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Danish man helping Amerasians in Japan, Vietnam to find fathers

40 Comments
By Dan Bloom

Danish traveler Brian Hjort didn't plan on going to Vietnam in 1992, but the trip changed his life. In a chance meeting with an Amerasian man he met in Ho Chi Minh City, a dream -- and a personal lifelong mission -- was born: helping to bring Amerasian people from all over Asia in touch with their American fathers or other relatives.

Using Internet outreach and a dedicated website, coupled with frequent trips to Vietnam, Hjort has become a kind of accidental angel helping to bring peace of mind to the adult children of American fathers who fought or served in the military in Southeast Asia and Japan.

Although he has not yet visited Japan, Hjort is aware of Amerasian adults in Japan, of course, and has been in contact with a few of them by email. He hopes to visit Tokyo in the near future in his role as friendship ambassador to Amerasian people worldwide.

It's a mission that began without a real plan over 15 years ago, and now Hjort -- who is not an American and was only four years old when the Vietnam War ended in 1975 -- plans to keep his non-profit mission alive for the rest of his life.

Born and raised on an island off the coast of Denmark, Hjort lives in Malmoe, Sweden, with his Peruvian wife of eight years and their daughter, 6. In a recent email, he explained why he has Japan on his itinerary and what he hopes to achieve there.

"Over the years, I have been involved with some cases of Amerasians from Thailand, the Philippines, South Korea and Japan, in addition to Vietnam, where this work began for me," he said. "But I have never received that many inquiries or responses from Amerasians in Japan, other than one person whose father served with the military in Okinawa. But I am aware of that there are some, maybe many, Amerasians living in Japan who might want help finding their fathers or their fathers' relatives, just to make contact and know more about their heritage."

Hjort is the most unlikely of independent international aid workers. He studied to be a blacksmith in Denmark as a teenager, but an accident that later damaged his eyes made that line of work impossible to take on. His day job now is in a furniture factory in Sweden, painting chairs and tables, and the salary he takes home allows him to provide for his wife and daughter while also keeping his dream of reaching out to Amerasians alive.

The man likes to travel. "I've been all over, to Laos and Cambodia and the Philippines, through north Africa, across the United States by bus, and down to Mexico and Paraguay and Brazil and Peru, which is where I met my wife," he said. "I spent some time in London, too."

When asked what drew him to work first with Amerasians in Vietnam, Hjort explained that he knew very little about the Vietnam War or the U.S. role in it since he was born in Denmark just four years before the war ended in 1975. But on a backpacking trip through Thailand in the early 1990s, Hjort heard that Vietnam was beginning to open up to tourists, so he arranged for a visa and flew to Ho Chi Minh City.

"I met a lot of Amerasians right away in Vietnam then, but one guy I met, an Amerasian with an American passport, started me off on my mission, in an indirect way. His name is Doan Thanh Vu, or Arnold Doan, and I first met by chance outside the Amerasian Transit Center in Ho Chi Minh City. He became my friend and helped me navigate the side streets of old Saigon, and he once sort of saved my life when a local gang was set on attacking me and taking my money. Arnold heard about the upcoming attack from his friends and arranged for a bunch of Amerasians took protect me as my bodyguards. To this day, I feel that Arnold's actions, and the group of bodyguards he assembled, saved my life, and you know, I never forgot what they did for me, and that's how I began working with Amerasians this way."

When asked what keeps him going in his outreach work, a religious faith or a personal philosophy, Hjort said it's in his blood.

"For me, all this is about a love for mankind, a caring for those who have very little and got a rotten start in life, and a feeling that one can change things from bad to good," he said. "So instead of getting angry at all the sadness and injustice I saw in Vietnam in 1992, all around me, I decided then and there to try to change things for the better, and I found that even as just one person, I could make a difference. I found out what I could do as one person."

"Amerasians need to know their father, need to try to find their fathers, and that's where I felt I could try to help, fill in the gaps somewhat. I can't save the world, but maybe I can help work with a small part of it and do my bit, and that's what my mission and outreach is all about. I hope I can help make the world at least at little bit better of a place to live in," he said.

When asked what he would say to the Amerasians in Japan when he visits Tokyo to meet Amerasian adults living there, Hjort said: "I'll say something like this: Close your eyes, and imagine that your skin is brown or that your hair is blond or your eyes are blue. Imagine that you're the only one like this among your classmates or in your town in Japan. Imagine that people are always looking at you, staring at you, sometimes calling you names and insults, hitting you, spitting on you. That's what life has been like for many Amerasians in Asia and overseas.

