was here. Wages have not risen at all, so you can immediately see the problem for Vietnam. The result is that there are many people hungry in Vietnam today. It is always the poor who get hit the hardest.

    The work among the crippled boys is going rather well, the problem is that there are just too many of them. Yesterday five of them presented themselves. Before you can take them in you have to make an investigation, and the police demand that they have certain papers before they can stay. They are very strict here, everyone has to carry an ID card, and when you move you have to report to the police, and if your papers are not in order you cannot move. Actually under the conditions in the country today it is necessary.

    Again many thanks; I am saying a mass every Sunday evening for those who help out in this work among the crippled.

    God bless, Father Bob Crawford”

    “February 19, 1974

    Dear Sue and Frank,

    Just a little note to let you know that your check has safely arrived and of course, to thank you for your kindness, all goes well here, the big problem is that there are so many poor since the US pulled out the troops. The problem with the crippled lads is that there are too many to help. You just cannot take care of them all. Then there are the poor lads that are paralyzed completely, people bring them to me thinking I can help them, but there is little that I can do for them. I am trying to help the lads that can be rehabilitated, I am just not set up to take in lads that are confined to bed. Then there are the other poor people that are constantly coming for help. I just had an 18 year old girl come here looking for work. She has no place to live, sleeping on the sidewalks. I sent her to the Good Shepherd Sisters thinking that they may be able to help her. I just cannot take care of girls here.

    I hope and pray that all goes well with you.

    Cheers, Father Bob Crawford”

    In the late spring of 1974, I went to work as a carpenter in Anaconda, Montana. We would continue to send at least five dollars a month to Father Crawford. Other friends and relatives would also do the same. My Aunt Ruth in Anaconda was a great solicitor. She got her daughter Ruth (my cousin) in Irving, Texas involved. She and her husband Ray were very active in their church and got the Catholic Daughter and the Knights of Columbus donating. When my cousin died, Ray sent me all the correspondence between them and Father Crawford. In the material that he sent me, were several articles about the exodus from Saigon.

    In the spring of 1975, my wife and I decided that I was going back in the military. While I was finishing up my present obligations at work and preparing for a new adventure, I found out that Father Crawford had landed with some Vietnamese kids in Oakland. We started watching the news and finally got word that they had gone to Mount Angel, Oregon. After about three days of calling, I was able to get a hold of Father Crawford. (Remember, we did not have google back then!) We chatted at some length…about family stuff…we even talked about our dog Gigi who had been born in Saigon in 1961 and that Father Crawford’s male Poodle named Sputnik was the father (Gigi lived for over sixteen years). Father Crawford then told me about some of his adventure on getting out of Saigon.

    He, Fr. Crawford, had become friends with the President of World, an Irish-American Catholic by the name of Mr. Daly. Mr. Daly had already become noted for his last plane out of DaNang where he and others were attempting to beat back the Arvn soldiers from boarding the plane.

    Father Crawford and Mr. Daly decided that the only way they could get the children out of Vietnam was to sneak them out. The US military had not been too successful with operation “Baby Lift” and the South Vietnam government was becoming nonfunctional. They took all the kids to a restaurant in Saigon with the pretext that they were having a party. They snuck the kids out a back door where they hid them in trucks (or buses…I cannot remember what he said). They drove to Ton Son Thut where they bribed the Vietnamese guards and got the kids on to a World Airways plane. The Ton Son Thut Tower denied them takeoff, which they ignored. Fathered Crawford said he said, “What are they going to do…shoot us down?” They flew to Oakland where US Customs and Immigration met them. The Government was at first talking about penalties, fines and whatever, but decide to drop everything because of public opinion.

    Father Crawford new a retired Army Col. by the name of Lambert who had moved to Oregon. With his help, they got the kids to Oregon where they would live in a Beer hall and on Col Lambert’s property.
    I asked Father Crawford if I should drive out to Oregon and help (I could spare about a month before reporting for military duty). I could wash dishes, do laundry or whatever. He said no that they had too many people, but they really needed money. Many others would contribute to the cause for about another two years. Father Crawford would then have the kids settled in and informed us they no longer needed the funds.

    Bob, I have more information to pass on about Father Crawford… Articles and letters…but I am tired of typing … language and typing is not a strong suit of mine. Maybe I can get it done in the next few days. I can also let you know what Father Crawford did for the next several years … until is death from Cancer. Just before the SaigonKids Reunion in 2000, I called his “Order” in PA and found out about his death. I guess he went through a tremendous amount of pain before he died.

    Later bud…Frank

    • Frank – TOTALLY AWESOME!!!!! – 🙂

      In searching the Internet for information on Father Crawford I’ve found very limited information so far.

      I’m thinking (I know – dangerous – lol) that perhaps we could, over the next few months, compile everything we can gather up about Father Crawford into a *Tribute* to him, possibly in the form of an eBook or video presentation about one of the many, many *little known heroes* of the Viet-nam era – 🙂

      Maybe other SKs could contribute their experiences, memories and stories about Father Crawford, also.

      Now I’m wondering if his church and orphanage are still functioning in Viet-nam. If so, perhaps Saigon Kids could become supporters. Just a passing thought – 🙂

      Hmmm .. ?? … Col. Lambert – I’m now wondering if this was one of my Unlces on my mother’s side. When we were living in Hawaii a few years before we went to Saigon, I remember visiting one of my mother’s uncles and his family (Lambert’s) who lived in Wahiawa. He was in the Army stationed at Schofield. His son Larry (my 2nd cousin) and I used to ride motor cycles and horses all over the pineapple field, and hike way back up into the mountians in the Army’s jungle warfare training area (off limits, I know – lol) to go fishing in the streams and rivers that fed the Wahiawa resevoirs. They only lived about a block from the border of the jungle warfare training area in Wahiawa. We had a place were we could *slip under* the 10 ft. high fence then slide down the hill into the valley below. We’d then follow a stream up into the mountains for about a 1/2 day hike to a water fall. Just below the water fall was a small island in the middle of the stream which made a nice camp site for us. Just below the island there was a deep area of the stream. Made a great swimming hole. We made a rope swing hanging from a tree growing out of the side of the cliff on one side of the hole … so we could swing out and drop into the water – lol. The streams back in that area were rarely, if ever, visit by people. You could literally reach in with your hands and pick up fish … 4-5 lb. bass, as well as, sunfish, talapia, etc. There were all kinds of fruits growing in there too, bread fruit, quava, bananas, mountain apples, etc. We’d hike in there in the summer time and stay for a week or two living mostly off the land. We really didn’t have to pack in much in the way of food. The vegetation grew so fast in there (rain forrest) we had to chop our trail in, then it would be completely over grown by the time we’d hike out … and, we’d have to chop our way back out – lol. Wild pigs and packs of wild Poi Dogs were the only hazards that existed. Praise the Lord for WWII surplus jungle hammocks that kept us high enough off the ground that if a pack of wild poi dogs raided our camp site in the middle of the night … they couldn’t get to us – lol.

