Left By The Ship or: Why does it seem like we rarely do the right thing?

I watched this enormously sad documentary called Left By The Ship, about the children of US soldiers who were abandoned by their fathers when the father’s service in the Philippines was concluded. Actually, I only caught the second half while channel-surfing, but I started watching for a minute and then couldn’t stop.

These children are not covered by the Amerasian Homecoming Act. For some unknown reason they are excluded and most are in a bad way, living in poverty, and experiencing abuse both within their families and in their communities. You hear politicians and others go on and on about the importance of families, but so often it ends up being so much bullshit. Families go out the window when they become inconvenient. At one point one of the kids successfully reaches his American father, and if you could have seen the kid’s joy when he thought his hell had finally ended, and that he was going to rise. Oh God. I’m remembering it now. He never heard from his father again.

A friend of mine lives in Heaven (Brooklyn). This is the entrance to her enchanting apartment. Look at those roses. And the working gas lamp.

Brooklyn is Heaven

Stacy Horn

I've written six non-fiction books, the most recent is Damnation Island: Poor, Sick, Mad, and Criminal in 19th-Century New York.

View all posts by Stacy Horn →

6 thoughts on “Left By The Ship or: Why does it seem like we rarely do the right thing?

  1. Hello again, Stacy,
    you know, it looks like this documentary makes a good point.

    However, as is so often the case, I don’t know if the whole story is being told.

    While there can be no justification for fathers ignoring children from an overseas relationship, there is another side to the tale.

    Places like Subic Bay in the Philippines were literally filled with prostitutes working in bars, a few hotels where people could consummate their drunken revels, and a couple of restaurants.

    The girls working in these establishments were prostitutes who designated a price for sexual favors up front. There was never any question about what profession these girls were in.

    You can imagine how some man might be struck if he were to visit the Chicken Ranch in Nevada and later be told he was responsible for a child from this union.

    I am not for one second pleased about people who shirk their responsibilities. And it is also true that on multiple deployments, military personnel might each re-visit a prostitute, even like her.

    It is also true that some of these servicemen wind up marrying the bar girls from the Philippines, and it is also true that sometimes the girls intentionally practiced the age-old entrapment by pregnancy.

    It’s an old problem and I don’t know what can be done about it, but consider a 35 or 40 -year old guy married, with children, suddenly finding out that 15 to 20 years previously, his drunken leave that included going to a prostitute resulted in fatherhood.

    It is a challenge for everyone and it’s sad that there are so few solutions.

  2. I’m sympathetic to all involved, the fathers, the mothers (it makes no difference to me if the mothers were prostitutes, if anything it would make me more sympathetic) but first things first: change the Amerasian Homecoming Act to include the Philippines.

  3. I don’t think the Homecoming Act is used anymore today. Even the Amerasians from included countries have to go through the “normal” process of immigration.

    By the way, the film has the wrong information on the homecoming act, it did NOT give citizenship to Amerasian ch8ildren, it just allowed to “special immigration”

    There is a pending bill to naturalize those who are now in the US.


    I think what should be pursued is citizenship reform for those born abroad.(Just imagine how it is much easier for a pregnant TOURIST to have a US citizen child than an American based abroad!) This is not just an Amerasian problem, but basically anyone who has a US father and a non-US mother. The laws are more restricting for those born with the US father (sexism?)

  4. Hi! Thank you for the information!! I wasn’t aware there were problems for Americans who give birth while abroad.

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