"Open your eyes my friends in Japan, and then you will understand a little about what it means to be Amerasian, what it means to be different, to have a different ethnic origin that separates you from others. Amerasians in Japan are the children of a Japanese woman and an American father, black or white, and remember that America is a friend of Japan, always has been. Amerasians in Japan might be invisible today, a group of people who were not supposed to exist, forgotten and disowned by their fathers overseas and looked down upon by their fellow Japanese. Is this good? Is this right?"

He adds: "Japan's Amerasians were left over from the Vietnam War in the 1960s and 1970s, the Cold War with the Soviet Union and the bases in Tokyo and Okinawa. They are often forgotten in Japan, I suppose, and not only by their American fathers and the U.S. government, past and present, but also by the media. I'd like to address these issues in Tokyo when I visit, and even now my website is open to field questions and supply answers when we can."

© Japan Today

©2019 GPlusMedia Inc.


40 Comments
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The Japanese government is also to blame by collaborating with the Americans to establish whore houses near the bases.

-1 ( +0 / -1 )

Im a bit skeptical about this whole thing. I dont necessarily think that this guy is doing a good thing, and I definitely dont think that these fathers are going to want to be re-united with the kids of one night stands.

I think we have to think about the fathers in this as WELL as the kids.

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The term "Amerasian" always struck me as add, as "American" is not a race or ethnicity. If the father (or mother) is an American of Asian desent and the mother (or father) is Asian, is their child considered "Amerasian"?

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this guy has way toooo much time on his hands. instead of getting in to personal business of these people. why not just buy them a round of beer and call it a day. sheesh

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Agree with shufu, their mothers were to F & F. And I'm pretty sure American fathers who have now settled down and maybe have a family of their own, last thing they want, is to be remembered of these one nighters that should have Forgotten. I'll let you figure out what the other F stands for :)

-2 ( +0 / -2 )

Not sure about the term myself.

There is a term called eurasian(Vannessa Mae, etc) where Euro = caucasian though.

Said that even that term is even vague as many of us europeans don't stem from the caucas region(except the amazon tribe).

There is another term(possible racist now) "Chigroe" meaning a mix of an asian and african heritage(Sade, etc could be classed as such).

Hard to name any mixes without roughing feathers.

Tough one.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Dubya, there is more info on Amerasian at this link:

http://www.thefreedictionary.com/Amerasian

It is not really used in a racial or ethnic context.

Cheers

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@shfu: Yeah well then they should of strapped before going in then. I don't feel for them at all, pure stupidity. Mothers are also just as lame, because many think they could get a ticket to the states. You still see things like this today.

I feel sorry for the kids and the kids only because it has to be rough. You hear the stories all the time about how Asian countries look at foreigners, or those tainted with dirty blood or Hafu.

Another thing to add is: I bet my whole years worth of pay down to the last dollar that American's were/are not the only ones going out planting their seed. Give me a break! What about the other kids who are half French, Canadian, British or are Americans/American G.I. the only playboys on earth?

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Didn't these American soldiers ever hear of condoms?

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Not sure.

But my country post-wwII(occupation time) we had the "Hershey Girls" rest is to your imagination.

And yes when the troops left who got left to care for the wee ones? Granted not just the USA but all the allies.

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Zenny - I've heard there were a lot of soldiers travelling along the Hershey Highway with these girls, back in the day.

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Burakumindes.

I don't blame anyone single girls, lonely guys(with goods not commonly available) = things happen. Many wanted to stay but they got ordered to go home.

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That's very true Zenny. This has been happening with pretty much every occupying/invading army since time immemorial - probably not happening on such a wide scale in Iraq/Afghanistan though?! I'd be interested in reading interviews (if any exist) of Japanese women all those years ago who chose to keep their children born of occupying soldiers - and the hardships they and the child had to endure.

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Same here.

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“I’ll say something like this: Close your eyes, and imagine that your skin is brown or that your hair is blond or your eyes are blue. Imagine that you’re the only one like this among your classmates or in your town in Japan. Imagine that people are always looking at you, staring at you, sometimes calling you names and insults, hitting you, spitting on you. That’s what life has been like for many Amerasians in Asia and overseas.

This can be said for mixed race persons here or in the States or Europe for that matter. If you are in a region where a darker (or lighter) skin tone is not the majority, then you will stick out.

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More than likely the Amerasians are the products of American G.I. being irresponsible and having no regard for the women they sleep with. What's new?

