HOF050: TRAN Thi Duc / TRAN Anh Kiet

Chemistry teacher Tran thi Duc left Vietnam in 1980 with her two nephews, in a boat of 16 people. As the boat neared the waters of Singapore, a naval ship from that country blocked its approach, even as the small vessel began to take on water and break apart. As the passengers clung to wooden planks and plastic containers to stay afloat amid the waves, the Singaporean ship made an insincere gesture to rescue the women and children, which ultimately resulted Tran’s near-drowning and the deaths of a mom and her young child. Tran and a nephew would spend the next 24 hours clinging to some empty containers, drifting back into international waters, before they were rescued.

Tran Anh Kiet was an Canadian-trained engineer and adjoint director general at a state-run electrical plant when the Vietnam war ended in 1975. A failed attempt to leave the country resulted in Tran being imprisoned for three years. When released, Tran left again in 1980, in a boat with 60 people. After three days at sea, the boat took on water and the passengers were rescued by an Australian ship. They were brought to a camp in Singapore, where Tran was made manager of the camp thanks to his past experience. It was there that he met his future wife, Tran thi Duc.