On 30 April 1975, the capitol of South Vietnam was captured by the NVA and the Republic ceased to exist. The gruesome carnage that followed as the communists overran the country had not been seen since WWII, yet it was described in the US media left as a march to freedom.
Tell that to the survivors and see what you get.
Of those who escaped the bloodshed, most arrived on US soil with little more than their lives, and many passed through Camp Pendleton’s tent encampments as refugees where they were fed, clothed and provided medical treatment. These people, with no country to return to, were grateful for the opportunity to succeed and prosper, and they did. The Vietnamese community in Southern California is a modern story of successful assimilation (without the burden of false handouts called Affirmative Action) and yet they preserved their ethnic heritage. Little Saigon is a prime example of a thriving business district created from next to nothing. Then this happens.
A Commemoration of the 40th Anniversary of The Fall of Saigon was scheduled over a year in advance, with thousands expected to attend ceremonies at Camp Pendleton, the gateway to freedom for many Vietnamese refugees.
A U.S. policy that would prohibit the use of South Vietnamese symbols on federal property has killed a commemoration ceremony at Camp Pendleton for the 40th anniversary of the fall of Saigon.
The decision to scrap the location has sent organizers scrambling for new options in the Little Saigon area – with two weeks left until the planned event at which 5,000 to 10,000 were expected to attend.
“We call it a banner of freedom and heritage and not having it would be a big deal,” Kenneth Nguyen, the spokesman for the commemoration’s organizing committee, said of the South Vietnamese flag. “We’re looking at other possibilities, but we won’t know until Monday.”
The all-day event, scheduled for April 25, has been in the planning for more than a year. Camp Pendleton was chosen for its significance as the first base on U.S. soil to house Vietnamese refugees after they fled their homeland.
To many in Little Saigon, Pendleton represents the refugees’ first step in becoming a successful American community.
As news of the cancellation swept through Little Saigon, the reaction was one of disappointment and sadness – and disapproval of the U.S. policy.
“It is true that the flag is the flag of South Vietnam as a nation and that nation is no longer recognized,” Garden Grove Councilman Phat Bui said. “But it is also a symbol for the Vietnamese community worldwide. It is a symbol of the refugees and of freedom. It’s a mistake not to allow it.”
Not everyone, though, agreed with the decision to move the ceremony away from the Marine base.
“It’s unfortunate, but I understand. If I was in the U.S. government’s position, I would have done what I had to, even if I regretted it,” said Leslie Le, a former colonel in the South Vietnamese Army. “But as a community, we don’t recognize the government of Vietnam as really representing the people. … We could have still held it at Camp Pendleton and asked everyone to wear the color of the flag. That wouldn’t have been prohibited.”
With only weeks to go, the Commemoration was moved to Little Saigon and I plan to attend. You’ll recognize me as the tall white guy waving The Flag of The Republic Of Vietnam.