This month is the 43rd anniversary of the fall of Saigon. April is always a tough month for me because of the memories. So as the anniversary dates of events leading up to the final collapse arrive, I’ll be recounting here what happened.
On this date in 1975, U.S. President Gerald Ford announced OPERATION BABYLIFT, a plan for to bring orphans, many of them Amerasian—fathered by American GIs with Vietnamese women—from South Vietnam to the United States to be adopted by American parents. The same day, U.S. General Frederick C. Weyand, the United States Army Chief of Staff, met with South Vietnamese President Nguyen van Thieu in Saigon. Weyand promised more American aid to South Vietnam but declined Thieu’s request for a renewal of American bombing of North Vietnamese forces. And South Vietnamese Prime Minister Tran Thien Khiem resigned and made preparations to move to Paris.
The U.S. Ambassador, Graham Martin, had refused to allow me to evacuate my 43 subordinates and their families. So I was cheating and lying to get them safely out of the country, using any ruse I could think of. I could do nothing to get out the 2700 South Vietnamese soldiers who had worked with us over the years. I had to await the evacuation order from the ambassador.
I had intended to send my secretary, Suzie, out on the first OPERATION BABYLIFT flight scheduled for the next day, 4 April. For reasons I can’t explain, I decided not to put her on that flight. An odd premonition prompted my decision.
Though I didn’t know it at the time, the additional aid promised by General Weyand never would materialize. Congress refused to appropriate the funds. The lack of Congressional action hastened the fall of the Republic of Vietnam (South Vietnam) to the communists.