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Fall of Saigon (1975)

The war in Vietnam ended abruptly on 30 April 1975.  Saigon surrendered almost without a struggle as North Vietnamese tanks rolled into the city and knocked down the gates of the Presidential palace.

Convoys of lorries carrying thousands of jubilant Communist troops drove through the city. The guerrillas, some of them teenage girls, exchanged waves and banter with the Saigon population. One South Vietnamese police colonel marched up to the war memorial, saluted, then shot himself.

Thousands tried to escape by boat but were turned back by North Vietnamese tanks firing warning shots across their bows. Some South Vietnamese Air Force pilots loaded their planes with relatives and flew them to Thailand.

All the Americans left in a mass evacuation which ended in heart-rending scenes at the US Embassy, long the symbol of American power in Vietnam, as masses of people swarmed around it, desperate to get a place on the shuttle service of helicopters lifting people from the roof to safety onboard warships in the South China Sea.

The last 11 Marines of the unit which had been guarding the Embassy were plucked from the roof after an angry mob opened fire and trapped them inside. They were the last of the Americans, foreigners and well-connected Vietnamese to be lifted to safety.

When it became apparent there would be no more helicopters, the mob sacked the Embassy.

Thus ended America’s 15-year involvement in Vietnam.