Forty-Five years ago a blossoming nation, imperfect yet free; prosperous, innovative, breathed its last breaths, as totalitarian Communism ruthlessly completed its takeover.
The spilled blood of over 58,000 Americans over almost two decades (and upwards of perhaps a million Vietnamese) had come to its final conclusion.
The fall of Saigon took place on April 30, 1975. The Vietnam War came to its close.
The footage we have of the evacuation of Saigon, the South Vietnamese capital, are legendary for the frenzied fear it captures of a people about to completely and suddenly lose their liberties — religious, economic, political, social — long-enjoyed.
The images of chains of people hanging off American embassy helicopters fleeing the city immortalize those haunting moments. The boat-people refugee crisis the end of the Republic of Vietnam would begin would continue to have major effects on the region, globe, and United States — for years to come.
Today, the world is in a very different place than during that time.
At Times, Communist Vietnam remains an uneasy partner with the United States — as a counterweight against the People’s Republic of China’s interests in the region, and globally.
The Vietnamese diaspora is still largely of a South Vietnam origin, having built robust communities throughout much of the world. The Vietnamese-American community in 2018 was estimated at over 1.78 million and Vietnamese-Americans have made extraordinary contributions to the fabric of American life everywhere including politics, business, science, cuisine — and the arts.
In 2015, the Pew Research Center found that 76% of those polled in Communist Vietnam have favorable opinions of the United States. While in the immediate aftermath of the normalization of relations in 1995, Americans still viewed Communist Vietnam with little warmth. This too has improved over time. And this is despite still-widespread human rights abuses and systematic restrictions on personal, economic, social, and religious freedom in Communist Vietnam — even as the now 95-million-person country has attempted to integrate into the global economy.
The lessons of the Vietnam War still influence our public and policy discourse immensely.
The concept of mitigating "mission creep" risk has become commonplace, given that America was handed a hard lesson in how a conflict can easily snowball over time and become harder to untangle from.
The domestic social disruptions of the Vietnam War sent deep shockwaves — many of which still remain — to American trust in government and institutions. The mass protests, the draft, the innumerable scandals and public outrage in administration after administration will provide fodder for movies, television, and other fiction to this day.
We still have innumerable Vietnam War veterans who came home only to be spat on, derided as criminals; many of whom still are inflicted with horrendous disabilities and impacts from their time of service.
Policymakers, historians, commentators, and the public still debate without resolution whether the sacrifices of the Vietnam War were "worth it," or whether anything could have been done differently in terms of lives lost or the mission istelf.
A CBS News poll in 2018 found that 22% of Americans thought the U.S. should have entered the conflict while 51% thought the U.S. shouldn’t have as compared to 19% and 73%, respectively, in 1985.
Vietnam’s future remains uncertain.
Its past still filled with pain and suffering for nearly all — Vietnamese, American, the other nations in the Southeast Asia region that became destabilized and fell into chaos.
The shocking toll of American lives lost and the wave of human suffering, seemingly unstoppable, still haunt us with uncertain, undefined lessons to this day.
The American people clearly still ponder and wonder as the Vietnam Veterans Memorial on the National Mall in Washington, D.C. receives still an estimated 4.5 million to 5 million visitors a year.
Our commitment too to those who made sacrifices beyond measure in that harsh and unforgiving time has not faded. According to the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) over 2.7 million served in Vietnam, over 303,000 of whom were wounded.
Those alive today still face challenges in everything from the lasting effects of Agent Orange, to homelessness, to PTSD — and other mental health issues.
Even as this generation of veterans slowly fades into history we should not lose our sense of duty owed to them.
Erich Reimer is a D.C.-based government affairs strategist, entrepreneur, financial commentator, and national columnist with a varied and extensive background in federal government financial regulation, state government economic development, business (technology and finance), policy, politics, law, and media. He appears frequently on cable television news to offer insights on policy, business, legal, and political matters. A former Democratic Party national youth leader turned Republican, he focuses on pragmatic and patriotic governance solutions to our nation’s most pressing challenges. He holds a J.D. from the University of Virginia School of Law and a Bachelor's from the University of Pennsylvania. Read Erich Reimers Reports — More Here.
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