On 30 April, 1975, the last troops and refugees were evacuated from Saigon, and the hideous failure known as the Vietnam War officially ended. I was a sophomore in high school. I remember this picture being circulated all over the news: people rushing (many in vain) to get out of Saigon before it fell to the North Vietnamese army.
Aircraft carriers were docked on the shore to accept all the refugees being flown in every hour. They didn’t have enough room on the carriers for all the people, so they ditched the choppers in the ocean.
My uncle Fred was a Marine and saw active duty over there. I remember my mother baking cookies to send to him. Earned a Purple Heart and a Bronze Star. He could never talk about it. I can only imagine his nightmares…
If you want to see a truly disturbing, realistic account of what Vietnam did to men, rent The Deer Hunter. It was no slouch film: it won Best Picture at the Oscars the following year. But prepare to be shaken up. As I mentioned in a post awhile back, I had trouble sleeping for several nights after seeing it at the theater. The horror those guys experienced is something the more fortunate of us (the lucky ones who stayed stateside) can never hope to grasp.
American death toll: 50,000. The degree to which livelihoods and families were obliterated in one way or another: unfathomable.
When you have time, this story is amazing.