A poignant tale of an elderly US serviceman and his Thai girlfriend from the Vietnam War era went viral before the serviceman’s son halted the search, criticising media intrusion. The brief, heartwarming story revisited Thailand’s significant Vietnam War legacy.

A curious news story flared briefly this week in Thailand and online, linked with lost love. It was a poignant tale from both the United States and Thailand of an elderly US serviceman and a Thai grandmother lamenting the loss of love from the heady Vietnam War era when American armed forces were stationed in Thailand. The story came to an abrupt halt when the American son of the serviceman attacked the media. At the same time, the granddaughter of an elderly Thai woman confirmed that both love stories emerging at the same time were not an act of serendipity. However, for a few days the story excited and thrilled many hearts, in particular Thai women. It also led us to recall, in short, the kingdom’s participation in the Vietnam War in the 1960s and 70s and the transformative effects it had on Thailand. 

The photo portrait of ‘Oi,’ the girlfriend of a US serviceman who served in Thailand from 1968 to 1971. The man, now over 70 years of age, was in service with the US Air Force at a base in Nakhon Phanom. It was published this week by his son on Reddit. In response, a 77-year-old lady in Sakon Nakhon in ill health claimed it was her. However, her granddaughter later retracted the match but not before some thrilling coincidences. (Source: Reddit)

A news story emerged this week in both Thailand and the United States of love between an American armed forces veteran and his Thai girlfriend.

The tale touched many people and shone a light on the thousands of relationships that were formed during that era.

Reddit story that morphed into a news story and a thrilling search for lost love down the decades. US airman never forgot Thai girlfriend from 1968-1971

It started on the social media forum Reddit. Popular in particular with young Americans and Westerners as well as having a huge Thai following, the forum was the perfect place for the son of an American serviceman who served in Thailand from 1968 to 1971 to post a query.

In brief, his father fell in love with a beautiful Thai girl called ‘Oi,’ a nickname which in Thailand speaks of sugar cane. This occurred while the American was serving in the Air Force in Nakhon Phanom between 1968 and 1971. The province is in northeastern Thailand bordering Laos to the East on the Mekong River.

America maintained a military presence in Thailand from 1961 to 1976.

The American Reddit user identified as ‘No_Acadia6966’ later deleted his Reddit posts.

In addition, he blamed some ‘jerk’ for writing about the story.

Furthermore, he criticised the Thai media for publishing what appeared to be a romantic lost love tale. It is understood that he lives with his father in the San Francisco area of the United States.

Portrait of a beautiful young woman taken in Nakhon Phanom at a photographic studio called ‘Dara Studio.’ Today an old man in the US misses his old love

The Reddit user posted a portrait of a young Thai woman which was at the heart of this week’s search. It was taken at a portrait studio in Nakhon Phanom called Dara Studio.

‘The Serpent’ serial killer who terrorised Bangkok released by Nepal on human rights grounds
Jim Thompson the original ‘farang’ who ushered in the heyday of the expat in 20th-century Thailand
Calls to legalise prostitution in Thailand after Pattaya sex raid on Walking Street this week 

Previously, the Reddit audience was told by the American that his father missed his old Thai love. However, his grandfather had put paid to any prospect of him marrying her.

‘He kept a large photo of her in our home while I was growing up, and I’ve always wondered what happened to her. Based on what he has told me, she would be about 70 years old now,’ he wrote initially. Certainly, he also confirmed that his father had wanted to marry the Thai woman.

American’s father, in short, vetoed any prospect of marriage with the Thai woman. The serviceman later married twice stateside but also never forgot ‘Oi’

‘My grandfather didn’t let that happen. My dad says her name is pronounced ‘Oi’ in English, but I don’t know how to write her name properly in Thai or English.’

‘No_Acadia’ went on to explain that his father was an airman while serving in Thailand. He explained that he had later married stateside but was divorced from her mother when he was only two years old. Following this, his father married again when he was 10 years old.

The American appeared to have a good relationship with his new stepmother.

