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From the Archives: Vietnam, a nation falls to tanks and bare feet

On April 30, 1975, North Vietnamese soldiers sit

On April 30, 1975, North Vietnamese soldiers sit on top of a tank posted in front of the presidential palace of the US-backed regime as hundreds of Saigon residents gather around after the city falls to communist troops (Getty Images). Photo Credit: Getty Images

Saigon - This story was originally published in Newsday on April 30, 1975

About 15 barefoot guerillas carrying Communist-made AK-47 rifles dashed across the street to South Vietnam’s National Assembly Building.

The men and one woman ran across the courtyard in front of the building and took a threatening and dramatic stance on the steps of the building. The Viet Cong were in Saigon.

The Viet Cong and their North Vietnamese allies rode and walked into the capital today within hours of President Duong Van Minh’s announcement of an unconditional surrender. Communist troops on a convoy of trucks going down to Tu Do Street—the captial’s main thoroughfare—shouted and waved at the few South Vietnamese civilians on the streets. They gestured at newsmen in one building and, and the newsmen acknowledged the greeting.

Thirty Communist tanks and other vehicles converged on the presidential palace within 15 minutes of the Communist arrival in the city. One newsman reportedly rode one of the tanks as it smashed down the gates of the palace, which had been at the seat of the newly installed neutralist regime headed by “Big Minh.”

Traffic on Saigon’s streets was normal despite the arrival of the Communists. Motor bikes, bicycles, cars, pedicabs and taxis continued to move. People looked out their windows and some young people continued to walk along the streets. Despite some obvious nervousness, there has been no mass panic.

Diplomatic sources said the mode of entry of Communist forces showed that they expected little or no resistance and that foreigners still in the capital did not have to worry but should stay in one place.

There was shooting in some parts of the capital, but elsewhere Communist tanks clattered peaceably through the streets flying enormous Viet Cong flags. Other tanks reportably were in position outside the abandoned U.S. Embassy.

A Communist jeep rolled slowly down Tu Do Street with western newsmen filming unhampered. A young man in civilian clothes rode on the front—an American carbine in one hand and a Viet Cong flag in the other. Five other men in the jeep were armed, and one of them was wearing an American helmet.

Earlier, Vietnamese were surprised but relieved at the rapid turn of events—first Minh’s announcement of the surrender, then the order to the army to lay down its arms.

One employee of the Caravelle Hotel, where many foreign reporters are quartered. Was sharply critical of the U.S. Ambassador Graham Martin. He has “pushed the Vietnamese to fight to the last drop of our blood while he left the country in the dark of the night,” the worker said. Martin was evacuated by U.S. Marines today.

 

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