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The Fall of South Vietnam and Operation Babylift

The fall of Saigon and the chaotic evacuation of the U.S. Embassy is one of the most infamous episodes in American diplomatic history. For Mary Lee Garrison, it was also part of her first job. At age 22, Garrison arrived in Saigon in June 1974 to an internal political consensus that the conflict was winding […]

“A Special Place in My Heart:” Memories of USAID in Vietnam

Images of the U.S. military in Vietnam are part of the American consciousness. But these images are only part of the story.  Often the lives and sacrifices of USAID workers are overlooked. They too made great contributions, joining with military personnel to deliver supplies to locals, promoting development in dangerous areas, and working with hamlet […]

A USAID Officer Recalls Vietnam’s Tet Offensive

It wasn’t just soldiers.  USAID officer George Laudato was at his home in Mỹ Tho in 1968 when mortars started landing.  The Tet Offensive had begun. Laudato’s vehicle was destroyed early in the fighting, and he had to make his way on foot to South Vietnam’s nearby 7th Division military headquarters.  He and other civilians […]

A Reluctant Welcome From Notorious Warlords in Afghanistan

A USAID officer secured a meeting with two senior and notorious Afghan warlords in the late 1980s when he appeared as an unexpected (and unwanted) guest in their homes. Adhering to the Pashtun code of conduct requiring hospitality be offered to every guest.  Gulbuddin Hekmatyar and Abdul Rasul Sayaaf reluctantly — but courteously — welcomed […]

Reopening the U.S. Embassy in Vietnam: Conflicting Emotions

Secretary of State Warren Christopher arrived in Hanoi, Vietnam in 1995 to reopen the U.S. Embassy just after three weeks of President Bill Clinton announcing the restoration of diplomatic relations with Vietnam. “All of the Americans were emotional,” recalled pioneering State Department official Joan Spero, then serving as Clinton’s Under Secretary for Economic Growth, Energy […]

Bombing North Vietnam into Accepting Our Concessions: Christmas Bombings, 1972

President Richard Nixon ordered plans for retaliatory bombings of North Vietnam after talks to end the war in Vietnam broke down December 13, 1972. Operation Linebacker II, otherwise known as the “Christmas Bombings,” began December 18 and lasted for two weeks. A total of 741 B-52 sorties were dispatched, dropping 20,000 tons of bombs on […]

“The Wild West” — Peshawar and the Afghan Mujahedeen

In the late 1970s, the USSR had been supporting the Afghan government in its fight against rebels, who had made considerable inroads and controlled territory outside Afghanistan’s major cities. Determined to squash a growing threat, the Soviet Union invaded Afghanistan on December 24, 1979. Soviet troops and swarms of helicopters overthrew the government, which Moscow believed had […]