April 12

This Day in History

Vietnam War

Apr 12, 1975:

U.S. Embassy in Cambodia evacuated

In Cambodia, the U.S. ambassador and his staff leave Phnom Penh when the U.S. Navy conducts its evacuation effort, Operation Eagle. On April 3, 1975, as the communist Khmer Rouge forces closed in for the final assault on the capital city, U.S. forces were put on alert for the impending embassy evacuation. An 11-man Marine element flew into the city to prepare for the arrival of the U.S. evacuation helicopters. On April 10, U.S. Ambassador Gunther Dean asked Washington that the evacuation begin no later than April 12.

At 8:50 a.m. on April 12, an Aerospace Rescue and Recovery Service HH-53 landed a four-man Air Force combat control team to coordinate the operation. Three minutes later, it guided in a Marine Corps helicopter with the first element of the Marine security force. Marine and Air Force helicopters then carried 276 evacuees--including 82 Americans, 159 Cambodians, and 35 foreign nationals--to the safety of U.S. Navy assault carriers in the Gulf of Thailand. By 10 a.m., the Marine contingency force, the advance 11-man element, and the combat control team had been evacuated without any casualties.

On April 16, the Lon Nol government surrendered to the Khmer Rouge, ending five years of war. With the surrender, the victorious Khmer Rouge evacuated Phnom Penh and set about to reorder Cambodian society, which resulted in a killing spree and the notorious "killing fields." Eventually, hundreds of thousands of Cambodians were murdered or died from exhaustion, hunger, and disease.

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