What is Operation Babylift

On April 29, 1975, American and South Vietnam authorities were extricating themselves from their 12 year failure. As Communist forces overran what little resistance remained, the foreign nationals waited to be airlifted from Saigon. Chinook helicopters stood on makeshift platforms receiving refugees for the trip to the airport and flee to safety. South Vietnamese’s elite were safely in Thailand or other political asylums. Government clerics and military accompanied civilians in the chaotic escape. However, the youngest refugees of Vietnam needed to be safe. A plan was concocted to assure that would happen.

Operation Baby Lift implemented American cargo planes to carry hundreds of Vietnamese infants to America. Marines assisted in bringing the children aboard. The scene was a complete mayhem. Hordes of Vietnamese soldiers and civilians fought to get on evacuation flights. Brawls and scuffles broke out, even pilots got physically involved. Some frantic folks tried to hold on to helicopters’ landing gears. As they were taking off, other people pulled them off. Lack of order produced a devestating disaster. In the haste to take off, one plane crash-landed shortly after take off. Over 200 infants died, along with pilots and crew members. TIME and Life Magazine cameras took photos of the crash site. The plane was torn into pieces. Bodies were visible among the rubble. The heartbreaking images made their way to newspapers and nightly broadcasts. Vietnam was already unpopular at home. These gruesome photos just showed no one was safe from the violence.

Despite the disaster, thousands of children arrived in America. Many came on overpacked ships. Others were safely flown from the embattled nation. When Communist leader, Ho Chi Minh’s armies rumbled onto Saigon’s Presidential Palace, Vietnam was over. American soldiers still imprisoned would be released years later. Eventually, all of the unclaimed dead Marines would be brought back during the next three decades. A generation of Ameriasian (Asian infants born from GIs) children would attempt to assimilate into a racist culture. Some would become law-biding and productive citizens. Others would end up being drug lords who ship heroin out of Southeast Asia’s “Golden Triangle”. And a chosen few would create violent street gangs that would terrorize California residents in post-Vietnam years. The adults who stayed had to survive under a rigid, Leninist system through imprisonment and “re-education” training camps. A few unlucky ones were executed by firing squads. They soon learned the deadly price of siding with American diplomats.