Hard to believe thirty years have passed. And that it was the communists third attempt to conquer South VietNam in an overt way.
Tet 1968 saw all the Viet Cong cadres rise up and strike in South VietNam. They caused much damage but the population of South VietNam did not rise up as the communist theology predicted. So in the end Tet 1968 was a crushing military defeat for the communists as their indigenous cadres were exterminated or defected.
April, 1972 saw the communists' second attempt to overtly conquer South VietNam. This time uniformed elements of the North VietNamese Army invaded South VietNam from Cambodia in an attempt to take the besieged country over. With some support from the few remaining American military units, 1972 was South VietNam's military baptism by fire. At An Loc, barely 50 miles from Saigon, the communist juggernaut ground to a halt due to vicious fighting from the defenders.
April 1975 though turned out different. With the United States' attention drawn inwards because of Watergate and a very anti-VietNam Congress, South VietNam found itself abandoned by it's ally. So this time the NVA tanks rumbled into Saigon as Americans and South VietNamese fled via any aircraft or boat that would carry them. Many fled out to sea where the US Navy still patrolled the waters. Who can forget the footage of overloaded UH-1 Hueys of the VNAF landing aboard an aircraft carrier and the deck crew having to shove the Huey overboard to make room for even more aircraft.
With the last Americans scaling a steel staircase to the top of the American embassy to board the last chopper to safety, freedom and democracy left South VietNam as communist North VietNam imposed its Bamboo Curtain and set about 're-educating' the captive population of South VietNam.
South VietNam did not fail. What did fail was America keeping its word to an ally. If we want to learn anything from that turbulent time it must be that. When the United States gives its word, then the United States better be prepared to pay any price required, be it gold or blood, to keep that word. To fail to keep one's word, invites distrust and disbelief which in turn invites adventurism by the power hungry and misery for innocent people.
Thiry years on, has the lesson been learned? Time will tell. Just as thirty years later the truth is, it was the NVA who conquered South VietNam and not the Viet Cong guerillas. So VietNam was never a true civil war.
Always remember this while we honor all the people who did survive those years; South VietNamese, American, Australian, South Koreans, and many other brave people.