Friday, May 01, 2015

Last Days in Vietnam

Last night I was hypnotized by this extraordinary documentary on PBS, telling of the events of forty years ago, when the Americans bugged out of Vietnam. (It wasn't just Saigon: one of the great epics was the escape of the American consulate in Can Tho in the Mekong Delta, using two riverboats so as to bring out as many Vietnamese as possible, those whose association with the Americans would make them candidates for execution, imprisonment, or "reeducation.") I had expected the usual liberal-media breastbeating, but the docco turns out -- perhaps inadvertently -- to be a tribute to the courage and decency of the Americans who were stuck in a country that their own government had abandoned two years earlier. In the end, they brought out 170,000 Vietnamese, military and civilian. An even larger number, of course, remained to suffer the consequences.

One of the most moving interviews was with a student who was among those who couldn't get into the US Embassy at the end, and who saw the last helicopter pulling away on the morning of April 30, bearing the last eleven US Marines who'd held the fort since the airlift ceased at 4 a.m. He suffered reeducation but eventually escaped and made it to these shores, apparently without holding the slightest grudge for the nation that had left him behind.

PBS programs are often rebroadcast at odd hours over the next week or two. Catch this one if you can. The two-DVD set is sold on Amazon for a very reasonable price, and it's also available for streaming rental.


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