      So, now I’ll have to do some research on my uncle to see if he is the one who give Father Crawford a helping hand – I’ve not been in touch with my cousin since the mid-1960s. Last I heard he was a Grain Broker in Chicago.

      The World Airways’ web site linked to in the above Post mentions Mr. Daly and a little about his helping Father Crawford, if you surf around the site a little – 🙂

      The site also mentions about how the pilot *broke all the rules* to fly the plane out of Viet-nam. I think, if I recall correct, it also tells about how he had *broke all the rules* flying out of China during or after WWII, also.

      *Angels* come in mysterious forms sometimes – 🙂

      Thanks!!!! for all the information on Father Crawford.

      Rock Onnnnnn … 🙂

      Bob

  • frank

    Bob, Looking quickly on the Internet, there still seems to be Lamberts in that part of Oregon. Here is my next installment….

    S.F. Examiner Thurs., Apr. 24,1975

    Crippled Kids Find Home In Beer Hall

    Mt. Angel, Ore. – A beer hall-turned-dormitory is the temporary home for 148 crippled children and refugees who left a Catholic orphanage in war-threatened Saigon three days ago.

    They filed sleepily off school buses yesterday at this community nestled among orchards and vineyards of Oregon’s lush Willamette Valley, three days after bidding goodbye to their homeland and boarding a jetliner for the United States.

    Benedictine nuns and about 100 of Mt. Angel’s 2,500 residents had cots ready for the Vietnamese at Mt. Angel beer hall, where the town holds it annual Oktoberfest celebration.

    The refugees had landed two hours earlier at Portland International Airport, 40 miles to the north, after a stop at San Francisco.

    “It looked like Saigon was in danger,” said the Rev. Robert Crawford, head of the polio center in Saigon and counselor for several orphanages. “My life is there. I left my home. If I can go back, I’ll go back and take my children.”

    Father Crawford had asked Harry Lambert, whom he first met in Saigon in 1955, to take on 30 handicapped children at his farm near Mt. Angel. But Lambert, an Army colonel who retired six years ago, said he learned Monday that he would be host to many more than 30 orphans.

    “Originally, that’s all he thought that he could get out,” said Lambert, 63, the father of five. “What we do will depend on the circumstances.”

    None of the orphans, ranging from ages 2 to 18, is up for adoption, said Father Crawford, a Vincentian priest originally from Philadelphia.
    The 20 adult refugees, accompanied by their own children, all worked at the orphanage.

    “These people have always been loyal to us and the United States, and we thought we’d return the favor,” said Lambert.

    The flight from Saigon was paid for by Edward Daly, board chairman of World Airways, who has been active in bringing orphans out of the war-ravaged country.

    Both Lambert and Father Crawford said they feared reprisals from the communists if they identified the Saigon orphanage.

    “You pinpoint it and they’ll bomb it,” said Lambert.

    He said the departure from Saigon was done “very cleverly and we don’t want to say how because someone else might want to do it.”
    Many of the orphans are polio victims. Some hobbled down the loading ramp on crutches. Others wore heavy braces on their thin legs. Some, who couldn’t walk, were carried down the ramp.

    “Those are the ones he took out because they’re worthless,” said Mrs. Lambert, also 63. “They would be killed because they are handicapped when Saigon falls…you don’t pick them up, they’ll die, so he’s picked them up … The communists like babies, too, but not handicapped ones.”

    Note from Frank … Saigon would fall about a week later …. I have a few more letters I’ll try to type up. I could not locate anything in Saigon websites, but perhaps I should contact Fr. Crawford’s order someday and see if they can help. Unfortunately when I was in Saigon last year, I did not go over to the church.

    • Frank – for the live of me I can’t remember that uncle’s (Lambert) first name – lol. While both our families were living in Hawaii (1956-58/59) is the only time I ever knew them. I’d never known them before then, and never had contact with them after that, even tho I’m sure my parents kept in touch with them over the years.

      After leaving Hawaii the only thing I remember is in the early/mid 1960s my grand mother told me one time that cousin Larry had dropped out of school in the 11th grade, then moved to Chicago where he became a grain broker at the Chicago Board of Trade, and had become very successful at it. He married a beautiful girl, had two kids, then one week end they where taking their boat up to their summer cottage on the lake and were involved in an automobile accident. Larry surrived with minor injuries, but his wife and both kids were killed in the accident. I had tried to look him up when I was living and working in Chicago in the mid to late 1960s, but found that shortly after the accident he moved from the Chicago area. I never did learn where too tho.

      I’m sending an email to my mother’s sister this week end to find out about cousin Larry and his parents. She is the only one in the family still living that will know all the details of that arm of the family.

      The newspaper article says Lambert had known Father Crawford in Saigon in 1955. I don’t know if my uncle’s was in Saigon in 1955 or not. He was in Hawaii in 1957/58 I know, and they had a 4 year tour there. But, I don’t really know much else. His wife (my aunt) was, if I remember correctly, either the daughter or grand daughter of one of my grand mother’s sisters (on my mother’s side of the family).

      It’ll be interesting to see if the Lambert who knew Father Crawford was my uncle or not. If it was, WOW, what a small world!!! – 🙂

      Reading the information you’ve posted so far, it is easy to understand now why most of the information found on the Internet is very vague about what took place while Father Crawford was taking the kids out of Viet-nam and getting them settled in Oregon, etc.

      Now I’m wondering, did they rename the *Beer Hall* – Ba Muoi Ba – OR – 33 Export (after all it was an ‘export’ kind of situation in a way) – LOL – 🙂

      One can only imagine how hard it must be for people like Father Crawford with so, so many, many who need help and assistance, but only being able to help so very few of the 1000s that come to them for help … which one’s do you help, and to which one’s do you say, “I’m sorry but I’m not able to help you” too?! And, how difficult it must be to turn away people who are so desperately in need of help.

  • frank

    From Father Crawford … Mt. Angel, Oregon 97362 … no date …

    Dear Friends,

    The tragedy of Vietnam lives on. All of us would like to say that it now belongs to the past, but unfortunately it will live on with us and, in a special way, in the war torn souls of the refugees who have sought freedom in our midst.

