Remembering the fall of Saigon

T54On April 30, 1975, Saigon, the capital of South Vietnam, fell to North Vietnamese forces, effectively marking the end of the Vietnam War.

In the days leading up to the fall, North Vietnamese units were within miles of the city’s center. Their proximity to the airport cut off any chance of an American evacuation by airplane. The only option was a helicopter airlift operation from the grounds of the American Embassy. Eighty-one choppers airlifted approximately 1,000 Americans and several thousand South Vietnamese to safety. The famous photograph by Hubert van Es of evacuees lined up on a ladder to board one of the last helicopters captures the final hours of the frantic evacuation.

By the end of the day on April 30, the North Vietnamese had accepted the surrender of the South Vietnamese president, Gen. Duong van Minh. North Vietnam swiftly announced the creation of a united Vietnam, and Saigon was renamed Ho Chi Minh City, after the communist nationalist who led the country’s revolution movement.

For the thousands of South Vietnamese who resettled in the U.S., April 30, 1975, is known as “The day we lost our country.” The day also left a deep wound on the American psyche that has taken many decades to heal.

But the healing has begun. The process has been aided by events such as the one being held from 2 to 5 p.m. this Sunday, April 26, at the Virginia War Memorial.

The Vietnamese Community of Central Virginia will commemorate the 40th anniversary of the fall of Saigon with a special program that will include re-enactors in Vietnam War-era uniforms, displays of artifacts and memorabilia, Vietnamese food and a showing of the PBS documentary “Last Days in Vietnam.”

To show its deep appreciation for the U.S. servicemen who fought alongside the South Vietnamese, the community is extending a special invitation to the event to all Americans who served in the Vietnam War. Admission to the program is free, but reservations are needed.

Contact Jennifer Chau at (804) 852-5930 or at easternmgic@live.com for reservations or further information. This is an opportunity for veterans of that war to spend time with those who understand their sacrifices better than most Americans.

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