Wednesday, 29 April 2020

operation frequent wind

Beginning on this day in 1975, on the anniversary of the war’s spillage cross borders into Cambodia five years prior, the US launched its final phase of evacuations and air-lifts of “at-risk” Vietnamese and American citizens from Saigon (Ho Chi Minh City) as the People’s Army of Vietnam rapidly advanced on the city. Over the course of two days, over seven thousand individuals were taken by helicopter, and images—especially of the US Embassy, intended only as a secondary evacuation point and reserved for diplomatic staff, which was quickly overwhelmed with desperate residents loyal to the South Vietnamese government. The helicopters ferried evacuees to an awaiting fleet of ships in the bay but as numbers massed and the helicopters clogged the decks, many were shoved into the sea to make room for more passengers.
Secondary, self-evacuees that were not part of this ending phase but were eventually in US custody for processing as refugees ultimately numbered over one hundred and forty thousand, though still only around one tenth of the number that Kissinger and Ford had prepared for. The secret signal to alert people to procedure to assembly areas as the operation (the original code-name Talon Vise changed to the above after it was compromised) was about to commence was to be broadcast on Armed Forces Radio with the code: The temperature in Saigon is one hundred and five degrees and rising—followed by the incongruous playing of Irving Berlin’s I’m Dreaming of a White Christmas, something that perhaps makes one want to heed disc-jockey banter and the rhetorical question “Is it hot enough for you?”