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Vietnam 'Operation Babylift' marks 40th anniversary

On April 3, 1975, as the war in Vietnam was reaching its chaotic conclusion, President Ford announced that all Vietnamese children identified for adoption should be immediately airlifted out of Saigon. Evacuation was a life-or-death decision for many of the children: Those who were orphaned by the war, born with disabilities or had an American serviceman as a father faced perilous futures if they stayed in a North Vietnamese-run nation. "Operation Babylift" involved at least four large planeloads of infants, toddlers and young children, thanks to Holt International Children's Services; Friends of Children of Vietnam; Friends for All Children; Tressler Lutheran Services, which worked with An Lac Orphanage in Saigon; and World Airways. Tragically, a U.S. government C-5 cargo plane that was to evacuate children on April 4 crashed soon after takeoff, killing 78 children and around 50 adults. An estimated 3,000 children, including about 150 survivors of the C-5 crash, were eventually brought out of South Vietnam between April 2 and April 29, 1975. About 2,000 children came to the United States, with others going to families in Europe, Australia and Canada. Reunions for the now-adult children have been held, including one in Baltimore in 2000 and one in 2005 in Saigon. Holt, which evacuated more than 400 children, is planning another reunion in November in Washington, D.C.

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