Wednesday, July 18 2018

VietNamNews

Peaceful ending to the war in Sai Gon

Update: May, 05/2018 - 09:00
A tank rolls into Saigon on April 30, 1975, while curious people chat with the newly arrived soldiers. — Courtesy photos of Claudia Krich
Viet Nam News

It was often believed, especially in the United States, that people would be killed in great numbers in the city of Sai Gon at the end of the American War.

An American woman who stayed on in Việt Nam says there was no such thing.

Instead, people celebrated the end of the war and the beginning of a new country.

By Claudia Krich*

Thursday (April 30, 2015) was the 40th anniversary of the full American pullout from Việt Nam.

We hear a lot about those who fled and the suffering they endured.

The assumption has been that after the Americans left, there was a terrible bloodbath in [South] Việt Nam, but history should get both sides of this story correct, now, 40 years later. There was no bloodbath.

I was one of a handful of Americans who stayed in Saigon while the rest were fleeing and helping panicked Vietnamese friends and staff do the same at the end of April 1975.

The propaganda had been extensive and effective in Saigon that the conquering North Vietnamese and National Liberation Front soldiers would maim, murder, mutilate and destroy. But they didn’t.

I had been in Việt Nam two years already, and stayed in Saigon until July 1975, thus witnessing first-hand the change of power and the first few months after the American-supported South Vietnamese yielded full power to the National Liberation Front and the North Vietnamese, (also called simply the Vietnamese).

We lived in Quảng Ngãi, a poor town near Mỹ Lai in central Việt Nam, where we directed a civilian rehabilitation programme and hosted visiting journalists and officials. During the time we lived there, the area was controlled by the South Vietnamese during the day, and by the Liberation Front (locals against the Americans and South Vietnamese) during the night.

As the South Vietnamese Government began to crumble, we fled to Saigon. But we learned later that the transition had been peaceful. In fact, the Liberation Front had entered the town 24 hours after the South Vietnamese officials had already left.We decided not to leave, and to see the change in Saigon for ourselves. So when the Americans were putting people on helicopters at the embassy, we stayed.

Of course, there was danger. It was a war. There were bombs, rockets, artillery and random rifle fire by scared soldiers in the last days. America also was testing other less conventional weapons until the very end.

A few weeks before the end of the war, the South Vietnamese dropped an American CBU 55, bomb on civilian Vietnamese, killing everyone and every creature in range that breathed oxygen. The United States also tested agent orange and white phosphorus on the Vietnamese population.

We dropped carpet bombs and cluster bombs and, of course, planted hundreds of thousands of land mines.

And there was the C5A aircraft that was packed with children, but unbalanced, that crashed in mid-April 1975, killing 138 people.

Saigon’s population had been mostly shielded from the war until the end, while those who lived outside the city suffered for years and years. In April 1975, the danger and the war reached Saigon and the residents panicked.

We spent the night of April 30 in a little house on a little alley.

The next morning, the streets of Saigon were jammed with relieved people, out sightseeing and curious to meet the arriving soldiers.

Many of the arriving busloads and tanks carrying the soldiers were stuck in traffic. We saw people throw flowers and cigarettes to the arriving soldiers. Everyone was taking pictures.

South Vietnamese soldiers in Saigon discarded their uniforms, turned in their weapons at improvised collection centres, and joined the crowds.

North Vietnamese soldiers camped in the city parks, washing laundry and hanging it on clotheslines strung between trees.

They all spoke the same language, of course. In fact, many families that had been split between the north and the south met again in those first few days, after decades apart. The soldiers met each other, took pictures, and shared stories.

We spent the next few months being taken for Russians as we lived normal lives in Saigon.

We observed the new government organising to recover from war; improve general health care, housing and education; increase access to water and electricity; and “re-educate” the South Vietnamese high-level government officials who were still there.

But there were no firing squads; there was no murder, no torture.

The new Government was committed to reconciliation as the only way to unite the country and make progress.Of course, many Vietnamese fled then and in later years.

The money-poor new Government immediately had to deal with a large number of refugees streaming in from Cambodia where the Khmer Rouge had taken over.

They had to deal with antagonism and fighting with China, and they had to be careful in their relationship with Russia not to alienate others.

The United States embargo caused tremendous suffering.

Việt Nam, once a major rice producer, had needed to import rice during the war due to the destruction of rice fields. It took a lot of time and a lot of land-mine removal before they could return to growing their own rice. It is true that rich Saigonese lost most of their wealth. Much of that wealth had been acquired during the American war and through contacts with Americans.

The post-war effort tried to reconstruct the country and to redistribute wealth. But the new government tried to avoid retribution and there was no killing of enemies. They even wanted to be friends with America, despite the long, deadly war.

And now, America is enriched with many new Vietnamese-American citizens, and Việt Nam is enriched with a peaceful relationship with America.  —  The Davis Enterprise/VNS

*Claudia Krich, a longtime Davis resident and retired teacher, attended a KVIE screening in Sacramento last week of the documentary “Last Days in Vietnam” and was moved to write this essay, first published in 2015 by The Davis Enterprise. The documentary rekindled memories of the unique experience she and her husband Keith Brinton shared there 40 years ago. From 1973 until July of 1975, Brinton and Krich co-directed a civilian rehabilitation programme and hosted visiting journalists and officials in Quảng Ngãi, near Mỹ Lai, in central Việt Nam. Brinton also worked there from 1966 to 1970. In April 1975, they did not leave Saigon with all the other Americans. They stayed and saw what happened. 


