Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Heroism Revisited

USS Kirk

Chinook Hovering over USS Kirk

A few months ago, I wrote a a post for the Naval History Blog about Operation Frequent Wind the evacuation of thousands of Vietnamese citizens after the Fall of South Vietnam on April 30, 1975. So when
I stumbled  across this series that was been launched today by NPR and published on their website I had to share it . What unfolds is the little know story of the USS Kirk DE 1087 and her participation in rescuing at first over 200 refugees, and later, would go on to help rescue over 20,000 refugees fleeing aboard South Vietnamese Navy vessels.

The NPR story is worth a careful read. Their indepth report relates many stories of heroism and reveals the bravery of one pilot who flew his family and others out to the Kirk in a Chinook helicopter. Too big to land, the pilot hovered while people jumped and mothers tossed their babies to the sailors waiting to catch them. I won't attempt to paraphrase this fine piece and will just say you have to read the whole story, then take the time to click on the Interactive Feature to see and hear accounts of that day told by the people involved. I will say that NPR has done an excellent job of telling this story and the stories of those they saved.

For Americans, the lasting image of the end of the Vietnam War came from the nightly news. On April 29, 1975, television showed the evacuation of Saigon as U.S. Marine helicopters swooped down to the U.S. Embassy and the roof of a nearby CIA safe house to rescue the last 1,000 Americans in the city and some 6,000 Vietnamese and their families who worked for them.
But there was another evacuation that didn't get as much attention. Tens of thousands of Vietnamese found other ways to escape in those frenzied few days. They left in boats and helicopters and headed to the South China Sea. They didn't know if North Vietnamese jets would sink their boats or shoot the helicopters out of the sky.

Read the whole story
Forgotten Ship: A Daring Rescue As Saigon Fell

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