Thursday, February 26, 2009

April 14, 1975 - Gerald Ford, Henry Kissinger, Secretary of Defense James Schlesinger, Senate Foreign Relations Committee (Topic: Vietnam),

The Marines of Saigon April 1975 / It's Over


Nixon's War & Vietnamization: 1968-1973
U.S. President Richard M. Nixon campaigned in 1968 with a claim to have a "secret plan" to end the war. The war wound down after 1969 while unproductive peace talks went on in Paris. Domestic support for the war in Vietnam continued to diminish during Nixon's administration, with Vietnamizaion the main strategy to facilitate U.S. withdrawal.

Secretary of State Henry Kissinger, Vice President Nelson Rockefeller, and President Ford discuss the American evacuation of Saigon, April 28, 1975.

Vice President Nelson Rockefeller

White Christmas in April: The Collapse of South Vietnam, 1975

By J. Edward Lee and Toby Haynsworth

When the last of the American POW’s were released by Hanoi in March of 1973, most Americans dismissed Vietnam from their consciousness. However, the Paris Peace Accords negotiated by Henry Kissinger and Le Duc Tho provided for an expanded Defense Attaché Office under the direction of the American Ambassador to South Vietnam. This office’s staff was limited to fifty uniformed and 1200 civilian American personnel. These dedicated men and women were tasked with the management of the military assistance programs designed to provide the logistical support of the South Vietnamese military authorized by the Paris Peace Accords and promised by the President of the United States.

White Christmas in April: The Collapse of South Vietnam, 1975 describes how the Vietnam War actually ended in April 1975. This is accomplished by letting twenty-seven of the people who were either involved in the massive evacuation of Americans, Vietnamese, and third country nationals, or who were close observers of the event, give their personal accounts of how the end to America’s efforts to defend the independence of the people of South Vietnam came to pass.

The narrators in White Christmas in April are women and men, military and civilian, American and Vietnamese. Taken together, they tell a story that has a beginning, a middle, and an end. It is a story of courage, confusion, politics, dedication, greed, duplicity, anger, pain, joy, zeal, stupidity, hesitation, and gallantry. In other words, it describes the American experience in Vietnam in microcosm.

Some of what the narrators had to say:

"When I was at NATO, the news of the collapse of South Vietnam was probably the saddest day of my life. I had told President Ford that he had to roll up his sleeves like Harry Truman and go up to the Hill and have it out with those guys. I think that I would have bombed the North Vietnamese and let them impeach me if they wanted."
General Alexander Haig, NATO Commander and White House Chief of Staff.

"When the end came and you sent a small contingent of marines to secure Tan Son Nhut on April 29, we knew that they would not be there long. In my opinion, there was a kind of ‘gentleman’s agreement’ to allow the evacuation to go forward. We stopped fighting and shelling for a few hours. We didn’t shoot much. Then you were gone."
Tran Trong Khanh, ex-Vietcong officer.

"Starting with our rock bottom fiscal year 1975 budget of $1.126 billion, I degraded it in hundred million dollar, country killing, increments. I ended my cable with this: ‘$600 million level–write off South Vietnam as a bad investment and a broken promise.’"
General John Murray, Defense Attaché in Saigon in 1974.

"At about four o’clock in the morning (of April 30), the ambassador and I went up to the remaining communications set up, the last one. We sent our final message. The date-time group of that message was 291215Z. The message said, ‘Plan to close mission about 0430, 30 April local time. This is the last message from Embassy Saigon.’"
Mr. Wolfgang Lehmann, Deputy Chief of Mission, Saigon.

"There were two U.S.-type CIA agents who had twelve bus loads of Vietnamese CIA agents that they had collected around the countryside, and they were either told, or couldn’t get to Tan Son Nhut, so they got to the Mike-Mike piers in Saigon, and I picked them up on the barge that I was taking down the river, and we went out together."
Mr. William Ryder, Military Sealift Command, Saigon, Operations Officer.

"The exodus had started. For the next ten days I never slept more than a few minutes at a time. We worked around the clock. The first day we put up over 1,000 people. My job was getting them organized into planeloads and handling problems. One day we had 7,000 people to get out, and, thank God, our team had gotten very efficient by then.
Ms. Sally Vinyard, Director of Housing, Saigon.

