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April 30, 1975

Minh Surrenders, Vietcong In Saigon

1,000 Americans and 5,500 Vietnamese Evacuated by Copter to U.S. Carriers

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  • The New York Times Front Page (April 30, 1975)

    By The Associated Press

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    Saigon, South Vietnam, Wednesday, April 30--President Duong Van Minh announced today the unconditional surrender of the Saigon Government and its military forces to the Vietcong.

    A North Vietnamese tank crashes through the gates of the Presidential Palace of then South Vietnam in Saigon on April 30, 1975. The taking of the palace marked the fall of the U.S.-backed south and the end to a decade of fighting.

    Columns of South Vietnamese troops pulled out of their defensive positions in the capital and marched to central points to turn in their weapons.

    In Washington, the White House said that President Ford had "no comment" on the surrender of Saigon, but a White House spokesman said the surrender was considered "inevitable."

    Troops Move In

    Within two hours, Communist forces began moving into Saigon, and a jeep flying the Vietcong flag and carrying eight cheering men in civilian clothes armed with an assortment of weapons could be seen driving near the United States Embassy compound.

    The Vietcong flag was raised over the presidential palace at 12:15 P.M. (12:15 A.M. Wednesday, New York time), and soon after a detachment of Communist troops in a jeep arrived at the palace and asked General Minh to accompany them. He drove off with them, but their destination was not immediately disclosed.

    Vietcong flags materialized on other buildings as well, and Vietcong soldiers soon walked along the main streets shaking hands with Saigon residents. The red, yellow-starred flag of North Vietnam could also be seen on trucks carrying soldiers in green helmets and uniforms.

    Bursts of Fire

    Sporadic bursts of firing could be heard, but the only resistance to the Communist take-over was reported to be from marines stationed at the zoo and public gardens.

    The take-over followed by hours the ending of the American involvement in Vietnam through the evacuation of most of the approximately 1,000 Americans still here yesterday.

    The surrender announcement, made in a broadcast to the nation, signaled the end of three decades of fighting. It came 21 years after the 1954 Geneva accords divided Vietnam into North and South and a little more than two years after the Vietnam cease-fire agreement was signed in Paris on Jan. 27, 1973. The last American troops left the country in March of that year.

    President Minh, who took office on Monday to lead South Vietnam into peace negotiations, said in his brief radio address:

    "I believe firmly in reconciliation among Vietnamese to avoid unnecessary shedding of the blood of Vietnamese. For this reason, I ask the soldiers of the Republic of Vietnam to cease hostilities in calm and to stay where they are."

    The President also asked the "brother soldiers" of the Vietcong to cease hostilities and added:

    "We wait here to meet the Provisional Revolutionary Government of South Vietnam to discuss together a ceremony of orderly transfer of power so as to avoid any unnecessary bloodshed in the population."

    There was no mention in his address of North Vietnam or of the North Vietnamese armies that had provided the bulk of the military force that defeated South Vietnam.

    Gen. Nguyen Vuu Hanh, deputy chief of staff, then went on the air to order all South Vietnamese troops to carry out the orders of General Minh, who is known to foreigners as Big Minh.

    "The military command," he said, "is ready to enter into contact with the military command of the army of the Provisional Revolutionary Government of South Vietnam in order to effect a cease- fire without bloodshed."

    With the surrender announcement, made by President Minh at 10:24 A.M. (10:24 P.M. Tuesday, New York time), shellfire subsided along the northern rim of the city where the Vietcong had been bombarding the airport.

    In the hours before the surrender statement, Communist troops had been pressing closer to Saigon. The Vietcong announced the fall of the Government's huge air base at Bien Hoa, 15 miles northeast of the capital, and there were reports that Vung Tau, the port city to the southeast, had also been captured during the day.

    The end came as more than a dozen Communist divisions were ringing the city, which reportedly was defended by less than one division of demoralized troops. Some South Vietnamese officers complained that the evacuation of the Americans had caused panic in the military with many top army officers and most of the air force fleeing.

    For two years after the 1973 cease-fire accords, both Government and Communist forces attacked each other without any major change in territory. The South Vietnamese then suffered their first major setback on Jan. 9 with the fall of Phuoc Binh, capital of Phuoc Long Province, due north of Saigon.

    On March 13, Ban Me Thuot, capital of Darlac Province in the Central Highlands, was captured, and this reverse prompted Nguyen Van Thieu, then President, to decide on a withdrawal from the Central Highlands cities of Pleiku and Kontum as well.

    Pressure on Thieu

    A precipitous rout followed, with South Vietnamese forces withdrawing from Hue, the country's cultural heart, from Da Nang, the nation's second largest city, and then swiftly from coastal regions all the way to the approaches of Saigon.

    Saigon's forces turned to fight at Xuan Loc, capital of Long Khanh Province, which was invaded by North Vietnamese troops on April 9. For two weeks the opposing sides battled there, turning the city into rubble. It was abandoned April 22.

    As most of the country fell into Communist hands, demands were voiced in Saigon--by political figures, religious leaders and others--for the resignation of President Thieu. The Government said two coup attempts had been uncovered and foiled.

    Mr. Thieu went on radio and television April 21 to make an emotional announcement that he was resigning. He blamed the United States cuts in aid for the debacle of his forces.

    Mr. Thieu's Vice President, Tran Van Huong, took over and on Monday, with the concurrence of the National Assembly, named General Minh to become the president to end the war.

    In an address on taking office, General Minh appealed to "our friends of the other side, the Provisional Revolutionary Government of South Vietnam," to join in a cease-fire and in negotiations for a solution to the long conflict.

    Yesterday, the Minh Government renewed the appeal as it sought ways to enter into talks with the Vietcong.

    The calls for a truce were made on radio and television by Vice President Nguyen Van Huyen. He said later in an interview that a Government delegation met twice during the day with a Vietcong delegation at Tan Son Nhut air base, at the edge of Saigon. But the Vietcong representatives there, he said, pronounced themselves as not qualified to make political decisions.

    The Vice President noted that one of the Vietcong demands--that all Americans leave South Vietnam--was already being met. He added that additional Vietcong demands for the dissolution of the Saigon Government and its army were being considered.

    The Vietcong delegation with which the Government representatives met during the day has been at Tan Son Nhut since the first days after the Paris accords were signed.

    As the Vietcong flags were raised over Saigon, no Government soldiers were to be seen on the streets. The people, however, appeared to be moving about normally.

    At the Defense Ministry building, about a dozen North Vietnamese soldiers talked with a South Vietnamese army colonel and several junior officers.

    There was not interference with Western newsmen taking pictures. North Vietnamese machine gunners sitting in two trucks outside the Defense Ministry posed and smiled proudly.

    One man riding in a jeep flying a Vietcong flag beckoned to an American reporter and said in English:

    "Go home. Go home."

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