Images: Fall of Saigon 40th anniversary marked with reflection

 
Associated Press
Updated 4/29/2015 2:56 PM

SANTA ANA, Calif. -- In the chaotic final days before the Vietnam she knew collapsed, Bang Van Pham boarded a U.S. military plane with her newborn son for a land she had learned about in school but never seen.

On the 40th anniversary of the fall of Saigon, Pham and other Vietnamese refugees reflect on what they lost but also how they have rebuilt their lives in the United States. The community has gone from not even being counted as a distinct group in the 1970 census to numbering 1.7 million.

A major commercial hub has grown in Orange County, California, where the community is considered a formidable voting bloc.

Efforts are underway to preserve the stories of Vietnamese elders before they are gone and help younger generations carry on their legacy.

In this April 29, 1975 file photo, South Vietnamese civilians scale the 14-foot wall of the U.S. embassy in Saigon, trying to reach evacuation helicopters as the last Americans depart from Vietnam.
In this April 29, 1975 file photo, South Vietnamese civilians scale the 14-foot wall of the U.S. embassy in Saigon, trying to reach evacuation helicopters as the last Americans depart from Vietnam.
In this April 29, 1975 file photo, people try to scale the 14-foot wall of the U.S. embassy in Saigon, trying to reach evacuation helicopters, as the last of the Americans depart from Vietnam.
In this April 29, 1975 file photo, people try to scale the 14-foot wall of the U.S. embassy in Saigon, trying to reach evacuation helicopters, as the last of the Americans depart from Vietnam.
In this April 30, 1975 file photo, a North Vietnamese tank rolls through the gates of the Presidential Palace in Saigon, signifying the fall of South Vietnam. The war ended on April 30, 1975, with the fall of Saigon, now known as Ho Chi Minh City, to communist troops from the north.
In this April 30, 1975 file photo, a North Vietnamese tank rolls through the gates of the Presidential Palace in Saigon, signifying the fall of South Vietnam. The war ended on April 30, 1975, with the fall of Saigon, now known as Ho Chi Minh City, to communist troops from the north.
In this April 30, 1975 file photo, South Vietnamese civilians try to scale the walls of the U.S. embassy in Saigon in an attempt to get aboard evacuation flights.
In this April 30, 1975 file photo, South Vietnamese civilians try to scale the walls of the U.S. embassy in Saigon in an attempt to get aboard evacuation flights.
In this April 1, 1975 file photo, a cargo net lifts refugees from a barge onto the SS Pioneer Contender for evacuation from the fallen city of Da Nang, Vietnam. It took eight hours to load some 6,000 refugees aboard the ship.
In this April 1, 1975 file photo, a cargo net lifts refugees from a barge onto the SS Pioneer Contender for evacuation from the fallen city of Da Nang, Vietnam. It took eight hours to load some 6,000 refugees aboard the ship.
In this Monday, April 28, 1975 file photo, South Vietnamese troops and western TV newsmen run for cover as a North Vietnamese mortar round explodes on Newport Bridge on the outskirts of Saigon.
In this Monday, April 28, 1975 file photo, South Vietnamese troops and western TV newsmen run for cover as a North Vietnamese mortar round explodes on Newport Bridge on the outskirts of Saigon.
In this Tuesday, April 29, 1975 file photo, U.S. Navy personnel aboard the USS Blue Ridge push a helicopter into the sea off the coast of Vietnam in order to make room for more evacuation flights from Saigon. The helicopter had carried Vietnamese people fleeing Saigon as North Vietnamese forces closed in on the capital.
In this Tuesday, April 29, 1975 file photo, U.S. Navy personnel aboard the USS Blue Ridge push a helicopter into the sea off the coast of Vietnam in order to make room for more evacuation flights from Saigon. The helicopter had carried Vietnamese people fleeing Saigon as North Vietnamese forces closed in on the capital.
In this April 29, 1975 file photo, a helicopter lifts off from the U.S. embassy in Saigon, Vietnam during last minute evacuation of authorized personnel and civilians.
In this April 29, 1975 file photo, a helicopter lifts off from the U.S. embassy in Saigon, Vietnam during last minute evacuation of authorized personnel and civilians.
