The Country’s History
We all took U.S. History in high school, but there is plenty that we don’t know. If you ever tried to learn every detail about America’s history, it would give you a headache, and maybe make you paranoid. There is a lot of historical events that haven’t been written down. A lot of information from as recently as the ’70s remains buried.
The Vietnam War
The Vietnam War was a long, arduous war, and it was also the most controversial war in history. It divided the United States the way that the presidency of Donald Trump has. The war was also very fascinating. It has been over 40-years since the Vietnam War, and may of the people involved are finally revealing what they experienced. The stories they told were filled with tension, death, controversy, and dirty diapers. Yes, you heard that correctly. Dirty diapers.
April 4, 1975
On April 4th, a plane from Saigon took off into the sky. All eyes were on Vietnam, but the people on the plane could only think of home. The plane was in the sky for only 12 minutes before it filled with smoke. The plane shook as it hit the treetops. When the plane crashed, it claimed the lives of all 138 people on board, and 78 of them were children.
The day before the tragic crash, President Ford announced a plan to evacuate the orphans from Saigon on 30 flights heading to the United States. It was a humanitarian mission, but the people involved in the mission understood the danger involved. The mission was called Operation Babylift. Nobody knew what caused the plane to crash, and the number of young lives that were lost was devastating.
It was no secret that the U.S. forces would soon overcome South Vietnam, and it was a very tense time. The Vietnamese orphans waited outside of a plane with 30 strangers, and they didn’t know where they were going. Karen Ryan was a flight attendant; she described a heartbreaking scene. She said that the children being carried up the ramp and placed in their arms were sick and malnourished. Many of them seemed to be at death’s door. Karen says that they didn’t abide by the FAA rules because the safety of the children was their only goal. The flight attendants held as many babies as possible so that they could keep them from rolling around.
In The Air
When the plane took off, and they were in the air, the flight attendants, nurses, and other volunteers checked out each of the kids in the cabin. Due to the lack of resources combined with the many illnesses that the children were suffering from, keeping the children safe seemed impossible. They constantly peeked in the bassinets to make sure that the babies were still breathing. Karen says that she would shine her flashlight on the babies’ backs, waiting for their rib cages to rise. She says that many of the babies didn’t have carriers, so they tightened the seat belts around. If there were a crash, Karen would get off the plane; first, the other volunteers would toss the babies to her.
While the flight attendants and other volunteers were scared and anxious the whole time, there were good moments during the flight. She says that the babies were either very darling or very scared. Everyone hugged them to let them know that they would be okay. Some of the orphans looked out the windows at the clouds, but others were too sick to pay attention. They didn’t have the babies’ medical records, so they didn’t know that many of them were lactose intolerant, and the baby formula made them sick.
Some of the children were very sick as a result of dehydration, intestinal illness, pneumonia, and chickenpox. A nurse or volunteer helped the kids who were very sick while they waited for the plane to land. When the planes landed, the chaos didn’t stop. Each of the planes was met by medical teams who separated the children based on their illness. Many were brought to Harmon Hall, which wasn’t much better than being on the plane. According to Michael Howe, a volunteer coordinator, there was sheer panic and confusion in the hall. They did everything possible in an environment where they weren’t sure what to do. Their main goal was to help as many kids as possible.
Orphans Or Stolen?
Operation Babylift was controversial because it was unclear if the babies and children were orphans or stolen. Some of the kids said that they weren’t orphans at all. Over 2,500 children were brought to the United States to change their lives for the better.
Many of the children who made it to the United States via Operation Babylift have returned to Vietnam, but it was on their own terms this time. Many of them chose to return home to find the families that they left behind when they boarded the planes. America once filled several airplanes with babies for the strangest purpose, to save children that may not have needed saving.