When reading more letters to the editor in the New York Times, I saw even more discussion regarding the South Vietnamese refugees. The idea that the United States should take care of refugees to ease its guilt was very prominent. One letter expressed that the United States had an opportunity to make “a small down payment on the enormous moral debt” it had acquired from the Vietnam War, in addition to the historical discrimination and harsh treatment towards immigrants. One writer even reminded those who were against hosting Vietnamese refugees that many countries over the years had taken and helped refugees from the World Wars and other conflicts even when they were struggling economically and from war damage. The idea was posed that the United States, aside from their responsibility for creating the refugees, should feel obligated to help as it is the strongest and richest nation. This feeling of obligation was definitely a theme in these letters.
I was not surprised to read more opinions and concerns for the orphans from Vietnam. One writer discussed the “wave of spontaneous concern” for these orphans which allowed me to assume that the American people were opening showing sympathy for the Vietnamese children. Another writer brought up a very good point about this sudden sympathy and concern for these orphans when they asked where all the sympathy was when the children were being bombed, napalmed, mutilated, and burned. I imagine the answer is that this sympathy arose after reading articles and seeing photographs about the orphans. Most likely the Saigon Evacuation photograph specifically should not be credited solely for this reaction, but the big news of a sudden abandonment surely brought this issue to people’s attention making them wonder what would happen to the children who had been evacuated.
A lot of people used the sudden evacuation as a time to say “I told you so” and complain about the conflict while President Ford and others wanted to move on and focus on the future. However, one writer mentioned that after Vietnam was the perfect time to take steps in finding alternatives to war instead of while bullets are flying.
Not all letters were negative or of warning, one writer wrote in to praise those in his local area for their kindness and welcoming of South Vietnamese refugees. Again, this concern for refugees stemmed from the sudden abandonment and failed promise that the US would protect them. Another writer did not see the evacuation as a total abandonment, but as a “last chance to show the Vietnamese who had trusted [the US] that their faith had not been entirely misplaced.” I do agree that there was sacrifice and commitment during the evacuation, but this was on an individual level. Overall, I believed the evacuation was bailing on the US’s promise.