-1 ( +0 / -1 )

I dont get why he is only focusing on AMERICAN fathers, especially not being American himself. Aren't there any Danish people who had kids in Asia to focus on?

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I think we have to think about the fathers in this as WELL as the kids.

Maybe the fathers should have done a bit of thinking before they started making babies they didn't want?

I dont get why he is only focusing on AMERICAN fathers,

He isn't focussing on the fathers, he's focussing on the kids.

Aren't there any Danish people who had kids in Asia to focus on?

Dunno that the Danes have run any major wars in Asia in the past few decades, or had huge bases there with thousands of randy young soldiers.

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Takes a man AND a woman to make a baby as you know. So to blame bases/"randy soldiers" for the kids is just not right. There had to be a willing woman to lay down with the guy in the first place (or she was a prostitute and got paid for her time). The mother and the father should have had a method to stay in touch if they didn't I'm sure there was a reason why.

Im quite sure in most cases the fathers (or even the mothers in some cases who were hookers/sleeping with base people) don't realy want his "help". It seems he has a good heart, but my opinion is that he should focus on something close to home that he can do to help his own people first.

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Dunno that the Danes have run any major wars in Asia in the past few decades, or had huge bases there with thousands of randy young soldiers.

cleo, take a look at the history of the European colonization of Asia and see how people like the British, Dutch, German and French built societies here with mixed or "mistizo" classes of people to act as an upper class loyal to their colonial ancestors to keep things in control for the homeland, but being all to aware that they could not go back to Europe because of their mixed heritage.

Have some US GI's mated with the locals, yes they have. Do me a favor, next time you go down south to an Army base in Alabama, take a look outside the gate at the number of Vietnamese resturants or at an Air Force base and notice the number of Korean resturants and shop owners. Why I bring this up is because many of the GI's did do the right thing, and bring their foreign spouses back with them, and they in turn brought back many relatives with them.

What I think really needs to be mentioned more in the article is not the blame for the absent fathers (and there are some women who come to Asia and leave their kids behing too) is the attitudes in places like Japan and Korea in which one looks down on others due to their difference.

Heinz Ward, Superbowl MVP a few years back was a product of a Black GI in Korea and a Korean mother. He grew up in America, but he knew his mother could not go back to Korea with him not facing all of the discrimination that he would face. They just recently started to let mixed race Koreans join the Korean military now. But once he became famous (just the same as Tiger Woods) now he is welcomed back to Korea, and he as been to orphanages there to talk to mixed race children to offer them support.

So it's not just the "G.I.'s and the Pan Pan" girls who are the causes of the discrimintaion these mixed people face, but the larger society as a whole. They still will be shunned if their father was a G.I. or an investment trader at Lehman Brothers (not many of them left in Japan but I am sure there are a few of their kids hanging around here).

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Alphaape -

The question was about Dutch men leaving kids in Asia.

Dutch Formosa (until 1662 - we're in the world of genealogy, not paternity)

Dutch Malacca (until 1824 - not many fathers still around to to found?)

Indonesia and other points: the Dutch East India Company likely had employees who left unplanned, unwanted and/or unnoticed kids all over the place, but folded in 1949 with Dutch acceptance of independence for Indonesia. Any 'kids' left over would be over retirement age by now and most of the fathers long gone.

many of the GI's did do the right thing, and bring their foreign spouses back with them

Good for them - but how does that help the kids who got left behind?

the attitudes in places like Japan and Korea in which one looks down on others due to their difference

This is a valid point, but one which I think requires a closer look. 'Difference' in itself doesn't necessarily make society look down on a group of people; it's what the difference implies. In the case of Amerasians and Eurasians a lot of the attitude came/comes from the widely-held understanding that the children are illegitimate and their mothers no better than they should be. In America children with black ancestry, however diluted, were looked down on as being the children of slaves. And yes, it's the attitude of society as a whole that is the problem, not the genetic make-up of the children or even the actions of the parents.

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Cleo.

Danish = Denmark, Dutch = Holland. Last I checked diffrent countries.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Holland/Nederlands

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Danish = Denmark, Dutch = Holland. Last I checked diffrent countries.

Ooops, you're right. Colour me Sunday-boke.

Danish colonialism/wars in Asia ....

All I can find is Danish India, a handful of towns the last of which were sold to the British in 1869.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

The question was about Dutch men leaving kids in Asia.

cleo, If the story is about Dutch(Danish) men leaving kids in Asia, why are they called "Amerasians"?

Dunno that the Danes have run any major wars in Asia in the past few decades, or had huge bases there with thousands of randy young soldiers.