In this Sunday, April 26, 2015 photo Tuan Nguyen, 52, who came to the United States as a refugee from Vietnam, holds an American flag as he looks out the window of a helicopter at a commemoration event for the 40th anniversary of Operation Frequent Wind held on the flight deck of the USS Midway Museum in San Diego. The anniversary comes at a pivotal time for the Vietnamese community, which is trying to preserve the stories of elders -- some who refused to speak about their experiences for years -- before they are gone, and help younger generations carry on their legacy.
In this Sunday, April 26, 2015 photo Tuan Nguyen, 52, who came to the United States as a refugee from Vietnam, holds an American flag as he looks out the window of a helicopter at a commemoration event for the 40th anniversary of Operation Frequent Wind held on the flight deck of the USS Midway Museum in San Diego. The anniversary comes at a pivotal time for the Vietnamese community, which is trying to preserve the stories of elders -- some who refused to speak about their experiences for years -- before they are gone, and help younger generations carry on their legacy.
In this Saturday, April 25, 2015 photo, South Vietnamese marine veteran association member Toan Ly, 78, who came to the United States as a refugee, holds a large South Vietnamese flag at an event commemorating the 40th anniversary of the fall of Saigon held at Bolsa Grande High School in Garden Grove, Calif. Forty years since the fall of Saigon and the end of the Vietnam War, the thousands who fled their collapsing country still remember what they lost, but also take the moment to think about what they've gained as they rebuilt their lives in the U.S.
In this Saturday, April 25, 2015 photo, South Vietnamese marine veteran association member Toan Ly, 78, who came to the United States as a refugee, holds a large South Vietnamese flag at an event commemorating the 40th anniversary of the fall of Saigon held at Bolsa Grande High School in Garden Grove, Calif. Forty years since the fall of Saigon and the end of the Vietnam War, the thousands who fled their collapsing country still remember what they lost, but also take the moment to think about what they've gained as they rebuilt their lives in the U.S.
In this Sunday, April 26, 2015 photo, Judge Nho Trong Nguyen, right, is joined by his wife, Bang Van Pham, as he delivers remarks during a commemoration event for the 40th anniversary of Operation Frequent Wind held on the flight deck of the USS Midway Museum in San Diego.
In this Sunday, April 26, 2015 photo, Judge Nho Trong Nguyen, right, is joined by his wife, Bang Van Pham, as he delivers remarks during a commemoration event for the 40th anniversary of Operation Frequent Wind held on the flight deck of the USS Midway Museum in San Diego.
In this Sunday, April 26, 2015 photo, Huong Le, foreground, a former Vietnamese refugee visiting from England, tours the USS Midway Museum adorned with American and South Vietnamese flags during a commemoration event for the 40th anniversary of Operation Frequent Wind in San Diego. The anniversary comes at a pivotal time for the Vietnamese community, which is trying to preserve the stories of elders -- some who refused to speak about their experiences for years \- before they are gone, and help younger generations carry on their legacy.
In this Sunday, April 26, 2015 photo, Huong Le, foreground, a former Vietnamese refugee visiting from England, tours the USS Midway Museum adorned with American and South Vietnamese flags during a commemoration event for the 40th anniversary of Operation Frequent Wind in San Diego. The anniversary comes at a pivotal time for the Vietnamese community, which is trying to preserve the stories of elders -- some who refused to speak about their experiences for years \- before they are gone, and help younger generations carry on their legacy.
In this April 23, 1975 photo provided by the Department of Defense, Vietnamese refugees crowd aboard the Military Sealift Command ship Pioneer Contender to be evacuated to areas further south. (Department of Defense via AP, File)
In this April 23, 1975 photo provided by the Department of Defense, Vietnamese refugees crowd aboard the Military Sealift Command ship Pioneer Contender to be evacuated to areas further south. (Department of Defense via AP, File)
In this Thursday, April 4, 1975 file photo, young demonstrators toss sticks and rocks at South Vietnamese riot police in Saigon in a brief confrontation after a rally sponsored by the mainly Catholic anti-corruption movement.