    While in Vietnam it was my privilege to care for some of the handicapped children who were victims of this war torn land: children whose parents were forever lost in the almost never-ending struggle or because of poverty were incapable of caring for their children. Under my direct care were fifty handicapped boys and our sisters cared for another one hundred girls mostly polio victims. When time came to evacuate Vietnam we went through the agony of deciding what to do with these children – how would they fare under Communist rule which evaluates an individual primarily according to his capacity to produce for the State? After prayer and much reflection we decided to return all children with parents to their families feeling that families should not be permanently separated. This left us with about fifty parentless children to care for.

    Then, miraculously, an opportunity suddenly materialized to bring these children with me to America. It all happened within a space of a few hours and the departure was a wild adventure through the war torn streets of Saigon that led us to Okinawa, Japan, Oakland, Portland and finally to the lovely town of Mt. Angel, Oregon.

    Temporarily the children are living in the October Fest Beer Hall in Mt. Angel, Oregon. The Benedictine Sisters of Mt. Angel and the town’s people have been wonderful and generous but their charity is limited and temporary and we must make permanent arrangements.

    While in Vietnam a group of about one hundred friends donated five dollars monthly to help support my efforts. Now the problem of support far exceeds this amount. To keep us going we shall need at least one thousand friends willing to contribute five dollars monthly for the support of these children. I realize the difficult economic times many Americans are experiencing, so if five dollars a month is beyond your present means then any contribution you can make will be appreciated. I also beseech you to pass along a copy of this letter to any friends or persons who may be in a position to help … our needs are real and urgent.

    Until we find a permanent place for our children to live all contributions can be sent to:

    Rev. Robert Crawford C.M.
    St. Vincent Seminary
    500 East Chelten Avenue
    Philadelphia, Penna. 19144

    For tax deduction purposes the check should be made out to the Congregation for the Mission.

    With thanks in advance and prayers and good wishes, I am, Robert Crawford C.M.

  • frank

    Bob,

    That would be something if you were related to the Lambert mentioned … regardless, maybe it is time to connect with more of your relatives.

    Here is another installment … Hope some folks find it interesting.

    Frank

    From Father Crawford …

    Our sojourn in Mt Angel, Oregon ended with the beginning of June. By that time we were able to place about a hundred of the children that had come with us. Some found relatives living here in the States; the others we placed in excellent foster homes and their future is secured.
    The situation of the handicapped children demanded a different kind of solution. They had already passed through enough trauma. After much prayer and consultation it was agreed to keep these children together. After a year or so when the children know our language and are accustomed to living in our country their situation can be revaluated, and new decisions made in regards to what is best for them.

    We had good fortune of being able to send the handicapped girls to a Sisters of Charity House in Rosemead, California, just outside of Los Angeles. The children will remain there permanently. There is every convenience present for health, physical therapy and education. The Sisters only ask that we contribute whatever possible to their support.

    Our experience in Oregon taught us that the handicapped could not support a cold damp climate, so we brought the crippled boys to Tucson, Arizona and have them temporarily lodged for the summer in Quarters set aside for University students, while we try to find permanent housing for them.

    Our expenses are running high; the total expenses are now running around five thousand dollars a month. We have about four hundred contributors so we still are far short…..still so many good people around that we are confident that the Good Lord will not fail us.

    I am, Very gratefully Rev. Robert Crawford C.M.

  • frank

    I still have so many letters from Father Crawford, but unless I run across ones with more information, this will be the last I type and send.

    My understanding … Father Crawford would be sent to New Guinea where he would do some missionary work. He then was able to get assigned to the Philippine Islands where he lived and worked in a Vietnamese refugee camp helping others … especially the boat people.

    I am not aware of him ever being able to return to the country that he called his home and loved so very much.

    As far as China … perhaps this is the more actuate story …

    When my family lived in Iran (1954-59), an American Catholic priest arrived in ’55. His name was Father Williams (he is mentioned in the book “On Wings of Eagles”). Father Williams had lived in China for over twenty years, and in fact when he arrived in Iran he still thaught in Chinese and not English.

    Father Williams had spent several years imprisoned by the Japanese and then by the Communists before getting “booted” out of his beloved China.

    In 1959, when Dad came down on orders for Vietnam, Father Williams contacted Father Crawford in Saigon. Both Father Williams and Father Crawford had crossed paths in China in the forties or fifties and thus my folks were in correspondence with Fr. Crawford before arriving in Saigon. Perhaps Father Crawford had been imprisoned in China before he ever got to Vietnam … of what I think was 1954.

    Yes, Father Crawford was quite the lad himself … I think his BMW, with an electric starter, was the first motorcycle I ever drove. He would always let me bum cigarettes from him and he was always available to help out with our ball team. He could do one arm hand stands … he spoke his mind … and yet was gentle.

    After our game with Navy – we lost sixteen to one. I was so pleased that I got the point with an in the park home run. Father Crawford came over and said, “boy you were lucky, Blackie (The Navy pitcher) sure gave you that pitch!”

    Well … here is Father Crawford in his own words…again!!!

    St. Vincent’s Rehabilitation Center
    540 A Wilmot Road
    Tucson, Arizona 85711
    No date

    Dear Friends,

    Gradually we are settling into our Tucson home, really a magnificent place. One of those millionaire mansions of yesterday that now no one can afford to maintain. There are about twenty-five rooms and the living room would do justice to Queen Victoria’s Ball Room. Huge hand chopped mahogany beams grace the ceiling, then a large fireplace faced with Spanish tile. Every time I pass through that room I am waiting for an orchestra to strike up a Strauss Waltz. The big question is how are we going to afford the upkeep of such a majestic and extensive villa? Actually we won’t have to restore it, and we are “scrounging” paint, tools, and material necessary for refurnishing, and doing the work ourselves. We have successfully begged for furniture, curtains, kitchen utensils, etc. We have a long way to go, but we shall arrive.

    Most of our boys have been able to resister at Pima Community College for special English classes. Unfortunately the University of Arizona tuition is too high for non-residents. It becomes very reasonable after residence here. At that time the lads English will also be sufficient. The courses they will be taking are afternoon and evening, and we are hoping to have the lads follow some vocational training during the morning. So everyone is quite busy, besides the lads do their own laundry; clean their rooms and the house, besides taking care of the garden and pool. At one time we wanted the boys to do their own cooking, but it became too expensive – like any lads they wasted too much, and it was feast or famine. They would prepare a couple of sumptuous meals and there would be nothing for the rest of the week.

    To avoid confusion all of the boys are using their Christian name and those that are not Christian we have given American names. So names like Jim, Bill, and Mike are echoing through the house, and when someone calls for them on the telephone we know to whom they want to speak.

