The May 12, issue of Newsweek included a detailed account of the evacuation, with first-person dispatches from correspondents in the thick of the operation. Eleven marines crouched on the flat roof of the U. Embassy, nervously fingering their M rifles. From time to time, shots rang out from below, where thousands of Vietnamese milled about angrily in the embassy courtyard.
Other Vietnamese were already rampaging through the lower floors of the six-story building, trying to make their way up tear-gas-filled stairwells. Suddenly, the whine of a helicopter could be heard in the distance and the Marines fired a red-smoke grenade to mark their position. As the U. CH Sea Knight touched down on the roof, the Marines piled into the chopper. The last man scrambled aboard with the embassy's American flag—neatly folded, and stuffed inside a brown-paper bag. At long last, America's military involvement in Vietnam was over.
Marines were killed on that final day—bringing to 56, the number of Americans who died in Vietnam. One more horrifying picture too, was added to the tortured American memory book: U. Marines using rifle butts to smash the fingers of desperate Vietnamese trying to make it over the wall of the embassy to safety. At the end, even indomitable Graham Martin, the last American ambassador to Vietnam, seemed, like most of his countrymen, drained of emotion.
When he arrived aboard the evacuation command ship Blue Ridge, Martin was asked how he felt. He replied: "I am hungry. It was the biggest helicopter lift of its kind in history—an hour operation that carried 1, Americans and 5, Vietnamese to safety. Yet in sheer numbers, the feat was overshadowed by the incredible impromptu flight of perhaps another 65, South Vietnamese. In fishing boats and barges, homemade rafts and sampans, they sailed by the thousands out to sea, hoping to make it to the 40 U. Many were taken aboard the American vessels, while others joined a convoy of 27 South Vietnamese Navy ships that limped slowly—without adequate food or water—toward an uncertain welcome in the Philippine Islands.
Hundreds of South Vietnamese also fled by military plane and helicopter, landing at airfields in Thailand or ditching their craft alongside American ships. Not satisfied with reports from the scene, Ambassador Martin—in a singular act of bravado—decided to drive out to the airport to take a look for himself. Noel Gayler, commander in chief of U. They decided the military situation had deteriorated too far to use Options One, Two or Three, which were all based on transport planes flying out of Tan Son Nhut.
They had to go with Option Four—the much riskier helicopter evacuation. When Newsweek correspondent Loren Jenkins received the coded signal that the evacuation was on, he gathered up a small bag of belongings and drove to the side gate of the U.
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Jenkins's report of the embassy's last day:. Inside the foot concrete fence, an assortment of CIA agents, State Department volunteers and security guards roamed the embassy grounds armed with an amazing variety of weapons. Some carried grenade launchers, several toted antiquated submachine guns and a few even had bone-handled hunting knives stuck in their belts.
Marines barked orders into walkie-talkies. As I walked across the courtyard, I noticed Marines were finally sawing down the giant tamarind tree in the rear parking lot to clear a landing zone for Jolly Green Giant helicopters.
When Admiral Gayler made a secret visit to the embassy two weeks earlier, he had urged Ambassador Martin to have the tree cut down. Martin ignored the advice. So for the past several days, embassy staffers had been sneaking out with axes and chipping away at parts of the tree trunk not visible to Martin. Behind the parking lot in the swimming-pool area, several thousand Vietnamese waited with piles of suitcases and bundles of clothing. There were at least three generals in uniform, assorted South Vietnamese senators, a former mayor of Saigon, the police chief, a fire chief and all of his firemen wearing their back-flap hats, and Vietnamese employees of the embassy and their families.
While they awaited the helicopters, hundreds of Vietnamese pushed into the unstaffed embassy cafeteria and helped themselves to everything from candy bars to bottles of California wine.
Within an hour of the alert, the embassy's tall white gates were besieged by hundreds of people desperate to get in. At one point, a trickle of Vietnamese was let through a side gate—touching off a small riot. So when Bui Diem, a former South Vietnamese ambassador to Washington, was spotted pushing up to the gate, he was quietly told to go around to the front where Marine guards quickly let him in.
Dang Van Quang, a former corps commander who was once fired for corruption, also showed up at the side gate. The portly Quang was allowed to squeeze in through the gate while his two Samsonite suitcases were passed over the fence. Once inside, he carefully dusted off his navy-blue suit before being led to the staging area by the embassy swimming pool.
