America’s Most Shameful Day, April 30, 1975

by lewwaters

UPDATE: It’s been a few years since I penned this and we now approach another anniversary of the fall of Saigon. Sadly, American leaders repeated this shameful action in 2011 as once again, our Military was forced to abandon a struggling ally in the Middle East with the same result, despots and radicals overrunning the region, murdering innocent people by the droves and increasing unrest in the region. Little wonder other nations look upon America as a “paper tiger” and weak nation.

Few people today realize that April 30 is a day of remembrance for a minority within our country. A Minority of aging Military Veterans as well as new citizens fortunate enough to have made it to our country after escaping the bonds of Communism that remember, but not celebrate.

April 30, 1975 I was still in the United States Army, stationed at Fort Bragg, North Carolina, after three years in Germany and 18 months prior to that in the Central Highlands of South Viet Nam, where American Troops were fighting for the freedoms of the South Vietnamese People.

Prior to the 1973 pull-out, Americans were treated to nightly news broadcasts of our involvement there, which somehow frequently placed American Troops in the worst light while ignoring the enemy we were fighting, the Communist North Vietnamese.

On the streets of America, war protestors had fallen silent as American Troops had left the struggling ally earlier in 1973 after an agreement was reached between America and the Communist Forces of North Viet Nam in the so-called Paris Peace Accords and political leaders strong armed the government of South Viet Nam into accepting it against their will.

In South Viet Nam though, the picture was far from quiet as North Vietnamese Communist Tanks began rolling into the Capital City of Saigon, having seen that America would not live up to the agreement reached in the Paris Peace Accords to reengage the Communists should they violate the agreement, thanks in large part to the Case-Church Amendment and weakness of our own government.

Lauren Zanolli of George Mason University’s History News Network wrote in November 2006,

“Historians have directly attributed the fall of Saigon in 1975 to the cessation of American aid. Without the necessary funds, South Vietnam found it logistically and financially impossible to defeat the North Vietnamese army. Moreover, the withdrawal of aid encouraged North Vietnam to begin an effective military offensive against South Vietnam. Given the monetary and military investment in Vietnam, former Assistant Secretary of State Richard Armitage compared the American withdrawal to ‘a pregnant lady, abandoned by her lover to face her fate.’ Historian Lewis Fanning went so far as to say that ‘it was not the Hanoi communists who won the war, but rather the American Congress that lost it’.”

As I previously said, I was stationed at Fort Bragg, North Carolina that evening, sitting on my gear in the Company Area awaiting orders that never came. Orders to redeploy to South Viet Nam to render assistance to keep those people free as was agreed upon in those Peace Accords. Instead, we stood down and I went home to watch the shameful events unfolding on TV as desperate South Vietnamese tried in vain to board the few helicopters ferrying personnel out Saigon.

I watched South Vietnamese helicopters landing on the deck of the USS Midway or ditched alongside of her. Most of those that landed on the Midways deck were to be pushed overboard, lost forever to the depths of the South China Sea. Those not lucky enough to escape Vietnam fell under the clutches of a brutal regime of Communists, many dying trying to escape years later in what became known as the Boat People. Untold numbers simply disappeared in “re-education camps” where they were sent after liberation by the Communists.

Others, who had supported the Communists, became disillusioned and after their own escapes spoke out against the “Liberators,” as did DOAN VAN TOAI and Col. Bui Tin, a former colonel in the North Vietnamese Army who received the unconditional surrender of South Vietnam on April 30, 1975.

Perhaps this is why after the Citizens Support Rob McKenna rally held in Olympia, Washington, Saturday March 27, 2010, I felt compelled to extend my hand to Col. Pham Huy Sanh Sr. (Ret), Executive Board Chairman of the Republic Of South Viet Nam Armed Forces Veterans Confederation of Washington State who was also present and to thank him and offer my apologies for America’s abandonment of them 35 years ago.

Maybe that is why the sight of two aging Veterans of the same conflict, who supported freedom so many years ago, drew others to us as we spoke. On the 30th Anniversary of the Fall of Saigon, Col Sanh said,

“We consider April 30 like our Holocaust day. It’s a day of sorrow for all the people we left behind.”

