Former American soldier finds Vietnamese lover after 47-year separation

By Phan Duong   February 15, 2020 | 08:31 pm PT
Abruptly ordered to return home from Vietnam, David Jones could not say goodbye to his girlfriend, and it has haunted him for 47 years.

"Miss Saigon" is a famous musical about the tragic wartime romance of a young Vietnamese girl abandoned by her American boyfriend. It is also a mirror of Jones’s own story. But the 69-year-old Tennessee man has got another chance to rewrite the ending of his story.

He says: "Both my daughter and I loved watching Miss Saigon. Hearing the story of my first love, my daughter burst into tears and encouraged me to find her."

David and Phuong first met at the beginning of 1972, he-- a 21-year-old chef at Binh Thuy base in southern Can Tho City and she--an attractive girl working near the military base.

David Jones as 21-year-old chef at Binh Thuy Base in Can Tho. Photo courtesy of David. 

David Jones as 21-year-old chef at Binh Thuy Base in Can Tho. Photo courtesy of David. 

He fell head over heels in love with a girl he describes as honest, lovely and shy. But the first time he professed his love for her she was silent, and the second time she outright rejected it saying he would return to his country soon.

Her resistance did not last long though, and she too decided to follow her heart.

They went on some romantic dates. Jones used to travel from his base to Phuong’s neighborhood in Can Tho near what is now the new bus station in Cai Rang District.

They once took a picture together in which she was in a white shirt and black pants, he recalls. She looked feminine with smiling eyes and shoulder-length hair. Later she gave him a photo of her in which she had long black hair.

Around that time the U.S. began to withdraw its troops from Vietnam. He knew their time together was running out, but that day came earlier than originally scheduled. The U.S army closed all its bases and did not allow its personnel to go outside. He too was stuck in the base.

On April 10, 1972, he had to leave Vietnam without bidding farewell to Phuong. Their relationship had lasted four months.

A few months later he received a letter from Phuong. She reminisced about their old Vietnam days and said she had came his base but could not meet him.

"I immediately sent her a letter but there was no reply."

He did not give up their relationship. In 1974 he enlisted in the navy in the hope he would be deployed in Vietnam again. But the U.S. was pulling out of the war and did not send troops again to Vietnam.

David was unable to find his way back to Vietnam and feared they were separated for good.

He got married and had a daughter but his marriage broke up soon. He raised his daughter alone while also serving in the navy.

In the 1990s he quit and worked as a truck driver. He remarried and divorced again. He has been single since 2002.

"I could not help thinking about her during those years. The first time I thought of coming back to Vietnam was last year. Since then I have always longed for a reunion."

In 1994 he lost all their letters and photographs and her address in Vietnam.

Recently he uploaded his personal story on Facebook, which was shared by his Vietnamese friends and attracted 10,000 views.

He had assumed that Phuong did not write to him because she was tired of their long-distance relationship.

"But she might have not received my letter. She might have thought I had forgotten her. The thought of her misunderstanding me has haunted me for decades."

David Jones lives with his daughter and two grandchildren. Photo courtesy of David.

David Jones lives with his daughter and two grandchildren. Photo courtesy of David.

He plans to visit Can Tho. He will visit some old places such as Binh Thuy District and the old apartment building where Phuong used to live.

In a touching message on his Facebook page he wrote: "I do hope you got married to a good man and you are living happily with your family members.

"I wish you peace and happiness. I do not want to disturb your personal life but I crave a meeting with you again, like an old friend."

go to top