Finding the lost with just a picture and a woman's determination

Finding the lost — with just a picture and a woman's determination

Linda Moreau has a faded mug shot of an American soldier taken in Vietnam in the late 1960s.

She doesn't know his name or hometown, much less his rank or unit.

But the former longtime Medford resident, who recently retired to Sun City West, Ariz., with her husband, Nick, hopes to unite the unknown soldier with his Amerasian daughter.

"I think this guy would be thrilled to meet Thu-Ha," Linda says of the daughter now in her early 40s. "She has always wanted to find her dad. I know it's a long shot but I really think we can find him."

If anyone else had told me they were optimistic about tracking down an unnamed American soldier who fathered a child in Vietnam more than 40 years ago, I would have thought, "Yeah, right."

With Linda, I would bet the farm she will find her man.

After all, this was the super sleuth who, with little more than an old picture and the tenacity of a bloodhound, tracked down her brother's Vietnamese widow in 1997.

Her brother, Army Warrant Officer Mickey Wilson, then 24, had fallen in love with a Vietnamese woman named "Mary" Hong Thi Chau, who lived in the village of Chu Lai. In a letter home in December 1972, he wrote that he had married her that Dec. 7, and that he would be bringing his bride to the United States in February.

Unfortunately, he was in a U.S. Army UH-1H Huey helicopter hit by an SA-7 missile on Jan. 8, 1973, above the north bank of the Thach Han River just north of the ancient city of Hue. He was killed 23 days before the Paris Accords were signed on Jan. 31, ending American participation in the war.

Linda would later discover that Mary had borne her brother's son. But his wife and child vanished in the maelstrom when the South Vietnamese government collapsed in 1975.

Linda and Nick, a Navy veteran, would travel to Vietnam several times in search of clues to Mary and their nephew. During a 1997 trip to Vietnam, they ran Mary's photograph in a Da Nang newspaper and on a local television station. Two hours before they were to begin the long trip home, they were contacted by a member of her Vietnamese family.

It turned out that Mary and her son were living in Memphis, Tenn. The two had come to the States in 1990 under the Amerasian program, a project aimed at helping the children of American servicemen born in Vietnam.

Linda's epic search for her brother's family is told in her book, "Da Nang to Memphis," published in 2000.

Incidentally, I traveled with Linda and Nick to Vietnam in 1999 when they met Mary's extended family for the first time in the village of Chu Lai. In my book, you could find no better American ambassadors to Vietnam. They do us all proud.

Back to the 1997 trip. That was when they met a group of Amerasians waiting to come to the States, including a young woman named Thu-Ha.

"She said her dad was going to bring her and her mom to the U.S.," Linda says of Thu-Ha's story. "He apparently was sending money to them, but when the war ended communication was impossible."

Thu-Ha's mother would leave her young daughter with a couple who owned a restaurant in the Saigon area, Linda says.

"They raised her," she says. "She says her dad was supposed to come back for her but never did. She kept the old picture of him all these years."

Like Mary, Thu-Ha would come to the States as part of the Amerasian program. She arrived in Houston at the end of 1997 and is now married with four children. She and her husband, Billy, also a Vietnamese, own a small grocery store. Her adoptive father died but her adoptive mother now lives with her.

"They are the sweetest people," says Linda, who has visited them several times. "Her husband is precious. She is a doll. They are the nicest couple.

"I've also hooked Thu-Ha up with my sister-in-law in Memphis," she adds. "They have become friends."

But Thu-Ha, now an American citizen, still has an empty place in her heart that Linda intends to fill.

"Thu-Ha gave me the picture of her dad years ago and asked me to find him," she says. "If I could find him, she would be complete."

However, other than the faded photograph and the knowledge that Thu-Ha's soldier father was apparently stationed in the Saigon area around 1968-69, Linda has precious little to go on in her search.

"I'm going to do it the same way I found my sister-in-law; start with a picture," she says. "I think it can be done."

If Linda Moreau can't do it, it can't be done.

Reach reporter Paul Fattig at 541-776-4496 or email him at

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