Title: Operation Babylift
Author: Ian W. Shaw
Published: May 28th 2019
Publisher: Hachette Australia
Genres: Non Fiction, History
Rating: 4 stars
The dramatic and heart-warming story of the last-minute evacuation of hundreds of orphaned babies from South Vietnam in the dying days of the Vietnam War and of the brave Australian nurses who made it happen.
In late March 1975, as the Vietnam War raged, an Australian voluntary aid worker named Rosemary Taylor approached the Australian Embassy seeking assistance to fly 600 orphans out of Saigon to safety.
Rosemary and Margaret Moses, two former nuns from Adelaide, had spent eight years in Vietnam during the war, building up a complex of nurseries to house war orphans and street waifs as the organisation that built up around them facilitated international adoptions for the children. As the North Vietnamese forces closed in on their nurseries, they needed a plan to evacuate the children, or all their work might count for little …
Based on extensive archival and historical research, and interviews of some of those directly involved in the events described, Operation Babylift details the last month of the Vietnam War from the perspective of the most vulnerable victims of that war: the orphans it created. Through the story of the attempt to save 600 children, we see how a small group of determined women refused to play political games as they tried to remake the lives of a forgotten generation, one child at a time.
Operation Babylift, written by Ian W. Shaw, is a 2019 Hachette Australia publication. In his latest historical non fiction title, Ian W. Shaw outlines the dramatic account of an astounding moment in our history books. He draws our attention to the careful operation of hundreds of orphans from Vietnam, who were rescued and taken to safety – thanks to the determination of two Australian women. This incredible turn of events is both educative and incredibly touching, revealing a hidden chapter of the Vietnam War.
Towards the close of the Vietnam War, two Australian women and voluntary aid workers decided to take a very brave move. In the dying days of the Vietnam War, these two former nuns approached the Australian Embassy, in the hope that they could help rescue hundreds of orphans stuck in Vietnam. By airlifting these young children out of the war torn country of Vietnam, the women hoped to provide these children with the safety of a new home in the Western world. It was an ambitious and dangerous operation, but the two women remained strong in their resolve to see this rescue mission take flight. It broke their hearts to see so many babies and young children abandoned during a time of fierce conflict. The rescue mission and the need to evacuate these children to safety became more paramount as the armed forces of North Vietnam launched attacks on Saigon. With assaults coming in from all fronts, in the form of bombings, violence and tough restrictions, the mission to save these young lives was of great importance. A plan was put in place and enacted, but it came at a great cost. What cannot be denied is bravery and commitment demonstrated by those who participated in the process of ‘Operation Babylift’.
Ian W. Shaw, the voice of this incredible act of bravery, is definitely the right person to convey this true tale of events. Shaw has penned six books in the non fiction, military and historical categories. The author has also previously been nominated for a Victoria Premier’s Literary Award. Shaw has utilised the wealth of experience he has in non fiction writing and produced a book that goes a long way in bringing to life events of the past.
Operation Babylift is divided into two clear parts. Part one is labelled as ‘Waifs of War’ and contains seven accompanying chapters, along with a Prologue. Shaw also includes a map of the Republic of Vietnam preceding his book. Part two is named ‘Operation Babylift’ and is defined by nine chapters. In addition, Shaw has included an Epilogue, Acknowledgements, Endnotes, Bibliography and an Index. This is a full, comprehensive and factual non fiction article. Shaw’s approach is methodical, clear and educative. At the same time, his depicts the human emotion, drama and heartbreak that being a part of this mission would entail.
Ian W. Shaw situates his audience very well in the conditions of Vietnam in the year 1975. Although the war was in its final stages, it did not mean that the danger was lessened to any extent. In fact, the need to evacuate and maintain the safety of so many orphans in this country became an overwhelming need. The petitioning by two Australian women involved in getting this operation off the ground made me proud to be an Australian. This was a massive feat on behalf of these women and I actually felt quite disappointed that I was not aware of this incredible act of heroism until now.
Operation Babylift was not a complete success and it was marred by heartbreak. Ian W. Shaw carefully outlines the pitfalls of this mission and the dreadful mistakes that were made. However, the desire to save so many young children’s lives remained as the principal objective. I am sure readers will shed a tear, when they come across a sad and regrettable chapter in this rescue mission. The coverage in this section of Operation Babylift was excellent, balancing sensitivity with valid information.
I have recently developed a strong desire to learn more about the Vietnam War experience, it tends to be a somewhat neglected chapter in our history books. It was refreshing to see a true tale of this nature emerge, highlighting the influence of Australian women in getting this life changing mission off the ground. It did change the course of many lives, hopefully for the better. Thank you to the dedication shown by the author, Ian W. Shaw, in bringing Operation Babylift to our attention.
Operation Babylift by Ian W. Shaw is published by Hachette Australia. Out now. $32.99
*Thanks is extended to Hachette Australia for providing a free copy of this book for review purposes.
*Book #7 of the 2019 Aussie male author challenge.