In my first post, I mentioned that 257 children from an orphanage in Saigon were sent to the US in early April. I later found out that this was after “Operation Baby Lift” which reporters claimed 1,400 children were evacuated. However, on a website telling the personal stories of Marines during the fall of Saigon, Ken Crouse states that the orphans and helping staff died in an accident. I assume just one vehicle crashed because it was reported that 1,400 made it to the US. This incident, resulting in the deaths of many orphans on their way to the US, is important when researching Americans’ sympathy for the South Vietnamese. As the poll in my last post showed, only 36% of polled Americans were in favor of South Vietnamese refugees being relocated to the US. This is surprising to me because the view Americans had towards communists at this time were very extreme, yet after a decade of this conflict they lacked the sympathy they had years before. I imagine the knowledge of these orphan children would strike some sense of compassion in Americans.
Modern day images of the location in the Saigon Evac photograph courtesy of Ken Crouse:
I was able to get in touch with Lance Corporal Ken Crouse, Secretary of the Fall of Saigon Marines Association, who was working in Saigon in April 1975. Crouse lost some of his marine friends on April 29th, 1975 due to a rocket attack whose explosion he saw from the roof of the embassy. The following day, after thousands of people were evacuated, he left on the second to last marine evacuating helicopter from the embassy. Even though he was not in the same location as the photograph, he witnessed the panic and fear of South Vietnamese who were in danger of the communist take-over. He used the word “stampeding” when talking about people escaping from northern areas.
Crouse mentioned that after the evacuation, the tens of thousands South Vietnamese that were not evacuated were imprisoned in ‘”re-education camps”’ which were really prisons. These South Vietnamese that were imprisoned had been officials and government representatives. Most of them eventually made it to American nearly ten years later. Crouse recalled the father of a friend who spent over 13 years in a prison without his family knowing he was still alive.
This answers my question about what happened to the refugees who were not evacuated. Many thousands of them were left behind to face imprisonment from the communists. I wonder if Americans had known what these South Vietnamese’s fate had been, would more than 36% been in favor of relocating them to the US?
Crouse’s reply to what the photo symbolizes for him was, “Amazing courage and honor of the pilots who flew hundreds of sorties during the evacuation bringing thousands of people to safety / freedom in the face of overwhelming odds.”
Crouse assumes the huey (Bell UH-1 Iroquois helicopter) in the photograph would have dropped off passengers at the embassy or airport instead of taking them straight the ships due to time.