April 1975: The Evacuation of Saigon (2)

I’ve described in earlier posts here how, on the night of 29 April 1975, in the pitch black and pouring rain, the Air America helicopter I was on during the evacuation of Saigon came under fire as we climbed to a cruising altitude. We took so much lead in the fuselage that I thought we’d crash. But the pilot, a civilian, was able to keep us airborne. We flew out to the South China Sea and landed on the Oklahoma City, the flagship of the 7th Fleet. The pilot later told me that was the first time he’s ever landed on a ship.

During the entire evacuation, not a single helicopter was shot down. But the North Vietnamese had a multitude of weapons capable of downing helicopters. It’s now obvious that they had no intention of shooting down the birds evacuating Saigon. They simply wanted us gone.

So who shot at the helicopter I was on? I’ve concluded that it must have been the South Vietnamese military. By that time, it was obvious that the Americans were abandoning the South Vietnamese to the mercies of the conquering North Vietnamese. The South Vietnamese soldiers we left behind were justifiably furious. I understand their desperation and cannot condemn them for their actions. All of them were killed or captured by the North Vietnamese. Those who survived were sent to “re-education” camps, really concentration camps, where many died agonized deaths.

More tomorrow.

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