Meet the Navy's first Vietnamese American rear admiral

Julia LeDoux
October 14, 2019 - 10:21 am
Huan Nguyen

Navy.mil

Call him a history maker.

Huan Nguyen became the first Vietnamese American promoted to the rank of rear admiral during an Oct. 10 ceremony at the Navy Memorial in Washington, D.C.

Nguyen was born in Hue, Vietnam, the son of an armor officer in the Army of the Republic of Vietnam, according to a Navy news release. During the 1968 Tet Offensive his parents, along with his five brothers and sister, were killed by the Viet Cong in their home outside Saigon. Nine-year-old Nguyen was shot in the arm and thigh, with another bullet piercing his skull. He stayed with his mother for two hours, until she bled out and died. Amazingly, Nguyen survived and escaped after dark.

He was taken in by his uncle, a colonel in the Republic of Vietnam Air Force. In 1975, when Nguyen was 16, they fled Vietnam, seeking refuge in the United States following the fall of Saigon. Transported through Guam, U.S. Navy and Marine Corps personnel took care of Nguyen and his family.

"The images that I remember vividly when I arrived at Camp Asan, Guam, now Asan Beach Park, were of American sailors and Marines toiling in the hot sun, setting up tents and chow hall, distributing water and hot food, helping and caring for the people with dignity and respect,” he said in a statement.

"I thought to myself how lucky I am to be in a place like America. Those sailors inspired me to later serve in the United States Navy,” Nguyen added.

Nguyen graduated from Oklahoma State University in 1981 and holds master’s degrees from Southern Methodist University, Purdue University and Carnegie Mellon University. He received a Navy direct commission in 1993.

"It is a great honor to attain the rank of admiral," Nguyen said. "I am tremendously humbled to become the first Vietnamese American to wear the flag’s rank in the U.S. Navy."

Nguyen, 60, will serve as the deputy commander for cyber engineering at Naval Sea Systems Command (NAVSEA) in Washington, D.C.

“America is the beacon of hope for all of us. There is no other place in the world where a person can go for such opportunity,” Nguyen said.

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Reach Julia LeDoux: Julia@connectingvets.com

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