On this day in 1975, the final phase began in the evacuation of Americans and “at-risk Vietnamese” civilians stationed in Vietnam during the Vietnam War, prior to the anticipated takeover of the city of Saigon by the North Vietnamese Army (PAVN). Over two days, members of the United States Armed Forces, its embassy in South Vietnam and its Defense Attaché Office evacuated more than 7,000 people using only helicopters.
Even though the United States had already removed their combat troops two years before in 1973, thousands of Americans still remained in Saigon, stationed at the U.S Embassy and throughout the city. The operation was launched because during March, North Vietnamese troops had started to close in on the city and in light of their anticipated takeover, the U.S evacuated its citizens, which including Vietnamese orphans whose parents were killed during the conflict. During the course of April, 50,493 people were evacuated. Saigon fell the very next day.
While the operation itself was a success, the enduring images of the evacuation triggered a symbolisation of the wastefulness and futility of America’s involvement in the Vietnam War. President Ford called it a “sad and tragic period in America’s history.”
You can read more about the Vietnam War and the Tet Offensive in Issue Three of History of War Magazine. It’s out now, but if you want to order it online then just click here.