He explained to Reddit users that she even allowed his father to keep the portrait of his Thai love. However, it was confined to her husband’s garage where it had pride of place among number plates in his father’s bear cave.

Nonetheless, afterwards, he explained how his stepmother had begun to tire of his father constantly harking back to the love he shared with ‘Oi.’

The American woman would remark that they were back in Thailand again.

American revealed that his father’s girlfriend had given him a ‘Buddha necklace’. So also said an elderly ‘Oi’ who said she was the woman in the photo 

The Reddit user said the matter had been on his mind since he was young.

Especially at this time when his father has begun to reminisce about the past. He mentioned that the elderly former serviceman was given a ‘Buddha necklace’ by the Thai woman when they parted.

The story, this week, took an exciting twist when a Thai woman identified as Khun Noon emerged.

She explained that her ailing grandmother constantly expressed a wish to see her lost American love, an American serviceman who served in Udon Thani.

However, she was intrigued by the Reddit piece and photo. When she asked her 77-year-old grandmother, also named ‘Oi’, if the picture online was hers, she said it was. In addition, she revealed she had given her American lost love a Buddhist amulet to keep him safe.

Certainly, the suspense grew even further when the elderly woman confirmed to her granddaughter that her beau was a younger man.

‘My granny told me that the woman in the photo was her and that she used to have an American boyfriend who was five years younger,’ she told excited Thai Facebook followers, many of them romantic Thai women.

Thai granddaughter of a US serviceman in Thailand at the time said her grandfather left behind two children, a boy and a girl, the latter was her mother

Khun Noon explained that her grandmother’s nickname for her American boyfriend was ‘Man.’ Indeed, she expanded that the American had fathered two children in Thailand, a boy and a girl. Khun Noon said she was the daughter of the girl.

At length, she explained that her mother was from Sakon Nakhon in Thailand’s northeastern Isaan region. The American man had returned home alone as her mother was wary of living in the United States. She wanted to stay with her parents. However, he regularly wrote and sent letters. In addition, he also sent money.

Afterwards, tragedy struck when the family moved because of a flood. Thereafter, they lost contact with the American serviceman.

Rising romantic excitement died in a flash

However, the rising excitement and enthusiasm among romantic optimists were later cut short when Khun Noon suggested that the woman in question was not after all her grandmother. At the same time, the Reddit user launched his furious outburst at those who had latched on to the story.

Previously he had confirmed that his father was in contact with the Thai family in a series of letters. Indeed from this, he was able to glean the woman’s surname. After that, the story changed suddenly at both ends.

‘I NEVER wanted it to go viral,’ he said. He had been simply hoping for some pointers on how to do a private search.

‘Then, some jerk posted it to a huge blog, then the news, and now random people are harassing me. I didn’t want to blast her image everywhere, I never wanted that. I never contacted the news, I only posted it here, I’ve felt horrible ever since.’

He then expressed a wish that Oi and her family in Thailand were ok.

‘This is not what I wanted to have happened to me or to her. I wish I’d never asked how to find out what happened to her.’

Story raised the often overlooked issue of the importance of these men and women who certainly bridged a gap between two cultures and forged a new world

At the same time, the story raised other leads with many users highlighting the existence of Thai women from that era.

One American man tracked his lost love to a successful Thai businesswoman who died in America during the COVID era. She had eventually married another American man.

Afterwards, Khun Noon said that the excitement of what happened during the week has renewed her determination. In short, she wants to find out who her grandfather was.

American forces first landed in Thailand in 1961 and were stationed at Don Mueang Airport. After the Vietnam War flared, they additionally had bases at Korat, Nakhon Phanom, Nam Phong, Takhli, Ubon, Udorn, and U-Tapao.

Thailand was a staunch United States ally in the war and fought alongside American, Australian, New Zealand and South Vietnamese forces against communism

When the war in Vietnam escalated, Thailand’s leader Field Marshal Thanom Kittikachorn was an enthusiastic ally.

Thai soldiers, starting with the Queen’s Cobras in addition to air force support units, alongside other countries, upheld South Vietnam as state. Later, Thailand sent an expeditionary force known as the Black Panthers.

