In the adoption arena, legends were made out of the names Harry & Bertha Holt and Operation Babylift because they typify many Americans’ assertions about this country’s boundless goodwill and moral superiority over its supposed “enemies”. Nevermind that these legends serve to disregard factual inconsistencies, inconvenient truths and unsatisfactory conclusions. Prominent personalities in the international adoption movement, i.e., Bertha Holt and Rosemary Taylor, have become household names. Their stories and accounts have become irrefutable and their official stories have solidified into unchallengeable testimony. Honest investigation of the facts behind their stories is unwelcome and discouraged.
Bertha Holt is characterized as a kind and pious old woman who only wanted the best for the children of Korea. From proxy adoptions to Holt International Children’s Services, thousands of Korean children have been told that they have Bertha and Harry Holt to thank for breaking down racial barriers and normalizing international adoption in American society, as well as their privileged lives today.
In the same vein, the protagonists of Operation Babylift are credited with saving thousands of children who otherwise would have grown up in a postwar communist dictatorship where food shortages and other deprivations would have condemned them to certain death. OBL was considered such a singular feel-good event that, to this day, the media remind Americans that it is “the one good thing that came out of the war.”
A cottage industry involving annual commemorations and permanent memorials, as well as reunions between adoption legends and adoptees themselves, has become a fixture on the nation’s calendar. Much like legend-building, the remembrances aim to convince the participants that they represent a larger mission and purpose. Adoptees are to absorb the message that enormous amounts of compassion and ingenuity on the part of the U.S. were used to “save” them and they each owe a debt of gratitude to everyone who made their lives possible. There is also the implied threat that to question the reasons and actions of one’s benefactors is to put one’s own life in question.
Operation Babylift has become a redundant closed-loop system of mourning, remembrance, gratitude and redemption. It is celebrated as an isolated, unilateral humanitarian gesture. Ironically, by remembering OBL in such a way encourages the so-called “Lost Children of Vietnam” to forget the causes and effects of the Vietnam War and leave unexamined their own adoption stories that were vitually gift-wrapped and handed to them.