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Fall Of Saigon End Of The Vietnam War History Essay

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Published: Mon, 5 Dec 2016

The fall of Saigon signified the fall of South Vietnam to Communist North Vietnam. It also marks a humiliating loss for America. Sadly, it signifies the memories of fear and despair for the South Vietnamese as they tried to evacuate Saigon, while the Vietcong marched towards the city. It reminds everyone of lost lives, shattered hopes and dreams, and stolen innocence. It is a period of history which is yet to be fully recovered from. 

When President Nixon took office in 1969, he had obtained a war that put over 500,000 people in uniform. There were a lot of riots and protests about why America even got involved with Vietnam in the first place. President Nixon did not want to be involved in the war. He began gradually withdrawing troops, but still sent money, weapons, and advisors to South Vietnam. A final peace negotiation was made in 1973. Nixon claimed this way was “achieving peace with honor.” In reality, it was a way for the United States to get out safely and try to save the U.S. from humiliation. South Vietnam was left to fight off the communist themselves. They had hoped to settle an agreement with North Vietnam, but without support from the U.S., South Vietnam had nothing to offer. (Bender, Greenhaven Press)

The Vietnam War lasted from November 1st, 1955 to April 30th, 1975, a total of 19 years and 180 days. The Vietnamese people suffered more casualties than the Americans. About 3,000,000 civilians died throughout this battle. (Shennon, The New York Times)

The quick surrender in 1975 by South Vietnam was surprising for all. The CIA and Army Intelligence published a letter on March 5th. The letter stated that South Vietnam could of hold the NVA until 1976. These predictions proved quite incorrect. Even as that letter was being released, there was a major attack being prepared to target the highlands of Vietnam, which began on March 10th and led to the capture of Buon Me Thuot. The South Vietnamese began to retreat, hoping to redeploy troops and hold South Vietnam. (Todd, 433)

From support by artillery and armor, the North Vietnamese continued to push towards Saigon, capturing major cities of South Vietnam at the end of March. They got HuHYPERLINK “http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Huế”e on the 25th and Da Nang on the 28th. After the loss at Da Nang, the American Intelligence in Vietnam believed nothing could stop the NVA except B-52 strikes targeted for Hanoi.

Over 12 days, B-52s dropped 15,237 tons of bombs on Hanoi, Haiphong, and other targets. Originally 42 B-52s were committed to this war but, numbers were frequently doubled. The B-52’s usage had been a key part in the war, although lack of precision weapons lead to limited deployment. “The B-52s were restricted to bombing Communist bases in relatively uninhabited sections, because their potency approached that of a tactical nuclear weapon. A formation of six B-52s, dropping their bombs from 30,000 feet, could “take out”… almost everything within a “box” approximately five to eight miles wide by two miles long” quoted by American journalist Neil Sheehan. (Condor, 37)

On April 14th, the NVA renamed their campaign to the “Ho Chi Minh campaign,” after communist leader Ho Chi Minh, in the hopes of finishing the campaign before May 19th, his birth date. At the same time, South Vietnam failed to get an increase in military support from America, destroying President Nguyen Van Thieu’s hopes of winning the war. (Todd, 249)

North Vietnamese Army forces reached Xuan Loc on April 9th, the last line of defense before Saigon, where the South Vietnamese made a last attempt to save the city. After 11 days of brutal fighting the NVA finally took Xuan Loc and after that President Thieu resigned. The North Vietnamese Army was just 26 miles from Saigon. The victory at Xuan Loc, drawn many South Vietnamese troops away from the Mekong Delta area, and basically gave the NVA a surround on Saigon. The NVA moved 100,000 troops in position around Saigon by April 27th. (Dawson, Prentice-Hall)

On April 29th North Vietnamese began their final attack on Saigon; a heavy artillery bombardment was commanded on the city. After one day of artillery bombardment, the NVA was ready to make a final push into the city of Saigon. By then the NVA troops had strategically took over the important points within the city.

The President, Duong Van Minh, announced in a radio broadcast to the nation telling them to lay down their arms. He then later called the Vietcong to stop hostility toward the South Vietnamese and said “We are here to hand over to you the power in order to avoid bloodshed.” After the announcement of surrender the Vietcong smashed through the gates of the presidential palace within minutes. (Associated Press)

On April 30, 1975 the capital of South Vietnam was captured by the People’s Army of Vietnam, also known as the North Vietnamese Army, or the NVA. The South Vietnamese government announced its surrender over to the Vietcong. This crisis led to the end of the Vietnam War and started the communist rule over the country.