In this Thursday, April 4, 1975 file photo, young demonstrators toss sticks and rocks at South Vietnamese riot police in Saigon in a brief confrontation after a rally sponsored by the mainly Catholic anti-corruption movement.
In this Sunday, April 26, 2015 photo, Judge Nho Trong Nguyen looks out the window of a helicopter as he pauses for photos at a commemoration event for the 40th anniversary of Operation Frequent Wind held on the flight deck of the USS Midway Museum in San Diego. Nguyen, now 77, said he still misses life in Vietnam -- the rice fields where he lived until his farming family was pushed south by the communists; his father to work as a mason, his mother, as a street vendor.
In this Sunday, April 26, 2015 photo, Judge Nho Trong Nguyen looks out the window of a helicopter as he pauses for photos at a commemoration event for the 40th anniversary of Operation Frequent Wind held on the flight deck of the USS Midway Museum in San Diego. Nguyen, now 77, said he still misses life in Vietnam -- the rice fields where he lived until his farming family was pushed south by the communists; his father to work as a mason, his mother, as a street vendor.
In this Sunday, April 26, 2015 photo, Judge Nho Trong Nguyen, left, delivers his remarks as wife, Bang Van Pham, adjusts a microphone for him during a commemoration event for the 40th anniversary of Operation Frequent Wind held at the USS Midway Museum in San Diego. Decades after arriving as refugees from Vietnam, they have rebuilt. Pham taught English-as-a-Second-Language to night school students while her husband worked as a handyman's helper and school aide before returning to law school and eventually becoming a judge.
In this Sunday, April 26, 2015 photo, Judge Nho Trong Nguyen, left, delivers his remarks as wife, Bang Van Pham, adjusts a microphone for him during a commemoration event for the 40th anniversary of Operation Frequent Wind held at the USS Midway Museum in San Diego. Decades after arriving as refugees from Vietnam, they have rebuilt. Pham taught English-as-a-Second-Language to night school students while her husband worked as a handyman's helper and school aide before returning to law school and eventually becoming a judge.
In this Saturday, April 25, 2015 photo, a Vietnamese man takes pictures of black and white photographs from the Vietnam War displayed at an event commemorating the 40th anniversary of the fall of Saigon held at Bolsa Grande High School in Garden Grove, Calif. Forty years since the fall of Saigon and the end of the Vietnam War, the thousands who fled their collapsing country still remember what they lost, but also take the moment to think about what they've gained as they rebuilt their lives in the U.S.
In this Saturday, April 25, 2015 photo, a Vietnamese man takes pictures of black and white photographs from the Vietnam War displayed at an event commemorating the 40th anniversary of the fall of Saigon held at Bolsa Grande High School in Garden Grove, Calif. Forty years since the fall of Saigon and the end of the Vietnam War, the thousands who fled their collapsing country still remember what they lost, but also take the moment to think about what they've gained as they rebuilt their lives in the U.S.
In this Sunday, April 26, 2015 photo, Bao-Binh Ton-That, a 48-year-old Vietnamese who came to the United States as a refugee, gets emotional as he prays for his country during a commemoration event for the 40th anniversary of Operation Frequent Wind held on the flight deck of the USS Midway Museum in San Diego. Forty years since the fall of Saigon and the end of the Vietnam War, the thousands who fled their collapsing country still remember what they lost, but also take the moment to think about what they've gained as they rebuilt their lives in the U.S.
In this Sunday, April 26, 2015 photo, Bao-Binh Ton-That, a 48-year-old Vietnamese who came to the United States as a refugee, gets emotional as he prays for his country during a commemoration event for the 40th anniversary of Operation Frequent Wind held on the flight deck of the USS Midway Museum in San Diego. Forty years since the fall of Saigon and the end of the Vietnam War, the thousands who fled their collapsing country still remember what they lost, but also take the moment to think about what they've gained as they rebuilt their lives in the U.S.
In this Thursday, April 23, 2015 photo, Judge Nho Trong Nguyen presides over a hearing in a courtroom in San Bernardino, Calif. Nguyen, now 77, said he still misses life in Vietnam -- the rice fields where he lived until his farming family was pushed south by the communists; his father to work as a mason, his mother, as a street vendor.