    The other evening our lads got a real taste of American life. After eating they were enjoying the cool Arizona twilight in the rear of the house, darkness was falling and what seemed to be a rabbit scurried back to a corner of the wall that encompasses the house. The boys immediately began to aspire for rabbit stew, a Vietnamese favorite. Three took positions with their crutches and a fourth went into chase the rabbit out. With a finesse that we westerners cannot understand or imitate they managed to clobber the rabbit. Well the rabbit turned out to be a skunk, unknown in Vietnam, and the results were pungent. They were confused, shocked and smelling, and had not the least idea as to what happened. Unfortunately the lesson was rough on the clothes.

    We are advancing slowly but surely in hope to obtain a thousand five dollar a month donors. Now we have about five hundred and even this means considerable correspondence, and regrettably we are forced to use mechanical copies, the personal note will no longer be possible.

    From now on please send all correspondence and gifts to our Tucson address.

    Gratefully in the Lord, Fr. Crawford C.M.

  • Frank – THANK YOU again for your most welcome contributions about Father Crawford. Very much appreciated!!

    I’m still digesting all the bits and pieces of information I’ve come across about Father Crawford, mostly contained in other documents, reports, and accounts pertaining to other people and events … a couple sentences here, a couple there … kind of thing.

    But, it would seem to make sense that Father Crawford was in China before going to Viet-nam. The same pilot who flew the plane bring Father Crawford and his flock out of Viet-nam had also *broken all the rules* after WWII to fly a Priest and orphans out of China. I think it may have been Father Williams, but I’d have to go back an research it to document that as fact. I read a very brief few words in some document I was reading that said, “… Father Crawford and another Priest were imprisoned in China …” – this may well have been when Father Williams and Father Crawford crossed paths in China. My assumption is this would have probably taken place sometime between the end of WWII and 1954 during the early years of the Red Guard taking control of China, etc.

    Maybe if you have a few mintues sometime in the future, you could contact his *Order* in PA. and inquire if he ever retuned to Viet-nam or not.

    Again, thank you so very, very much for all the information you’ve provided so far. It really helps to clarify and tie together all the very limited bits and pieces of information available on the Internet about his journey with the kids out of Viet-nam and resettlement in the USA.

    If anyone else has information about Father Crawford, please feel free to share it with the rest of us – 🙂

  • John

    Hello all! This priest is my uncle Bob. He was a great man, but I didnt see him often growing up for obvious reasons. I can look for more info but I do know he was imprisoned in China for quite some time. He also was in Borneo and Cambodia. I will ask my grandmother who just turned 91 this week, if she has any letters from his correspondence with her husband Charles, Bobs brother. Thank you very much for sharing these letters with me, it means a lot.

    • Hi John! Thanks for visiting. What a small world it is! Yes, your uncle was a very special man, not only to us Saigon Kids, but to many, many others he helped. It would be wonderful if you can find additional information to fill in some of the gaps about him. Happy birthday wishes to your grandmother from all us Saigon Kids – and may she have many, many, many more!!!

      Please feel free to visit often.

      Bob

  • Ben

    In 1966 when I was in Saigon, we (US troops) used to met with Father Crawford on Saturday nights when he would serve us dinner and drinks. And we inturn would leave a donation. A Father Williams is mentioned above. I knew him in Tehran, Iran in 1970-1972 where he served the Americans that were stationed there. He also served in China.

  • Joe Sobecki

    Hi, I accidentally stumbled upon your fine website while trying to locate information on Father Crawford, a hero of mine.

    I met Father Crawford about the time the last remaining Saigon Kids were departing Saigon, February 1965. My Unit arrived at the beginning of December 1964 and a big surprise was seeing American women and children in Saigon. We thought that things could not be that bad with civilians there. A week later Anna’s Bar was blown up; two weeks later the Brink BOQ was in flames; in January a bomb was found at the swimming pool; and my jeep was almost crushed by an ARVN APC during a coup. I really started to wonder why the hell you people were there!

    I came to Queen of Peace Church to volunteer and help in any way I could during my off-duty hours. There were about half a dozens NonComs doing volunteer work, guys like Sergeant Major O’Hollerhan, Sergeant Harding, and a Swab named Woody. Saturday afternoons we helped distribute food to refugees whom the sisters of the parish brought in. Sister Martin was the Mother Superior and she called me, “Mr. Joe” which I told her was too formal. She smiled and replied, “Whatever you wish……Mr. Joe.” She then just grinned and I knew that we would do things her way. Saturday evenings and Sunday afternoons we spent entertaining the children. Eventually, at the request of Sister Martin I would come once or twice a week in the evenings to teach English to the other nuns.

    Father Crawford talked baseball, loved golf, and played some mean handball. After distributing food, we would join him for tea or something stronger in the rectory. He once told me that he had been in China but I do not recall if he or one of the sergeants informed me that he had spent time in a Communist prison. On occasion he had some interesting guests who had deeper insight into what was occurring in-country. One time I spoke to him about a Catholic Vietnamese girl that I had been trying to date for over a month. He laughed and cautioned me that the Vietnamese woman is not like the Japanese woman who walks behind her husband (back in 1965). The Vietnamese woman has a mind of her own and he used examples of the Hai Ba Troung sisters and Madame Nhu, the Dragon Lady.

    I kept in touch with father Crawford for several years afterwards but through moves and job changes we lost contact. I am really sorry about that.

    • Hello *Mr. Joe* – 🙂

      Welcome to the site. Thank you for stopping by and sharing your memories of Father Crawford and Viet-nam with everyone. Very much appreciated! Father Crawford holds a special place in our hearts as I’m sure he does in the hearts of the many people who knew him. Yes, he is truly an *unsung* hero of the times.

      Again, thanks for visiting. Please feel free to come back often.

      Bob

  • Edward Russell

    Following is Father Bob Crawford’s obituary in the Philadelphia Inquirer (March 1999).

    Father Bob was very close friend to the Chaplains at 3rd Field Hospital. In the Roman Catholic hierarchy for Americans in South Vietnam he was the equivalent of a Bishop, actually higher than the Catholic Military Ordinariate, typically a Army Colonel in the country, and subordinate to the Archbishop of New York at that time.

    I have a lot more background on Father Bob from the Vincentians (Congregation of the Mission) in Philadelphia, collected for the biography files at the US Army Chaplain Museum (FT. Jackson, SC).

    I will submit more information on a fine person whom I knew in 1968-1969 was a “Living Saint.”

