Saigon, the capital city of South Vietnam, fell to the North Vietnamese forces (comprised of the People’s Army of Vietnam and the National Liberation Front) on April 30, 1975, signaling the end of the Vietnam War and the beginning of the reunification of Vietnam under a communist regime. Despite U.S. predictions in early March 1975 that South Vietnam could hold out until at least the end of the year, the situation deteriorated far more rapidly than foreseen. By March 15, evacuations were under way as North Vietnamese troops pressed relentlessly towards Saigon.
The situation escalated rapidly and in turn, the number of evacuations—both government sanctioned and individually planned—rose precipitously. Operation Babylift, which resulted in the evacuation of over 3,000 Vietnamese infants and children (many of whom were adopted by families all over the world) began on April 3 and lasted until April 26. Operation New Life, which also began on April 3, resulted in the evacuation of over 110,000 Vietnamese refugees. Operation Frequent Wind—the largest helicopter evacuation in history—was put into motion and resulted in 7,000 people being airlifted out of the city and to safety.
Through the Indochina Migration and Refugee Assistance Act, passed on May 23, 1975, Vietnamese and Cambodian refugees were granted entrance to the United States. Thousands of refugees poured into the United States and volunteer organizations—many of them religious—came to their aid, helping them settle in to a vastly different lifestyle and culture. In the following years, more refugees—known as “boat people”—fleeing the communist regime in Vietnam would arrive in the US, bolstering the Southeast Asian population.
Another result of the war includes Amerasian children, half-Vietnamese and half-American descendants who have interracial features inherited from their soldier-dads. Ridiculed in their hometowns and often abandoned at orphanages by ashamed mothers, these children are a long lasting reminder of the American impact in Vietnam during the war.