A 12-year-old Vietnamese amputee named Nguyen Thi Tron, who was featured on the cover of LIFE magazine in November of 1968. The cover showed Tron watching her new wooden leg being made at a government rehabilitation center in Saigon.
She and two friends, Nhien and Hai, had wandered into a “free-fire zone” to collect firewood and wild vegetables when an American helicopter happened to fly by and open fire. Nhien took shelter under an oxcart, but Hai got shot in the abdomen (she later recovered) and Tron in the leg.
I’m not sure what became of Tron. Her own view of the future was bleak (“I have only one leg. I can do nothing.”) but she did aspire to become a seamstress one day.
Regardless, her name lives on via the baby name charts. In fact, “Tron” is likely the first name to debut on the U.S. charts in connection with the Vietnam War.
*It was a one-hit wonder as a female name only. As a male name, Tron has appeared in the SSA data dozens of times.
The fall of Saigon in April 1975 marked not only the end of the Vietnam War, but also the start of large-scale Vietnamese immigration to the United States. (An estimated 125,000 Vietnamese refugees were evacuated to the U.S.)
The same year, dozens of Vietnamese names debuted in the U.S. baby name data. Here are the ones I’ve spotted so far…
Viet was the top boy-name debut of 1975, and the next three boy names on the list (Hung, Nam, and Huy) ranked within the top 10.
Many other Vietnamese names — including Bao, Chinh, Dao, Giang, Huong, Khanh, Lam, Nguyet, Phuc, Quyen, Suong, Thanh, and Vuong — debuted throughout the rest of the ’70s and into the early ’80s.
One of the Vietnamese babies born at Fort Chaffee in 1975 was Dat Nguyen, who went on to become the first Vietnamese-American to play in the NFL. Even though he was born in America in 1975, his name, Dat, wasn’t popular enough to appear in the U.S. data (that is, it wasn’t wasn’t given to at least five baby boys within a single calendar year) until 1979.