Saigon was renamed Ho Chi Minh City, after former North Vietnamese president and communist leader Ho Chi Minh. The fall of the city was followed by an evacuation of all American civilian and military personnel, and tens of thousands of South Vietnamese civilians. The evacuation created Operation Frequent Wind; the largest helicopter evacuation in history. In addition to Operation Frequent Wind, the end of the war and new communist rule contributed to a drop in population of Saigon.

Operation Frequent Wind was an evacuation of Americans and targeted Vietnamese from South Vietnam. American Embassies planned Operation Frequent Wind before the fall of Saigon. The American government realized that the collapse of Saigon was inevitable. After an attack on Tan Son Nhut air base, Operation Frequent Wind was commenced. People who wanted to be evacuated were to meet at the DAO Compound on the afternoon of the 29th. Another evacuation point was the US Embassy located in Saigon. The Embassy evacuation point was originally only for the staff, but it was soon filled with terrified South Vietnamese. (Dunham, Marine Corps Association)

The operation took place on through the 29th and 30th of April, 1975, the last few days of the Vietnam War. Operation Frequent Wind had successfully evacuated over 50,000 people, including about 7,000 U.S. citizens. South Vietnamese risked their life to evacuate Saigon, or to evacuate their children. America received a massive amount of Vietnamese refugees; most of them babies to be adopted into American families. Evacuation was very dangerous considering that the NVA could have shot down any aircraft leaving the city. The Americans were evacuated first, forcing the South Vietnamese to desperate measures. They tried to hang on the helicopter, swim out to rescue ships, and even as a last resort, join the communist regime. Many died in the process of trying to escape the city. Sadly, Operation Frequent Wind did not evacuate everyone. Numerous South Vietnamese that got left behind ended up getting shot by the communist. (Dunham, Marine Corps Association)

In the late moments of the war, many evacuations were being made. Vietnam was in a hectic state. South Vietnamese that left before Saigon fell made independent plans for leaving. While it seemed like everyone who wanted out of Saigon got to leave, many South Vietnamese were left behind. All Americans simply had to do to leave Saigon was meet at an evacuation area. For the Vietnamese they required exit visas and passports. Exit visas were highly sought after, many being six times the original cost. The price of going by sea vessels tripled. Even the rich had a hard time leaving, pricing of houses were cut 75 percent. The situation got so bad that the Vietnamese had posted advertisement in hopes of finding American “parents”. (Todd, 311)

The situation in Saigon was just chaotic. People were terrified and dumbfounded. The United States was in desperation as well, with Operation Frequent Wind, the plan to evacuate, in full commence. Saigon at this time was a ghost town. Refugees had begun pouring into the city, living in abandoned buildings.

South Vietnamese left in fear of consequences in living a communist country. Many believe after the communist took over Saigon that there would have been vengeance brought upon the citizens.

The Hanoi government stated that, more than 200,000 South Vietnamese soldiers, military officers, and government officials were sent off to “reeducation camps”. The prisoners were tortured, sick, and starved (Snepp, 559)

The prime goal of the communist government was to decrease the population of South Vietnam, which by now had been inhabited by unemployed and homeless citizens. The education camps for South Vietnamese soldiers stated that in order for them to regain respect in the society they would have to move from city to countryside; handing out rice to the poor and work their way back up to city life. (Dawson, 351)

Most South Vietnamese refuse to live in a country where communism was prevalent. Soldiers and citizens fled Vietnam. Many on boat, some on plane; a lot landed on the Pacific Coast of America, some even landed on the coast of Europe. According to the government of Vietnam, within two years since Saigon fell 1,000,000 people had fled the city, and approximately half a million more planned to leaved as well. (Dawson, 351)

The events that happened on April 30th, 1975 were disappointing and very terrifying for the South Vietnamese. They had lost the war, their homeland, and their life. Many did not know what else to do, they were lost in chaos. For the communists they had finally won the war, even before March 19th, Ho Chi Minh’s birth date. The north felt unbeatable they actually won against America. To the North Vietnamese April 30th is a public holiday in Vietnam, it is known as Liberation Day or Reunification Day. To the South Vietnamese scattered around the world, April 30th is known as Black April, or literally “The Day We Lost Our Country”. This day is used to commemorate the fall of Saigon.

There was no happy resolve to the War in Vietnam. After the fall of Saigon everyone knew the Vietnam War was over, it was a painful loss for all involved. It especially was humiliating for America to retreat or some might even say “lose”. Terrible memories make it so difficult for people to move on.

The fall of Saigon is an important part of American history that cannot be forgotten. It created an end to a war that changed society and proved that America was not an invincible superpower country. America feared that if Vietnam fell to communism it would lead to the fall of Cambodia, Laos, India, and others. It was called the domino theory. Nobody expected America to “lose”. The Fall of Saigon marked the end of the two decades of struggle for Vietnam.


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