Today marks the 44th anniversary of the Fall of Saigon on April 30, 1975. The poignant picture below shows the evacuation of Americans and South Vietnamese staff from the roof top of the US Embassy in Saigon.
|HUGH VAN ES/UPI/NEWSCOM|
It was the biggest helicopter lift of its kind in history—an 18-hour operation that carried 1,373 Americans and 5,595 Vietnamese to safety. Yet in sheer numbers, the feat was overshadowed by the incredible impromptu flight of perhaps another 65,000 South Vietnamese. In fishing boats and barges, homemade rafts and sampans, they sailed by the thousands out to sea, hoping to make it to the 40 U.S. warships beckoning on the horizon. Many were taken aboard the American vessels, while others joined a convoy of 27 South Vietnamese Navy ships that limped slowly—without adequate food or water—toward an uncertain welcome in the Philippine Islands. Hundreds of South Vietnamese also fled by military plane and helicopter, landing at airfields in Thailand or ditching their craft alongside American ships.
My father who was drafted into the US Army in December 1940 for “the Hawaiian Department” was to serve two tours of duty in South Vietnam. His first tour was in Cam Rahn Bay from October 1967 until October 1968 and then again from April 1970 until the end of March 1971 in Lai Khe an Bao Loc. He was thus in Vietnam for two of the more momentous events of the war – the Tet Offensive and the Cambodian Invasion.