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Once sailor, forever sailor

Saturday, April 23, 2016

President Gerald Ford. Ford says Vietnam War over for America, April 23, 1975 By ANDREW GLASS

Gerald Ford is pictured in 1974. | AP Photo

During a speech at Tulane University on this day in 1975, President Gerald Ford said that the Vietnam War had ended as far as the United States was concerned. “Today, Americans can regain the sense of pride that existed before Vietnam. But it cannot be achieved by refighting a war,” Ford said.

The president’s address came as devastating news to the South Vietnamese, who were pleading for U.S. support as the North Vietnamese prepared for what became their final assault on Saigon.

The North Vietnamese had launched a major offensive in March to capture the provincial capital of Ban Me Thuot in the Central Highlands. The South Vietnamese defenders there performed poorly and were quickly overwhelmed by the attackers. Despite previous promises by both Presidents Richard Nixon and Ford to provide support, the United States demurred.By the time Ford spoke, Congress and the nation viewed Vietnam as a losing proposition — one over which the United States needed to cut its losses. Official records show that by that time, the number of Americans who had been killed in action or had suffered noncombat deaths in Vietnam had risen above 58,000.

In an effort to reposition his forces for a better defense, South Vietnamese President Nguyen Van Thieu ordered his forces in the Highlands to withdraw to more defensible positions to the south. However, what began as an orderly withdrawal soon degenerated into a panic that spread throughout the South Vietnamese armed forces.
The South Vietnamese abandoned Pleiku and Kontum in the Highlands with very little fighting, and the North Vietnamese pressed the attack from the west and north. In quick succession, Quang Tri, Hue, and Da Nang in the north fell to the communist onslaught. The North Vietnamese continued to attack south along the coast, defeating the South Vietnamese forces at each encounter.
As the North Vietnamese forces closed in on Saigon, the politburo in Hanoi issued an order to Gen. Van Tien Dung to launch the “Ho Chi Minh Campaign,” the final assault on the capital. After his forces suffered more defeats, Thieu resigned and fled the capital on April 25.
By April 27, the North Vietnamese had surrounded Saigon. When North Vietnamese tanks smashed through the gates of the Presidential Palace on April 30, the South Vietnamese surrendered, and the war was over.

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