    Edward Russell
    Catholic Chaplain Assistant
    3rd Field Hospital (1968-1969)

    THE REV. ROBERT CRAWFORD , 82, A MISSIONARY IN ASIA
    Philadelphia Inquirer, The (PA) – Thursday, March 18, 1999
    Author: Dominic Sama, INQUIRER STAFF WRITER

    The Rev. Robert P. Crawford , 82, who spent more than 47 years in Southeast Asia as a Vincentian missionary, died of cancer Tuesday at St. Catherine’s Infirmary of St. Vincent’s Seminary in Germantown.

    Most of his mission work was with Vietnamese refugees and handicapped children in Vietnam, Cambodia, Borneo, Indonesia and the Philippines. He established medical shelters, sought aid from various sources, and in 1975 helped to bring 130 handicapped Vietnamese children to the United States for treatment.

    Two weeks ago, two wheelchair-bound refugees he had aided more than 20 years ago came from California to visit the ailing Father Crawford .

    Father Crawford began his missionary work in 1947, shortly after his ordination. He was posted in China but was expelled four years later when the Communists took over the country.

    En route home, he stopped in Rome and spent three years earning a doctorate in canon law, which he received in 1954 from Angelicum Papal University.

    Shortly after, Father Crawford was assigned to Vietnam and Cambodia and remained in those countries for 20 years.

    Beginning in 1977, he served a 10-year stint in Borneo. He then was sent to the Philippines, where he spent 12 years before becoming ill and returning here two months ago.

    Born in Olney, Father Crawford graduated in 1937 from St. Joseph’s College prep school in Plainsboro, N.J., and received his bachelor’s degree in theology in 1947 from Mary Immaculate Seminary in Northampton, near Allentown. He was ordained at the seminary the same year.

    He is survived by a sister.

    Viewings will be held at 3 and 7 p.m. today at St. Vincent’s Seminary, 500 E. Chelten Ave. A Funeral Mass will be said at 10:30 a.m. tomorrow at the Shrine of the Miraculous Medal at the seminary. Burial will be at St. Joseph’s Cemetery in Plainsboro.

    • Edward – Thank you so very, very much for providing this information about Father Bob Crawford. Very much appreciated!

      Yes, he was a *Living Saint*.

      We’ll be looking forward to any additional information you can provide about Father Crawford.

      Bob

  • Edward Russell

    More about Father Bob Crawford:

    This is from the Newsletter, undated, of the CONGREGATION OF THE MISSION (The Vincentians), Office of the Provincial, Philadelphia, PA.

    SAF ORIENTALIS:

    Bob Crawford back from Vietnam.

    Thanks be to God, Father Bob Crawford is home safe. He brought with him some maimed orphan boys, some orphan girls crippled with polio, and some sisters and other lay people to care for them. Here is the story.

    You will recall that Bob had been based in a house for the Confreres on the property of the Daughters of Charity school and orphanage in Saigon, which house was attached to the Confreres’ community at Dalat (Paris Province). During the past few years Bob worked in two locations: at the school and orphanage as a chaplain for the sisters and children, as a pastor for the English-speaking people of Saigon, as a host for Confreres coming into Saigon from the mountains, as Cardinal Cooke’s delegate for the armed forces in Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia, and as host for U.S. military chaplains; and at the new home he started four miles outside of Saigon for boys who had been maimed in the war. He spent the morning and early afternoon with the boys. At 3 P. M. he left them with two lay brothers and drove his bicycle into Saigon and worked in his parish and – 232 – school and orphanage until 9 P. M., when he rode his bicycle back to the boys.

    The two people who helped Bob in the evacuation were Mr. Frank Reidy and Mr. Ed Dailey. Frank gave him a substantial donation and helped him hire buses to transport the children, provide quarters for them near the airport, etc. Ed Dailey, the President of World Airways, donated one free flight at a personal expense of $ 200,000.

    Bob had been some time trying to figure out how to provide for the children. Sent home most of the children who had parents or families to receive them, and kept the orphans and those who had no one. Bob took on another group besides his own because there was room. Bob was the last one to get on. They had loaded on 294 men, women and children.

    They flew Saigon-Okinawa-Tokyo-Oakland, Cal. in Ed Dailey’s plane. At Oakland, the U. S. Air Force took over, and flew Bob’s group up to Portland, Oregon. Ret. Colonel Harry Lambert had arranged for Bob’s group to be received in the dorms of Colegio Cesar Chavez in Mt. Angel, a former coed college run by the Benedictines. The Benedictine Sisters have been very good to them, and so have the people of the town.

    After spending about a week getting everyone temporarily settled in Mt. Angel, Bob came east. On May 1 Bob went to Washington. Fred McGuire made a contact with John McCarthy, head of U.S.C.C. Emergency Relief and Refugee Services. He also got to see Rep. Al Ullman, Chairman of the House Appropriations Committee. On May 3 he went to see Sister Mary Clare in Emmitsburg.

    Bob has been trying to avoid publicity. In Oakland, the head of U.S.C.C. Relief Services told him he had to have a press conference because of the terrible distortions that were being circulated. Bob did. Afterwards two of the reporters approached him with tears in their eyes and apologized for the actions of some of their colleagues. Bob told me to feel free to communicate all of the above information to the Confreres.

    (From Father Nugent’s Newsletter)

    • Edward – Again, thank you so very, very much. This is the kind of information I’ve been searching for (over the past couple years) about Father Bob Crawford to fill in the gaps as to what actually took place and happened to Father Crawford after us Saigon Kids departed Saigon.

      Bob

  • Edward Russell

    PART 1 (OF 2 Parts)

    FRANK REIDY’S MEMORIAL OF FATHER ROBERT P. CRAWFORD
    (Courtesy: Congregation of the Mission-The Vincentians, Phila., PA)

    Rev. ROBERT P. Crawford, C.M.
    Born: December 27, 1917
    ORDAINED: MAY 31. 1947
    Died: MARCH 16. 1999

    In Memoriam
    By Frank Reidy-August, 1999

    SAIGON-1965

    I rang the bell. An older gentleman, at least to me at age twenty-four, appeared. The Catholic priest was trim, well proportioned, with a salt and pepper crew cut. He stood ramrod straight filling the arched doorway, dignified, a bit of the elder statesman combined with a marine sergeant. Folding his arms neatly, with a slight inquisitive tilt of the head, he spoke in a dialect familiar to me from what seemed like a distant past.

    “Wha’ do we have here?” I explained to the Father my situation; two years in Bangladesh with President Kennedy’s Peace Corps were up. I was headed home, to the States. A few intermediate stops along the way, in a region of the world I was sure never to see again, had exhausted my meager savings. Saigon-the Pearl of the Orient-would be a final stop. I asked this parish priest if he could put me up for a few days.

    Father invited me inside the rectory where he helped me remove my backpack of dirty laundry and worn out shoes.

    “Where are you from my boy?” he asked.

