First Vietnamese-American To Be Promoted to General in U.S. Army: Gen. Viet Luong

More than 45 years ago now, the war in Vietnam came to a tragic close with the fall of Saigon to North Vietnamese forces on April 30, 1975. This was some two years after the last American combat troops had left Vietnam. Over 58,000 Americans had died in the war, but the cost of the war to the Vietnamese was far greater. It is said that 2 million civilians died, about half as many on both sides of the demilitarized zone (DMZ) between North and South Vietnam. Estimates are that 200 to 250 thousand South Vietnamese military personnel were killed.

The aftermath of the Fall of Saigon would be devastating on the South Vietnamese who had served in the Army of the Republic of Vietnam or who had worked with the Americans in any way. Many were killed, while many more were sent to so-called “re-education camps.” Those who could tried in every conceivable way to get out of Vietnam in the immediate days surrounding the fall of Saigon, and in the years that followed. Hundreds of thousands became refugees living in refugee camps all over Southeast Asia and the Pacific.

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The United States instituted a program in the days leading up to the fall of Saigon to try to evacuate “at-risk” Vietnamese before the takeover of Saigon. Many may remember the videos of the desperate Vietnamese trying to get over the walls at the U.S. Embassy in Saigon and of the helicopters landing on the roof of the Embassy to get the Ambassador out just hours before the North Vietnamese troops stormed the embassy building. This operation, called “Operation Frequent Wind,” took place between April 29 and April 30, 1975.

One of the refugee families that was evacuated during that time was the Luong family. The father had been a Major In the Republic of Vietnam Marine Division. He was able to get his immediate family out of Saigon during those hours on April 29th and 30th, and they were eventually brought to the United States to Fort Chaffee, Arkansas, under a program called “Operation New Arrivals.”

40 years later, one of the sons of that family, Viet X. Luong, would become the first Vietnamese-American to be promoted to the rank of Brigadier General in the United States Army in 2014. Gen. Luong had earned his commission in the United States Army from the ROTC program at the University of Southern California (USC) in 1987, graduating with two degrees: one in Biological Sciences and the second being a Master of Military Arts and Sciences.

Photo: YouTube/U.S. Army Website Videos

Gen. Luong has had a distinguished career in the Army, including having command responsibilities with the following units: the United States Army, Japan, 3rd Brigade Combat Team (Rakkasans); 101st Airborne Division Train Advise Assist Command—South, 2nd Battalion; and the 505th Parachute Infantry Regiment. He also served as Commanding General (Operations) Eighth United States Army. He started his Army career with the 325th Airborne Infantry Regiment of the 82nd Airborne Division.

Gen. Luong’s experiences include being deployed to Haiti in support of “Operation Uphold Democracy” as the Commander of the Theater Quick Reaction Force. He has served in both Iraq and Afghanistan. He also attended Stanford University as a National Security Fellow and subsequently served as the Deputy Director, Pakistan Afghanistan Coordination Cell, J5, The Joint Staff.

Photo: YouTube/U.S. Army Website Videos

In 2015, Luong was assigned as Director of Joint and Integration at the Office of The US Army Chief of Staff for Force Development, G-8. And in 2016, he was made Chief of Staff at United States Army Central. He was then made Deputy Commanding General (Operations), Eighth Army, United States Forces, Korea. He was promoted again to Major General in June 2018 and took command of the United States Army, Japan, in August of 2018.

Gen. Luong has been awarded the following: The Army Distinguished Service Medal, the Defense Superior Service Medal, three Legions of Merit, and three Bronze Stars.

Photo: YouTube/U.S. Army Website Videos

Major General Viet X. Luong’s story of success is one of thousands of Asian American Pacific Islander stories in American military history. Maj. Gen. Luong, like his father, who had served as an officer in the Republic of Vietnam Marine Division, has lived a life in military service in his adopted country.

Luong has dedicated his career in the United States Army to excellence, to leadership, and to the ideals of the American Constitution. The Veterans Site honors Maj. Gen. Luong and sends its sincerest thanks for the distinguished service he has given to the Army and to the nation over his long career.

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