Nguyen Ngoc Bich, a Vietnamese emigre who directed the Vietnamese service of Radio Free Asia, translated and wrote about Vietnamese poets, and taught Vietnamese culture and literature, died March 2. He was 78.
He died of a heart attack while on a flight from Washington to Manila, where he was scheduled to participate in a conference, said a brother-in-law, John Schwankhaus.
Mr. Bich fled Vietnam after the 1975 fall of Saigon to the Communists. In the period immediately before the fall, he was director general of the Vietnam Press Agency and a special envoy of South Vietnam President Nguyen Van Thieu to the U.S. Congress in a last-ditch campaign for more war aid in the face of the Viet Cong’s last offensive.
Mr. Bich was born July 26, 1937, just north of Hanoi in what then was French Indochina. His father was a province chief under the French colonial administration, and he grew up in what The Washington Post described as a “19th century French neoclassical palace . . . ringed by gardens, storage rooms and apartments for hundreds of servants and soldiers.”
After World War II, he moved with his family to Saigon. He attended Princeton University on a Fulbright scholarship, graduating in 1958. He did postgraduate study in Asian studies at Columbia University and in Japanese literature at Kyoto University in Japan.
A resident of Springfield, Va., he held several teaching appointments, including adult education posts in Arlington elementary and high schools, and taught Vietnamese literature and culture at Trinity University in Washington and George Mason University. He was a teacher trainer in bilingual and multicultural education at Georgetown University.
He was deputy director of the Office of Bilingual Education and Minority Languages Affairs at the U.S. Department of Education during the George H.W. Bush presidency. In 1997, he became the first director of the Vietnamese service of Radio Free Asia. He retired in 2003.
He was editor or author of books and anthologies of Vietnamese poetry and a translator into English of verse collections “The Flowers of Hell” by Nguyen Chi Thien and “Blood Seeds Become Poetry” by Hat Mau Tho.
Survivors include his wife of 48 years, Dao Thi Hoi of Springfield.
CORRECTION: The story misattributed the April 30, 1975, fall of Saigon to the Viet Cong. The Viet Cong participated in the final attack on Saigon but North Vietnam’s People’s Army of Vietnam was the primary attacking force. The obituary also incorrectly referred to the “ensuing” evacuation of remaining U.S. diplomats, military personnel and supporters. It should have said “preceding” evacuation. The story has been updated.
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