It has been 40 years since the fall of Saigon to communist forces near the end of the Vietnam War. It is hard to imagine, but the Vietnam War was fought over a period of 20 years, between 1954-55 and April of 1975. The conflict pitted the communist North, backed by China and Russia, against an anti-communist South, supported by the United States. Over 4 million Vietnamese citizens died in the conflict; and over 1.1 million communist fighters in the north, 250,000 South Vietnamese, and 58,000 American lives were also lost during the course of the Vietnam War. While the fall of Saigon signaled a humilating loss for the South and for America, Vietnamese-American relations have long been strained by the war and have only recently shown signs of improvement. The fall of Saigon also represents a time of forced migration and mass internal displacement, when Vietnamese and Chinese who were expelled from Vietnam fled to places like Australia, Canada and the US. Forty years is but a mere drop in the bucket of history, but it is important that the fall of Saigon and the Vietnam war are remembered not only for their devastating trauma, but for their defining role in shaping and reshaping American politics, global power, and the art of war. How far we have come in mending the wounds of war and memories of untold horrors is often a generational struggle – sadly and all to often cut short by the next inevitable conflict. As I have repeated on several occasions, we owe history the respect of remembering its defining moments. The Vietnam War book-ended by the fall of Saigon may very well prove to be a formative event in the shifting balance of power in the post-Cold War world we now live.
For more information on the fall of Saigon, please consult the following sources:
BBC Vietnam War Collection
New York Times special on the Lessons, 40 Years After the Fall of Saigon
Foreign Policy – 40 Years After the Fall of Saigon, Every Country Has Its Own ‘Vietnam’
Youtube – The Fall of Saigon: 40 years later