Remembering back, it is a sad day. We lost over 58,000 brave Americans, 13 just from my unit while I was there. We not only abandoned the South Vietnamese people when they needed us most, we abandoned the sacrifice made by so many young Americans who never lived to see the shameful way we just turned our backs on the people of South Viet Nam. We turned our backs on the estimated quarter of a million South Vietnamese Military who gave their lives during the struggle. Worst of all, we turned our backs on America’s legacy as the beacon of freedom to the rest of the world and the one they could count on when threatened by tyrants.

UPDATE Feb. 21, 2016: Vietnamese-American still marvels at flying helicopter to freedom in 1975

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Communist Tank enters Presidential Palace in Saigon

Desperate Vietnamese wait & hope for evacuation that never came

Lew Waters & former South Vietnamese Soldier in Olympia

Col. Pham Huy Sanh Sr. & Lew Waters in Olympia




Know How You Feel

7 Responses to “America’s Most Shameful Day, April 30, 1975”

  1. Lew,
    Every year the community has a day of rememberance of this day. I told them I will be attending their events. Most in the community are good Republicans and we need to show up in force to support those that have lived the horrors of socialism.

  2. Peter, the link on Col. Sanh’s name is to a 2005 article where they were trying to set the day as a day of remembrance, but in the Seattle area.

    As great as the Support McKenna event was, seeing Col. Sanh there and speaking with him was something I have needed for a long time.

    If you know where a local Remembrance is held, let me know and I’ll be there with you.

    You’re right, they are conservative and many remember just who sold them out from our government.

  3. It is good to see that remembrance activity is growing. As a veteran, I again remember April 30, 1975 and send out emails to friends and family to remind them. I am married to a Vietnamese lady, and I witnessed first hand in April 2008 the “Victory Day” in downtown Saigon, otherwise known as HCMC. It was disturbing to me because I had not ever really thought throught it about it being a celebrated communist victory over the US and the South Vietnamese. Here I include a response to my remembrance emails today from a Vietnamese friend of mine…

    “The VN generation after 1975 they have absolutely NO CLUES whatsoever of what many of us VN who fled the country at the time had gone through and endured. The new VN generation don’t even know the event exist. I’t sad. I’m personally forever greatful and love the American SOLDIERS.”

    This is why we need to see awareness grow of what happened and how our country abandoned a people and country leaving a great hurt that still lives on for many. I finish with a couple of quotations..

    “In the end, we simply cut and ran. The American national will had collapsed.”
    US Ambassador to South Vietnam, Graham Martin

    “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.”
    George Santayana (1863 – 1952). I hope and pray we DO NOT do it like that again!

  4. Gentlemen,

    Thank you for supporting Colonel Sanh Pham and his effort. I am touched and glad to see some consciousness of our (Vietnam)history, and the continuing support and friendship that Vietnam Vets offer our community.

    I was an MC for this recent event on 4.30.2010 as well as spoke-woman representing young Vietnamese professionals (1.5 generation) of Washington State. We were glad to have Luke Esser, Bonnie Riggs and Chuck Lawrence present at the event to show their support. I hope to see more of you in future events.

    Next Sat, 6.19.2010, 1pm – 3:20pm, 44th Anniversary of Republic of Vietnamese Arm Forces Day will take place at Asian Research Center 1025 S. King St. in Seattle. Colonel Pham, I’m sure would be happy to see as many of you there, as will I.

  5. Dear Colonel Sanh Pham,
    I’m so proud of you. I ‘m live in Sugar Land Texas and I’ll come to Seattle to sing and support your party on Sat, 6.19.2010, 1pm – 3:20pm, 44th Anniversary of Republic of Vietnamese Arm Forces Day will take place at Asian Research Center 1025 S. King St. in Seattle.
    I’m loong forward to see all of you: Luke Esser, Bonnie Riggs and Chuck Lawrence and Colonel Sanh Pham
    God bless


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