The war was initially popular, not least among the Thai soldiers who were highly respected by other services.

They fought alongside the South Vietnamese, American, Australian and New Zealand forces.

It was seen as a battle against godless communism. At one point there were 40,000 Thai personnel in Vietnam. Indeed, 353 Thai combatants were killed. However, a bullish Thai media claimed that thousands of Viet Cong had perished at the hands of Thai fighters.

America sent Thailand up to $1.7 billion in aid to support its economy in addition to up to 50,000 US military personnel at bases throughout the kingdom

Consequently, America ramped up its support to Thailand through aid schemes. In total Thailand received up to $1.7 billion in addition to the economic stimulus provided by up to 50,000 relatively well paid US personnel in Thailand.

It was during this era that Pattaya emerged as a notorious sex resort in addition to wild hotspots in Bangkok.

However, at the same time, Thai entrepreneurs built luxury hotels and resorts to serve American tourists. This would prove the basis for the later generation of Thailand’s tourism industry.

Then, at the end of 1969, things began to turn sour.

Buoyed by anti-war sentiment in the United States, protests started in Thailand. By 1970, the Thai government was under pressure to withdraw its forces as public support waned.

The reasons were a faltering economy at home, staggered withdrawals by allies in Vietnam, and in particular a rising security threat from the communist insurgency at home sponsored by China. Indeed in 1972, communist Vietnamese special forces staged a damaging attack on U-Tapao Air Base.

By April 1972, Thai forces in Vietnam were down to a few dozen. The kingdom had finally withdrawn.

Protests in Thailand led to the dictator’s demise

In the meantime, in 1973, major protests saw the ouster of the military regime. Incoming Prime Minister Sanya Thammasak, a former academic, was not as committed to the American alliance. His main priority was to quell rising public unease.

Afterwards, the Mayaguez incident, which saw American forces launch military operations from Thai bases, led to the eventual full withdrawal of America from Thailand.

This took place under Prime Minister Prem Tinsulanonda who replaced PM Sanya on February 14, 1975.

The incident saw American forces stage an attack on Cambodian Khmer Rouge gunboats which had taken the SS Mayaguez hostage 60 miles from the Cambodian coast. From May 15th to 17th, 1975 a furious battle occurred in which the gunboats were sunk. 

There was a loss of life on both sides with the Americans losing 15 personnel while 3 went missing. The US also lost three planes flying from U-Tapao Airport.

America withdrew its forces fully from Thailand by 1976. Nevertheless, the fifteen-year period left a lasting legacy which undoubtedly still echoes today

The strength and virulence of Thai public anger at the breach of the kingdom’s sovereignty led to an apology from the United States. Afterwards, it culminated in a full withdrawal from Thailand by 1976.

Nonetheless, as this week’s love stories show, that era has left a lasting legacy.

Be it the establishment of a growing Thai American community in the United States or the basis for the tourism industry. 

US Senate body including a Thai Senator accuses authorities of using violence against protesters
US Senator is a woman who speaks Thai – Tammy Duckworth visits Thailand to foster American ties

Certainly, the American servicemen were the forerunners of today’s growing expat community and the now huge Thai diaspora created worldwide by Thai women who have married abroad.

Just as it was in the early 1970s, today it all remains just as controversial as ever. In particular, as the rattling of sabres can again be heard in Southeast Asia.

Join the Thai News forum, follow Thai Examiner on Facebook here
Receive all our stories as they come out on Telegram here
Follow Thai Examiner here

Further reading:

‘The Serpent’ serial killer who terrorised Bangkok released by Nepal on human rights grounds

Iconic 70s Bangkok comes to life again as the dark story of The Serpent wows world Netflix audiences

Sean Connery, the sexiest man alive, who played James Bond, has passed away at 90 years of age in Bahamas

Filming of Fast and Furious movie begins in Krabi in what will be a big boost to the local economy

US actor and Thai son struggling to survive virus ordeal in India as they wait to fly home to life in Thailand