No cleo, the Danes don't haven't started major wars in Asia, they like the rest of Europe have found a more cheaper and efficient way of doing this, it's called sex tourism. Just take a look at Angeles City, where once Clark Air Force Base was. It is long gone but what filled the void was a bunch of bars and resorts that cater to the Euorpean and American crowds (men) to go on tours for sex. Just like in places in Thailand, and I would imagine Vietnam too. But of course they just want to lump the kids that are left there as being part American and not European.

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Alphaape -

The story is about the kids left behind by (mainly) American servicemen. The question (by Blacklabel) I was answering was about Danes leaving kids in Asia and why isn't this Danish man worrying about that instead of half-American kids.

they like the rest of Europe have found a more cheaper and efficient way of doing this, it's called sex tourism

I'm not sure that sex tourism, for all its smuttiness, is in the same league as war and occupation, and I'm sure that sleeping with local women and making illegitimate babies, irresponsible though it is, isn't on a level with dropping bombs, napalm and Agent Orange on a country. Doing both is a bit of an OMG. Are the Danes big on sex tourism, do you know?

0 ( +0 / -0 )

cleo, not sure how many Danes are doing it overseas, but a google search will reveal that not only are the men doing it, but the women also. How many times have you heard of the female Japanese tourist going to places and acting wild and free (in sexual terms).

The story is about the kids left behind by (mainly) American servicemen

That is why I say the story has a definitly anti-American bias. Suer some service members have left children behind. And the US pulled out of Vietnam in 1973. So any kids left behind are grown adults.

Amerasians need to know their father, need to try to find their fathers, and that’s where I felt I could try to help, fill in the gaps somewhat. I

I can agree with that, but as I said, Americans are not the only ones making babies and leaving them in Asia.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

the US pulled out of Vietnam in 1973. So any kids left behind are grown adults.

The article says he started doing this over 15 years ago, so pre-1995.....kids in their 20s. Old enough to want to know about their parentage, not so old that any parents are likely to be dead, dying or in their dotage.

I don't understand why people read a story about someone trying to help people, interpret it as a personal attack and come up with 'but others make babies too'. This guy happened to go to Vietnam, and the people he met there were the offspring mainly of US servicemen. Maybe in 10 or 20 years time there'll be more offspring of European sex tourists looking for their dads, but that isn't what he found.

How many times have you heard of the female Japanese tourist going to places and acting wild and free (in sexual terms).

And they go home leaving the baby behind for the local father to raise? I very much doubt it, if only because of the unlikelihood of hordes of Japanese females being able to take long enough off work to see it through. More likely they have their fling abroad, come home to discover they're pregnant, and have a quiet abortion.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

And they go home leaving the baby behind for the local father to raise? I very much doubt it, if only because of the unlikelihood of hordes of Japanese females being able to take long enough off work to see it through. More likely they have their fling abroad, come home to discover they're pregnant, and have a quiet abortion.

Or, as we ahve seen in stories from this board, keep the kids and don't let the father's know that they have them or deny them the visitation rights. So it is a never ending tale.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Sarge, is it so hard for you to accept that USA was actually defeated in Vietnam?

0 ( +0 / -0 )

keep the kids and don't let the father's know that they have them or deny them the visitation rights.

After a one-night stand?

First we have posters complaining that these fathers aren't going to want to be re-united with the kids of one night stands, we have to think about the fathers in this and last thing they want, is to be remembered of these one nighters, and now we have the complaint that casual fathers are being denied visitation rights.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Good to see people from "civilized nations" are taking responsibility for the burdens they've placed on poor defenseless people and their communities.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

many of those "fathers" probably don't even know that they have kids in a foreign land. i dont know how many of those amerasian children will be hurt to find out that their fathers don't even know their presence? wanting to know your heritage is one thing and it is natural for people to want to know where they came from, but sometimes truth hurts.. i don't know if this makes either the amerasian kids or those fathers (and their families) happy...

0 ( +0 / -0 )

I have a website devoted to helping reunite "Amerasians with their fathers/families in the US. http://AmerasiansLookingTheirRoots.bravehost.com

A lot of these woman were not prostitutes but had commited relationships with the fathers. Because of the nature of the military with reassignments and transfers etc. ,people lost touch.

I get a lot of requests from fathers searching for their children as well as children searching for fathers.

For the heartless people that made comments ,what is wrong about someone wanting to know their roots and possibly even meeting their father? Children didnt have anything to do with their parentage or country of birth.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

Good for you Zip. Nice to see people who care.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

One night stands are probably not what this Danish guy deals with. In order to have any hope of finding the father the offspring is going to have to know the father's first and last names. One night stands usually don't get past exchanging first names. So the people he's helping are probably the result of a more involved relationship.