    “Philadelphia, Father.”

    “Now just where in Philadelphia might that be?”

    Looking at the kindly priest rather curiously. I replied: “Thirty-fourth and Chestnut – why?”

    The Father smiled: “Does North Broad ring a bell?!”

    I mean, how unlikely was this? Here we were half a world away from home. Father, an Irish Catholic like myself, was born and raised in Philadelphia, just miles away from where I would grow up a generation later. Thus began my long and privileged relationship with Father Robert Crawford of North Broad Street, Philadelphia, PA.

    As I remember him now, it seems fitting that Father should hail from Broad Street in North Philadelphia. For in Father’s time, and still today, Broad Street is the major artery that runs through the heart of the old “City of Brotherly Love.” Broad Street – both north and south, is hardly the “main line” of the privileged, but a rather common thoroughfare. It filters out in capillaries, into shaded lanes and courts of modest working – class neighborhoods. And like Father Crawford himself, it is the source from which everything emanates, diverges and eventually returns. For me, and for many, many others, Father was like that for me: a rich source to which I would return again and again for inspiration over the next thirty-five years.

    It isn’t often that we meet a true hero in this life. I had the honor of being a real hero’s friend. Allow me to give you a glimpse of the most remarkable person I have ever met.

    Father Crawford was born in 1917. At the age of 19, he entered the Seminary to be ordained in the Order of St. Vincent de Paul. After ordination in 1947, Father was sent to China where he was assigned to a Church in the city of Ta Yu in Kiangsi Province. Soon however, the new communist government under Mao Tse-Tung placed all priests under house arrest. Father was eventually released in 1951. Along with other priests and monks, Father was “escorted” to Hong Kong by Chinese police.

    From there Father Crawford traveled to Rome where he was accepted into a doctoral program. In 1954. he graduated Summa Cum Laude in Canon Law. Defending his thesis in Latin, before six judges, Father received the highest score possible (10 out of 10) from each of the judges. With all of father’s admirable characteristic traits – courage, perseverance, kindness, sacrifice – he also had a first-rate mind. During his lifetime he would say Mass and sermonize in seven languages.

    In 1955, “Gentleman Black Bob” as he sometimes signed his correspondences – was sent to “Queen of Peace” parish in Saigon. A rather ironic nomenclature! Although Father principally served the ever-growing American community as the war clouds gathered, he served the Vietnamese as well. He charmed and cajoled the American community into building a 400-seat church, a rectory, and an orphanage of some 300 beds. Hand in hand he worked with the Vietnamese Sisters of Charity who ran a convent and school on the adjacent grounds.

    This was the Catholic priest who labored tirelessly in Vietnam, as he would do in other locales for the rest of his days for the sake of others. This was the Father Robert Crawford I met when I first appeared on his doorstep in 1965.

    After two pleasant evenings of trading stories and enjoying one another’s company, Father suggested that I stay in Saigon and get a job. Once a month he hosted a barbecue for a handful of American businessmen in Saigon. Father wanted to introduce me to the heads of several companies, and with a little luck, I could secure a job.

    On the appointed evening, Father presented the newly arrived American as “Professor Frank Reidy, another Irishman from the good city of Philadelphia.” Father had taken the liberty of upgrading my bachelor’s degree in engineering from Villanova University into a Ph.D. “Professorship” from the same. Before the night was out, and thanks to Father Crawford, I was offered a job as a design engineer. I would be compensated at a rate more than fifteen times my salary in the “Peace Corps.”

    In the Saigon years. Father soon acquired the nickname, “Black Bob.” His mother being part Cherokee, Father had a deep olive complexion. That alone could be the reason for the nickname, “Black Bob,” but it was not.

    Nor had it anything to do with the fact that Father often wore a black shirt and a Roman collar. It was, in fact, that Father possessed a unique knowledge of the black market in Saigon. That market provided him the means to accomplish extraordinary feats when necessary.

    The “Sisters of Charity”- a group of Vietnamese nuns ran both the orphanage and the school. They were always in need of clothes, sheets and medicines. By tapping into U.S. and Embassy channels or into the resources of Vietnamese officials Father knew how to find the items. When those usually reliable sources proved unsuccessful. Father Crawford had no qualms about turning to the Black Market, where anything could be had if the price was right.

    When the Sisters were in need of building materials, supplies suddenly appeared. When the Sisters wanted to equip a bakery, machinery mysteriously appeared. When the children needed paper and pencils, a few boxes would accidentally fall off a truck in the vicinity of their front door. Whatever the need. Whenever it arose. Father found a God-given way.

    Once, when my marine engineering company could not meet payroll, my friend, “Black Bob” advanced me $10,000. He had saved the money to buy a boat (at some point in the future) to take the orphans out on the river. Several months later the cash flow returned. Father got his boat, the orphans got their rides on the river and my employees never missed a paycheck.

    FALL OF SAIGON-1975

    By April of 1975, the communists had surrounded Saigon. The North Vietnamese government had given the Americans and South Vietnamese loyals 14 days to disengage and vacate. Father and I knew all too well what had happened to him and his like under another communist system. It would no doubt happen again if he had remained behind. “Re-education,” as the communists euphemistically labeled it, would be instituted. Many “Holy Men and Women” would soon perish. Father had little choice. He had to go. But he was adamant. He would not leave without the orphans.

    “We have got to find a way, Frank.”

    That said, Father handed me the names of several U.S. officials he thought might serve. The third on the list was a Major Delligatti. U.S. Air Force, Tan Son Nhut airbase. After sitting some hours to the side of his desk Delligatti called me over.

    “I think I have a solution.” the Major offered flatly and without emotion. “A way for you, the priest, and his kids to get out of Vietnam. I have contacted Ed Daley, the owner of World Airways in California.”

    Delligatti went on; “Daley said he would send a plane. It is no longer possible to use military aircraft. Daley is your only hope, see me tomorrow.” I gave the good news to Father Crawford.

    (The week before, the military had provided an airplane, a U.S. Air Force C-5, which took off with nearly 300 children. Within moments of take-off, something happened. A rocket most likely, hit the rear of the plane blowing the rear -loading door off. The plane crashed. Nearly all of the children and crew died in the rice paddies at the end of the runway.)

    The instructions from Major Delligatti were to be at Tan Son Nhut airbase at 10:30 p.m. – three days hence. I was informed that an aircraft capable of carrying some 175 people would be there. After landing at night, it would taxi to the Pan American parking area at the airport. It was our responsibility to get all the children there to meet this unscheduled flight. The plane would quickly load up under the cover of dark, turn around and depart immediately.

