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Tiêu đề Chủ đề: Famous Saigon photo captured doctor’s escape Trả lời bài viếtGửi bài viết mới
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Ngày gửi: 29/04/10 lúc 20:13 | IP Logged Trích dẫn baotian

source: http://seattletimes.com

Famous Saigon photo captured doctor's escape

A Georgia doctor remembers a key moment in his life, one captured in one of the most searing images from the fall of Saigon 35 years ago: a line of South Vietnamese people climbing a ladder to reach a U.S. helicopter perched atop an apartment-building elevator shaft.

By Ralph Ellis

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

April 29 has special meaning for Dr. Tong Huynh, of Alpharetta, 
Ga., because that's the day he fled Saigon in 1975 as the South 
Vietnamese capital fell. Behind him is the famous photo he says he is 
in. Huynh says he is the second from the top of the ladder in the 
picturetitle=

Enlarge this photo

VINO WONG / VWONG@AJC.COM

April 29 has special meaning for Dr. Tong Huynh, of Alpharetta, Ga., because that's the day he fled Saigon in 1975 as the South Vietnamese capital fell. Behind him is the famous photo he says he is in. Huynh says he is the second from the top of the ladder in the picture.

ATLANTA —

It is among the most searing images from the fall of Saigon 35 years ago: a line of South Vietnamese people climbing a ladder to reach a U.S. helicopter perched atop an apartment-building elevator shaft.

Those who board leave behind their homes and families for destinations unknown. Those who don't face death or concentration camps.

Though the faces are too small to be identified, Dr. Tong Huynh recognizes himself as the second figure from the top of the ladder on April 29, 1975.

Just ahead of him, reaching for the hand of a man believed to be a CIA employee, is his friend Thiet-Tan Nguyen, Huynh says. The tiny head next to Huynh is a teenage girl named Tuyet-Dong Bui, whom he held as she struggled against the powerful wash of the chopper's blades.

"Every April 29th I remember that day almost every minute," Huynh said.

Now 69 with a family medical practice, Huynh keeps a framed photo of the rooftop evacuation scene in the den of his suburban Atlanta home. He says he called the Atlanta office of the United Press International (UPI) office to talk about the photo and was given a copy.

Shot by UPI staffer Hubert van Es, a Dutch photojournalist, it's an enduring image of the Vietnam War and inspired the closing scene of the musical "Miss Saigon."

Huynh had a larger version made for the annual Remembrance Day ceremony that will be held Sunday in a nearby Vietnamese community club. The annual event marks April 30, 1975, when North Vietnamese tanks rolled into Saigon, the government surrendered and the war officially ended.

"That was the day we lost our country," Huynh said. "It's not a joyous day. It's a painful day. We relive a little bit of our pain."

About 70,000 Vietnamese people live in Georgia, said Kim-Hanh Dang of the Vietnamese Community of Georgia. Veterans groups say 8,000 to 10,000 of them served in the South Vietnamese army or police force.

"The armed forces guys have a hard time forgetting," said Huynh, a captain in the South Vietnamese army. "No old soldier wants to lose a war." < ="1.1" src="http://ad.doubleclick.net/adj/N3880.SeattleTimes.com/B4234593.25;dcove=o;sz=300x250;ord=92946406?"> 

Memories spill out when Huynh talks about his last day in Saigon, the city where he grew up. With the North Vietnamese advancing, he had put his wife, sister and mother on a plane days earlier. Chaos filled the streets. His army commander told him, "If you have a chance to go, don't stay around."

With several friends and his father, he searched for a way to escape with no success. Crowds outside the U.S. Embassy were so thick, they couldn't get inside. Another friend, a general's son, said he knew a spot where a helicopter would arrive. That connection would save his life.

"My father was so tired," Huynh said. "He said, 'You go.' We embraced and I said goodbye to him. I said, 'If I succeed, you won't see me anymore.' "

His father, who spent seven years in a concentration camp, later came to the United States, where he died.

Huynh and his friends drove to an apartment house on Gia Long Street, where CIA officials were housed. (One of the misconceptions of the Vietnam War is that the photo was taken at the U.S. Embassy.) They climbed seven or eight flights of stairs and waited on the roof.

Bui, the girl in the photo with Huynh, remembers the people on the roof were high-ranking South Vietnamese army members or their families.

When the helicopter landed, the scramble began. Huynh and his friends climbed on board. The eight-passenger chopper was loaded with 20 people.

Some men who didn't make it fought to climb aboard, but a large American on the roof, probably a CIA employee, pushed them back.

Huynh said the overloaded copter had to land at the embassy, where the pilot ejected a dozen people before taking the rest to a U.S. ship.

He spent six months in relocation camps in Guam and Pennsylvania before reuniting with his wife in Montreal.

Eventually, he and his wife moved to Roanoke, Va., where a church sponsored the family. Though he'd been an ear, nose and throat specialist in Vietnam, in Virginia he could only get a job as a hospital scrub nurse. He studied, passed his medical boards and moved to Atlanta in 1980.

Huynh stays in touch with his friends from that day. Nguyen is also a doctor, living in California. Bui, the girl in the photo with Huynh, lives in Mission Viejo, Calif., and is a scientist with a biotech company. She's related to Huynh by marriage and sometimes visits him in Georgia.

She, too, remembers April 29, 1975 — "the biggest event of my life": "By the time I got to the top of the stairs, I was so exhausted."



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