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The Fall of Saigon

Did you know that the song White Christmas was used as code to signify to Americans to evacuate Saigon? 

Armed Forces Radio played the holiday song on repeat on April 29, 1975, after U.S. Ambassador Graham Martin ordered the evacuation of the remaining Americans in Vietnam. Earlier in the day, the North Vietnamese troops had shelled Saigon's Tan Son Nhut Air Base.

With sea lanes blocked and planes unable to land at the air base, the evacuation was accomplished via helicopter. Americans made their way to the U.S. Embassy which was the only departure location left in Saigon. Local embassy staff and South Vietnamese government officials were also evacuated. The helicopters landed on the embassy’s roof every 10 minutes for 2 days, moving more than 7,000 people out of Saigon.    

Known as Operation Frequent Wind, it was one of the largest airlifts by helicopter at the time. 

As Saigon was falling, refugees in other parts of South Vietnam were evacuated. USAID officers assisted with these evacuations. In some cases, the USAID officers commandeered small boats to move refugees out of the country to US carriers waiting at sea.


To Learn More, Read:

Arnett, P. (2015). Saigon Has Fallen. Rosetta Press.

Chant, C. (2017). The Fall of Saigon and the End of the Vietnam War. Mason Crest.

Riordan, J. P., & Demery, M. B. (2015). They Are All My Family: A Daring Rescue in the Chaos of Saigon's Fall. PublicAffairs.

White, R. (2023). Getting Out of Saigon: How a 27-Year-Old American Banker Saved 113 Vietnamese Civilians. Simon & Schuster.

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