Nguyễn Lạc Hoá

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Father Augustine Nguyễn Lạc Hóa (c. 1908 – c. 1989) was a refugee Chinese Catholic priest, who arrived in South Vietnam in 1959 and led a militia called the Sea Swallows resisting the Viet Cong in the Ca Mau Peninsula. The "fighting priest" and his "village that refused to die" attracted admiring media stories in the United States, and in 1964 he received the Ramon Magsaysay Award in the Public Service category.


Hoa fled from Kwangtung Province in Communist China in 1950-51 with over 2,000 parishioners, and spent eight years in Cambodia. In 1959 Hoa with 450 of the refugees settled in Binh Hung on the Ca Mau Peninsula. They created a village and Hoa established a defense force – the Sea Swallows – against the Viet Cong, who were active in the area.

Father Hoa's success inspired others to join his Sea Swallows, including a company of "Nung tribesmen." Declassified documents would reveal that the Nung fighters were actually a contingent of Nationalist soldiers from the Republic of China.[1]

As the political situation in Saigon deteriorated, Father Hoa saw the battle turning and little chance of winning. Discouraged, he left Binh Hung, and retired to a parish in Taipei.[2]

Recognition in U.S.[edit]

In January 1961, Edward Lansdale visited Father Hoa and Binh Hung. Back in Washington, he was surprised to find that President John F. Kennedy had taken a personal interest in his report on Hoa, and wanted it published in the Saturday Evening Post.[3] It was attributed to "an American officer."[4] The town of Newburyport, Massachusetts adopted Binh Hung as a sister community,[5] and the Post followed up with another story on Father Hoa.[6] Other correspondents who took up the story of the Sea Swallows included Dickey Chapelle[7] and Stan Atkinson,[8] who remembered Father Hoa decades later as the "most unforgettable character" he met in his travels.[2]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ George MacTurnan Kahin, Intervention: How America Became Involved in Vietnam, Knopf, 1986[page needed]
  2. ^ a b Stan Atkinson, "Stan Remembers: Father Hoa and his little army". SuperCast Online, Sinclair Broadcast Group. July 23, 1999.
  3. ^ Al Santoli, To Bear Any Burden, Dutton, 1985, pp. 78-81
  4. ^ An American Officer, "The Report the President Wanted Published," Saturday Evening Post, May 20, 1961
  5. ^ Don Schanche, "Last Chance for Vietnam", Saturday Evening Post, January 6, 1962
  6. ^ Don Schanche, "Father Hoa's Little War," Saturday Evening Post, February 17, 1962
  7. ^ Dickey Chapelle, "The Fighting Priest of South Vietnam," Reader's Digest, July 1963[page needed]
  8. ^ "The Village That Refused to Die"

External links[edit]