• Short Summary

    Hidlay on the last full day of the airlift, If you are a Vietnamese refugee wanting to reach Danang airbase you either need friends in the armed forces...

  • Description

    Hidlay on the last full day of the airlift, If you are a Vietnamese refugee wanting to reach Danang airbase you either need friends in the armed forces...or money for the privilege.

    With law and order breaking down in South Vietnam's second city the air evacuation is haphazard Renewed efforts are made to prevent refugees storming the planes.

    Twilight in Da Nang the Americans decide to close the consulate and evacuate what used to be one of their biggest bases in the Vietnam war. They fear the people will turn against them.

    Among the foreigners are a team of Britons for the Save the Children Fund. They have lost their equipment, their vehicles Everything. The order is to drive to a hideway called the Alamo Hostel, and wait for American helicopters.

    One of the Save the Children Fund staff is a former British army major, John Gerelli:
    At seven in the morning we are ordered to the dockside in small groups...a total of three hundred Americans, foreigners and Vietnamese.

    The motorboats head for one of the farthest reaches of the harbour because one evacuation ship has already been swamped by dockside refugees.

    The rendezvous is an American cargo ship which normally carries bombs and ammunition to S. Vietnam.

    The men with rifles are American marines in civilian clothes - the guards from the consulate. The US marines clandestine departure from Danang, their old stronghold, is so different from the jaunty way they waded ashore ten years ago intent on winning the war in a few weeks.

    I ask a senior American official his reaction to evacuating Danang Interview Mr Howard Thomas.

    The American decide out ship is to pick up seven thousand refugees. Some of the six hundred thousand who've gathered in Da Nang.

    They come alongside at 10 am. There are many army. ??? among them...troops who should be staying behind to defend the city.

    The US marines check the deserters for wed???ons and grenades - there's report that some might try to hijack the chip at gunpoint and head for foreign parts.

    Seeing this evacuation, other refugee vessels try to manoeuvre close. Panic again. The marines fire into the air to restore stability. As ever, South Vietnam remains a consumer society even when its crumbling around people.

    There's only one gangway onto our ship. A plan to put rope ladders over the side is abandoned as too dangerous. The hours pass. The ninety degree heat takes its toll and, as the swell rises, ??? refugees grow more frantic. It is a race against time to get all on board before the sea becomes too rough.

    Children suffer from dehydration and lack of salt. They lose contact with their parents.

    It is providential for the refugees that the Save the Children Team is being evacuated too. One of the nurses is Diana Botterill from Lincolnshire.

    On the second day - that's this Easter weekend - the shipload of Americans, foreigners and Vietnamese are safely steaming south....the first ship in the evacuation convoy.

    There's a phrase the Americans and the government here have long used about refugees. They vote with their feet, meaning they always flee from the communists, come to the government side. Perhaps it's time this dubious proposition is really questioned.

    After one and a half days we reach our destination, Cam Ranh Bay. It's a sandy, arid spot but, with South Vietnam melting away? Not the sort of place to begin a new life.

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    Film ID:
    Media URN:
    Reuters - Source to be Verified
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    Available on request
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