29 April 1975

Air America helicopter evacuates refugees during the Fall of Saigon. (Hubert van Es)
Air America helicopter evacuates refugees during the Fall of Saigon. (Hubert van Es/Corbis)

This iconic photograph was taken 29 April 1975 by Dutch photographer Hubert van Es. A Bell Model 204B helicopter operated by Air America is shown parked on the roof of the Pittman Apartments at 22 Gia Long Street in Sài Gòn, the capital city of the Republic of Vietnam.

Although commonly described as the evacuation of the U.S. Embassy, the actual embassy was a much larger building several blocks away. This building was a residence for U.S. diplomatic personnel.

Air America Bell 205D N47004 (s/n 3211) picking up evacuees from the Pittman Apartments in Saigon, 29 April 1975. (Phillipe Buffon/Corbis)

After this helicopter took off, hundreds of people waited on the roof, but no one else came for them.

The United States government’s decision to abandon the people of South Vietnam after propping up their government for over ten years led to the deaths of many thousands at the hands of the Communist invaders.

This is one of the most shameful events in the history of my country.

A Bell Model 204B helicopter operated by Air America.
A Bell Model 204B operated by Air America.

© 2018, Bryan R. Swopes

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12 thoughts on “29 April 1975

  1. Yes, I agree…This was deplorable what our politicians decided to do during that time. I was stationed at a base in Northern Thailand during this period, and were issued orders to cease all bombing on August 15, 1973….All went to hell from there on…Makes me sick! 58,000 + dead for what?

    1. Totally disgusting. Spent two tours in there (one in Thailand and one in SVN), all for naught, thanks to the @#$%$#@ politicians!!

  2. In my mind, the shame belongs on SVN and American polititians, that being said, the courageous American pilots (and even some SVN pilots) saved many people from being captured during “Operation Frequent Wind”.
    Such as the SVNAF (I believe) pilot who landed an O-1 aboard USS Midway (CV-41) with a flight deck crowded with evacuation helicopters, carrying his wife & 5 kids, the plane is
    now preserved at NMNA at NAS Pensacola, FL. You can get photos from them, or one of a couple of USS Midway web sites. Thanks for marking this unfortunate time.

  3. And to be repeated all over again in Afghanistan, August 2021. Only this time many ex-Patriots were abandoned. Unbelievable.
    I worked with some of these Air America crews while working for Bell Helicopter in Iran. Interesting stories for sure!

  4. And the Communists were NEVER coming to get us, just more BS to enlarge the Military Industrial Complex as Eisenhower warned us about. We caused the deaths of hundreds of thousands for nothing and I believe it was the beginning of the end for the USA. Our moral decline from that point on. My Father, a 33yr USAF veteran realized what we were doing in 1968 and resigned.

  5. “This is one of the most shameful events in the history of my country.” No disagreement here, but also don’t forget to add the pull out from Afghanistan in 2021. That was utterly disgraceful and unforgivable. Shame on the politician who ordered it and on the general officers who didn’t fall on their swords and refuse to execute such a fiasco.

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