And I agree with fishy. Kids that are the result of one night stands are doubly out of luck because the father in all likelihood has no idea the child even exists.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

ok,,,,,just gonna put this out there, my Dad served with the British and went to Korea during the Korean war,,, he said they used to come to Japan to have baths and women, because the women were cleaner here than the Korean ones,,,so I am just thinking about this now,,,but I might have some brother or sister walking around in Tokyo or somewhere and never ever knew it,,,I guess of course they would be like 50 something years old,,,, a whole 20 years before I was born,,,,,but it would still be awesome to meet them,,,if they existed but maybe for them it might be weird to meet me,,,,and then they might not even exist at all i digress ,,,,,,anyways,,,just thinking of the Aussies, Kiwis, and British guys who came to Japan in the 50's for some 'clean' entertainment,,,,

0 ( +0 / -0 )

My father was a U.S. soildier who feel in love with a very beautiful Japanese lady, by the name of Eiko, who had a daughter, who is my half sister, and her name is Saori . My grandmother was going to bring them both to the U.S but for them to come, they would to have brought a chaparone with them. My dad was relocated to Alaska so he wouldn't be back home for a while. My grandmother (Elenor) wouldn't and couldn't afford for all three to come. We would love to be able to find her, which at this point is probably impossible. I have been trying for many years to find her. So it wasn't just sex for him, he was madly in love with her.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

This story was picked up by New York Times reporter James Dao today and reported in new way in the NYT, google it.

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@wawawasuremono

"The Japanese government is also to blame by collaborating with the Americans to establish whore houses near the bases."

How ignorant and backwards can you get the meaning of historical events?

The Japanese government didn't set up whore houses for the occupying forces to impregnate women, they literally set them up to minimise the rape that the American soldiers were committing against Japanese civilian women. This was their entire purpose, which you ignorantly have ignored.

Did you even read 10 seconds of Japanese history?

Japanese police were creating reports on the rape rates, which skyrocketed up to 300 rapes a day in the first few days of occupation. The rapes being recorded as foreigners as the rapists, this isn't a surprise also. The brothels the Japanese government set up, significantly reduced the rape rates at the time.

After a certain point MacArthur and the occupying forces found out about this and made the Japanese stop tabulating the data and basically stop publicising it. MacArthur also made the Japanese government close down the brothels and the rape rate again increased after this point again.

Now it's common sense that rape would be the highest around the initial occupation time, then it would linearly die down over time as the war was over and the hate would wane and order within Japan would restore and soldiers could no longer feel as if they could just do anything they wanted to people.

Though it's estimated by Japanese scholars that during the entire occupation, at least 200,000 Japanese women were raped by American soldiers.

Taking into account fertility rates and things like miscarriage, around 32,000 pregnancies should have resulted from these rapes.

The accounts say that women had abortions, that village elders would perform abortions and keep their rape a secret to hide the shame of it. With most of the rapes typically occurring within Okinawa, but still a portion within the mainland (within a small town was the most common area for the rapist soldiers to feel confident that they have control).

Barely any of these children were born, because of abortion or the mother just killing herself. Because it's obvious for the Japanese society to tell what happened, unlike German women raped who could pass off the baby as being a German and just live a lie etc.

Now there is a different subject where babies literally were born, that is consensual couples. This is where an American soldier took a wife there basically, the vast majority of these were war brides and they were to go back to the USA with their husband. Some 30,000-40,000 Japanese women were war brides, there are cases of some who tried to stay in Japan (yet faced too much social ostracism, so they left for the USA).

Thus, there aren't that many actual hafu that got created and became part of the Japanese gene pool. Which is why genetic studies on the Japanese today show no European mixture. Also this article doesn't have anything to do with Japan, which is why it's strange to be on this site. It's about Vietnam and the guy in the article hasn't even been to Japan.

Vietnam is a bit different, Vietnam was occupied viciously for 20 years by the USA. And rape was rife the entire time, but so were some consensual couplings as well. I wouldn't at all be surprised if up to 50,000 Vietnamese-American babies were born in Vietnam during the war.

Many of these were killed by the Vietcong after the USA left, but it's fair to say that at least 10,000 Vietnamese-Americans may exist to this day in Vietnam and have an American soldier as their father who they don't know.

This is a good thing the guy is doing, there are dozens of articles of Vietnamese-Americans in which their father found them.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

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