    Father did not have permission from his Catholic Order to do what he was doing, but he felt very strongly that without his efforts these 175 children were doomed. We both felt the world closing in on us.

    Mr. Daley’s airplane, a DC9 with “World Airways” stamped all over it, landed at Tan Son Nhut airbase without landing rights or landing lights. The pilots and crew were all volunteers. In the cockpit were ex-Air Force fighter pilots, who knew the landing patterns at Tan Son Nhut by heart. With a loud rumble of the engine brakes, the plane came to a stop at the end of the runway and taxied down to a small cargo facility that was once operated by Pan American Airways.

    After the plane pulled up, the rear passenger ramp dropped down. A large, heavyset bear of a man, wearing a bush hat and .45 caliber pistol strapped to his side, lumbered down the steps. Father Crawford stepped forward, “Mr. Daley, I don’t know how to thank you.” Daley leaned over and gave him a great bear hug. “This one’s on me Father,” Daley bellowed. “Get those kids on board.”

    The plane was on the ground for less than a very short time. Father Crawford and I stood at the steps at the rear of the plane. With tears in our eyes, we both forced a smile in our good-byes.

    Fearing detection, the pilot kept the plane’s running lights shut off during takeoff. I could not see the plane. I could only hear the roar of jet engines like distant thunder in the night, as the plane lifted off.

    Once Mr. Daly’s DC-9, carrying Father Crawford and his orphans, was up and out of harm’s way, the pilots, as agreed upon previously, would signal by blinking the plane’s lights. In the instant I saw those beautiful red tail lights blink, I said a prayer of thanks. Standing alone on the tarmac wondering if I would ever see Father again, I thought back to the first day at the Rectory. I thought back upon all of the wonderful moments since that day that Father and I had shared during our years together in Vietnam.

    End of Part 1 (of 2 Parts)

  • Kenneth R. Yeager

    While I would take nothing from the brave men and women serving in our armed forces to day, the term “Hero” needs to be applied to men like Father Crawford. Like many of the SKs I knew Father Crawford, but what I am reading about him now just leaves me in awe. I am proud just to have known this gentle man.

  • Hello, I am the public relations manager for the Daughters of Charity, Province of the West. I am piecing together the story of Fr. Crawford and his part in bringing 32 handicapped children and 4 Daughters of Charity to Oakland during April 1975 during the fall of Saigon. I know they landed in Oakland. Fr. Crawford then took the boys to Phoenix, Arizona; the Daughters of Charity resettled the girls at Maryvale in Rosemead ,CA. Sr. Therese Marie who fled Saigon with Fr. Crawford traveled back to the Phillipines with Fr. Crawford after 1975. But none of the Daughters seem to know what happened to him after that. He was an amazing man, no doubt. If I find out more in my research, I will certainly let you know.
    Sincerely,
    Patricia Smith
    patriciasmith[@]dochs.org
    650 917-4520
    Los Altos Hills, CA

    • Hello Patricia,

      Thank you for visiting and leaving your comments. Father Crawford’s Obituary (above) tells what happened to him after the Philippines. He became ill with cancer after about 12 years in the Philippines and returned home to Philadelphia where he passed away.

      Peace be with you
      Bob

      • Heather

        The above letters and comments have left me deeply touched. Father Bob is my great uncle. I have fond memories of my uncle when he visited us back in the US. His brother Charles is my grandfather and was an extraordinary human being as well.

        • Heather – Glad you found us and enjoyed the information about your great uncle. Yes, he was a fantastic person who touched the lives of 1000’s of people. The world would be such a wonderful place if everyone was like him.

          Please feel free to visit us often and share your memories.

          Bob

  • Julie

    Hi…I’m Julie and have memories of Father Crawford too.My elder sister, Mimi (Cynthia)and brother Ernie, would probably have more fond memories of him as I was too young then.
    AS I look at my old passport–still existing, Feb. 28, 1965, was the year I arrive there with my parents.
    On Sunday, November 20,2011,Philippine time,I, together with my daughter, will travel to Saigon and also visit Cambodia. I want to embark on a sentimental journey to the places we stayed and activities we had, and as I was locating some streets, ended up with Bruce Thomas-Saigon Kid for 50 years. I saw the tag of Heather-Fr. Crawford and that is why I am making this reply just to connect.
    hope we can share the same memories and experiences because we will pass this life once.

    • Welcome Julie! We’re happy you found us. Wishing you and your daughter a wonderful and enjoyable *sentimental journey* in Viet Nam and Cambodia.

      Please feel free to visit often and share your memories.

      Bob

  • patrick lambert

    hello ,
    hmmm ,
    fr.crawford brings back many memories of mt.angel oregon ,vietnam ,my moms house in mt.angel with the energies of fr.bob ,dad(col.harry lambert).orphans ,and caring and helping.
    if anyone is intersted I have correspondences between fr.bob n my dad.
    sincerely
    jpl

    • Robert Ritchie

      Patrick: Suggest you send any significant materials to Fr. Bob’s religious order, The Vincentions, Phillidelphia, PA. c/o the Archivist, Fr. John Carvin; tel. 215-713-2434. He is collecting material on Father Bob. Good luck

  • Ann Haviland

    Patrick Lambert, please contact me at 503-873-4941. My husband, Bob, and I were friends of your parents and together with Mt. Angel College classmates and locals worked with them on sheltering the Fr. Crawford’s refugees from Vietnam.

  • Rich Tilson

    My family was assigned by the Foreign Service to Saigon in 1954 to 1958. We were a catholic family and Fr Crawford became our priest and close family friend. My father was a Procurement officer at the new US Embassy during the US build up. Often, things were ordered that ended up with Fr. Crawford (i.e. cars, iceboxes and furniture,etc.). My father and mother thought the world of this priest who really became a true “Saint”. I can now say I knew a real saint. We always wondered about Fr Crawford and with this web site I found out. Thanks,
    Rich Tilson

    • Robert Ritchie

      Dear Rich: I am researching Operation Babylift for my own biography as an AID FSO in Saigon during a slightly later time period than yourself. My service dates spanned 1966-1969… with later service in Washington during Operation Babylift and the liftoff from the roof of the Embassy. My research on Fr. Crawford confirms your parents (and your own) regard for Father Bob’s cause for Sainthood. You might prayerfully ask for Father Bob’s intersession for health reasons …or the like. The Vatican requires good records in support of his cause. Father was a good man and spread personal influence to do spiritual works himself, and inspired others to do the same. God knows we need the example of clergy who did real works for children…other than as play things!
      Best regards, Bob Ritchie

  • Gilbert Schindler

    I was stationed in Saigon with MAAG in 1960 and visited the church each Sunday.
    On some weekends we would assist with the construction of the new church. I remember Father Crawford. I always felt good about attending services while he was there. I plan to revisit Vietnam in April 2014 and hope to visit the church.