 

GLOSSARY

Thursday (April 30, 2015) was the 40th anniversary of the full American pullout from Việt Nam.

An anniversary is a birthday.

We hear a lot about those who fled and the suffering they endured.

To endure suffering means to live through it.

The assumption has been that after the Americans left, there was a terrible bloodbath in [South] Việt Nam, but history should get both sides of this story correct, now, 40 years later.

An assumption is a story that is believed, based on putting things together in search of a logical answer.

A bloodbath is a battle in which many people are killed and injured.

The propaganda had been extensive and effective in Saigon that the conquering North Vietnamese and National Liberation Front soldiers would maim, murder, mutilate and destroy.

Propaganda is news and information that is presented in such a way that it encourages those who read it or listen to it to think in a certain way.

Extensive means widespread.

If something is effective, it works.

I had been in Việt Nam two years already, and stayed in Saigon until July 1975, thus witnessing first-hand the change of power and the first few months after the American-supported South Vietnamese yielded full power to the National Liberation Front and the North Vietnamese, (also called simply the Vietnamese).

To yield power means to give up power and let someone else take it over.

We lived in Quảng Ngãi, a poor town near Mỹ Lai in central Việt Nam, where we directed a civilian rehabilitation programme and hosted visiting journalists and officials.

A civil rehabilitation programme is a programme that involves helping ordinary people, who were not in armies but are affected by war, to become ready to once again live normal lives.

But we learned later that the transition had been peaceful.

A transition means a change.

So when the Americans were putting people on helicopters at the embassy, we stayed.

An embassy is a special office of a country’s government, in another country.

There were bombs, rockets, artillery and random rifle fire by scared soldiers in the last days.

Artillery is heavy weaponry that flies through the air to reach its target.

Random means “here and there” rather than in any orderly routine.

America also was testing other less conventional weapons until the very end.

Conventional means ordinary.

The United States also tested agent orange and white phosphorus on the Vietnamese population.

Agent orange is a chemical that was used by the Americans in the American War. It destroys plants and also harms people. It caused enormous suffering in Việt Nam.

White phosphorus is a chemical that can easily cause fire and smoke to come about.

Saigon’s population had been mostly shielded from the war until the end, while those who lived outside the city suffered for years and years.

Shielded means protected.

In April 1975, the danger and the war reached Saigon and the residents panicked.

Residents of a place are people who live there. When people panic, they become nervous.

The next morning, the streets of Saigon were jammed with relieved people, out sightseeing and curious to meet the arriving soldiers.

When streets are jammed they are so crowded people cannot move.

Relieved means pleased that bad times are over.

South Vietnamese soldiers in Saigon discarded their uniforms, turned in their weapons at improvised collection centres, and joined the crowds.

To discard something means to throw it away.

Impoverished means poor.

We observed the new government organising to recover from war; improve general health care, housing and education; increase access to water and electricity; and “re-educate” the South Vietnamese high-level government officials who were still there.

To observe something means to see it.

But there were no firing squads; there was no murder, no torture.

Torture is cruel physical suffering, often given to people in order to get information from them or to punish them.

The new Government was committed to reconciliation as the only way to unite the country and make progress.

To be committed means to be dedicated.

Reconciliation means bringing people who were enemies to be able to tolerate one another or even become friends.

To unite a country means to bring its people together

The money-poor new Government immediately had to deal with a large number of refugees streaming in from Cambodia where the Khmer Rouge had taken over.

Refugees are people who have had to leave their homes because it is not safe.

They had to deal with antagonism and fighting with China, and they had to be careful in their relationship with Russia not to alienate others.

Antagonism means bad feelings.

To alienate someone means to have nothing to do with them.

The United States embargo caused tremendous suffering.

An embargo happens when a country refuses to have anything to do with another country, especially when it comes to trading and doing business.

Việt Nam, once a major rice producer, had needed to import rice during the war due to the destruction of rice fields.

To import rice means to buy it from another country.

The destruction of fields means destroying fields.

Much of that wealth had been acquired during the American war and through contacts with Americans.

Acquired means got.

The post-war effort tried to reconstruct the country and to redistribute wealth.

Post-war means after a war.

To reconstruct a country means to build it up again after it has suffered damage.

To redistribute wealth means to hand it out, once again.

But the new government tried to avoid retribution and there was no killing of enemies.

Retribution means punishment.

WORKSHEET

Find words that mean the following in the Word Search:

  1. Something that did not happen in Sai Gon.
  2. The time that Quảng Ngãi was controlled by the South Vietnamese.
  3. The time that Quảng Ngãi was controlled by the North Vietnamese.
  4. A gas that people breathe.
  5. A country from where people fled the Khmer Rouge.

 

 

 

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© Duncan Guy/Learn the News/ Viet Nam News 2018

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

1. Bloodbath; 2. Day; 3, Night; 4. Oxygen; 5. Cambodia.

 

 

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