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US Marines release video for 45th anniversary of Saigon evacuation

CIA member helps evacuees up a ladder onto Air America helicopter on roof of 22 Gia Long Street, April 29, 1975, just before Saigon fell to advancing North Vietnamese troops. (Wikimedia Commons, Public Domain)
April 29, 2020

On April 29, 1975, the U.S. military launched Operation Frequent Wind, where the last U.S. forces were airlifted out of Vietnam.

In recognition of the 45 anniversary, the U.S. Marine Corps posted a video on Wednesday documenting the evacuation mission in the last days of the Vietnam War. The evacuation mission saw the last U.S. personnel and at-risk Vietnamese citizens carried out of South Vietnam amid the fall of Saigon.

The evacuation lasted from April 29 through April 30, 1975, as U.S. Marines formed a security force to protect the evacuation flights, which carried on through the night to evacuate thousands of people. U.S. Marine Corps and U.S. Air Force helicopters participated in the aerial evacuations, bringing those evacuees to U.S. Navy ships waiting offshore.

In total, the evacuation operation successfully carried out over 7,000 U.S. personnel, South Vietnamese individuals, and third country nationals.

The U.S. Air Force previously shared a video with Air Force Lt. Col  Trinh Peterson reflecting on her own personal experience as one of the South Vietnamese individuals evacuated during the fall of Saigon. Peterson was just eight years old at the time. She and her four siblings were able to make it out of the country, but her parents and grandparents had to stay behind.

Peterson recalled a U.S. Air Force loadmaster for a C-130 transport plane comforting her during the chaotic evacuation.

“He was just a kind person and had a flight suit on and, at that moment, I looked over and I thought, I want to do that,” Peterson said. 11 years later she enlisted in the Air Force.

On Wednesday, the official Twitter account for the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Wall in Washington D.C. also tweeted about the historic event on Wednesday.

The memorial also commemorated the loss of two U.S. Marines killed during the operation, Charles McMahon Jr. & Darwin Judge. The two Marines were killed during an enemy rocket attack at the Tan Sun Nhut Air Base, which was supporting the evacuation effort. The two Marines were the last Americans to die on the ground in the Vietnam War.