News and culture through the lens of Southern California.
Hosted by A Martínez
Airs Weekdays 2 to 3 p.m.

Fall of Saigon sparked Vietnamese flight to Southern California




A group of children at the San Onofre refugee camp at Camp Pendleton, Spring 1975.
A group of children at the San Onofre refugee camp at Camp Pendleton, Spring 1975.
Courtesy of UCI Southeast Asian Archives and John Scire
A group of children at the San Onofre refugee camp at Camp Pendleton, Spring 1975.
Tents at Camp Pendleton near San Diego, California, where some 50,000 Vietnamese refugees arrived in the Spring of 1975.
Courtesy of UCI Southeast Asian Archives and John Scire
A group of children at the San Onofre refugee camp at Camp Pendleton, Spring 1975.
Two women at the refugee village at Camp Pendleton, Spring 1975.
Courtesy of UCI Southeast Asian Archives and John Scire
A group of children at the San Onofre refugee camp at Camp Pendleton, Spring 1975.
A sign of celebration at the Camp Pendleton village for Vietnamese refugees, Spring 1975.
Courtesy of UCI Southeast Asian Archives and John Scire
A group of children at the San Onofre refugee camp at Camp Pendleton, Spring 1975.
Rows of tents at the Camp Pendleton refugee village for new arrivals from Vietnam, Spring 1975.
Courtesy of UCI Southeast Asian Archives and John Scire


Listen to story

06:36
Download this story 3MB

Nineteen years, five months, four weeks and a day – that's how long the Vietnam War lasted.

It came to an end 40 years ago this week, in the final days of April 1975,  as U.S. personnel fled a city quickly falling to Communist forces from the north of the country. By April 30, the Vietnamese that remained in Saigon – now Ho Chi Minh city –  faced dire conditions.

"Virtually no provisions had been made for their evacuation," said Marilyn Young,  professor of History at New York University and author of  "The Vietnam Wars: 1945-1990."  

In the end, thousands of South Vietnamese were evacuated, but there were no clear guidelines to determine who would leave and who was left behind.

"The top people in the government made arrangements and they got out with their money and their goods," said Young. "Lower down it was much more of a hit or miss…and if you missed, you really missed."

Of those who remained, high-ranking Saigon government officials or those known for aiding Americans were likely to suffer longer periods of time in political prisons, also known as re-education camps. 

Many of those who fled the violence eventually settled in Southern California, where another journey to rebuild lives and establish bonds in a new land began.

Listen to the story of Lam and Christine Tran, in conversation with their daughter, Yvonne.

Listen to the interview with Marilyn Young in the blue audio player above.