Some Americans weren't so lucky.
Four of them tried to get to the rear gate only to be turned back at gunpoint by South Vietnamese soldiers. Despite their pleas to be let in the side gate, they were refused entry or help and told by embassy officials to keep trying the back. In the midst of the growing chaos outside, Ambassador Martin decided he wanted to be driven home to pack his bags and pick up his black poodle, Nitnoy. His chauffeur's efforts to get out through the gate failed when the Marine guards were nearly overrun.
So Martin left by a back way and walked the three blocks to his house.
When it became obvious that the operation was going to drag into the night, two choppers brought in another 50 Marines to beef up the embassy defense perimeter. One squad of Marines was deployed with fixed bayonets just inside the side gate to keep Vietnamese from trying to clamber over it. At the back gate, Marines were forced to use their rifle butts to knock back Vietnamese trying to scale the fence. At nightfall, cars and a fire engine were lined up in a square so their headlights would illuminate the helipad.
Suddenly an explosion rocked the front of the embassy. A passer-by on a motorbike had thrown a grenade into the crowd. When US military leaders ordered the capture of Hill in May , they did so primarily as a diversionary tactic. The area, later nicknamed Hamburger Hill, was of next to no strategic value, and was abandoned shortly after the mission proved successful. A sense of utter futility permeates this fictionalised account of the battle.
Our handsome young protagonists are acutely aware of both the pointlessness of the mission and their powerlessness to question orders. Meanwhile Irvin uses eye-popping horror movie violence — exploding heads, ruptured organs, fountains of blood — sparingly, to truly shocking effect. Good Morning Vietnam It remains to this day unmatched as a vehicle for the particular talents of Robin Williams , who stars as motor-mouthed military DJ Adrian Cronauer.
Off air, Cronauer is an altogether more subdued character, who is forced to confront the grim realities of war after falling for a Vietnamese girl and befriending her brother. Little Dieter Needs to Fly He was promptly captured by Pathet Lao troops and taken to a prison camp, where he was brutally tortured over a period of six months. Against all odds he eventually escaped, and was rescued by a passing American Air Force pilot after spending 23 days lost in the jungle.
McNamara While he refuses to admit guilt or directly apologise for his actions, he freely admits that he made grave mistakes during his time under both Kennedy and Johnson. Morris seamlessly and playfully integrates arresting archive footage, while a stirring Philip Glass score lends a sense of high drama to proceedings. Dennis Hopper: 10 essential performances.
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By then Hanoi was nearly out of SA-2 missiles. The soldiers had meant no insult. Buang had never seen, much less landed on, an aircraft carrier—and to make matters worse, this Bird Dog had no working radio because Buang had not been able to bring a headset. To that end, insurgents were instructed to not take land from peasants, to emphasize nationalism rather than communism, and to use selective violence. Nguyen Van Thieu had left the country. The final fall took two days, May 6 and 7th, during which the French were overrun by a huge frontal assault. Former officers were called in, grade by grade.
Further reading 10 great films that flopped Chris Fennell. Related to 10 great Vietnam war films. All rights reserved.
Registered charity Please enter a valid email. He immediately authorized a 3-stage bombing campaign against North Vietnam. At the time President Johnson downplayed the situation in Vietnam. He said the bombings were only a response to the attack on Pleiku and denied they represented a change in U. In part, Johnson did not want to provoke Soviet or Chinese intervention, but it meant the country was slipping deeper into war without few Americans even realizing it. Less than a week after the bombing campaign began, Johnson dispatched 3, U.
Although a defensive mission, they were authorized to undertake offensive operations. In doing so, Johnson did not fully inform the American people, or even Congress. Full disclosure was only made by an accidental press release several months later. Sure enough, General Westmoreland requested additional troops almost immediately. Two more Marine battalions were sent in early April. Soon they were patrolling the countryside, searching for Viet Cong. This meant the threat to South Vietnam was much greater than the Johnson administration had realized.
By summer Ky and Thieu had come to power in Saigon, somewhat stabilizing the government, but the ARVN had suffered two major defeats at the hands of the Viet Cong in open, conventional warfare. ARVN morale dropped and desertions increased. This time, General Westmoreland made a watershed recommendation.