“I tried to stay calm. I was told that if I cooperated,
I would be treated well."
"I didn’t cooperate, of course, and things got rougher at the Hanoi Hilton. They’d have torture sessions where they’d tie you up in ropes and pull your legs and put your arms in the middle of your back, and wrap your ankles and wrists up around your head. I went through serious beatings. Some got it worse; some had it less. I was in solitary confinement for 702 days total. The longest stretch was 53 weeks. I don’t have any animosity at all toward the Vietnamese people. It takes too much energy for me to hate somebody I’ve been at war with. I have made my peace with this.”
— U.S Air Force Major Fred Vann Cherry was among the 591 prisoners of war returned to the U.S. after the Paris Peace Accords were signed on January 27, 1973.
“I do not want to delay another day in resolving the dilemmas of the past, so that we may all get going on the pressing problems of the present.”
— President Gerald Ford in his remarks on clemency for draft evaders, September 16, 1974.
"What about the women that married the veterans and had to sit through silent dinner after silent dinner? Somewhere in this country there’s a 95-year-old woman who will wake up at night and say, ‘Where’s my baby?’ The answer is, her baby has been dead for 45 years. But the war’s not over for that Gold Star mother. It’ll never be over, and you can’t expect it to be over.”
— Tim O’Brien served in the U.S. Army in Vietnam in 1969 and 1970. His novels include the semi-autobiographical The Things They Carried. He appears in the documentary American Masters: The Boomer List.
“The airplane finally came, and we all ran toward it. I could feel the heat of the exhaust from the back of the C-130. We got on, and Dad was there in his uniform and flight suit. I assumed he’d be on that plane with us.
When the plane took off, we all fell asleep in darkness. That was the last time I would see my dad for over 17 years. He stayed because it was his duty.”
— Quang Pham, above left, was 10 years old when he and his family escaped from Saigon. His father, South Vietnamese Air Force pilot Hoa Van Pham, spent 12 years in a prison camp after the war. He is the author of the memoir A Sense of Duty: Our Journey from Vietnam to America.
Hear More: Quang Pham remembers his father and his own defining moment.
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"Get on the plane. Just go."
“One Vietnamese colonel was putting his family on the plane. He wanted to stay, to defend the country. He was in tears. His family was in tears. And I said to him, ‘Get on the plane. Just go. Go.’ ”
— Stuart Herrington was one of the last U.S. officials to flee the U.S. Embassy in Saigon. He appears in the Academy Award–nominated documentary Last Days in Vietnam.