I started this week by talking to a veteran from the Vietnam war. I asked his opinion on the evacuation picture, and what it meant to him, and what happened at the time of it’s release. He commented back that the pictures that resounded more with him and other veterans, and that seemed to have a greater impact or significance in that time were the pictures of the helicopters being pushed off of the decks of the aircraft carriers.
I looked for these photos, and soon started getting results. It wasn’t too awful difficult to find the pictures themselves, but finding the information, or stories behind them is more difficult. I found an account from NPR that covered the incident. It was through studying hundreds of documents, pouring through photographs, and interviews with over twenty people that they pieced the story together.
The accounts came from the USS Kirk. South Vietnamese pilots were desperate to escape, and get their families out. Helicopters were loaded and the pilots headed East, where they knew 7th fleet was on the ocean.
The men on the boats said that it was like a swarm of bees coming in, that just appeared out of nowhere. Huey after huey came in. The pilots were land based and untrained on how to land on the small moving decks of the boats. The third bird to land chopped off the tail of the second, and it was apparent that room was a commodity. The sailors unloaded the choppers of people and equipment, and started shoving them off the boat.
The most amazing account was of a chinook pilot, who’s bird was too big to land, dropped his family, wife and children, along with other passengers; he then flew out over the open water, undressed, launched the plane at an angle and jumped out. The chopper exploded into pieces on impact with the water. The man was rescued, and recently was awarded an aviation medal by the crew of the USS Kirk.
The obvious desperation to get out is greatly displayed here. The pilots headed out with no communication, or even direction as to where to go, over open water. They barely reached the boats with the fuel they had, some of the choppers sputtering out as they landed. This dedication to get out at all costs is intense.
I plan to look for accounts of similar events from the current wars. I found one article that is tied in, but will delve deeper. I also found 3 sites with interesting photos that are important from Vietnam.
photos of Vietnam