S.  Vietnamese in Da Nang struggle to climb aboard ships that will evacuate them to Cam Ranh Ba

S. Vietnamese in Da Nang struggle to climb aboard ships that will evacuate them to Cam Ranh Ba

I’ve been reading several news articles about the documentary ‘Last Days in Vietnam’, directed by Rory Kennedy, daughter of RFK, which revisits the fall of Saigon in 1975. If I get the opportunity, I’ll have to watch it.

I became actively opposed the Vietnam war in mid-1968, as much because of a 1967 speech by Martin Luther King, Jr. as anything.

Prior to that – I WAS only 15 – it was more that it was an American war, and I was an American, so I didn’t really need to think about it much.

After that evolution of thought, I actually LOOKED at how the United States, after France’s final defeat at Dien Bien Phu in 1954, ended up in Vietnam, first with “advisers”. Then, after the lie that spurred the Gulf of Tonkin resolution in August 1964, there was a much expanded presence in Vietnam, propping up one failed leadership in South Vietnam after another.

Only much later, I discovered how Richard Nixon sabotaged the 1968 Vietnam peace talks to get elected President, an arguably treasonous act, something that cost the United States an additional 22,000 lives, of the 58,000 US military killed, not to mention those tens of thousands of Vietnamese, Cambodians and Laotians who died needlessly.

So when the Americans effectively stopped fighting in January 1973, through a program called Vietnamization – read this and see if it reminds you of the US policy in Iraq this century – it led to the inevitable collapse of the South Vietnam government. “By the end of April 30th, South Vietnam was wholly under the control of North Vietnam who swiftly announced the creation of a united Vietnam. Saigon was re-named Ho Chi Minh City.”

Yet I felt terrible about those South Vietnamese left behind, who undoubtedly felt the Americans would take care of them, but, for the most part, were not able to; an estimated one million people died after reunification. Moreover, I am fascinated by the normalization of relations between the US and a united Vietnam in the past three decades.

One of the legacies of the American involvement in the war the use of the defoliant Agent Orange. I knew a guy, Michael – a good friend of my girlfriend at the time – who almost certainly died from Agent Orange exposure in early 1982, just after his daughter was born. It took nearly another decade before the government acknowledged a link between the chemical and a number of neurological diseases.

Now the U.S. finally accepting responsibility for the devastating ongoing effects of Agent Orange in Vietnam. But is this funding just a way to get USAID in the door to meddle in the country’s affairs?
***
From 2015: SamuraiFrog revisits Good Morning, Vietnam.

From 2014: US Government sanitizes Vietnam War history.

From 2012: ‘Napalm Girl’: An Iconic Image Of War Turns 40.

2 Responses to “40 years ago: the fall of Saigon”

  • Walter R says:

    Rog,

    For many reasons this period was the defining point in my life. As young pro war teen it wasn’t until I wentt o college that I learned about the history of Vietnam. I came out and actively worked against the war in 1969 till the end of “72 with the Nixon re-election.

    The passage of time has proved to me the corrfcetness of the anti war position as exemplified by Robert McNamara’s book, “The Fog of War”

  • CGHill says:

    A perhaps surprisingly large number of Vietnamese refugees — 5,000 at least — ended up in Oklahoma City; the 2010 census counted 1.7 percent of the city’s population as being of Vietnamese origin, or around 10,000.

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