On this day in 1975, the last Americans left Vietnamese soil and the North Vietnamese Army (NVA or PAVN – People’s Army of Vietnam) rolled into Saigon.
Though the Paris Peace Accords were signed in 1973 and soon thereafter US troops withdrew from South Vietnam (officially Republic of Vietnam, RVN), Americans remained in the embassy with a small force of US Marines to guard them. There were also civilian contractors still in the nation. Military and financial aid was still being given to the government of South Vietnam, but economic pressures in the United States soon pressured the government to drastically reduce that aid.
As early as December 1974, an evacuation plan for Americans in Vietnam was being overhauled in preparation for departure. Events in the early months of 1975 greatly reduced the amount of time officials had to work with. Many Americans on the ground in Vietnam felt an obligation to evacuate the Vietnamese civilians who had supported them, knowing they faced imprisonment or death if left behind. However the RVN government made things difficult at first, requiring all draft eligible males to stay behind (among other things).
Commercial and military aircraft began evacuating Americans and Vietnamese civilians, along with boats. The last to leave did so aboard helicopters. At home, Americans saw Vietnam on their televisions once again with conflicting emotions. On the one hand, the struggle was truly over, but on the other hand, the United States had lost thousands of men in a lost cause.
- The Fall of Saigon Marines Association
- The Cold War Museum: The Fall of Saigon
- CBS News: The Fall of Saigon