Commander H.B. Le (from Foreignpolicy.com)
Just last week, Navy Commander H.B. Le wrote an article for Foreign Policy magazine titled, “Thank you, Commander Bell” (free login required). His story told of his experience as a refugee during the final days before the fall of Saigon in 1975. His father, a Naval Officer in the South Vietnamese Navy, helped to navigate a fishing trawler out to sea with 200 people on board in an attempt to flee the tyranny about to engulf the nation.
They were eventually rescued by USS BARBOUR COUNTY (LST 1195), and his family moved to the U.S. Hung Ba Le joined the Navy and worked his way up to command of USS LASSEN (DDG 82), becoming the first Vietnamese-American to command a Navy vessel at sea. In 2009, with him in command, LASSEN pulled into Da Nang harbor, bringing her Commanding Officer’s personal story full circle.
According to the article, CDR Le was treated as a celebrity – a returning hero, if you will – by the people of Da Nang, and the story made its way around the world (abc news, Navy News).
After his ship’s port visit, Le received a letter from the Russ Bell, a retired Navy Commander who was the XO on board BARBOUR COUNTY when CDR Le was rescued as a child. Their correspondence allowed Le to finally thank the crew of BARBOR COUNTY. What a great, feel good story.
From a desperate escape in 1975 as one of the original “boat people”, Commander Le ascended to the lofty heights of Command At Sea. His journey epitomizes what is possible – and truly inspiring – in America. Thank you, CDR Le, for reminding us of that.
CDR Hung Ba Le is our hero of the week.
(To read the entire article in Foreign Policy, click here.)
Thanks to Sierra Cadis for the story.