Time of Remembrance Oral Histories Project

The Elk Grove Unified School District is committed to documenting and honoring the individual stories of those who have contributed to the history of the community. As a district, we recognize that history is not something that simply happens in textbooks. History happens here in our own communities, one story at a time. History is also dynamic, with new chapters being created as new events – local, national, and global – occur and impact the lives of ordinary citizens. Accordingly, this website is the second iteration of the Time of Remembrance Oral Histories Project. The original project focused solely on a World War II event: the mass removal of Japanese-Americans from the West Coast following the bombing of Pearl Harbor and the onset of War War II. Literally overnight, an entire population was denied the rights guaranteed to all citizens under the U.S. Constitution, and the history of the Elk Grove-Florin community was forever changed. Few would return to reclaim their farms, businesses, or former lives. The 16-minute documentary below provides a window into a time in our nation’s history when justice failed – and, more importantly, a reminder of the need to constantly strive for a “more perfect union.”

Seventy years after WWII, in the aftermath of the Vietnam War, the district recognizes the need to actively respond to AB 78 by documenting and honoring individuals who have witnessed first-hand and/or whose lives have been directly impacted by what has come to be known as the Secret War in Laos.

During the Vietnam War and amid fears that Communism was spreading from North Vietnam into Laos, The United States sent the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) into Laos to disrupt the spread. Over 40,000 Hmong and Mien were covertly recruited to fight in the Secret War. It was the largest CIA operation ever undertaken. Hundreds of thousands of Laotian civilians were killed in the fighting or in retaliation for their support of American troops.

The 4-minute introduction video below provides a glimpse of the depth and breadth of a chapter of the Vietnam War still widely under told. Clips used in the video were drawn mainly from the first and second rounds of our Vietnam War Oral Histories interviews. The third and fourth round interviews can be viewed by visiting our Vietnam War Interview Archives.

As a starting point for introducing students, teachers, and community members to the Secret War and to this oral histories project, we recommend showing the video and sharing the slideshow below. We have included our notes (talking points) for each slide to help guide classroom conversations.

As a result of the United States’ overt and covert involvement in the Vietnam War, the Elk Grove-Florin region is currently home to a growing Hmong and Mien population. Until now, their stories have remained largely untold and this chapter in history is too frequently overlooked.

For our students to grasp the complexities and legacies of both wars, it is imperative that they have access to primary and secondary accounts of life before, during, and after the war years. Just as the oral histories of Japanese-Americans enrich the study of World War II, the Secret War oral histories go beyond facts and statistics and provide students with individual stories of survival, resistance, resilience, and reconciliation. It is through these lived experiences that students will understand how the past connects to the present and shapes the future.

We invite educators across the globe to share the interviews and resources posted to the Time of Remembrance website with their students. It is our hope that through the living voices of survivors and witnesses of World War II and the Vietnam War, students will gain an understanding of the common threads that connect the exclusion and forced removal of any group of people – and the importance of standing up and speaking out for the rights of all citizens.

Elk Grove Unified School District Board of Education Resolutions

Resolution #32 (2023-2024) Day of Remembrance
Resolution #77 (2022-2023) Hmong American Day
Resolution #59 (2012-2013) 35th Anniversary of the Arrival of the Hmong and AB 78