Today in Media History: News reports described the end of the Vietnam War

April 30, 2015
Category: Uncategorized

Although United States military involvement officially stopped in 1973, it was South Vietnam’s surrender on April 30, 1975 that marked the end of the Vietnam War.

The news media first began reporting on U.S. involvement in Vietnam during the late 1950s. And the press was there when the war ended in 1975 as North Vietnamese forces captured the South Vietnamese capital of Saigon.

Page one news from The (Pennsylvania) Courier-Express:

Image-C-E

The Associated Press described the fall of Saigon:

The Saigon government surrendered unconditionally today and Viet Cong and North Vietnamese troops occupied the capital….And U.S. officials struggled with the logistics of resettling the estimated 45,000 South Vietnamese it helped evacuate from the country before the surrender. The end of official American presence in the country came late Tuesday.

…”At 11:30 (a.m.) on April 30, 1975, the flag of the Provisional Revolutionary Government (PRG) of the Republic of South Vietnam fluttered above the palace of the puppet president and on other buildings in the city,” declared Hanoi’s Vietnam News Agency, in a broadcast monitored in Tokyo.

The broadcast reiterated that Saigon had been renamed Ho Chi Minh City in honor of the late North Vietnamese leader.

Image-BB 1975

The front page from the Bennington (Vermont) Banner included the famous UPI photo by Hugh Van Es of a U.S. helicopter evacuating people from Saigon.

In May 2009 UPI would write:

One of Van Es’s most recognized photographs shows U.S. citizens packed in a rooftop stairwell to board a helicopter during the evacuation of Saigon in 1975. He photographed the war between 1969 and 1975, working first for The Associated Press, then United Press International.

The photograph of people crammed on the stairs waiting to board the aircraft was shot from the roof of the UPI bureau, the British broadcaster said. The photo was taken at an apartment building, not the U.S. embassy in Saigon as mistakenly thought.

A timeline excerpt from the PBS program, “Battlefield Vietnam”:

April 30, 1975
At 4:03 a.m., two U.S. Marines are killed in a rocket attack at Saigon’s Tan Son Nhut airport. They are the last Americans to die in the Vietnam War. At dawn, the last Marines of the force guarding the U.S. embassy lift off. Only hours later, looters ransack the embassy, and North Vietnamese tanks role into Saigon, ending the war.”

See Also:
Last Days in Vietnam.”
American Experience, PBS, 2015.

Vietnam is often remembered as the first “television war.” This is how ABC News described the evacuation of Saigon on April 30, 1975.