  • George Paul

    Hi! I am a dentist in Salem India. I went to the Philippines as a volunteer dentist in 1990 and served in the Palawan First Asylum Camp. I became a good friend of Fr Crawford who used to tell me about the the big orphan evacuation from Saigon in 1975.
    We first met in the camp when he came to have one of his teeth fixed. He then invited me home ( a hut like cottage) in the refugee camp. Fr Crawford was a great raconteur and we had several nice stories about Vietnam. I heard that he left Vietnam a year orso later. I do not remember him saying he returned to Vietnam after 1975.
    I think I have a few photapraghs of us together. I cantry to find them. It is nearly 25 years since our meeting!

  • frank

    George Paul, It is amazing how great people have an impact on so many of us. I don’t think we really see history at the time of the event, but it really shines when looking back.

  • Mazie Purtle. (Mrs Dale Purtle)

    Fifty-two years ago today, September 18, 1962, Dale Purtle and I were married in the late afternoon by Father Crawford at Cite Marie-Paul in Saigon. Attendants were Claire Breckon, wife of FSO Lyall Breckon and Robert Hahang, a bank official. FSO Kenneth Rogers and his wife Millicent hosted our wedding reception at their home.

    Dale was assigned by the Department of State to the Embassy in Phnom Penh as the Regional Language Supervisor for Southeast Asia, including Peace Corps language programs, traveling throughout seven countries. He chose for us to be married in Saigon, and liked riding as a passenger on Father’s motorcycle!! Dale just died August 30, 2014, at age 89.

    Never having traveled out of the US, this was a huge step for me….more than only marriage. We had a wonderful life together for almost 52 years…..beginning and blessed by Father Crawford.
    Mazie (Velda Mae Primas) Purtle

  • Mazie, thanks for sharing this special memory of Father Crawford. I am sure that he has been sitting in heaven beaming for many years, knowing that the blessing he bestowed on you and Dale at your wedding endured throughout such a long and loving life for the two of you. My condolences to you on Dale’s recent death. But I like to imagine that he and Father Crawford have reunited in heaven, and that they are sharing a ride together on Father’s celestial cycle!

  • Long Vincent Nguyen x

    I am very grateful for all comments on father bob Crawford,c.m. I was one of his boys. He has a significant impacts in each of us. His faith,his kindness,his love had helped us to grow up in the midst of war, sufferings. He was a living saint. There is no doubt in our minds that he is with God now. He had brought God ,and saint. Vincent de Paul in our life. We are missing you, father Crawford

    • Huynh Phuoc Duong, PhD

      Long, we have lost contact with you since your visit many years ago. Please drop me a line at huynhduong57 [@] hotmail.com. I am now a faculty at the University of Utah, Department of Neurology

  • Duong Phuoc Huynh

    It is wonderful to have found this online community discussion on Father Robert Crawford. I am one of Father Crawford’s boys too. Father Crawford had a great impact on my life! For in the United States, I started living! I began my education starting from 5th to graduate school. I was the boy Father described in one his letters about an uneducated paraplegic boy going back school all the way to graduate school! Throughout my schooling, Father Crawford was a source of inspiration. He would visit and encouraged me at every step! My success later in life is all due to Father Crawford. In 1993, after finishing graduate school, I decided to come back to Viet Nam to visit my mother and siblings in Hoi An, Quang Nam after more than 20 years lost. Father Crawford decided to accompany me for he feared that I might encounter trouble navigating the roads in Viet Nam. At the time, and even now, Viet Nam is not very accessible for people with wheelchair. I took a flight on the Philippine Airline to Manila, and then Father Crawford and I took a flight to the Tan Son Nhat Airport in Saigon, where we left under darkness in April 1975. Unfortunately, the Philippine National Airline forgot to load my wheelchair on the same flight. I was forced to borrow a wheelchair that was took bid and the wheels were loosingfrom the Viet Nam Airline. It took us several trips to the Philippine Air Office at Tan Son Nhat Airport to get back my wheelchair. On one of those trips, an Philippine Manager was so rude to me that Father was so furious and angry. He gave the manager a lesson to remember. I had never seen Father Crawford that much angry after so many years knowing him. The manager treated me much better in subsequent trips to the Philippine Air to get my wheelchairs. I did not take a flight on Philippine Air again [the Philippine National Air was dissolved a few years later]. In Saigon, I met my two adult brothers, who was 5 and 8 when I left 20 years ago.

    After getting back my wheelchair, we-Father. my brothers, and I- took drive on a van to Hoi An, Quang Nam after hearing the VietNam Air Tu airplanes were not very safe to fly. It took more than 30 hours drive on Highway 1, which was then in very bad shape. Father met my mother the first and only time. [[During my last visit two week prior to his pass away, with great effort and difficulty in talking, Father asked me the health of my mother!]]. During our 30 hrs trip, Father and I conversed on many topics from life, religion (I believe in Buddhism), politics, and my goal in life. The man was a reader of many books and had so much experience in life that it was a joy to converse with him. In conclusion, Father Crawford had given me a new life with purpose and his advice I still try to follow! One of which I will always cherish is be good to others!

    For me, Father Crawford never left! He is always in my memory!

  • frank

    Duong, None of us can even come close to realizing what you have gone through. It is so wonderful that you drove yourself, with your humility, to accomplish so much. Your home town of Hoi An is probably the neatest place in Vietnam. I really hope to revisited it someday. I hope you and others from your flight, consider seeing us in Maine for the 2017 reunion. Frank

  • Angelique Kenney

    Father Crawford also saved my life. I was born in Saigon in March 1964. I have recently discovered who my birthmother is through Ancestry DNA. My mother, Bernadette Radda, was married to a man who was working in Saigon and stationed there with her 4 children. It appears that she was pregnant with me, by another man. I believe she sought Fr. Crawford’s help in having me adopted into a loving household. (My adoptive parents were stationed in Cambodia.) I believe Fr. Crawford was able to copy a Vietnamese birth certificate for me in order to cover up the real story. (It listed me with a Vietnamese name, Phan Thi Huong, born to a Vietnamese mother, Phan Thi Khan. However, I recently did a DNA test and have no Vietnamese blood. I believe he was helping the original Phan Thi Huong to be adopted and copied her birth certificate.) I wonder if I could assume that she would have gone to Station hospital to give birth to me, before she ‘lost’ me. Also, does anyone know a Phan Thi Huong.

    It has been wonderful to read all the stories about Fr. Crawford. I feel very blessed that my life touched his!
    Angelique Kenney

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