06 March 2012

Fall of Saigon remembered

Dateline: Saigon, now Ho Chi Minh City. Reunification Palace, former headquarters of the South Vietnamese regime during the Vietnam War, or the American War as it is now called.

A tour of the palace is eerie, especially descending to the bunker and the command room where General Nguyen Van Thieu planned strategy with his US advisors during the dying days of that horrendous conflict. In the map room, we learned about the desperate choices the regime made in an effort to retain and defend territory. Here Rob stands with our guide, Lnog.

Old army issue desks and defunct telephones sit in the bunker rooms like strange museum artifacts. Teletype machines and radio sets rest in silence, strange booty left from America's defeat.

According to the Wikipedia article on South Vietnam, "the Vietnam War began in 1959 with an uprising by Viet Cong forces supplied by North Vietnam. Fighting climaxed during the Tet Offensive of 1968, when there were over 1.5 million South Vietnamese soldiers and 500,000 U.S. soldiers in South Vietnam. Despite a peace treaty concluded in January 1973, fighting continued ..." the North Vietnamese swept in from all directions, squeezing Saigon into surrender. On April 30, 1975, just days after General Nguyen Van had resigned and fled to the Taiwan, Viet Cong tanks crashed through the gates of the presidential palace, declaring victory.

Later, at the War Remnants Museum, we were able to see that tank. Young Vietnamese kids gathered in front if it for a group photo.

Again from Wikipedia ... "During the hours leading up to the surrender, the United States undertook a massive evacuation of its embassy in Saigon, Operation Frequent Wind. The evacuees included U.S. government personnel as well as high-ranking members of the ARVN and other South Vietnamese who were seen as potential targets for persecution by the Communists. Many of the evacuees were taken directly by helicopter to multiple aircraft carriers waiting off the coast ...

... An iconic image of the evacuation is the widely-seen footage of empty Huey helicopters being jettisoned over the side of the carriers, to provide more room on the ship's deck for more evacuees to land. The evacuation was forced to stop by the U.S. Navy. All the marines and diplomats were evacuated, but thousands of South Vietnamese waited vainly atop the U.S. Embassy for helicopters that never came."

Below, an American Huey helicopter sits silent.

To view a video report of the evacuation, follow this link.



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