April 30, 1975 the date that goes into the history of South Vietnam and the minds of many South Vietnamese as well as many Vietnamese-Americans. Especially, war veterans like Senator John Mc. Cain, this day remind him of a most painful memory, bruised and bitter feelings. On that day, North Vietnamese communist troops triumphantly rode T-54 Soviet-made tanks in column on one main street of Saigon leading to the South Vietnamese Presidential Palace, called “Doc Lap” (Independence) Palace. The tanks crushed the main gate entrance, without any resistance from the palace guards (actually all guards had already vanished before that time).
Moments later, the North Communist flag, the red flag with a yellow star in the center, and the Vietcong’s flag flew on the roof of the building. Within the next hour, the President of the defeated South Vietnamese government, General Duong Van Minh, was heard over Saigon Radio making an announcement of his government’s unconditional surrender to the North Vietnam army. The president ordered all South Vietnamese armed forces to lay down weapons and surrender unconditionally to the Northern victors. April 30, 1975 became the date that marks the fall of Saigon, and the end of a thirty-year-long, bloodied, costly, and brutal war between the North and the South, or a war that serves as the battle front between the communist and totalitarian ideology against the free and democratic ideology.
Over thirty years have passed and many Vietnamese still do not forget that date. Why is it so persistently remembered by millions of South Vietnamese? These days in the month of April, 2008, driving around areas people can see large concentrations of Vietnamese refugee population in many American metropolitan areas. For instance, in the San Francisco-San Jose metropolitan area in Northern California, the Los Angeles-Riverside-Orange County metropolitan area in Southern California, or the Texas metropolitan areas of Houston and Dallas, or the Washington D.C. metropolitan area and its Virginia suburbs, one can see vivid signs that the Vietnamese communities in the U.S. (most of them are from the South of Vietnam) are showing and sending a strong message that they do not forget the fall of Saigon and the loss of a nation. Many Vietnamese communities and organizations in U.S., France, and Australia hold public activities such as demonstrations, raising South Vietnam’s flag (yellow background with three horizontal red strikes) in public places such as Vietnamese supermarkets, malls, shopping strips, etc, in commemoration of the 33rd anniversary of the fall of Saigon.
To many Vietnamese refugees in U.S., Australia, France, and other western European countries, April 30, 1975 marks the never-forgotten turning point in their history. It was the start of a new dark era to hundreds of thousand of families and millions of people. Hundreds of thousand of South Vietnamese government officials and army officers were forced to into the so-called “re-education” camps (hard labor prison camps) for years, and many of them died of exhaustion, untreated illnesses, starvation, hard labor, persecution, and humiliation. Hundreds of thousands of adults, children, and elders fled to the South Sea on small boats seeking refugee asylum in the U.S. and other sponsoring countries. Many people died in rough sea, storms, from lacking of food, pirates and they never could make it to land. Hundreds of thousand people who did not have any means to flee remained and were systematically persecuted, humiliated, brutally repressed, and deprived of equal opportunities to pursue education, jobs, property ownership, etc.
It is not just remembered because of the grievances many South Vietnamese people suffered after that date. Rather, it is about loss of the rights to live in freedom, democracy, and equal opportunities. People yearn for freedom, democracy, and opportunities, because to them, that is what enables a nation ascend into durable peace and prosperity and that is what enables generations to live in harmony and unity. To remember the date of April 30, 1975, is to express the people’s longing for a free and democratic society.
Today, many Vietnamese-Americans, especially war veterans still remember the fall of Saigon on April 30, 1975, although most of them were not in South Vietnam on that date. They remember for many reasons. Many fought there and went through the tremendous emotional trauma of losing friends, buddies, and comrades in battles. Many people like Senator John Mc. Cain, experienced the harsh treatment as POWs. Others remember because they lost their sons, husbands, or fathers in that war. The human costs in Vietnam War alone were insurmountable to many Vietnamese people.
April 30, 2008 was passed just a few days ago. To remember what happened thirty three years ago in Vietnam is to understand the costs and impacts of wars and understand and appreciate the values of peace, freedom, and democracy.
•Saigon surrenders by BBC Online Newshttp://news.bbc.co.uk/onthisday/hi/dates/stories/april/30/newsid_2498000/2498441.stm•”The Fall of Saigon” By Walter J. BoyneApril 2000http://www.afa.org/magazine/april2000/0400saigon.asp•U.S. Census 2000: An Overview of National and Regional Trends in Vietnamese Residential DistributionBy Mark E. Pfeifer, PhDhttp://hmongstudies.com/PfeiferReviewofVietnameseStudies2001.pdf•Second Anniversary – The New VietnamNational Review, April 29, 1977, page 487By Le Thi Anh http://jim.com/ChomskyLiesCites/When_we_knew_what_happened_in_Vietnam.htm•Boat PeopleFrom WikiPedia, the Free Encyclopediahttp://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Boat_people•Boat People Web Sitehttp://boatpeople75.tripod.com/•The People of Vietnam: Victims of CommunismBy Mike BengeThe Washington TimesJune 17, 2007http://johnib.wordpress.com/2007/06/17/the-people-of-vietnam-victims-of-communism/•Vietnamese AmericanFrom WikiPedia, the Free Encyclopediahttp://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Vietnamese_American