In this Thursday, April 23, 2015 photo, Judge Nho Trong Nguyen presides over a hearing in a courtroom in San Bernardino, Calif. Nguyen, now 77, said he still misses life in Vietnam -- the rice fields where he lived until his farming family was pushed south by the communists; his father to work as a mason, his mother, as a street vendor.
In this Friday, April 24, 2015 photo, holding plastic bags containing his purchases, a Vietnamese man looks to cross the street in Little Saigon in Westminster, Calif. Many elder Vietnamese still cope with the trauma of war or years spent in communist re-education camps before fleeing in rickety boats, while their children struggle to understand them as they grow up American and speak better English than Vietnamese.
In this Friday, April 24, 2015 photo, holding plastic bags containing his purchases, a Vietnamese man looks to cross the street in Little Saigon in Westminster, Calif. Many elder Vietnamese still cope with the trauma of war or years spent in communist re-education camps before fleeing in rickety boats, while their children struggle to understand them as they grow up American and speak better English than Vietnamese.
In this Sunday, April 26, 2015 photo, Judge Nho Trong Nguyen, center, accompanied by wife, Bang Van Pham, right, shakes hands with Shirley Love, a volunteer from Sons and Daughters in Touch, whose father was killed in action in the Vietnam War, at a commemoration event for the 40th anniversary of Operation Frequent Wind held on the flight deck of the USS Midway Museum in San Diego.
In this Sunday, April 26, 2015 photo, Judge Nho Trong Nguyen, center, accompanied by wife, Bang Van Pham, right, shakes hands with Shirley Love, a volunteer from Sons and Daughters in Touch, whose father was killed in action in the Vietnam War, at a commemoration event for the 40th anniversary of Operation Frequent Wind held on the flight deck of the USS Midway Museum in San Diego.
In this Saturday, April 25, 2015 photo, Judge Nho Trong Nguyen, right, smiles as he chats with his wife, Bang Van Pham, at their home in La Habra, Calif. Decades after arriving as refugees from Vietnam, they have rebuilt. Pham taught English-as-a-Second-Language to night school students while her husband worked as a handyman's helper and school aide before returning to law school and eventually becoming a judge.
In this Saturday, April 25, 2015 photo, Judge Nho Trong Nguyen, right, smiles as he chats with his wife, Bang Van Pham, at their home in La Habra, Calif. Decades after arriving as refugees from Vietnam, they have rebuilt. Pham taught English-as-a-Second-Language to night school students while her husband worked as a handyman's helper and school aide before returning to law school and eventually becoming a judge.
In this Sunday, April 26, 2015 photo, David Payson, right, and Tim Miller, former Navy service members who served on the USS Midway, throw a wreath into the sea to honor those who were killed in the Vietnam War during a commemoration event for the 40th anniversary of Operation Frequent Wind held on the flight deck of the USS Midway Museum in San Diego. Forty years since the fall of Saigon and the end of the Vietnam War, the thousands who fled their collapsing country still remember what they lost, but also take the moment to think about what they've gained as they rebuilt their lives in the U.S.
In this Sunday, April 26, 2015 photo, David Payson, right, and Tim Miller, former Navy service members who served on the USS Midway, throw a wreath into the sea to honor those who were killed in the Vietnam War during a commemoration event for the 40th anniversary of Operation Frequent Wind held on the flight deck of the USS Midway Museum in San Diego. Forty years since the fall of Saigon and the end of the Vietnam War, the thousands who fled their collapsing country still remember what they lost, but also take the moment to think about what they've gained as they rebuilt their lives in the U.S.
In this Sunday, April 26, 2015 photo, Judge Nho Trong Nguyen, center, and his wife, Bang Van Pham, leave the USS Midway Museum after attending a commemoration event for the 40th anniversary of Operation Frequent Wind in San Diego. Decades after arriving as refugees from Vietnam, they have rebuilt. Pham taught English-as-a-Second-Language to night school students while her husband worked as a handyman's helper and school aide before returning to law school and eventually becoming a judge.
