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‘Shock and awfulness’ – 40 years since Saigon fell

A helicopter lifts off from the U.S. embassy in Saigon, Vietnam, during the last-minute evacuation. On Sunday, several veterans from La Plata County who served in Vietnam will tell their stories.

U.S. involvement in the Vietnam War began in earnest in 1965, when we began putting troops on the ground. While the last American troops departed in 1973, it wasn’t until April 30, 1975, that South Vietnam surrendered to North Vietnam.

The fall of Saigon, with scenes of desperate people trying to escape on helicopters off the U.S. Embassy roof or ships in the harbor, resonated with Americans at home. Whether they had seen the war beamed into their homes on the nightly news or been on the ground in the Southeast Asian country, the war had changed them and their country.

The 40th anniversary of that surrender is Thursday.

“I’ve thought much on the war,” former first lieutenant and Durango resident George Usinowicz said, “the shock and awfulness of it – and you have to use the full word there – and think no one should pass judgement unless they were there.”

Usinowicz and several other local veterans of the Vietnam War will tell their stories in Sunday’s Durango Herald, including their reactions to the fall of Saigon then and now. Returning home to a country where they were cursed at or spat upon, many of them have not previously spoken publicly of their experiences.

Ann Butler

May 5, 2016
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