On this day in Aviation History - The Fall of Saigon and Operation Frequent Wind

On April 29th 1975, Saigon began to fall to the North Vietnam. The North Vietnam began their attack on the airport at 4 am. The US began Operation Frequent Wind, the evacuation of Saigon. The first helicopters wouldn’t until later in the day. As the US Marines began to depart the South Vietnamese pilots began flying the UH-1 and CH-47 they operated to the US 7th fleet ships. They brought their friends, family, pigs, and farm others. The ships decks could carry about 30 helicopters at a time and with the Vietnamese landing their own helicopters to keep the decks clear the Marines began pushing the Vietnamese helicopters over the side their ships.

As the Marines began to leave finally Air America, the CIA’s top secret airlines, began flying people from Saigon. The helicopters would have about 30 minutes in the city to pick up people and then would fly out to the aircraft carrier and refuel.


By mid-morning people were at the doors of the embassy who were trying to escape. Over 12 thousand citizens were trying to escape. The Marines at the embassy cut down trees, power lines, and other obstacles for the helicopter to land. While other citizens around Saigon were waiting for the cue to escape. The cue was Bing Crosby’s “White Christmas”.

At mid afternoon the first helicopters began to arrive to the parking lot of the Embassy to pick up people. Pilots landed behind the embassy and loaded people no matter who was it. The helicopters began flying to the 7th fleet. Helicopters began flying non stop from Saigon to the 7th fleet 24 hours a day. The commander at the Dao Compound at the time provided more marines at the embassy to help control the crowd. The current ambassador, Graham Martin was on the ground to try save as many people as they could. CH-53s were arriving to the ground that typically carry 53 people, they would loud 80+. One pilot of the CH-53 would tell their crew chief to stop loading, pull up on the collective into a hover, land again and would load.


As the CH-53s were landing in the parking lot the Marine CH-46 began joining the evacuation fight. While it had less fuel than the CH-53 the CH-46 could land on the roof. The Marines would not let anyone into the embassy for security reasons, so anyone inside the embassy was America, news agencies and others authorized people. As Saigon began to fall more, the Marines began to get worried that the South would turn on the helicopters.

On the even of April 29th the evacuation from the embassy continued, but the US said at the evening to shut it down. As night fell only a few hours were left for the final evacuation of Saigon. Rescue operations continued but fidgeted became an issue with weather dropping. To avoid from being shot down the pilots turned their lights off and flew blind. With night fall the 7th fleet went farther offshore to avoid being attacked. This means that pilots would have to fly farther. Because of how many helicopters were on the ship, pilots would be put into holding patterns and the running joke was the person to land with the least fuel onboard. Ambassador Martin was able to get the US to continue the mission to help South Vietnamese to escape. On April 30th, President Ford put an end on the evacuation and told Ambassador Martin to leave. The CH-46 flew to the Embassy, and the pilot told the security “Ambassador comes with me”. The code for the ambassador onboard the helicopter was “Tiger Tiger Tiger” but others were not aware of this, they thought everyone had escape. This was not the case 11 marines were left on the embassy. Marines who were on top of the embassy could see the North Vietnam tanks roll into Saigon. As the Marines began to hunker down to fight a CH-46 came to rescue them. The Marines scrambled inside, one of the Marines went back to grab the US flag from the embassy to bring it with them
This was one of the last helicopters, the last helicopter out of Vietnam was an Air America UH-1.

After this helicopter took off, hundreds of people waited on the roof, but no one else came for them.

Out of all the helicopters only two pilots were killed. Out of the 18 hour operation, over 5 thousand Vietnamese made it to safely. 81 helicopters were involved and is the largest helicopter evacuation to date. Over all the US help evacuate over 65,000 South Vietnamese. At the end of Operation Frequent Wind, Rear Admiral Donald B Whitmire told his men “The sooner we get out of here, the faster we’ll get a Budweiser”. At the end of the week the 7th Fleet was gone from Vietnam.

As we remember the amazing feat the US did 45 years ago here is some really interesting videos on the Fall of Saigon.

A quick video of evacuation about getting out.

“Chaos had descended”


That. was a very interesting read, thanks for posting!


Of course! I always enjoy Operation Frequent Wind!

@RotorGuy… MaxSez: Operation “Frequent Wind” was preceded by Operation “Eagle Pull” the evacuation of Phnom Penh, Cambodia, Same units/crews involved. A year+ Latter Operation “End Sweep” cleared the sea mines out of Haiphong harbor.

The CH-46, CH-53 & UH-1N pictured where from MAG24 & 36 out of Hawaii and Okinawa respectively.

The Marine 53 crews that participate in these operations were the crews that blew it on Operation “Desert One” the failed attempt to rescue the United States personnel held hostages in Iran.

Aircraft carriers were involved in the operations in the waters around Vietnam, they were the Oriskany an old CV and Inchon a Helo Carrier LPH for the 53 Sea Mine drag/shoot…
Been there Done most of dat!
Regards, Max


What they are doing to the Huey in the pic, throwing it to the ocean?

Correct, the ships could only carry about 30 helicopters at the time and the Vietnamese would land their own helicopters on the decks clear for the US the Marines began pushing the Vietnamese helicopters over the side their ships.

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