April 29

This Day in History

Vietnam War

Apr 29, 1975:

Operation Frequent Wind begins

Operation Frequent Wind, the largest helicopter evacuation on record, begins removing the last Americans from Saigon.

The North Vietnamese had launched their final offensive in March 1975 and the South Vietnamese forces had fallen back before their rapid advance, losing Quang Tri, Hue, Da Nang, Qui Nhon, Tuy Hoa, Nha Trang, and Xuan Loc in quick succession. With the North Vietnamese attacking the outskirts of Saigon, U.S. Ambassador Graham Martin ordered the commencement of Frequent Wind.

In 19 hours, 81 helicopters carried more than 1,000 Americans and almost 6,000 Vietnamese to aircraft carriers offshore. Cpl. Charles McMahon, Jr. and Lance Cpl. Darwin Judge, USMC, were the last U.S. military personnel killed in action in Vietnam, when shrapnel from a North Vietnamese rocket struck them as they were guarding Tan Son Nhut Airbase during the evacuation. At 7:53 a.m. on April 30, the last helicopter lifted off the rook of the embassy and headed out to sea. Later that morning, North Vietnamese tanks crashed through the gates of the Presidential Palace. North Vietnamese Col. Bui Tin accepted the surrender from Gen. Duong Van Minh, who had taken over from Tran Van Huong (who only spent one day in power after President Nguyen Van Thieu fled). The Vietnam War was over.

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