A Pan Am Stewardess Volunteers to be an Orphan Escort

When I decided to write about Pan Am flight attendants and their long history of volunteerism, the first name that came to mind was Ann Cannon Votruba. There was no question in my mind that Ann was the person  I wanted to interview first.

What I didn’t know at the time was that Ann was weak from an illness that would soon take her life, making an interview impossible.

Instead, Ann took the time to make longhand notes and send them with her personal photos of her experiences with both the Dooley Foundation (now Dooley Intermed) and with Holt International as a volunteer in the Orphan Escort Program.

The following is Ann’s account from her participation in Operation Babylift,April 5,1975.

Giselle Foresman

Caravelle“In 1975 Holt and Pan Am had a program in which stewardesses volunteered to go to Saigon and bring home an orphan to his/ her new new home in the USA. This required us to stay in Saigon three to four days to get the paperwork and to go to the various orphanages.  I went on this trip with my husband, and thanks to Al Topping, we stayed in the once-bustling Caravelle Hotel which was almost empty. Pan Am ground personnel drove us to the orphanages.


It was very sad as the orphanages had mostly American/Vietnamese kids mixed, and there were three or four babies to a crib.



The boy you see in the pictures with me was named Twai, he was the child assigned to me.



Twai planing with an airplane toy.


Saigon was just beginning to fall,and I guess we took some of the last children out. We took only one out at a time as it was really difficult to get their papers; we left Saigon for Hong Kong.

Ann3My husband left, and Twai and I stayed in Hong Kong one night. Twai had never seen TV and was very excited to see it! He went crazy over the boxing on TV!

Twai and Ann arrive in New York.

From there we went on to New York,and then to Detroit,where his foster parents met us at the plane. Twai was very upset,throwing his shoes and screaming. He did not want to go with them,so I went with them to Lansing Michigan. I left the next day before he awoke. I’m sure he was frightened.

I received a letter from them later saying Twai was okay after a couple of days,but had trouble in school. I’ve never forgotten him.”


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