40 Years After the Fall of Saigon, Veterans and Vietnamese Reflect

By: Kim Cung


Forty years ago Saigon, the capitol of South Vietnam, fell to communist North Vietnam.

Central Nebraska is home to many veterans from the war and a number of Vietnamese people. The war may have been 40 years ago, but some things will never be forgotten.

“I always remember the motto some of the units had, that flew for us and it would say the difficult we do right away, the impossible takes a little longer,” said Jim Kahrhoff, a Vietnam Veteran.

A captain in the United States Military, Kahrhoff served in Vietnam in 1969. He remembers working alongside the south Vietnamese Army in some operations.

“The unit we worked with, Captain Khai and his unit was very very good, very accurate and that was very important if you’re flying close support for yourself and your troops that are on the ground. If you’re on the ground, you want to make sure they’re going where you want them,” said Kahrhoff.

When asked if he is proud of what he did, Roger Lancaster, a U.S. Naval Officer said, “I am. Yeah, it was to stop communism. Obviously we didn’t accomplish our mission, but we gave it a good try.”

Kahrhoff says he’s not too pleased with how things ended.

“Unfortunately, it appeared to me that our country abandoned the people who aligned with us. And it wasn’t because we hadn’t won the war, because militarily we had conquered the whole country, but when the political forces at home decided they’re going to give up, and that meant we went into retreat mode, and that was sad to me,” said Kahrhoff.

When Saigon fell on April 30, 1975, millions of South Vietnamese tried to flee the country, not wanting to live under communist rule.

Lancaster said he remembers watching the Vietnamese people’s attempt. “I just wish they all could have made it.”

Le Nguyen is one of the South Vietnamese who escaped by boat, but back then, she didn’t know if she would make it.

“It was very scary. because out in the ocean it’s nowhere, you can see nothing, only water,” said Nguyen.

She arrived in America in 1980, determined to make the most of her second chance.

“When we come, we have nothing. Not even languages. We can say only two words, goodbye and hello…that’s it. We’ve come a long way,” said Nguyen.

40 years later, her children are doctors, pharmacists, nurses, accountants..like many other Vietnamese.
April 30 is a sad day for many, but it’s clear the Vietnamese people have flourished overseas.

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