Vietnam War Commemoration Commission

Week of April 30

In April 1975, South Vietnam was on the verge of collapse as the North Vietnamese army closed in around Sài Gòn. With almost all U.S. troops having left Vietnam in 1973, the few remaining American military and civilian personnel executed Operation FREQUENT WIND, the final evacuation of Americans, foreign nationals, and thousands of Vietnamese from the city.

Most of the evacuations took place on April 29–30. As Communist troops pushed into Sài Gòn, artillery fire damaged the runways at nearby Tân Sơn Nhứt Air Base, which made evacuation by fixed-wing aircraft impossible. Instead, with over 800 U.S. Marines providing security, U.S. Navy, Marine Corps, Air Force, and Army helicopters evacuated more than 7,000 people from Tân Sơn Nhứt, the U.S. embassy, and other locations. During the operation’s final stages, a North Vietnamese rocket attack on the air base killed two Marines---the last American troops to die on the ground in South Vietnam. Evacuees were taken aboard vessels of the U.S. Seventh Fleet stationed offshore.

FREQUENT WIND ended on April 30. On the same day, the South Vietnamese government surrendered unconditionally to North Vietnam. Vessels of the Seventh Fleet remained offshore, picking up many additional refugees escaping by boat. When the ships finally departed, it marked the end of three decades of American involvement in Vietnam.1

1George R. Dunham, U.S. Marines in Vietnam: The Bitter End, 1973–1975 (Wash DC: Marine Corps History and Museums Division, 1990), 99–124, 169, 184; Edward J. Marolda, By Sea, Air, and Land: An Illustrated History of the U.S. Navy and the War in Southeast Asia (Wash DC: Naval Historical Center, 1994), 357–68; Spencer C. Tucker, ed., The Encyclopedia of the Vietnam War: A Political, Social, and Military History (2nd edition; Santa Barbara, Ca.: ABC-CLIO, 2011), 304, 318, 402, 1011; Mai Việt Hà, Steel and Blood: South Vietnamese Armor and the War for Southeast Asia (Annapolis, Naval Institute Press: 2008), 253; William E. Le Gro, Vietnam from Cease-Fire to Capitulation (Wash DC: Center of Military History), 173; George C. Herring, America’s Longest War: The United States and Vietnam, 1950–1975 (4th edition; New York and other cities: McGraw Hill, 2002), 332–68. Cao Van Vien, Indochina Monographs: The Final Collapse (Wash DC: Center of Military History, 1985), 75–83, 96–107.

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