In this Sunday, April 26, 2015 photo, Judge Nho Trong Nguyen, center, and his wife, Bang Van Pham, leave the USS Midway Museum after attending a commemoration event for the 40th anniversary of Operation Frequent Wind in San Diego. Decades after arriving as refugees from Vietnam, they have rebuilt. Pham taught English-as-a-Second-Language to night school students while her husband worked as a handyman's helper and school aide before returning to law school and eventually becoming a judge.
In this Sunday, April 26, 2015 photo, Bang Van Pham, wife of Judge Nho Trong Nguyen, walks toward the podium to speak during a commemoration event for the 40th anniversary of Operation Frequent Wind held at the USS Midway Museum in San Diego.
In this Sunday, April 26, 2015 photo, Bang Van Pham, wife of Judge Nho Trong Nguyen, walks toward the podium to speak during a commemoration event for the 40th anniversary of Operation Frequent Wind held at the USS Midway Museum in San Diego.
In this Friday, April 25, 2015 photo, Nguu Pham, 72, foreground, stands outside a shrine as the American and South Vietnamese flags flap in the wind in Little Saigon in Westminster, Calif. Forty years since the fall of Saigon and the end of the Vietnam War, the thousands who fled their collapsing country still remember what they lost, but also take the moment to think about what they've gained as they rebuilt their lives in the U.S.
In this Friday, April 25, 2015 photo, Nguu Pham, 72, foreground, stands outside a shrine as the American and South Vietnamese flags flap in the wind in Little Saigon in Westminster, Calif. Forty years since the fall of Saigon and the end of the Vietnam War, the thousands who fled their collapsing country still remember what they lost, but also take the moment to think about what they've gained as they rebuilt their lives in the U.S.
In this Friday, April 24, 2015 photo, Son The, 74, who does maintenance work at a shrine inside the Asian Garden Mall, kisses a statue while praying in Little Saigon in Westminster, Calif. Forty years since the fall of Saigon and the end of the Vietnam War, the thousands who fled their collapsing country still remember what they lost, but also take the moment to think about what they've gained as they rebuilt their lives in the U.S.
In this Friday, April 24, 2015 photo, Son The, 74, who does maintenance work at a shrine inside the Asian Garden Mall, kisses a statue while praying in Little Saigon in Westminster, Calif. Forty years since the fall of Saigon and the end of the Vietnam War, the thousands who fled their collapsing country still remember what they lost, but also take the moment to think about what they've gained as they rebuilt their lives in the U.S.
In this April 1975 file photo, orphans aboard the first "Operation Babylift" flight at the end of the Vietnam War look through the windows of World Airways DC-8 jet as it flies them to the United States.
In this April 1975 file photo, orphans aboard the first "Operation Babylift" flight at the end of the Vietnam War look through the windows of World Airways DC-8 jet as it flies them to the United States.
In this Tuesday, April 29, 1975 file photo, American citizens arrive aboard the command and control ship USS Blue Ridge after being evacuated out of Saigon, South Vietnam, by U.S. Marine and Air Force helicopters operating from Navy ships. (U.S. Navy via AP, File)
In this Tuesday, April 29, 1975 file photo, American citizens arrive aboard the command and control ship USS Blue Ridge after being evacuated out of Saigon, South Vietnam, by U.S. Marine and Air Force helicopters operating from Navy ships. (U.S. Navy via AP, File)
In this May 4, 1975 file photo, a youth waves a weapon and a Provisional Revolutionary Government (PRG) flag as he joins PRG troops on a jeep on Tu Do street in Saigon.
In this May 4, 1975 file photo, a youth waves a weapon and a Provisional Revolutionary Government (PRG) flag as he joins PRG troops on a jeep on Tu Do street in Saigon.
In this Thursday, May 1, 1975 file photo, U.S. sailors transfer a South Vietnamese boy from the USS Blue Ridge to a merchant vessel off the South Vietnam coast during evacuations from South Vietnam.
In this Thursday, May 1, 1975 file photo, U.S. sailors transfer a South Vietnamese boy from the USS Blue Ridge to a merchant vessel off the South Vietnam coast during evacuations from South Vietnam.
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