‘Operation Babylift’ – a successful daring mission at the end of the Vietnam War

When the Vietnam War arrived in the city of Saigon, it brought with it chaos and death for the innocent people of the city. Among all that chaos and destruction, a daring mission was taking place called ‘Operation Babylift’. The main aim of the mission was to rescue a large number of babies abandoned by their parents or other family member in fear of their lives. People left their babies at the doors of orphanages in the anticipation and hope of rescue by the United States. After more than a decade, the war was on its last legs and only the well-armed could save their families.

Saigon’s Tan Son Nhut airport saw a number of rescue planes taking off in the last days of the battle for the city of Saigon. One of them turned back shortly after taking off from the runway. This plane – a C-5A Galaxy – had its cargo gate opened mid-air and had to crash land on the runway. The death toll reached 138, out of which 78 were children under 10.

Despite all the odds and the fear of coming under fire, the mission continued, airlifting scores of children under the age of 10. Most of these rescued children ended up in the United States, Australia and Canada. A large number of families from these countries came forward to adopt the children. Some of the families already had children but they wanted to help these rescued souls to live a good life in their new home. ‘Operation Babylift’ helped rescue a total of 2500 children from war-torn Vietnam, the Stars and Stripes reports.

Upon arrival in the US, the children from ‘Operation Babylift’ were given to a number of families from all around the United States. Over the last 4 decades, these kids were raised by their American families and are now a part of US society. Some of the children went back to Vietnam after the war had ended, to meet their parents. Most of them preferred their adoptive American parents to their biological Vietnamese parents. Although there is a sense of gratitude among the people who were rescued during the Fall of Saigon, some of them struggle to understand their position with respect to the events of the Vietnam War.

Ian Harvey

Ian Harvey is one of the authors writing for WAR HISTORY ONLINE