"Our game plan was very simple because we were taking a lot of sniper fire up there on the roof. The game plan was, when the bird set down, we already had stacks of Vietnamese in the ladder well. Before that bird set down, we had them moving. We got the bird loaded, and they were out of there. We had to do it quickly because of the sniper fire."
Sergeant Terry Bennington, USMC Security Guard.

Tháng 4 đen 1975 / Hoa Kỳ

Event: Speech at Tulane University
Location: Tulane University Field House, New Orleans, LA
Description: President Gerald R. Ford declares that the Vietnam War “is finished as far as America is concerned” during his Convocation Address.
Date: April 23, 1975

President Ford's Speech
on the Fall of Vietnam,
24 April 1975

[Following are excerpts from the text of a speech by President Ford as prepared for delivery to the student body of Tulane University:]

On Jan. 8, 1815, a monumental American victory was achieved here, the Battle of New Orleans. Louisiana had been a state for less than three years. But outnumbered American innovated and used the tactics of the frontier to defeat a veteran British force trained in the strategy of the Napoleonic Wars.

We had suffered humiliation and a measure of defeat in the War of 1812. Our national capital in Washington had been captured and burned. So the illustrious victory in the battle of New Orleans was a powerful restorative to national pride.

Yet the victory at New Orleans took place two weeks after the signing of the armistice in Europe. Thousands fled although a peace had been negotiated. The combatants had not gotten the word. Yet the epic struggle nevertheless restored America's pride.

Today America can again regain the sense of pride that existed before Vietnam. But it cannot be achieved by refighting a war that is finished — as far as America is concerned. The time has come to look forward to an agenda for the future, to unity, to binding up the nation's wounds and restoring it to health and optimistic self-confidence.

In New Orleans, a great battle was fought after a war was over. In New Orleans tonight we can begin a great national reconciliation. The first engagement must be with the problems of today — and of the future.

I ask tonight that we stop refighting the battles and recriminations of the past. I ask that we look now at what is right with America, at our possibilities and our potentialities for change, and growth, and achievement, and sharing. I ask that we accept the responsibilities of leadership as a good neighbor to all people and the enemy of none. I ask that we strive to become, in the finest American tradition, something more tomorrow than we are today.

Instead of addressing the image of America, I prefer to consider the reality of America. It is true that we have launched our bicentennial celebration without having achieved human perfection. But we have attained a remarkable self-governed society that possesses the flexibility and dynamism to grow and undertake an entirely new agenda — an agenda for America's third century.

I ask you today to join me in writing that agenda. I am determined as President to seek national rediscovery of the belief in ourselves that characterized the most creative periods in our history. The greatest challenge of creativity lies ahead.

We are saddened, indeed, by events in Indochina. But these events, tragic as they are, portend neither the end of the world nor of America's leadership in the world. Some seem to feel that if we do not succeed in everything everywhere, then we have succeeded, in nothing anywhere. I reject such polarized thinking. We can and should help others to help themselves. But the fate of responsible men and women everywhere, in the final decision, rests in their own hands.

Event: Republican congressional leadership briefing
Location: Cabinet Room
Description: President Gerald R. Ford briefs the leaders on the situation in Indochina. Defense Secretary James Schlesinger and Secretary of State Henry Kissinger are seated at the far end of the table.
Date: April 22, 1975

Event: Meeting to discuss the situation in Vietnam
Location: The Oval Office

Description: President Gerald R. Ford meets with Secretary of State Henry Kissinger, Army Chief of Staff General Frederick Weyand, and Graham Martin, Ambassador to Vietnam.
Date: March 25, 1975

Công điện mật Ngoại Trưởng Henry Kissinger gữi Đại Sứ Hoa Kỳ MARTIN tại Việt Nam vào những ngày cuối tháng 4 năm 1975

President Ford makes a late night phone call involving the evacuation of Saigon. April 28, 1975
Event: Late night meeting Location: White House residence
Description: President Gerald R. Ford discusses the evacuation of Saigon with Secretary of State Henry Kissinger and Deputy Assistant for National Security Affairs Brent Scowcroft.
Date: April 28, 1975

As Mrs. Ford looks on, President Ford discusses the evacuation of Saigon with national security advisers Henry Kissinger and Brent Scowcroft during an evening meeting in the White House residence. April 28, 1975

Description: President Ford carries a Vietnamese baby from “Clipper 1742," one of the Operation Babylift planes that transported approximately 325 South Vietnamese orphans from Saigon to the United States. San Francisco International Airport. April 5, 1975.