Thursday, April 30, 2015

The Fall of Saigon - A Personal Connection

Forty years ago today, the Viet Cong tanks rolled into Saigon, and the South fell to the Communist forces of North Vietnam while the US military evacuated the last of their troops, ending the Vietnam War. For my family, like hundreds of thousands of others, this would eventually lead to a mass exodus of Vietnamese and Chinese ex-pats who would become refugees known as the Boat People, fleeing their homeland with little more than the clothes on their backs. Only after numerous attempts to elicit the story in various fragments from my family members who lived through this period, have I finally come to fully grasp what a harrowing experience this was.

While our story is fascinating, frustrating, and heartbreaking all at once, it is too long to retell here. Just know that the very fact that we are friends or acquaintances or colleagues, or however it is you ended up here reading this often ridiculous blog of mine, we owe to those very tanks crashing through the gates of the Presidential Palace in Saigon (now Ho Chi Minh city)... had the South not fallen on April 30, 1975, my family wouldn't have fled, and who knows where (or if) I would even have been born.

Tank 843-1
April 30,1975 - Tank 843, the first to smash through the gates of the Presidential Palace, effectively signalling the end of South Vietnam. (This isn't my photo, obviously - I shot a picture of this photo in an exhibit)

Tank 843-2
The restored Tank 843, now on display at the War Remnants Museum in Ho Chi Minh city.

For those of you who are interested in learning more about those final few days of South Vietnam, I would highly suggest watching the documentary Last Days in Vietnam. It's gripping and suspenseful, despite you already knowing the outcome, while telling the very tragic and human stories of those who so desperately wanted to escape.

And for you Canadian readers, you should check out this CBC article about Canada's coverage of the events in those final days. Interestingly, Mike Duffy (the now disgraced Senator) was one of the last Canadian reporters on the ground before the South's fall.

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