The Vietnam War
The Vietnam War was fought between North Vietnam, which was communist (a style of government where the government controls everything), and South Vietnam, which was capitalist (where the people have more freedom and choices). The war lasted almost 20 years, from 1955 to 1975. Naturally, the North was supported by two other communist countries, the USSR and China.
Although America was far from Vietnam, the American government did not want more countries to become communist. They were determined to prevent the spread of communism at all costs, so there would never be any chance that communism could reach America. They wanted the South to win.
But the South was losing. So the United States sent in American troops to help.
In March of 1965, the first US Marines landed in South Vietnam. For the Americans, the Vietnam War had begun.
Although the American army was powerful, with the most up-to-date weapons and technology, it turned out that the great American might was no match for the primitive Vietcong (the North Vietnamese army). The Vietcong came up with all sorts of ingenious ways to outsmart the Americans. The American soldiers were in a foreign country that was very different than what they were used to, but the Vietcong were very familiar with the land. They laid booby traps everywhere and were killing American soldiers every day.
By 1970, it became clear that the war was going nowhere. Tens of thousands of American soldiers had already died in their quest to save Vietnam from communism, but they were not winning. In 1973, the US reached an agreement with North Vietnam, and all the American troops left. Only American civilians working for the Department of Defense remained in the country.
Lieutenant Buang-Ly was a Vietnamese pilot fighting on the side of South Vietnam. He had close contact with the Americans when they were assisting the army he was fighting for. He lived in Saigon, the capital of Vietnam, with his wife and children.
And then in April 1975, North Vietnam captured Saigon.
Lieutenant Buang-Ly knew what that meant. If they didn’t get out of Saigon, they would die.
Lieutenant Buang-Ly’s wife was panic-stricken. “What should we take with us?” she cried desperately.
“Nothing,” her husband replied as he hurried her and the children to the waiting car. “Just take the children and come. We don’t have even one minute to lose!”
In one hand he carried their 14-month-old baby, while his other hand clutched a pillowcase into which he’d managed to stuff a few items. His wife held two other children. Their two older ones, an eight-year-old daughter and six-year-old son, ran alongside their parents. The car doors weren’t even fully closed when Buang-Ly put it into gear and drove off.
Ten minutes earlier, the phone in their house had rung. On the line was one of Buang-Ly’s friends who was serving in the South Vietnam Army. “Saigon has fallen!” the man had said, hastily hanging up.
For a few long seconds, Buang-Ly had sat, staring at the phone as he tried to digest the meaning of this message. For long months, rumors had been flying about the impending collapse of the front lines, but the Americans kept issuing calming messages. “You have nothing to worry about,” they told the Vietnamese pilots, including Baung-Ly. “The Pentagon has prepared an organized evacuation plan. If and when we leave Vietnam, we’ll take all of you with us.”
(Excerpted from Mishpacha Jr., Issue 754)
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